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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Clyfford Still

While Gemini deals with the world of concrete ideas, Sagittarius deals with the world of abstract ideas. So it makes sense when Abstract painters are Sagittarians. There are very few painters who I feel completely moved by when I'm viewing their works in a Museum. When I was living in San Francisco I would go into a room in the museum which only hung Still's paintings. It was like being out in nature, or a lot like driving across the United States where there's nothing but vast amounts of land all around. The scale was huge and there was a sense of something even bigger existing just beyond what the eye could see. Really amazing. And also seems very Sagittarius to me.

Still was a 20th century Abstract Expressionist, I think he's categorized in what are called "Color field painters." His paintings were generally very large, full of strong, pure, flat colors in jagged shapes. The paint is very richly implied in thick impasto that tapers down to very thin edges in spots, sometimes to bare canvas. I seem to remember reading somewhere that he made his own oil paints so that he could work with exactly the correct type of paint that he needed. He made a huge donation of 30 or so paintings to a museum with all kinds of stipulations about how they were to be displayed just so that he could guarantee that they would be presented correctly. I know that Virgo is often thought to be the perfectionist sign but I've found this much more in Sagittarius. And in fact Still's chart has strong Virgo-Sagittarius emphasis as you can see below. He has one of the Classical Signatures for an artist with Venus in major aspect to Neptune (opposition).

Clyfford Still

b. Nov. 30, 1904, Grandin, ND

Sun 9 Sagittarius; Moon Virgo; NN 15 Virgo

Wikipedia seems to have updated Still's bio lately with some pretty interesting information. Usually short bio's dwell on his irascible personality and nothing more. Still was educated in Washington state and taught there at the beginning of his career. He and another artist spent 4 years teaching a school that documented the lifestyles of the Native Americans living in the area. His paintings are usually painted in earth pigments, perhaps influenced by interaction with this culture. The other Color Field painters were using the most modern materials they could get their hands on.

Still got his first show in 1943 in San Francisco. He had been working for the War in an ammunitions factory. This must have been a difficult time for him as t. Saturn was conjunct his natal Pluto and t.Pluto and the North Node were opposite his natal Saturn. His progressed Sun had been passing over his natal Venus in Capricorn for the last 3 years. This must have been a time of hard work and frustration for waiting. Don't want to make those Sagg's wait too long, they're pretty impatient. I wonder if this is when he developed his personality problems.

In 1943, the Pluto-North Node conjunction was in Leo, sign of art, and it was trining his natal Sun, so he got his first whack at Fame (Pluto) this year. T.Neptune was also conjunct his natal Mars in Libra (Art, Action) and t. Uranus was opposing his Sun (Innovation, Avante-Garde).

Also interesting at this time is the movement of Still's Progressed Mercury. It had been moving Retrograde in Capricorn until 1946 when it turned Direct. This happened right on the Capricorn Aries Point and might be associated with his growing prominence. I think this also extended the influence of his search as an artist as Mercury essentially remained within conjunction of his natal Uranus for a long period of time, about twenty or so years, sorry I didn't look up the exact amount of years.

The Pluto in Leo transit seems to have really brought out the artistic side of his expression as it was trining his Sagittarius planets, first Sun and then Mercury-Uranus. Viewing Still's art really is a firey experience. The edges of the forms are jagged (Wiki's word) and almost look like fire. His use of color is strong and pure, usually he used only warm colors, basic Black, Red, White and Yellow. You can actually see the influence of Pluto moving into Virgo in the late 50s as he started adding the color Blue into his paintings.

Natally Still's conjunction of Mercury and Uranus in Sagittarius could be naturally connected with a person who is Avante-Garde and Individualistic and Freedom loving. This is made extra potent by the fact that both planets are out-of-bounds in his chart. Mercury is also in opposition to Pluto in Gemini, a generation that stressed invention.

Still seems to have bounced back and forth between the West and East Coast. He was probably most appreciated on the East Coast but needed the freedom of the West Coast. In 1961 he settled on a Farm in Maryland. By then Pluto was firmly planted into Virgo and it seems that his most famous work was done. He died in 1980.

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