The following is Part 3 in a content series on Alex Grey Art.
Public Alex vs. Studio Alex
The creative cycle demands an audience, yet there are many cultural obstacles and negative reactions with which the artist must cope. Many artists seek the perpetual shelter of the studio, yet feel the internal ache of incompletion of their creative cycle and yearn to have their voice join the cultural choir. The difficulties encountered with galleries, museums, and collectors leave some artists feeling bitter and rejected. –Alex Grey, The Mission of Art
For many creative artists there is a difficult discernment to make about how much time and energy to spend in solitary creation, public performance, interacting with the public and being involved in various marketing/promotional activities. I struggle with this discernment myself, but I usually prioritize the development of original content over the more extroverted choices. If there is no original content, then there is nothing of value to promote, market, perform or interact with the public about. A stance I try to follow is expressed in Zap Oracle card #169, Do the Work Only You Can Do, which includes the following words:
It is humbling and appropriate that a lot of the work we do can easily be done by others. Somebody has to do it, and it is only fair that we do our share of some of the maintenance work necessary to keep the whole human experience going. But if you incarnated to fulfill a unique mission, then you must give that mission priority. If the creative muse wants to work through you, then you must do what is necessary to allow that to happen. On a more personal level, we may be here to work with particular people, to have particular relationships. In such cases only you can be the father or mother to your children, only you can be the particular friend, spiritual ally, parent, teacher, etc. to some other particular person. There is also unique work you have to do for yourself — only you can work on your relationship to yourself, only you can write in your journal, only you are fully responsible for your health, and so forth.
Prioritize doing the work only you can do.
Based on this stance, an artist like Alex Grey, who has a mission to bring an original vision to the world, cannot compromise that goal. If he neglected being a father to his daughter, or taking care of his health, those would be mission failures too, because those are also works that only he can do. Only Alex can interact with the public as the direct personification of his art mission. However, even amongst the works that only you can do, there is a hierarchy of value and priority. It is more important for Alex to create the art that only he can do, than for him to be the public personification of it, since the former is prerequisite to the later. More extrinsic work, such as building maintenance and keeping the books at CoSM are not work that only Alex can do, and if he is able to outsource those jobs, which he probably does, he should. And then there are grey areas, promotional and marketing activities, teaching, public performance painting and so forth that are sometimes work only he can do, but which may also distract or take energy from the most intrinsic work, the development of the most powerful original content which probably occurs during solitary studio time.
Relating to the creative muse involves a complexity of layers and forces— some more intrinsic, some more extrinsic. There are some nearly universal principles, but no one-size-fits-all formula for navigating this highly individualized relationship. My major work on this subject is The Path of the Numinous—Living and Working with the Creative Muse. To give unsolicited advice to an artist about their deeply personal relationship to the muse is highly presumptuous and inappropriate, unless, of course, you are doing a spiraling, eye-encrusted overview of their work, plus related topics, which I interpret as a license to comment on anything.
Artists (by which I mean any creative person, not just visual artists) vary dramatically in terms of their public or extraverted creativity and solitary or introverted creativity. There is also a paradox, in that the most internal work, done in absolute solitude, may also be the most outer reaching. Im going to delve into this paradox because I want to make a case that it is studio Alex that has more of an effect on the public, than does public Alex.
In The Path of the Numinous—Living and Working with the Creative Muse I discuss a dream I had that illustrates this key paradox of creativity—the deeper in you go, the further out you often reach:
In the dream, I am working on a performance art piece in a somewhat chaotic situation where anomalous, almost apocalyptic weather is occurring, The art piece involves viewers looking down a shaft, partly created by optical illusions, at a person sitting at a table far below. The person at the table is in a state of subterranean isolation and I think of naming the performance art piece after the Dostoevsky novella Notes from Underground. As I play with the optical illusions necessary to create the perception of the long shaft, I am in a subject/object reversal state as I experience myself as both the viewer and as the man from underground sitting at a table at the bottom of the shaft.
