First published: Winter 2022/23
Newspaper man Grant Wallace had an illustrious career but it is his later artworks, with their astral messages, that are still making waves
When he died in 1954 at the age of 87, The New York Times wrote in Grant Wallace’s obituary that he was a “newspaper man, war correspondent, magazine writer, essayist, and artist” whose litany of accomplishments included eyewitness editorials from the Russo-Japanese War, humour writing, archaeological coverage, horticultural experiments, the founding of a writers’ colony, the production of animated cartoons, and the editing of a cinema arts magazine. There was no mention of his explorations of the occult, nor of the detailed documentation of his telepathic investigations but, although it was the least known part of his expansive career, this fascination with the universe and its mysteries as portrayed in his art has become his most enduring legacy.
Yaoli of the Beyond, watercolour, gouache and ink on paper, 10.5 x 16 in. / 26 x 40.5 cm
all artwork shown made between 1919 and 1925
Born in Missouri in 1868, Wallace was an acclaimed newspaper reporter and worked as a journalist and illustrator for publications including San Francisco’s Examiner, Chronicle and Evening Bulletin, and as a war correspondent. He had studied at the Art Students League of New York and was accomplished in a range of styles, from cartoons to vivid depictions of recent events. By the time he moved to Carmel, California, in middle age, he had switched focus. In the forests near his new home, he set up a research laboratory for communicating with the spirit world and voices from outer space through a so-called “mental radio”. He took down messages – using illustrations, charts, diagrams and writing – and claimed they were from as far as the Pleiades star cluster, and planets such as Jupiter and Mars.
Truth Now Can Be Separated from Falsehood, watercolour and conté crayon on paper, 10 x 13 in. / 25.5 x 32.5 cm
From the late 1910s to the 1920s, he compiled these transmissions into a series of books, one of them titled Over the Psychic Radio: An Astral Album of Autographic Scripts and Self-Portraits. Most of the illustrations extoll the reader to live a better life – whether in this one or the next – through messages from otherworldly characters. Many of the wide-eyed spectral beings have big, ornate hair, their portraits bordered by Art Nouveau-style flourishes. One artwork is particularly reminiscent of his previous editorial cartoons: it shows a person walking in a circle – their neck tied to an oversized dog covered in moss – with the words “still you always have the satisfaction of knowing just where this path leads you,” as “Human Attainment” gleams like the Emerald City beyond hills in the background.
For Man’s Great Future Gain, watercolour, ink and graphite on paper, 10 x 16.5 in. / 25 x 42 cm
According to the artist, these ethereal figures had missives to share with Earth through him, like “Zaerruez” from “a Far Planet” who advises: “Learn this: that rhythmic rays of human Thought enmesh a million inhabited globes – a sentient web.” Wallace used a variety of scripts to give each a distinct voice, like autographs collected on the astral plane. “Yaoli of the Beyond”, for instance, who has blue skin and rays beaming around her beehive of hair, asks in tight cursive: “Is not Truth all Man need seek? Yet he who would perceive greater truths must keep the light of Truth shining behind his eyes.” Great thinkers from history like Harriet Martineau and Thomas Jefferson are also part of this chorus of revelations, as are deceased friends from Wallace’s own life, like horticulturist Luther Burbank who died in 1926 and congratulates Wallace on his work, telling him that “Hundreds are eager to help.”
By ALLISON C MEIER
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #113