Autograph Love Letter Signed to Carlos Dyer - 1938
Never before seen or published, with superb provenance, is this rare and quite intimate love letter handwritten by American modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham to her lover, the artist Carlos Dyer. Two pages on single sheet of stationery, in fine condition with envelope postmarked August 9, 1937 from Bennington, Vermont. Filled with passion and verve—including associations to composer Henry Cowell, Graham Company dancers Elise Monte, Ramiel McGehee, and Dorothy Bird, and impresario Merle Armitage—Martha Graham links the “re-born” virtuosity of her dancing to her love for Carlos in rapturous, florid cursive:
In that word I put all the love and deep knowledge of what you have given me these days.
Only that one word can hold everything I feel to say but cannot.
The two performances are over and I am deep in joy.
The one new dance to the Cowell music is good enough to be a gift to you, I think. People say it as a point of departure. That I seem to be re-born. They say I have not danced like these two performances for years.
One man said to Dorothy — Does Martha have someone? She must to dance like that.
It is just striking two on Sunday morning. This morning I saw the dawn come. Friday night I was held in the grip of such tremendous forces that I was left shaken.
Your wire — Elise’s — Merle’s — all your thoughts about me with Ramiel — I felt you while I danced. Last night I wanted you. If only you could have touched me I could have slept. As it was I slept lightly with your name on my lips.
I can write to you a little later about the dancing — about everything. But this moment is just between you and me — a deeply personal moment which only you can understand. Please know I can see a little of the way —
All ways — all things — Carlos
Martha Graham (1894-1991) was an American modern dancer and choreographer whose influence on dance has been compared with the influence Picasso had on the modern visual arts, Stravinsky had on music, or Frank Lloyd Wright had on architecture.
She danced and choreographed for over seventy years. Graham was the first dancer to perform at the White House, travel abroad as a cultural ambassador, and receive the highest civilian award of the US: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In her lifetime she received honors ranging from the Key to the City of Paris to Japan’s Imperial Order of the Precious Crown. She said, in the 1994 documentary The Dancer Revealed, “I have spent all my life with dance and being a dancer. It’s permitting life to use you in a very intense way. Sometimes it is not pleasant. Sometimes it is fearful. But nevertheless it is inevitable.” Her style, the Graham technique, fundamentally reshaped American dance and is still taught worldwide.
ABOUT CARLOS DYER
Born in Springfield, Missouri in 1917, Carlos Dyer grew up in Southern California, where he was influenced by high school teachers to nurture his artistic abilities. During the Depression in the 1930s Carlos worked for the WPA, the largest and most ambitious New Deal American infrastructure program that gave hope to millions of unemployed people, including major artistic and literacy projects. Among those he worked on in his youth, at least one still remains today: a massive 22′ x 44′ prized mural at Woodrow Wilson High School circa 1938, entitled “Democratic Education.”
Having mutual friends in the art world—among them Ramiel McGehee, Merle Armitrage, Lincoln Kirstein, Monroe Wheeler, and Edward Steichen—Carlos eventually met Martha Graham, with whom he had a relationship for several years, and during which these letters were exchanged. Just prior to enlisting in World War II, Dyer married one of Graham’s company dancers, Charlotte Trowbridge, and after the war taught at various esteemed art colleges and institutes. His works have been shown in the Museum of Modern Art in NY, the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Collection, and other prominent venues. Carlos Dyer passed away in May 2016 at the age of 99.