When I was designing the performance piece in the dream, I was well aware of my artistic intent. I was trying to make a statement that the artist must be a man from underground, must accept subterranean isolation in the depths, but that, paradoxically, from this intense isolation the artist can create things of universal import and of great interest to others. The dream art project seems like a shaft revealing a person in deep isolation, but it is an optical and conceptual paradox because it is also a projection, a creative extrusion into the outer world of an artistic statement. Optically, the art installation is paradoxical because it feels like you are looking through the wrong end of a telescope or into a deep well, but actually prisms, etc. are projecting the image up and out so it is also like a light house, a projector of light.
If we envision Dostoevsky alone in his garret, at an extreme low point in both his career and personal life, writing Notes from Underground in isolation at night, pages and pen illuminated by the flickering light of a kerosene lamp, it’s like looking down a shaft, seeing a person in the depths of isolated creation. But then if we shift our focus to view the present readers of Dostoevsky, we see, for example, young college students, 130 years after Dostoevsky’s death holding battered paperback copies of Notes from Underground and reading them with rapt attention. Our expanded view reveals that what looked like a shaft descending into total isolation was actually more like a lighthouse projecting a beam of light. The novella that Dostoevsky wrote in total seclusion is actually a 19th Century telepathic device, still fully functional, projecting Dostoevskys most private thoughts across space and time so potently that 150 years later they are still glowing in human minds.
If you hold the two perspectives in your mind—Dostoevsky at the bottom of a shaft of isolation writing, and the telepathic lighthouse broadcasting his thoughts across the night of time—then you see the paradox of solitary creation. What seems like an isolated tunneling into the depths of our being can also be a telepathic broadcast into the minds of others, a broadcast that can transcend our life span. The optical illusion of isolation when we tunnel inward has never been more illusory than in the Internet era. What Alex paints alone in his studio is destined to light up on the pixelated screens of far more people than he will ever meet in person.
Some of the best art requires complete solitude. For example, to write In Search of Lost Time (also called A Remembrance of Things Past), Marcel Proust needed to socially and acoustically isolate himself in a cork-lined study. He knew that certain types of penetrating vision require seclusion. In Sodom and Gomorrah, Proust wrote:
I, the strange human, who while he waits for death to release him, lives behind closed shutters, knows nothing of the world, sits motionless as an owl, and like that bird can only see things at all clearly in the darkness.
Much of the source material of what he wrote in seclusion, however, derived from extroverted, social experiences that were now stored in memory.
Some art, performance art, for example, is almost always done before an audience. Similarly, there aren’t many people who take up acting on a solitary basis. Some art forms are collaborative and demand social interaction. A movie director might be a visionary introvert, but to make a major motion picture they also have to perform like a general who is able to maintain morale and command logistics. They must also be a CEO and manage money and resources, a politician, a man or woman of action and so forth.
Visual artists, painters and sculptors, usually work in solitude, but there is considerable individual variation. The most public artist I ever met was my sometime friend during my East Village years, Keith Haring. I first encountered Keith’s work riding the subway. During that era, when ad posters were due to be replaced in subway stations, they would first paste a sheet of black, matte paper over them so that the earlier ad wouldn’t bleed through. The poster frames with the flat, black paper were interpreted by Keith as temporally fragile, alchemical chalk boards. Keith could wield a stick of chalk or a marker pen like lightening and arresting images formed in seconds. Sometimes, however, he wasnt quite quick enough and, the arresting images resulted in his getting arrested by the N.Y. Transit police. Some of these fragile, public creations were brilliant and I got off the Six Train once to photograph a particularly striking one that is now featured in Zap Oracle card #293, “Power Worship” which is also relevant to the guru issue.
Soon thereafter, Keith began showing his work at Patti Astors Fun Gallery which was literally across the street from where I lived on Tenth Street close to Avenue A. I would go over to the Fun Gallery sometimes and talk to Keith about Jung and point out the many connections his work had to the Singularity Archetype. Keith drew some of his designs on a few of the Jung books I lent him.
Keith was the most fully public artist I ever met and it would be hard to imagine him in any other context. He was mercurial and hyperkinetic and, like his subway drawings, he seemed to be everywhere. His extraversion was in many ways a public service. For example, at the time Keith was showing at the Fun Gallery I was an English teacher and dean of a public high school in the South Bronx. I befriended some of the more talented graffiti writers at the school, and Keith helped me to get a couple of them, Caski and Galaxy, shown at the Fun Gallery. Keith also teamed up for a while with another graffiti writer, LA2.
