Archive for Alex Grey

Rumi, Grey & the Responsiblities of the Light

Needs must I tear them out,” the peacock cried,
“These gorgeous plumes which only tempt my pride?”

Of all his talents let the fool beware:
Mad for the bait, he never sees the snare.
Harness to fear of God thy strength and skill,
Else there’s no bane so deadly as free-will.
-Rumi

The most moving thing for me in Grey’s The Mission of Art is his absolute insistence that artists have a responsibility to the Light. The art we create has impact and artists must choose whether to add to the darkness in the world or to increase it’s luminosity. Grey believes that an artist cannot produce works of light if they do not choose the light in their own lives and I agree. No one is perfect, but the intention to do right and be a source of good in the world counts even if we don’t always succeed.

Speaking to the artist Grey says:

It is your responsibility to find the ways your visions can positively influence individuals and your culture…The mere process of fixing imagery onto surfaces or forms does not ensure spiritual development. It is the intention and awareness from which artists create that determine whether their work will serve mammon, ego or spirit. (p. 218)

I love that. It is our responsibility. In our culture we have lost sight of our greater responsibilities to humanity and the Earth in favor of consumerism and greed. This reminds me of the many mystical visions recorded throughout time where the Divine gives the mystic a task to be done in the world, for example Hildegarde of Bingen. These visions have personal meaning for the mystic, but they also offer a greater message for humanity. The experience of the Divine, must not be controlled or secreted away. It is our charge to be a doorway for the Light, our source, to enter into his wold.

Truly, we have no other reason than to serve the Light because this Light is really our Self anyway. Every moment we fight this reality we waste our life force and we call upon darkness. How much easier it is to surrender to our true calling, to pluck the peacock feather as Rumi says, and serve. Artists are blessed with a unique opportunity because art can reach the spirit without engaging the mind and our egos. Art can effect deep and meaningful spiritual evolution in the world.

Alex Grey

Alex Grey PaintingSo I started & finished Alex Grey’s The Mission of Art today. I was very impressed. He really understands art as a spiritual path and articulates well the mystical experience inherent is creation. In fact I have been completely converted to Grey’s work as an artist.

Islamic Illuminated PageGrey’s work is so luminous it’s almost difficult for me to look at sometimes. Strangely, I’ve always considered him as part of the school of realism. His work has that quality even though he depicts the spiritual body and in his book he often references Michelangelo as inspiration. I’m not too fond of realism although I appreciate the skill needed to do it. But I’ve misjudged. Grey’s work is more like the Islamic Illuminated borders I’ve worked on (See image on left- an authentic 18th cent. Arabic illuminated page). It embodies sacred geometry. When the mind engages with sacred geometry it is elevated and expanded in a particular way. It engages us without going through the feeling body. Much of western art is about emotion and the heart. It is a more Eastern approach to spirituality to travel to God through the Divine mind. Grey’s work engages us in a mystical experience even if our emotions miss it our spiritual body does not.

I must say I am wowed by the possibility Grey’s book & work present of healing and transforming humanity through art. This has always been my own desire and unspoken goal. I think it takes great courage to articulate such a lofty goal. I’ll have more posts coming up about this book once I’ve digested it a bit more…

Another thought on Pain & Angst

I would like to adjust what I said yesterday about pain & angst. Pain is an unavoidable side-effect of being alive. Angst & suffering are not. What I was trying to say is that artists need not suffer to create art, but they do need to feel pain because pain exists in all our lives. Being present to pain without trying to control it removes suffering and releases creativity. So my last post was slightly off-base. I should not have included pain only angst & suffering as unnecessary for artistic creation.

It wonderful to find oneself wrong and have the opportunity to correct it… (without suffering!)

Are Pain & Angst Necessary for the Artist

The following is an excerpt from artist Alex Grey’s conversation with Ken Wilbur:

K:…Conventional art is an expression of the self or world as it is now. Transcendental Art expresses something that you are not yet but that you can become…Alex, that insight belongs to both of us.

A: That’s why you feel better after producing it. Transformative art must express something beyond where you are, it demands that you grow beyond your current self. This is where an artist’s angst and the pain of transformation coincide. You reach toward the true, the good and the beautiful and become a better person through the struggle.

This is an apt description by K. Wilbur and I understand where A. Grey is headed. However, I would take his point one step further. It has been my experience that at a certain point in the artistic journey, the “artist’s angst” in creation can fade away. In the beginning, when we engage the source of creativity, we try and control it. This is the source of angst & struggle. Once we surrender to the creative flow, pain & angst are no longer necessary to the creative process. There is still work to be done, but the work becomes less about our personal struggles and more about accepting the nature of what is. If we can accept that, without judgment or control, art will be produced with a joy and ease unimaginable to most. In the same way an enlightened person can face traumas and disappointments without pain and struggle, so an artist can open the door for the Divine transformation through their work without angst. That doesn’t mean making art becomes easy, being present is probably the hardest single act a human being can undertake.

Update: http://sybilarchibald.com/blog/2007/10/26/another-thought-on-pain-angst/