This exhibition explores the role of the American West as a site for rebirth and enchantment, specifically through artists and composers who explored the visionary interpretations of the landscape in visual or musical forms inspired by Theosophical ideas.
Curated by a group of international scholars, selected works convey local and regional connections to Theosophically-inspired artists and musicians while also placing them within the international network of enchanted culture that flourished in the early 20th century.
So what is Theosophy? While its roots go back thousands of years, beginning from the 1500s forward, it has generally been associated with the practices of using knowledge and observations of nature and one's self as a way to understand the divinity in nature both physically and metaphysically.
According to founder Helena Blavatsky (1889), "Theosophy, in its abstract meaning, is Divine Wisdom, or the aggregate of the knowledge and wisdom that underlie the Universe." In 1992, leader of the American Section of the Theosophical Society Katherine Tingley stated, "Think of Theosophy not so much as a body of philosophic or other teachings, but as the highest law of conduct, which is the enacted expression of divine love or compassion....Theosophy is the inner life in every religion."
Although many of the individuals included in this exhibition openly discussed their interest and involvement in mystical movements such as Theosophy, this is the first exhibition to specifically explore the pervasive influence of Theosophical ideas on 20th century art and music in the American West.
Artworks included in this exhibition draw largely on the collection of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, supported by key loans from important public and private collections such as the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, the Gerald E. Buck Collection, the Raymond Jonson Gallery at the University of Arizona, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. Music and sound also feature prominently in the exhibition. Work from composers Dane Rudhyar and Henry Cowell are played in certain areas of the gallery to connect with the abstract, Theosophical fascination with vibration as a foundational element of both the natural and the human-made world.
The work of Logan, Utah-based contemporary photographer Andrew McAllister, prompts us to think about the legacies of these ideas and about what traces of these enchanted landscapes are apparent now, while the contribution of graphic designer Mike Daines conceptualizes the complex intertextuality of Theosophical influence into a visual map.
This exhibition is made possible with support from the Tanner Charitable Trust and The Leverhulme Trust. To learn more about this project and its worldwide scope, click on the link here: Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, Modernism and the Arts.
Watercolor #10, 1938
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art
Utah State University
Marie Eccles Caine Foundation Gift
© University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque
James G. Mansell, University of Nottingham
Christopher M. Scheer, Utah State University
Sarah Victoria Turner, Mellon Center for British Art (London) - Yale University
With Contributions by:
Helena Capkova, Waseda University
Rachel Cowgill, Cardiff University
Anna Gawboy, Ohio State University
Marco Pasi, The University of Amsterdam
Katie Tyreman, The University of York
Gauri Vishwanathan, Columbia University
Set in Stone: Lithographs from the Museum Collection
February 2, 2014 - Summer 2014
This exhibit features a selection of lithographs by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Conrad Buff, Millard Sheets, Lorser Feitelson, and Edward Ruscha demonstrating various examples of the printmaking technique.
Girl Reading, 1940
Dorothy Wanlass Fund Purchase
Man Up: Perspectives on Masculinity and the Male Form
November 12, 2013 - Summer 2014
This exhibit was created with assistance from Dr. Rachel Middleman and the students in her Feminist Art History course during the fall 2013 semester. As a counterpoint to the Female + Form exhibit (see the Past Exhibitions page), Man Up explores the visualization of masculine and feminine stereotypes through photos, drawings, and prints. The exhibit presents differing views of manhood from strong and hardworking to naked, vulnerable, or wounded. Viewers can see different interpretations of what makes a man a real man not only through showing men's roles in society, but also through depictions of the male body. Like these artists have done, viewers will search for their own interpretations of what being a man means to them. Man Up is displayed in the Study Center gallery inside a chest of large, rectangular, glass-covered drawers to allow viewers a closer, more intimate experience with each artwork displayed.
Gun Shop, 1975
Museum Permanent Collection
Reliefs: The Art of Woodcuts
October 4, 2013 - May 2, 2014
A selection of 22 woodcuts from the museum's permanent collection are displayed in the Study Center and represent various techniques in this printmaking method. This exhibit shows examples of how printmaking can create striking imagery including southwestern landscapes, intimate human portraits, abstract nature patterns, and delicate etchings of black and white. Reliefs: The Art of Woodcuts also explains the meticulous printmaking process of this method in which artists carve or cut into a sheet, or block, of solid wood to create an image. These images are then pressed onto a sheet of paper using different skills of coloring, texture, and layering. The prints in this exhibit are displayed horizontally in a chest of large, industrial drawers.
Leo J. Meissner
Oracle Mountains, Arizona, 1949
Charter Member Endowment Purchase