Much of Keiths best work was done in public. He was also out and about everywhere, and like Alex, incredibly generous with his time and talent and made himself accessible to anyone. Art dealers tried to get him to be less generous, pointing out that he lowered the financial value of his work by decorating every leather jacket that East Village club kids put in front of him, etc. But Keith would not have been Keith, would not have fulfilled his particular art mission, if he werent so public. Also, his hyperkinetic, loose, line drawing style didn’t require a studio setting.
Alex is the next most public artist I’ve ever met. On the other hand, his best work is done with diamond cutter precision and usually does require a studio setting.
The public paintings like Mushroom Sutra are OK, and I guess we can fill in most of the transparent anatomy detail with our imagination at this point, but it is not exactly a rival to Net of Being. Mushroom Sutra isn’t opening a portal into an unseen world the way his best studio works do, at least for me. (In fairness, some Grey images painted in the looser style, such as Death and the Maiden, are quite powerful.)
I’m greedy and egocentric. I want as many visionary portals out of Alex as I can possibly get. Athletes are told to “leave it all on the field” and that’s what I want from Alex; I want him to leave it all on the canvas or stretched linen or whatever. If he’s had an amazing vision that is still languishing in his imagination because he hasn’t found the studio time to manifest it, then I feel cheated and perhaps Alex does too.
If someone offered me a low five figure fee to do a live painting or talk at a festival somewhere I could respond, “Thank you so much for the offer, but I place higher value on the creation of original content in solitude.” Actually, my response would be: “Hell yes, when do I need to be at the airport?” As a narcissistic personality who finds money to be a very useful thing, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. But if I started to get enough of those offers, enough that it was seriously encroaching on solitary writing time, I’d have to rethink my public/private creativity boundary. Even so, I’d find it hard to say no because cash is so useful and public attention (up to a point) can be exciting and addictive.
As soon as I have enough cash to pay all my expenses and get all the shiny, new digital gadgets I want, trading time for money gets much less attractive. If, however, I felt I needed fifty million dollars or so to build a Zap Oracle Pavilion then ordinary cash sufficiency would not suffice, and it would be even harder to say no.
Mark Twain, because of horrendously bad investments, was forced, late in life, to get out on the road and do public speaking tours to pay back his creditors. If he hadnt had to do that, maybe he could have written another masterpiece. Charles Dickens put his health at nearly fatal risk to do public readings. He had four households to support and was paid well for his performances, but he also loved the stage, was a consummate actor, and the thrill of public performance was an addictive passion. The intensity of his performances was so great, and his health so fragile (he looked like a very old man when he died at 58) that his doctor could sometimes barely detect his pulse when he collapsed with exhaustion at the end of a performance. Dickens, who was perhaps the first modern celebrity, had obsessed fans all over the world.
According to a New York Times report from that era, “In New York City, 5000 people stood in a mile-long line for tickets…” Dickens enthusiasm for the public was matched by their enthusiasm for him. The time and vitality Dickens spent on his readings was worth it for those who attended. Unfortunately, no recording technology was available to preserve these performances. Also, given the dreadful current state of time displacement technology, and temporal paradox issues, I feel that the odds of my ever getting to attend one of these mesmerizing 19th Century performances are probably very low.
So from where I am standing in linear time, I would prefer that Dickens had done fewer readings and preserved his health enough to say, finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which he was in the midst of writing when he was felled by a stroke in 1870. My suggestion to Dickens would have been that he should do the work only he can do, and leave it all on the page. Like so much of my good advice, this suggestion will probably have little or no influence given the strange immutability of human affairs trapped, like moths in amber, on the wrong side of linear time. In the present era, however, Simon Callow and other actors and directors continue to do brilliant work bringing Dickens to the public, but none of them can finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
This is the reason why I immediately felt some reservations when I first heard Alex and Allyson talk about their extremely ambitious plans to build a giant temple complex in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. I had already witnessed some talented people inspired by creative vision and an excess of New Age, Jah-will-provide optimism get burned by their naive faith in YCYOR (you-create-your-own-reality—see my critique of YCYOR as an absolutism in Dynamic Paradoxicalism—the Anti-ism Ism). On the other hand, the Greys and CoSM have far more competence, connections, wherewithal and original vision than those I saw who got burned. My concern was that the noble effort to build this facility would distract from the solitary studio work.
