Ray Kass is a painter and writer who lives in the rural Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. He is Emeritus Professor of Studio Art at Virginia Tech and Founder and Director of the Mountain Lake Workshop, an ongoing series of community-based collaborative art projects. His paintings have been widely exhibited, and he is author of Morris Graves: Vision of the Inner-Eye and coauthor, with Stephen Addiss, of JOHN CAGE: ZEN OX-HERDING PICTURES.

THE SIGHT OF SILENCE: JOHN CAGE'S COMPLETE WATERCOLORS provides the first opportunity to see all 125 signed watercolors that Cage created during four week-long sessions at the Mountain Lake Workshop in Virginia between 1983 and 1990. The book's critical essay and accompanying workshop diaries relate the methods at play in Cage's VISUAL ART to those of his musical compositions and theater pieces.

As a part of the
  • John Cage Centennial Festival Washington, DC, Ray Kass, and members of the Mountain Lake Workshop, will present an extraordinary day of activity in the University of California's Washington Center.


    In 1983, as a result of his pleasure with the experience he had in producing etchings at the Crown Point Press in California's Bay Area, and the informed encouragement of artist and author Ray Kass, John Cage began work on a series of watercolor paintings at the Mountain Lake Workshop. Over the course of four visits to the Workshop in the Appalachian region of southwestern Virginia (1983, 1988, 1989, and 1990), he produced 125 documented watercolor paintings.

    Cage's productivity in the domain of visual art etchings, drawings, watercolors embraces and engages with the strategic scope of his larger aesthetic stance and the impact of ego-distancing "chance" procedures. The ways in which Cage chose materials and boundary conditions in his visual art allow us to gain insight into the aesthetic predilections of his eye in strikingly revealing fashion.

    Ray Kass and others associated with the Mountain Lake Workshop were inventive, and ultimately very successful in encouraging Cage's engagement with what was for him a new medium. What began as a limited exploration evolved during subsequent working periods, towards increasingly complex and elaborate projects.

    The largest of Cage's watercolor paintings involved a 56-inch wide, specially constructed brush. This device was 'loaded' by means of an even wider wooden trough that contained the ink. In performing what eventually became John Cage's STEPS: A Composition for a Painting to be Performed by Individuals and Groups, Cage was required to dip the enormous brush into the ink trough, then step from two pans of black ink onto a vast expanse of paper, and walk backwards, pulling the brush over the imprints left by his feet. Various other individuals have subsequently realized STEPS (as Cage envisioned). Notably, dancer Merce Cunningham (participating with the inked wheels of his wheelchair) who also choreographed three versions with members of his dance company. Roger Reynolds

  • Additional information about the book/University of Virginia Press Books


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