There are many famous Virgos artists in art history—Ai Weiwei, Dorothea Tanning, and Jacques-Louis David, just to name a few. Who would you say is the quintessential Virgos artist and why?
Virgo is an earth sign ruled by the planet Mercury—the planet that symbolizes your mind, analysis, games, systems, and transactions. People with strong Virgo placements are on a quest to figure out what is real, what is true, what the rules are, and what works. They can take in an incredible amount of information and sit with it in all its complexity and detail because their job is to separate the wheat from the chaff. They want to know the system inside and out. And a creative Virgo can excel at gaming and recreating the system.
Theaster Gates, whose sun, moon, and Mercury are in Virgo, is a perfect example of this. He is incredibly effective at understanding how systems work and then leveraging them to creative, ambitious, but also pretty down-to-earth, concrete ends that make a specific kind of sense and are of a specific type of benefit to specific people. He makes art objects that are unabashedly for a market and that raise capital—he plays very effectively by those rules. Then he takes that capital and puts it into a private foundation—Rebuild Foundation—a nonprofit structure with its own rules that can effectively leverage wealth. Then he uses the foundation to essentially act as a real-estate developer of sorts—another set of rules, another set of tools. If you ask Gates what his goals are, he breaks community benefits down clearly by stakeholder group and is 100% clear that the ultimate goal is to consolidate power, space, and resources for Black artists nationwide by leveraging these other communities and groups in ways that are mutually beneficial. There is zero confusion in Gates’s mind about what his foundation is doing, what it is not doing, and who benefits—and how, and how much.
When you zoom out and look at a range of creative people who have strong Virgo placements, this emphasis on contexts, systems, and stakeholders feels consistent. Virgo-rising Ai Weiwei is a lot like Gates. Tania Bruguera’s emphasis on Arte Util is a great expression of her Jupiter in Virgo. Romare Bearden was an important organizer of group exhibitions and advocate of other artists in Harlem. Mark di Suvero is as into creating sculpture parks as he is at creating individual sculptures. Dolly Parton, another Virgo rising, is particularly devoted to nurturing her fan base. There’s a humility and a grandiosity in this that coexist in a lovely way. It’s as if Virgo artists dream big by meticulously thinking through everyone’s needs and making things work for others.
What are Virgos’ strongest qualities as artists?
Virgos are systems thinkers who are into purity but are not really invested in idealism. They love the details of life; can hold and manipulate an incredible amount of information, and follow a lot of threads all the way to the end to make things that are very internally consistent and sound. I got my start in astrology doing readings for artists that I worked with at A Blade of Grass, and I found that a big proportion of the socially engaged artists I pulled charts for have significant Virgo placements. This makes sense because socially engaged art projects are often about working deeply in a context, creatively manipulating systems, or creative outcomes in situations that are objectively not great but that could be better.
What are their pitfalls?
Venus, the planet that symbolizes beauty, attraction, and art, is in her “fall” in the sign of Virgo. It’s harder to arrive at a beautiful or artful outcome when you are so into parsing reality and seeing it for what it is!
There are a few ways artists get around, or through, this, though. There are artists like Gates or Mel Chin, with his Mars in Virgo, who pour all that love of detail and reality and sifting and learning into things like surfaces, materials, archives, techniques, and skills. There are artists Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Neptune in Virgo, who are investing deeply in a specific Venus in Virgo archetype—the holiness of cleaning and maintaining. And there are artists like Tourmaline, an exquisite example of Venus in Virgo, who are playing with the way beauty is constructed. It’s important not to judge signs or placements, and art is a good way to do that. Harder often means better when it comes to art.
The Constellation Virgo from A Celestial Atlas by Alexander Jamieson. Photo: © Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images.
What is the ideal environment for Virgos to work in? What should Virgos keep in their studios and homes to keep themselves inspired?
Starting with the stereotype, Virgos are organizers and need to be able to clean and tidy and sort things to get comfortable. But it’s perhaps less obvious that Virgos need something to organize! Virgos need a lot of information to process in order to really be happy. The most creative Virgos I know are constantly swimming in a sea of open tabs, newspaper clippings, half-read books, meetings, classes, brainstorming sessions, and notebooks. Lots and lots of notebooks.
How should a Virgo artist start the day?
With a half-hour or more of meditation! It’s so important for Virgos to separate from their thoughts and touch base with the self that is not their thoughts on the daily.
Do you think there is a medium that Virgos would be particularly suited to?