Unfortunately, I have not yet been to the Wappingers Falls, New York facility, but plan to in the future. I also have no inside knowledge of how the fund raising, etc. for the creation of the Temple is going. Maybe it’s all solidly on track and my concern is unwarranted.
To any and all multibillionaires who have fallen under the spell of this spiraling overview: write this man a sixty million dollar check. I’d feel better about the effort if there was a fully funded Apollo moon-shot-style team of engineers, architects and construction experts that could say to Alex, “Just give us your basic design drawings, and we’ll do the rest.” Even better would be a sixty billion dollar check so that the temple could be up scaled to four times the size of the Great Pyramid in Egypt with walls meticulously constructed of hurricane-proof, laser-cut prismatic solar powered, hologram-generating glass panels. I want the temple to be able to project rotating 800-meter tall transparent anatomy figures that will be visible from Manhattan at night. A monorail configured to follow the outline of a goddess would quickly transport visitors to any part of the compound. If I were president, I would give somewhere between 6 and 12 percent of the U.S. military budget (currently estimated as between 1 and 1.4 trillion dollars) to Alex for the purpose of art projects and sacred site development. As president, I would realize that a spiritual renaissance in 2013 has to have more pizazz, more sensory impact than what the Catholic Church offered 800 years ago. That’s also why I would take the next sixty percent of the U.S. Military budget and invest it in consumer virtual reality, CGI, and a hundred fantasy films with half-billion-dollar budgets each.
The reality is that even with sixty-million dollars and an Alex Grey design, you will still not come close to the impact of an 800-year-old Gothic cathedral. Just think, these weightless looking structures wrought of a hundred million pounds of stone, the weight of the Empire State building, were wrought by the six gadzillion man hours efforts of Renaissance craftsman and stone masons steeped in alchemy working for up to a hundred years. Oh, and state-of-the-Gothic-art architecture might have a ceiling by Michelangelo thrown in.
We need to exceed the power of a Gothic Cathedral, but without a budget of at least six hundred million, it won’t happen. A Gothic cathedral is a pinnacle of analogue labors. Given the low probability that I will ever be in a discretionary relationship to the U.S. military budget, I can think of a less labor and cash intensive way to have more than Gothic cathedral power: combine Alex’s imagination, six million dollars or less and a team of alchemically adept digital artisans working on behalf of his vision.
Even though I visit New York City five or six times a year, I’ve never made it to a mile past the Path Train stop and the new facility. Right now I would trade my future chances of spending a full moon at the CoSM temple for a pair of $259 dollar wrap around, high-res, 3D, LCD Samsung glasses connected to an IPod Nano-sized object in the shape of an eye made of iridescent, injection molded, high-density plastic. It’s called an EyeCoSM® and the third generation model will eventually sell on Amazon for $129.95. When I touch the pupil of my EyeCoSM®, I begin my virtual tour of the Sacred Mirrors. A series of transparent anatomy figures rotate in a three dimensional star field. An Eyeclick® takes me into the virtual temple that has a domed roof and I lie down in the center of it. As I look up at the dome it morphs into a 3D rendering of The Net of Being. I rise up toward The Net of Being and hurtle through a tunnel vortex formed out of a spiraling mosaic of eyes and galaxies. Next I have to get past a threshold guardian in the form of what looks like a six hundred meter high befanged guru who shoots flames out of his eyes. Using the touch sensitive surfaces of my EyeCoSM® like a game controller, I navigate past the guru and pass through stages in The Journey of the Wounded Healer. And so forth.
