Wharton Esherick

There are sometimes long periods between my posts. This time it has been unusually long. However, as I have returned to Brownsville and  visiting the libraries here and preparing for classes, I came across a very good book:
Wharton Esherick: The Journey of a Creative Mind
By Mansfield Bascom
Publisher Harry N. Abrams, 2010
ISBN 0810995751, 9780810995758
Length 276 pages

I have been moderately aware of Wharton Esherick’s work and have come across it on several occasions. Without reading or knowing much about his work, other than an article I clipped and saved years ago, I thought to myself how he had some stylistic characteristics in his work that reminded me of other artists influenced by Rudolf Steiner and the impulses coming from Anthroposophical art. This could be said of many 20th century artists that only ever encountered these indirectly. I was not sure which was true about Esherick. Recently I found his biography, written upon request by his son-in-law, Mansfield Bascom, in The UTRGV library in Brownsville. 6 pages in the Book briefly reference Steiner in several places indicating that he had been influenced by Steiner. Apparently from the writing it was a direct influence not so much from Steiner’s verbal teachings, but from the artistic expressions, Eurythmy, the architectural and sculptural forms, and specifically the Group sculpture.

Here is yet another 20th artist, a modernist, and an American, that can be linked to the influences of Anthroposophy, with some obvious innate affinity, even if it is not an affinity with Steiner’s occult teachings. In a way, this is paradoxical, because art is often the most occult of teachers or teachings. I have noticed this is often the case and it goes along with what Steiner has said on occasion. One does not make converts by forcing ideas on those who have already long been on a distinctive path of their own. Athroposophy from the beginnings has mingled with other paths. The Bauhaus is a prime example where Anthroposophy has an influence but is not the only influence at work. It is important to remember that Steiner stated it matters most that art express the spirit and that specific style was less important.

Wharton Esherick Museum


Considering Joseph Beuys


How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare

My interest in the work of Joseph Beuys runs parallel to my introduction to many of the people active in the American Arts section of the Anthroposophical Society in America, early in this century. While attending grad school, I made Beuys the topic of one of my art history term papers. I sent the paper to someone in the arts section and was understandably rebuked for not having researched properly,  among other things. I had not had access to or time to read what had been written about Beuys from within the Anthroposophical movement except minimally.  It was also inferred that my own artistic endeavors involving the manifestation of Anthroposophy was more important than my weak critical analysis. This too was right, which I tried to do, in my small way, in the thesis work I produced at the time.

Never the less, I think it might be of interest to some, especially those unfamiliar with the esoteric roots of Beuys work. It may serve as a basic introduction, pointing out, but with limited esoteric content.

For any that might question my closing assessment of Beuys work in this paper and to avoid misunderstanding in general, It is not meant as a condemnation but as an empathetic gesture; I owe Beuys a lot; If the artistic path is not a path to freedom, then what is it?

Here is the link:

Esoteric Foundations of Joseph Beuys’ Art in the Teachings of Rudolf Steiner

Note: The above file is compiled from scanned pages, due to my poor typing skills and for the sake of expediency.  Consequently, paradoxically and unfortunately, I was unable to edit out the typos and the grading marks.

Finished Tile Mural

I finally finished the 2nd tile mural in a series on Metamorphosis of form. The first was called Toward Metamorphic Apotheosis. In some ways I think this one is better. 

Tile Series 2


Hilma af Klint

I have decided to retire the Hilma af Klint page for a while for various reasons until I can adequately access the works and make sure the images are in the public domain. Until then here is a link to the Google search for her work: Hilma af Klint.

Free Columbia Yearly Fundraising

I got the following message from Free Columbia this morning:

ooooooo!!! only 48 hrs.

Posted by Free Columbia (Creator)

We can do this. $3344 in 2 days is DEFINITELY doable. But, unfortunately, we don’t have any angel donors hiding up in the belfry waiting to swoop down with a pot of gold, so we’re going to need everyone’s help. Can you share this message with friends? Or go to Facebook and share one of the various and sundry posts? Perhaps one of our videos on puppetry, shoemaking, or murals? Or one of the pictures from our Free Culture album? (You can find all of these below too.)

We think it’s always best to share because then new folks find out about Free Columbia and our radical decommodification of culture… but if you’re dying to donate a little more as well ($13 per person would get us to the end) we think that’s great and we wouldn’t say no! Thanks so much for your help in this final push!

Video Link

Free Culture album!


“Encountering Our Humanity”

Extended Deadline

Invitation to Anthroposophical Artists in North America

to submit work to an open exhibition to be held in Ottawa, Canada,

on the theme of “Encountering Our Humanity,” in August 2016.


Digital (JPG only) images of paintings, sculpture, mixed media, multi-media and architectural work created in the last 15 years may be submitted by June 1, 2016 to the email addresses below. Final selection will be made by June 15, 2016 for works to be included in a virtual slide show that will run during the “Encountering Our Humanity” conference venue, La Cité Collégiale in Ottawa, Canada, August 7-14, 2016. From these works, a further, smaller selection of pieces will be made for actual exhibition in a gallery space (to be announced) for the same period of time. (It is hoped that this selection may provide the basis for possible future shows.)


Please email images (no larger than 2MB) to sylvierichard@rogers.com and to aka.vanjames@gmail.com, together with name of artist, title of work, dimensions, and cost if for sale. In addition, include a one-to-three sentence statement concerning your art: “what you are striving to achieve in your art”, or “what are your artistic questions?” A $25 fee will be required of each artist selected for the final exhibition in order to cover costs for a catalog. Shipping of actual work to and from the venue and insurance is the responsibility of the artist. Hand deliveries are possible two days before the opening. Potential purchases will be handled directly by the artists, but a 20% commission will be asked for to defray exhibition costs. (The selection of work is final.)


Selection of artwork will be made by Sylvie Richard and Van James, professional artists and members of the Visual Art Section of North America. Selection will be based on a wide range of styles and mediums expressive of the quality of work being done in North America today. These works will be shown together with a pre-existing and somewhat abridged exhibit of anthroposophical architecture (panels with photographs and possible models) originally shown in Europe. North American architects are invited to contribute to the broadening of this part of the exhibit.


For the Selection Committee,

Van James aka.vanjames@gmail.com,

Sylvie Richard sylvierichard@rogers.com

The Abduction of Sophia/ Subduing of Ahriman

The Abduction of Sophia/ Subduing of Ahriman,

Cone 6 Gas Fired Stoneware, 15” X 24” 2014

This is a piece I did a few years ago. The Title image, The Abduction of Sophia, was a recycling of some drawings I did in the 1990’s in preparation for a painting that I never started. The idea arose from reading translations of original Gnostic texts detailing some of the Gnostic myths. I opted to do a semi literal rendering since it is told in this way.  When I started to add the images to the ceramic vessel, I decided to  contrast the abduction with the subduing of Ahriman by Michael. Then I thought to contrast the images of the crucifixion of Christ and the crucifixion of the black magician, in the Americas at the time of Christ, on each side. This comes from Steiner’s lectures on the Mexican mysteries and the Knights Templar. The contrasting scriptures are as follows: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”(Psalm 23:4”, and “The wicked are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.”  (Psalm 1:4). Oddly enough, I remember the second verse not from Sunday school but from an Emlyn Williams play entitled  Night must Fall. 
As you can see, the colors did not quite come out as bright as in the work in progress. There was too much reduction in the gas kiln and it bled the oxides in the slips and stains. Sometimes I will fire again in oxidation with more color, but I decided to leave it as it is. It is a dark piece. For better or worse, I will let it speak for itself without explaining too much.