Social practice for sure—that intense consideration of context and who benefits and how things work is what socially engaged art is made of. But if we were going to go more traditional, I would say something technical that isn’t relying on constantly feeling creative, like printmaking. What’s great about printmaking is that it’s mostly about learning techniques and following steps and cleaning things and holding all kinds of arcane information about ink viscosities and types of blankets and so on. And it happens in a social and practical context—it’s not just you in your studio, you’re in a shop with other printmakers, figuring out how to share space and resources as much as focusing on your own thing.
If a Virgo were going to date someone in the art world, who do you think they would match with?
The first love between a stereotypical Virgo and someone in the art world would be with a critic, but this would dissolve and both parties would walk away hurt. Maybe a better, longer-term fit would be with that underappreciated art handler or sculpture tech who can convert fractions of an inch to decimals in their head and walks around with a pocket reference.
How do you love a Virgo well? And how do you give them feedback on their art in a way they will be receptive to?
To truly love a Virgo is to know that they absolutely cannot receive your feedback because they are already criticizing themselves way more than you ever could.
If a Virgo artist falls into a creative rut, what should they do to get back on track?
Virgos get obsessed, require obsessions. An unobsessed Virgo needs to go get obsessed about something.
If an art career isn’t taking off right now, what would be the best day job for a Virgo?
The problem with being a Virgo is that you’re going to be way too good at all day jobs.
What should Virgos—and everyone else—look out for this zodiac season?
The month is very “backward to go forward.” September starts off with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto all retrograde, or appearing to move backward; Mars just entering its pre-retrograde shadow, and with Mercury slowing down to a crawl and about to station retrograde itself. The only planet that can retrograde that isn’t doing so or about to is Venus…and the only thing all that backward motion lacks is subtlety. It’s a good idea to focus this month on work that benefits from multiple passes or requires an iterative or collaborative process. Try not to get attached to the idea that whatever you’re working on needs to have been done right the first time, or on a specific timeline.
And don’t lose hope, even if you feel like you’re never going to get anywhere. The whole month features persistent upsides! Things that might feel pressured, frustrating, and slow will be happening in a really nice relationship to Mars in Gemini and Jupiter in Mars’s sign of Aries much of the month. These are two planets that are about progress and taking initiative. Whatever you are revising, reworking, or collaborating on this month, it is all in the service of the big, enduring changes—some of which started the moment we all went into lockdown “for two weeks” more than two and a half years ago.
This September, in addition to being very “backward to go forward,” has a real “go big or go home” vibe. I mean that in the way that collaborative projects can get more exciting, more expansive, more ambitious, bring more resources, go more places, and cost more money. That’s exciting and a little scary! Retrogrades get a bad rap because they describe losing control over the productive, linear, on-budget, on-time narrative that our capitalistic, utilitarian culture values so much. Maybe a better way to relate to September is to wonder about this need to ensure that things go right the first time. That is rich coming from me–I am one of the most controlling and productivity-obsessed people I know. But maybe that makes me uniquely qualified to say that losing control and letting others participate is the best and hardest work I have ever had to learn how to do. It almost always leads to better, richer, deeper outcomes than I could have imagined on my own.
Wondering which artists are Virgos? Here are some of art history’s best.
Lavinia Fontana: August 24, 1552
Lavinia Fontana, Self-Portrait at the Spinet (1577). Courtesy of Accademia Nazionale di San Luca.
Dorothea Tanning: August 25, 1910
Surrealist painter, sculptor, and writer Dorothea Tanning poses for a portrait at home in the south of France, circa 1955. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
Man Ray: August 27, 1890
Man Ray circa 1934.
Ai Weiwei: August 28, 1957
Ai Weiwei holds some seeds from his Unilever Installation Sunflower Seeds at London’s Tate Modern, 2010. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.
Jacques-Louis David: August 30, 1748
Jacques-Louis David, Self Portrait (1794). Collection of the Musée du Louvre.
Tarsila do Amaral: September 1, 1886
Tarsila do Amaral circa 1925.
Romare Bearden: September 2, 1911
Photograph of Romare Bearden by Carl Van Vechten from the Cedric Dover Papers, Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, Emory University.
Grandma Moses: September 7, 1860
American artist Anna Mary Robertson Moses (1860–1961), better known as Grandma Moses, June 7, 1944. Photo: PhotoQuest/Getty Images.
Jacob Lawrence: September 7, 1917
Jacob Lawrence poses in his Seattle studio, 1986. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images.
Margaret Keane: September 15, 1927
Margaret Keane attends the Big Eyes premiere at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on December 15, 2014. Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage.
Jean Arp: September 16, 1886
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Portrait of Jean Arp in his studio with some of his sculptures, 1966. Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.