Yeah, from the point of view of psychometry, of psyche-infused matter, a Gothic cathedral wrought by skilled human hands (painstakingly realizing its every nook and cranny, its every tile and pane of stained glass) towers over the iridescent, injection molded casing of my little EyeCoSM®. And my Samsung glasses have the psychometrical profile of a double-track, disposable razor. I don’t sacrifice the psyche-infused objects lightly, either. I happen to be someone obsessed with psychometrically intense objects that surround me in my home as I type this. Still, offer me an excursion package which includes first class airfare, plus five star hotel and dining so that I can spend a luxurious week touring the Apostolic Palace, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel and I’ll gladly sacrifice all the psychometrical benefits to trade for even a second-gen EyeCoSM® and the anytime/anywhere chance not to have tourists bustling about me while I’m in the sacred space.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica, and the Apostolic Palace as much as the next guy, but it sucks that they are currently located in the Vatican. If you moved them to Monument Valley, kept all the Catholics and tourists out, fumigated them with sage smoke for a couple of months and then allowed ayahuasca ceremonies at night in the Sistine chapel, they would become much more valuable as sacred spaces for me. Given the low probability that I’ll ever get the Vatican to agree to any of these enhancements, I’ll sacrifice some analog production values and psychometrical Gothic aura in return for the chance to have everyone else excuse themselves from the virtual Sistine Chapel so I can take an entheogen, turn on my EyeCoSM® and spend an entire night alone in there lying on a futon staring up at Michelangelos ceiling slowly phasing into Alex Grey’s Net of Being3D ceiling in complete silence. A couple of Eyeclicks, though, and I could add Gregorian chanting in surround sound if I want. Or loud trance techno or Bach organ fugues or whatever. I’ll trade my excursion package to Rome or a stretch limo ride to Wappinger, New York for an EyeCoSM® I can use wherever/whenever I need to.
I realize that the social aspect would be sacrificed by solitary EyeCoSM® use. A lot of interesting people show up at CoSM full-moon events and that’s worth going out of your way for and I am glad that they will be continuing. I’m social, but I’m also an introvert, and I feel that group spiritual experiences tend to get overrated. Yeah, every so often eight people somewhere will take ayahuasca together and form a telepathic bond that creates a seed crystal glowing in the collective unconscious of the species. Most group experiences on the festival and public event scale, however, have a very diffused spiritual atmosphere at best, with a thousand layers of the same old, same old social matrix/persona energy infusing the mutant nexus. An individual, alone in her apartment, in silent darkness (plus EyeCoSM®) and perhaps an entheogen, could have a glowing-in-the-collective-unconscious, seed-crystal experience.
As important as it is to work on climate change and many other serious issues, I would place the highest moral value on helping to create seed-crystal experiences. Some may dismiss this as the personal preference of an introvert with interests in the paranormal and mystical. Actually, emphasizing seed-crystal experiences is the most pragmatic, potent and direct approach to achieving a positive metamorphosis of human existence. From the extrovert’s point of view, and the U.S. is an especially extroverted culture, art is a hobby type of a thing, a sideshow, something for arty types to do in their spare time. It’s not at the center. At the center are the big, serious things—-the economy, war, violence and environmental pollution. And yet, the economy, war, violence and environmental pollution are all psychological products. All derive from a common source: the human psyche. Addressing these things symptomatically is superficial and weak compared to going right to the source, the psyche.
As Jung said,
There is no such thing in nature as a hydrogen bomb. That is all man’s doing. We are the great danger. Psyche is the great danger.
The primacy of psyche is also the reason why Terence McKenna, as I mentioned in the intro, said we should “Push the art pedal to the metal” to further human evolution. This is also why Terence and Alex emphasize entheogen experiences. It is because we need people to have seed-crystal experiences.
This is why Alex writes in The Mission of Art,
So take care, artist, you shoulder responsibility for affecting the collective mind. Even a tiny drop of a powerful tincture can change the color of an entire glass of water.
In Star Trek mythology, prospective Federation captains are tested in sophisticated simulators with a no-win scenario called the Kobayashi Maru, a tactically impossible situation where every possible strategy and series of actions will fail. Captain Kirk’s response, when he was tested by the Kobayashi Maru simulation for the third time, was to reject the no-win scenario. He did this by hacking into and reprogramming the simulation computer.
This is a key mythologem of our time. Our simulation computer (the collective psyche) is generating Kobayashi Maru, no-win scenarios globally. We need to hack into and reprogram the collective psyche with seed-crystal experiences to do that.
This is why I’m more interested in developing the EyeCoSM® than the temple in Wappinger, New York. I want the seed-crystal experience available to a nineteen-year-old cyberpunk who lives in a seedy part of Tokyo. We need to use the ever more world-wide availability of the internet and other technologies to bring down the patriarchal era. For example, when a young, visionary, Dutch artist, Thijme Termaat, posted a brief, but very clever YouTube of himself painting (I Paint), it inspired many more people than displaying his canvasses in the conventional way.
