MORRIS GRAVES—His Houses, His Gardens by Richard Svare
The houses and gardens of Morris Graves were sanctuaries, an articulation of the artist’s Taoist-influenced sensibility, and his need for serenity in a world in which being homosexual meant risking “felonious” behavior in every state in the union except Illinois as late as 1970 and in at least seven states punishable by castration. As the world around him grew increasingly cacophonous, increasingly vicious and war-torn, he sought an almost Buddhist calm—not a retreat from this world, but deeper transcendental understanding of its timelessness and mystery. At a time when his contemporaries turned increasingly toward a more European-influenced abstract expressionism, Graves drew in a calligraphic style from the colors and figures of his native Northwest, rich browns, reds and grays drawn from his carefully orchestrated immediate environs expressing a deep sense of nature’s majesty. His gardens reflect his love of simply watching the weather, his love of water-life and forest, the presence of herons and fish and small animal life. His houses and gardens articulate perhaps the most fully realized refined sensibility in the history of American art. Richard Svare’s account of the various Graves habitations is enchanting
and deeply insightful, a portrait of the artist no one else could have written, a fascinating journey into the imagination and reality of a true master.