"...It is in America that the transformation will take place, and has already silently commenced." -Madame Blavatsky
With these words, written in The Secret Doctrine in 1888, Helena Blavatsky drew a direct connection to the dynamic energy of 19th century Americanism and the Theosophical Society she founded. Later, she and her successors would specify the American West as the site for a rebirth and re-enchantment of humanity, drawing those seeking spiritual fulfillment outside of organized religion to the dramatic landscapes of California, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. The syncretic nature of Theosophy encouraged individualism in belief, fitting well the generalizations of individuality and personal agency often used to characterize the American West.
Amongst those that came to the West seeking spiritual meaning were visual artists and composers inspired both by contact with Theosophical institutions or texts and the transcendent landscapes of the West. This exhibit will take as a point of departure this intersection of influences: Theosophical thought and the western landscape, as an invitation to explore the role of Theosophy on Western American art and music in the 20th century.
In conjunction with the Merrill-Cazier Library, NEHMA will present a small exhibition of portraits of poets Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac that transcend the tired urban cliches of "Beat" life. The photos were taken by John Suiter during annual fire-lookout summers in the North Cascade mountains in Washington state during the 1950s. Poets on the Peaks shows the development of a community of poets, including the famous Six Gallery reading of October 1955, and contains rare cameos by fellow poets and mountain-climbers Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Rexroth, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure. The exhibit provides an intimate view into the years of the Dharma Bums-from the 1951 roadside revelation in the Nevada desert that led Gary Snyder to drop out of academia and head for Japan, to Kerouac's lonely vigil with The Diamond Sutra on Desolation Peak, to Philip Whalen's ordination as a Zen priest. Poets on the Peaks traces the birth of a wilderness ethic and a photographic homage to the Cascadian landscape; a landscape that is virtually unchanged thanks to the environmental protections the poets inspired.
Crafting the Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft
The Arizona State University Art Museum presents Crafting a Contiuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft. Curated by Heather Sealy Lineberry, Senior Curator and Associate Director, and Peter Held, Curator of Ceramics and organized by the Arizona State University Art Museum and Ceramics Research Center, Crafting a Continuum includes approximately 60 objects from the ASU Art Museum's permanent collection and recent acquisitions, including works by many of the major and emerging figures in contemporary crafts. This exhibit and its accompanying catalog provide an international perspective on modern and contemporary crafts highlighting innovative experimentation with this ancient medium.