Vax, the nineteen-year-old cyberpunk, who built the first version of my website several years ago, said to me at the time: “At least you have some actual content to put in a website.” He had grown tired of people who wanted him to build them websites and expected him to supply the content as well. When he delivered that line, I realized that one of the most important jobs on the planet is to be a content-provider. The technology and the ability to distribute information doesn’t help us much if there isn’t visionary content. The ten million SMS texts that will be generated in the next hour that read, “Whassup?” aren’t going to change the collective psyche very much. We need to combine the technology with the most visionary content we can find.
The perceptive reader will have long since concluded that I am not just giving advice to Alex Grey. Alex’s case dramatizes issues that all us content-providers need to keep in mind. What makes Alex’s case dramatic, however, is that he is the most seed-crystal-experience-generating visual artist I know. And this is why I want Alex to keep pushing his art pedal to the metal.
As great as it is to have so much public access to Alex— his availability at numerous public events, etc. I would rather get a few more paintings on the scale of The Net of Being. This is why I want people to write him big checks so he doesn’t have to do events to raise funds. If you are concerned about psychological products like war and other forms of violence, the economy, and environmental pollution (caused by greedy, short-sighted psyches), and want a potent way to address the root cause of those problems, make a donation to CoSM which is a 501(C) (3) nonprofit. Your donation will directly help with seed-crystal-experience generation, which is the direst need of the human species.
Meanwhile, I want Alex to keep looking through the interstices of the matrix at hidden realities and then create portals for us to see what he sees. For this reason, I would also prefer that (in some cases at least) Alex didn’t have to spend years doing the precise, laborious, minute brush work that he does so well. Yes, there is an incredible, devotional presence to Net of Being with the immense effort of painting the same, tiny spiral galaxy again and again and again. Being near Net of Being, the original painting, is far more intense than being near a life-size, beautifully printed glossy poster version of it.
Alex, Jonathan in front of Net of Being at CoSM (NYC) photo by Bernadette Salem
A couple of years ago I got to stand inches from Jung’s The Red Book in a museum in New York. The field around it was potent, a wizard’s secret book labored over during the course of decades, filled with visions. It was great to be able to stand so close to this book I had heard rumors about since I started studying Jung at age 20, but if I had to choose between that experience, and a PDF of the entire text, I would choose the PDF. If I didn’t get to stand next to Net of Being with Alex, but could hurtle through Net of Being 3D with my EyeCoSM®, I’d consider myself very well compensated. Ideally, we would be able to choose both/and rather than either/or. This is why I have already committed 6-12% of the U.S. military budget (should it ever be brought under my discretionary control) for Alex’s art projects and sacred site development. I want a sixty billion dollar temple complex at Wappinger, N.Y. and a third-gen EyeCoSM®. Given an either/or, however, I’ll take the EyeCoSM®.
Although Alex has had more to say about the devotional and psychometric aspects of labor-intensive handmade art, I have also heard him speak highly of computer-generated art as well. In The Visionary Artist (a Sounds True audiobook), Alex generously praises computer art and says that he has learned the rudiments of Photo Shop. The most notable example of Alex collaborating with digital animators is the music video of Lateralus by Tool.
I would like to see Alex collaborate more with skilled digital artisans. While I get the devotional aspect of painting the same tiny spiral galaxy again and again, a strong case can also be made for reducing the investment of repetitious labor in a mechanically resistant medium and allowing a crucial visionary content provider to, for example, propagate the spiral galaxy with a hundred mouse clicks rather than a million brush strokes.
Some of Alex’s images seem like they would actually be enhanced in a digital form. Original Face, a series of five, 17″x24″ panels painted with oil on linen in 1995, looks like a computer image. An animated version was produced for Tool’s Laderalis, but I see it displayed on a giant video screen with nodes of light moving along the vertical lines that establish the contours of the faces.
I feel that Lightworker would be more powerful if the lightning, electrical field and spiral vortex were all animated.
In principle, Alex embraces the power of the new media.
