As a teenager, one Christmas, I was given by my parents, a Dover copy of Ernst Haekel’s biological Illustrations. These had a profound effect on me. I have looked for the book in more resent years but could not find it and must have given it away or misplaced it at some point.. Steiner wrote and spoke on several occasions about Haekle. (see link below for more info on this). He said that reading Hakels scientific writings was good preparation for investigations into spiritual science.
“The phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” was coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866 and for many decades was accepted as natural law. Haeckel meant it in the strict sense: that an organism, in the course of its development, goes through all the stages of those forms of life from which it has evolved.”
Some of of Haekles ideas including his Biogenetic Law and especially his theories on race, have since been refuted but his Biogenetic Law was still being taught when I was in grade school. I remember that I liked the way it sounded and I never forgot it.
Even if there are flaws in Ernst Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law it seemed a usful and interesting concept, and along with illustrations I later saw of planetary evolution, paved the way for my exceptance and interest in reincarnation and Steiner’s lectures and writings on spiritual and cosmic evolution. I had to reconcile my own spiritual experiences and education in the humanities with my rational and scientific education.
I did not make the connection between Haekels wonderful illustrations and his scientific theories until much later. These illustrations alone would mark his place in history. His illustrations, popular in his lifetime, inspired Art Nouveau and , no doubt other contemporaries, artists of the 60’s and beyond:.
I do post my own work on this sight and sometimes feel uncomfortable or embarrassed doing so. I am open to posting any artist with a connection to Anthroposophy or any artistic endeavor influenced by Rudolf Steiner, or articles about art in general from a spiritual perspective and possibly some connection to Steiner’s work. So far, I am an editor of one for this site. Thank you for viewing.
I consider myself an artist first and have been immersed in art from early childhood. I have a background in music, theater, poetry, painting, sculpture, and pottery, among other art and craft forms and media. Because of my work at Westville and my teaching, I am known mostly as a potter I apprenticed with my father at 15 working with some of his college students in the late 70’s in what was then called Sugar Creek Pottery, later just Hawks Pottery. My father’s textbook for teaching then was Charles Counts book Pottery Workshop: A Study in the Making of Pottery. Both he and my father were influenced by Marguerite Wildenhain who studied at the Bauhaus. I saw countless potters working growing up, mostly in GA but my first pottery memory is from the Cole pottery in NC.
I worked later with Ron Meyers at UGA, Don Penny at Valdosta State, Jeff Kaller at Columbus State, and Holly Hanessian at FSU. When I began working at Westville in the late 1980’s, early 90’s, I interviewed D. X. Gordy who started the Westville pottery, watched him work and visited with him a few times both at his home and at Westville. I also did extensive historic research starting with Edgefield pottery and tracing the forms and craft as it migrated throughout the south, including some of the other origins that were specific in the development of GA pottery including places like Salem NC, etc. Technical ideas came from disparate sources on wood, salt, and slip glazing including Denis Parks and the whole Leach/Hamada/Cardew tradition.
I began to do face jugs at Westville and writing on some of them, in dialogue with Ned Berry, after my studies of the original face pieces from Edgefield SC. My father and I did face pieces back in the 70’s outside of the southern tradition more connected to a broader history of effigy ceramics. The totems came about somewhat outside of the traditions as well, though most of mine were slip and salt glazed, and wood fired. I had always admired Joe Bova’s work and am also a lifetime student of esoteric spirituality, specifically Christian esotericism as expounded on by the philosopher and early 20th century teacher Rudolf Steiner. My totems were directly inspired by a simple line drawing that Steiner did of the seraphim (also traditionally called the four evangels) as they relate to the human spiritual body, like the orientation of the chakras of eastern esotericism. My other totems are more comical and are closer to traditional face jugs and figurals.
The imagery of the four Seraphim, is a part of Judeo-Christian spirituality. It can be found in the old testament in the book of Isaiah and in the new testament in Revelation. They are later depicted in Medieval illuminated manuscripts of the 4 Gospels. In many manuscripts, images of the four figures were ornately drawn on the first page of each gospel, the eagle being associated with John, the angel or human figure associated with Mathew, the lion with Mark, and the Bull with Luke.
The piece shown at the beginning of this article was the 2nd in a series of approximately 9 around the same theme, in many ways the best, still in my possession along with one other. The rest which maybe 7 were completed, exist in various collections. The other one I still possess is an Americanized version, replacing the forms with a buffalo, a mountain lion, a Native American and a bald eagle. I have one more in this series yet to be completed and only exists in my mind and drawings and includes Anubis at the top as it came to me in a dream. Some of this is difficult to explain.
