Monday, October 22, 2007

That's IT!

'Divinity Lotus' by Agnes Pelton

Thank you, Jackadandy!

Why didn't I know about Agnes Pelton before this? Good grief! I went to an accredited (barely) Art School, and received an honor degree from a major university. Additionally, I studied Humanities in high school with the mad Hungarian pianist who demanded that all graduates of HIS school be classically, culturally literate. And I've combed the painting galleries of major museums in seven or eight major cities, exhaustively and repeatedly, looking for the Inspiriting Spark. I don't think I've been THAT lazy.

So why have I never heard of the Transcendental Painting Group? This is it! This is The Stuff!

The TPG manifesto stated that their purpose was "to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new concepts of space, color, light and design, to imaginative realms that are idealistic and spiritual." The manifesto included the statement that "the work does not concern itself with political, economic, or other social problems." Arranging exhibitions of transcendental work that would "serve to widen the horizon of art" became the focus of the TPG's activity.

One of the most significant accomplishments of the TPG was to bring the term transcendental to prominence within the semantic dialogue. The TPG's application of the term to their art advanced the meaning assumed by the terms abstraction or non-objective. The term transcendental allowed expansion of the ideas already behind each artist's work and established the concept of the sublime, a word that conveyed high spiritual and intellectual worth. Because a transcendental painting represented an ideal condition or one of expanded awareness and acceptance, the TPG believed that it held the potential to serve as a powerful icon for enlightened cultural values.

Difficult and perhaps seemingly obscure terms such as spiritual, transcendental, quality, or ideal were part of the transcendental dialogue. At the time, the group was aware of the difficulty involved in defining these terms and made a genuine effort to explain the TPG's ideals through lectures, newspaper articles, and the group's manifesto. These terms generated confusion, fear, or dismissal. For the TPG, spiritual was meant to convey something other than religious meaning--rather, something that was reached from a process of refining integrity, skill, knowledge, and experience into an artistic statement conveying openness and acceptance--and something that was ultimately inspiring for the human condition. The term transcendental was tied to quality, as was the concept of ideal, because no work lacking in quality could represent an ideal, and therefore could not approach the spiritual.

Well, THAT'S not very PC, is it. Silly question.

Agnes Pelton, according to the essays I found about her, spent the final thirty years of her life in the desert, painting spiritual energy through abstraction from nature. I could BE this woman.

'Mount of Flame,' Agnes Pelton

Wow, wow, wow. I suppose, for the sake of being My Own Artist, non-derivative, progressive etc., I should explain why I am NOT Agnes Pelton; the technician in me notes that she, like Georgia O'Keefe, seems to have labored under the Old Master paradigm of creating a flat-surfaced image with a homogeneous paint quality. The images, although abstract, are still vaguely illustrative, and thus can be engaged with on a literalistic level, as 'depiction.' Whereas I, schooled in the SFAI 'piece of the floor' aesthetic, am integrating a range of textures and surface refractivities into my paintings, to better convey the multidimensional aspects of transcendent experience.

But gosh, they're gorgeous. I want one. I want ten. Someone send me one, please. Woo hoo.

This almost makes up for my last few trips to Chelsea, which have been largely dispiriting. I will refrain from cataloguing the 'art' I viewed there, except to say that most of it was ugly and/or lame, boring, puerile, derivative, tepid, negative, and narcissistic. I am making a bigger effort to Reach Out, this year, but when you trudge through gallery after gallery of pure hubris, it kind of makes you question what you're aspiring to.

This is what I'm aspiring to. It's lovely to be reminded.


Kesha Bruce said...

*deep sigh*

What a breath of fresh air!

Indeed: It's lovely to be reminded!

Chris Rywalt said...

Divinity Lotus reminds me strongly of Jackadandy's painting -- still my favorite from her -- the blue-ball'd butch.

Isn't it wonderful to find that other people have been exploring the same territory as you? Especially after feeling that no one else had bothered and that you might just be a nut for trying?

jackadandy said...

Well, I'm so glad you felt a connection! :)

Doing my research I was amazed - and refreshed - to discover Pelton's work, hidden alongside innumerable contemporaries who gained fame with trudgingly conventional desert landscapes. It's so clear to me that she took the same place the others were working from and saw right "through" it.

Her "Mount of Flame" looks like a big lapping barbed tongue. I love the infinity loops at the bottom, looking almost carelessly tossed there.

I still haven't seen any of the works in person, but I'm sure there must be some of her stuff kicking around Palm Springs. I'll have to do some hunting.

Chris, I am honored by the comparison. Thank you. Although the Transcendentalists might be a little appalled, considering the exceptionally earthy inspiration for the bbb... ;-)

prettylady said...

I don't feel like a nut, Chris, but it's a little lonely feeling like I might be the only sane person who ever lived. ;-)

Whenever you find one in person, JD, let me know. Let me know the price, too. I have no money to spend on art, but there's always the magic of credit. Who wants to die with money in the bank, anyway?

And as a modern-day Transcendentalist, I have to say that earthly inspirations engage the lower chakras, and thus give necessary power and heft to the work that the upper chakras can't provide. So balls away!

nicp said...

wow, small world....
I was wandering around my 1/2 time home town of Santa Fe, NM today and saw a small painting in the Santa Fe Museum of Art that just transfixed me -- it was called "Awakening" by Agnes Pelton. I'd never heard of her before and was stunned, when I read the small bio next to the painting which stated that Pelton spent most of her life in Cathedral City, right next to my hometown of Palm Springs.
When I got home this evening, I googled her and was led to this blog. Imagine my surprise, when a friend from my other 1/2 time home town, 29 Palms, Jackadandy, was mentioned early on in the commentary about Pelton....!
teeny tiny little world. Like her, I am going to spend lots of time combing the antique and thrift stores down there in the hope of striking Pelton gold!