In The Mission of Art, he writes:
Science and technology have stretched human vision to the farthest expanses of space by the powers of the telescope and have allowed us to peer into previously unknown infinitesimal worlds by the powers of electron microscopy. Photography of cells, molecules, and atoms reveals pattern upon pattern of refined interwoven worlds and has given artists new vistas of the miniscule.
Super computers have given artists new tools to create vivid and realistic imaginal worlds. With 3-D modeling and texture mapping of surfaces at such a high level of sophistication, computer artists can seamlessly interject their fantastic worlds into films or photographic scenes of everyday reality.
Alex may agree in principle, but I would like to see him utilize more of it in practice. Michelangelo and Bach used the most high-tech means available in their eras. Unauthorized digital artists will continue to appropriate Alexs images for their art and animations. Why not have the originator of the visions directing more of the digital magic?
Alex, the Writer
Alex has also worked in the least mechanically resistant of all media—writing. This is another creative product that (I assume) Alex does in private settings. Not much, as far as I can tell, has been written about Alexs writings, so Im going to make a few comments.
Unlike a biographer, the spiraling overviewer, at least as I interpret the role, comments on whatever catches his eye, and especially on what has not been commented on. A great deal has been written, by Alex and others, on Alex the psychonaut and his philosophy of relating to entheogens as a visionary, artist and spiritual seeker. This spiraling overview is, therefore, going to skip over that important topic entirely.
Obviously, Alex will always be far more recognized for his visual work, than his writing, though most of his prose is written in a lucid style and often has cogent things to say, especially about being an artist with a moral purpose. That an artist can and should have a mission to bring something life-affirming into the world is a stance that would have been more acceptable in the 19th Century. Today, coming from a New York artist, it is a courageous stance since it is dramatically cross-grained with the trendy nihilism that, as discussed previously, is considered the only sophisticated and correct stance by most artworldlings. Alexs philosophy of art has intellectual precision, but is centered in the heart, soul and spirit. This is especially admirable since he is working in an art world that is more about cash and the avoidance of positive content. A humble sincerity shines through in his writings, and often an ability, like the X-Ray painting style, to expose the core.
For example, in The Mission of Art he writes:
God has ordained that imagination be stronger than reason in the soul of the artist, which makes the artist build bridges between the possible and the seemingly impossible.
The insight is powerful, and the use of the word God in the statement somewhere between unorthodox to heretical in the world of contemporary art. Arguably, the insight could be delivered without bringing a polarizing entity like God into the equation (my philosophy of creativity The Path of the Numinous—Living and Working with the Creative Muse makes no mention of God), but you have to admire the sheer chutzpah of a New York artist/intellectual using it in his philosophy of art.
Alexs prose, both in style and content, gets high marks from me. Alex has also written considerable poetry (which he sometimes recites at public events) and has even published a book of poetry and imagery entitled Art Psalms. Im less competent to comment on poetry than prose, and Im also more ambivalent about his work in that medium. Alexs poetry is mostly a poetry of ideas and spiritual principles that often seems more well intended than inspired in the use of language and poetic technique. From the craft of writing point of view, I have a one-sentence suggestion to Alex if he plans to continue as a poet: bring in the specificity of image that is your strongest suit into your poetry. Much of the poetry is either nonvisual or has images that are too abstracted for me to visualize. There are too many lines like A glowing Gods eye, which is too generalized for me to conjure up any particular image in my mind. On the other hand, Alexs prose will sometimes use very effective visual metaphors, The fire of God fills the artist with holy pressure to turn the coal of matter into diamonds of art. A more playful and inventive use of language occurs in the title of a painting, Psychomicrograph of a Fractal Paisley Cherub Feather Tip. My suggestion is to bring more specificity of image and visionary, playful inventiveness into the poetic writings.
Alex responds to Part III:
I appreciate your invitations to those of means to help us. Allyson and I put everything we have into the Chapel project and still CoSM needs the support of friends and angels to evolve this sanctuary of visionary art. Also love the EyeCoSM!
Thank you for caring so deeply about the work and giving it your critical attention.
In part IV, the final part, we are going to go much deeper into the content of many of Alexs images and see what they reveal about the evolutionary metamorphosis of the human species. (Parts I-III as a single document.)