The serendipity of experiences extends to this specific piece as it had a kind of spiritual power and life of its own, which I do not claim as coming from me but from something higher. It also approached me, after making it, in a dream. During the firing, it withstood one of those kiln disasters you hear of; stacks of work in front of it collapsed. Consequently, it was blasted full force by the flame, ash, and salt which accounts for the patina it has. Many other pieces in that firing were not so fortunate. Things like this happen when dealing so directly with the elementals and other spiritual forces that sometimes make your hair stand on end.
*Note: I have been motivated by resent interest in this series to finish this one that I have contemplated for years. I am in the process of developing the work in the context of a larger installation work. Some thoughts as I worked on this new piece:
American Totem 8/6/2021 I have added Text and finished with the colored (red, yellow. blue, and violet) and black slips. The Coyote has only the black slip and raw clay. “That Good May Become” is from the Foundation Stone Meditation by Steiner as is the Verse for America. I get impatient with my own writing so just improvised and it is not the best text, I may inscribe some more imagery on the back but haven’t decided yet. When I am finished with the work, I will work on a longer explanation of my intention for the piece. hopefully it will come across some without the explanation. Most art is autobiography at some level.
Verse for America
May our feeling penetrate into the center of our heart, and seek, in love, to unite itself with the human beings seeking the same goal, with the spirit beings who — bearing grace, strengthening us from realms of light and illuminating our love — are gazing down upon our earnest, heartfelt striving. ~ Rudolf Steiner, 1923
The totem is a cross and will be on a simple wooden alter with 2 candles. The candle holders will be 2 sculptures like my form sculptures, blue and red, representing Jacob and Boaz, a gate and 2 guardians and tempters as the country passes the threshold of consciousness and into the spirit world. Though the 4 lower figures still represent the seraphim, they are also traditional representations of 4 human archetypes, the melancholic, the choleric, the sanguine, and the saturnine. also used before modern medicine for diagnosis.
I still feel some ambiguity as to the use and meaning of the Coyote. In the dream, it may well have been Anubis. At any rate, I have used the coyote as it is more representative of America and in Native American culture the coyote is an important figure and is often a trickster. This can be seen also as a positive. Like Br’er Rabbit, he is always escaping peril, sometimes in humorous ways.
Below is an email message I received from Lightforms Art Center. I do not really known much about Albert Steffen’s Artistic work though I have read about his life and some of his writing, but this was years ago. In retrospect I can see his influence among anthroposophic artists. I have been aware of Gerard Wagner work for a while and if my memory is clear, I did some of his painting exercises several decades ago. Hilma af Klint, I have posted about in the past. Her work, though it effects me strongly, as does abstract art in general, I have not been initiated into her content and do not feel that I can truly speak about her work with any clarity, other than the feeling content, and by assessing the elements and principles of art and design within the work. These come out of modernist deconstruction but have their usefulness, especially if one does not simply use them to dissect without any feeling or thought for the overall intention of the artist. I will investigate Albert Steffen’s artistic practice more and perhaps post on my findings later. I may also write about Gerard Wagner as well.
Hilma af Klint, Albert Steffen, Gerard Wagner For the second half of our Hilma af Klint Show The Spiritual and the Divinewe are excited to pair Hilma af Klint’s work with two of her contemporaries: Albert Steffen and Gerard Wagner who worked in Dornach, Switzerland at the same time, creating art works inspired by the lectures, indications on the inner path and artistic work of Rudolf Steiner. We selected paintings of both Steffen and Wagner that touch on the same themes as the Hilma af Klint series here in the gallery at Lightforms. Plants, angels, nature beings and trees. The Tree of Knowledge Series by Hilma af Klint is an abstracted version of a tree in which flowers, birds and angels feature prominently. The striking difference of the style, approach and artistic expression of each artist is a strong testament to the ethical individualism that Rudolf Steiner encouraged with his writings, lectures and private consultations. We hope that the comparative juxtaposition of showing these three artists simultaneously is offering a small glimpse into the lively interactions of the members of the anthroposophical society in the early days of its existence.
The Reverse Ritual has its origins in the realm of the highest, deepest & most comprehensive world reality in which the human being, the gods, & the cosmos existentially live, weave, & are present.
For the human being the experience of the highest divine unity is threefold.It is not just a passive thinking, feeling & willing – it is an active, creative, co-thinking, co-feeling, & co-willing with the Godhead.
