Mrs. AntiSniveler and I have on the wall a print of the above Alex Grey painting, called Theologue. This version has been cropped in order to fit without distorting things. His artwork is mesmerizing and provoking, to say the least.
When we worked in a metaphysical bookstore during the 90’s, Alex would occasionally walk in with Ken Wilbur, the two of them being connected with Naropa University here in town. At some point, we heard that Alex experienced a profound spiritual breakthrough earlier in life, when he was struggling to find his artistic “voice.” From that time forward, he has apparently viewed the world much as he paints it — which is to say, he sees energy, and he sees how energy flows through matter.
I don’t know if this is true, but for kicks, why don’t we see what other info we can find?
First, his own website:
Grey was an instructor in Artistic Anatomy and Figure Sculpture for ten years at New York University, and now teaches courses in Visionary Art with Allyson at The Open Center in New York City, Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, the California Institute of Integral Studies and Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York.
In 1972 Grey began a series of art actions that bear resemblance to rites of passage, in that they present stages of a developing psyche. The approximately fifty performance rites, conducted over the last thirty years move through transformations from an egocentric to more sociocentric and increasingly worldcentric and theocentric identity. The most recent performance was WorldSpirit, a spoken word and musical collaboration with Kenji Williams which was released in 2004 as a DVD.
Grey’s unique series of 21 life-sized paintings, the Sacred Mirrors, take the viewer on a journey toward their own divine nature by examining, in detail, the body, mind, and spirit. The Sacred Mirrors, present the physical and subtle anatomy of an individual in the context of cosmic, biological and technological evolution. Begun in 1979, the series took a period of ten years to complete. It was during this period that he developed his depictions of the human body that “x-ray” the multiple layers of reality, and reveal the interplay of anatomical and spiritual forces. After painting the Sacred Mirrors, he applied this multidimensional perspective to such archetypal human experiences as praying, meditation, kissing, copulating, pregnancy, birth, nursing and dying. Grey’s recent work has explored the subject of consciousness from the perspective of “universal beings” whose bodies are grids of fire, eyes and infinite galactic swirls.
Grey’s paintings can be described as an unusual and contemporary blend of sacred or visionary art and postmodern art; one term used to describe the artist’s work is “transpersonal”. His work often depicts aspects of the supernatural world overlayed with aspects of the natural world. Some viewers report that elevated or spiritual states are induced while viewing his images, which might be described as the traditional purpose of sacred art. His work has an eclecticism that often integrates auras, human anatomy, religious icons (sometimes reminiscent of thangkas), geometric shapes and tessellations (sometimes reminiscent of mandalas), in natural, industrial, and multicultural situations. The human figures are sometimes shown nude (usually with partially translucent skin), in sexual situations, or in the act of meditation. This incorporation of the “high” and “low”, the sacred and secular, gives Grey’s art a postmodern feel. However, the sacred aspect essentially expunges any sense of irony often associated with postmodern art (one might cite some people’s reactions to the art of Andy Warhol). In contrast, Grey’s approach to the human figure is decisively clinical, which conceptually trivializes the spirituality of his work. Regardless, the spiritual aspect provides an organization that enables Grey to overcome his eclecticism; his work may thus be characterized as syncretic.
The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, in NYC:
The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) is a sanctuary in New York City for contemplation and a center for events encouraging the creative spirit. The Sacred Mirrors, on display in the Chapel, are a series of paintings that allow us to see ourselves and each other as reflections of the divine.
CoSM provides a public exhibition of the Sacred Mirrors and the most outstanding works of mystical art by Alex Grey. The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors is a 501(c)(3) organization, supported solely by charitable donations from the community.
Another Alex Grey page:
Alex Grey is one of the rare truly-inspired artists of our age. He not only paints humans with medical precision, but he also paints many dimensions of the actual human being. That is, he paints the actual subtle energy bodies of the human, as well as the obvious physical flesh body – creating a separate painting for each “plane” or “dimension” of the human energy field. This is truly higher-consciousness “visioning”! His paintings thereby offer a “glimpse” into the actual subtle auric energy-fields of humans. His art combines the Sacred-Divine with the precision-externalization of multi-dimensional vision.
Finally, there’s a YouTube interview with Alex over at my other blog.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who says, “Gosh, I’d love to hang out with Alex Grey.”
But the fact is, I’d love to hang out with Alex Grey.
Alex, if you’re reading this and you’re in Boulder any time soon, write a comment here and we’ll hook up! The tea’s on me.