Morris Graves (American, 1910-2001) is one of America's most esteemed artists. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he is best known for his paintings which reflect his journeys into the realms of spiritual and transcendental consciousness and for those symbolic representations of his mystical beliefs.. His first word was "See." Gaining early notoriety for a series of spectacular Dadaist pranks, he is best known as an introspective and intensely spiritual artist who brought the influence of East Asian aesthetics and philosophy to bear typically through images of birds, flowers, chalices, and other symbols of Eastern spirituality. He lived life privately, sharing his visions. From his Pacific Northwest childhood, early travels to the Orient, homes in the Pacific Northwest and Ireland and finally among the hills of Northern California, Morris Graves pursued a dedication to expressing his aesthetic vision in his paintings, his homes, and his gardens. Graves spent the last 30 years of his life at a home he built in Loleta, in California’s Humboldt County. The opera focuses on a little-known part of his life when he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during WW2.
In 1965, Graves purchased 380 acres of redwood forest property, around a five-acre lake, in Loleta, California, near Eureka. He hired architect Ibsen Nelsen to design a home which, after numerous technical and financial problems, was eventually constructed beside the lake. Graves would live on this property, which he called simply 'The Lake', for the remaining 35 years of his life. Although a sign posted at the entrance to the property read "No visitors today, tomorrow, or the day after", Graves' assistant Robert Yarber lived there with him much of the time, and he occasionally allowed visits by family members and old friends. MorrisGravesFoundation.org
Morris Graves at home, c. 1938
Morris Graves, c. 1960
“Self Portrait” by Morris Graves (1933), Seattle Art Museum
“Wounded Gull” by Morris Graves (1943),
The Phillips Collection. This painting inspired
composer Gina Leishman to create an orchestral ballet suite for our Chamber Opera.