The body of the Reverse Ritual consists of human thoughts, words & deeds that are ever striving to grasp & further spiritual knowledge, vis-à-vis a cosmic-artistic enlivening, creating paths in the eternal being of the human soul.”
There has been a very exciting development in Hudson, NY, the creation of Lightforms Gallery:
“Lightforms is a center for cultural renewal that brings creative artists and their artwork into the public domain in innovative ways that stimulate dialogue around the inner and outer challenges of our time and attempts to serve the spiritual needs of human beings in their daily lives.
Lightforms intends to realize its mission through public presentations, exhibitions, installations, workshops, lectures, conferences, and performances; an artist-in-residence program; a research center for the further development and understanding of the spiritual foundations of the visual arts; a possible artists grants program; a permanent collection/archive; publications; and a small gift shop.”
I once had the privilege of attending an arts conference in Hudson and this is a fine and powerful addition to what already exists in the area. The town is a beautiful place to visit and still has much of the allure that was once captured by the Hudson River school of artists, a group of artists also inspired by the forms of light.
Frederic Edwin Church, Sunset across the Hudson Valley, 1870
I am reading Steiner’s lecture series on World Economy. It has been important to me to understand the three ideal ordering spheres of contemporary society in order to better understand the role of the cultural sphere, which art is a part of. It takes a long time for me to let things sink in. Within the cultural sphere, I participate in education, the arts and science in my own small way.
I want to understand the interrelationship of the 3 spheres of human activity. One of the reasons I took up teaching was to to try to free myself economically so that my art would not depend so much on sales, that and the feeling that I finally had something to teach that might benefit my students. I also felt I could now reenter the world as it is. Working in a historic village for 19 years hid the truth that my heart, soul and mind were modern and contemporary, despite the apparent anachronisms in my work.
I am not apolitical but politics and the realm of rights is not my main focus, though I am involved to some extent, and cannot help but be aware of current political issues. I see much of the art that is critically acceptable today as overlapping into economics and the realm of rights and politics. I am uneasy with art not playing, primarily a cultural and ultimately spiritual role in human development. However, I celebrate the present eclecticism and range of contemporary art.
I have done a few political pieces in the past. One was recently accepted into a juried exhibit.
“Make America Great Again”, Political Jug with All-Seeing Eye, 8 inches X 5 inches, ceramic, cone 6, gas fired, reduction stoneware, with local mesquite ash glaze and low fire decals, 2018
Here is my explanation of the piece:
“I teach in a contemporary university but have a background and reputation as a traditional potter, versed in Americana. When I was doing this piece I was thinking of our present political climate, rampant conspiracy theories reaching into the occult foundations of democracy in Free Masonry, but also of the traditions and pugilistic nature of our politics of the past, where liquor bought votes at the polling booths, and fights often broke out. Then there is the history of the all-seeing eye which includes imagery from pre-Columbian indigenous cultures, including the southeast where I am from.
So much is backwards from what we might wish for our struggling democracy. What does it really mean to be ‘great’, as opposed to the least common denominator present in clichés that, if not devoid of meaning, are merely synonymous with ‘power’ which was never really what made, or makes America great. It is also a little bit of a joke”
I am preparing for a local exhibit This month, opening April 20, 2018, at Artivivo Art Studio Owned by Teodoro Estrada in Brownsville TX. There will be Pottery Sculpture and 2D works:
“You are cordially invited to view the work of Stephen Hawks, “Logos Empiricus” at Artevivo Art Studio on Friday April 20, 2018. Exhibit reception from 6 – 9pm. Artevivo Art Studio is located at 535 E 12 between Washington and Elizabeth.” The exhibit may be viewed by appointment throughout the rest of the month.
A traditional alkaline glaze is made from limestone and or ashes (which contains alkaline salts including calcium), clay, and sand or crushed glass. Clay is an Alumina silicate, Al2O3 2SiO2 2H2O. The green color comes from iron in an oxygen starved, or reduction atmosphere during the firing process. I thought it might be interesting to look at an example of this in the context of a quote from Steiner from his Agricultural lectures:
“Lime is Generalized Outer desire. Silica is Generalized outer Perception. Clay mediates between them. Clay is closer to silica but mediates towards lime.”
In ceramics, Limestone is a flux causing silica, the glass former, to melt and flow. Clay contains silica and alumina. The alumina helps stabilize the glaze. What we are seeing in the glaze above is Limestone, silica and clay (with a small amount of iron) working together. It is the visual expression of what Steiner is saying.
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.