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Net of Being: An Interview with Alex & Allyson Gray

by Staff

Psychodelic artist Alex Gray is the author of Sacred Mirrors, Transfigurations, The Mission of Art and Art Psalms. His work has graced numerous album covers, including those of Nirvana, TOOL, and the Beastie Boys, and has been exhibited throughout the world. His new book, Net of Being explores how the mystical experience expressed in Grey’s work opens a new understanding of our shared consciousness and unveils the deep influence art can have on cultural evolution. Presenting over 200 images, including many never-before-reproduced paintings, the book also documents performance art, live-painting on stage throughout the world, and the "social sculpture" called CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, that Grey co-founded with his wife and creative collaborator, artist Allyson Grey.

Did you always have an inner knowing that you were an artist or was there a particular incident in your life that brought this into clarity for you?

Both: We both have always been artists since our first memories and received encouragement from our families and earliest teachers. We met in art school in Boston — School of the Museum of Fine Arts, a venerable and liberal art institution.

Why did you change your name to Grey, and did you face opposition from your family when you did so?

Alex: On May 30th, 1975, I took my first dose of LSD. After arriving at a party and sharing the drug with the hostess, who happened to be Allyson. I sat on her couch and closed my eyes. Inside my head, I was spiraling through a pearlescent tunnel from utter darkness, through every shade of grey, toward a brilliant light. My ignorance was the darkness, God was the light. The polar opposites blended together seamlessly and it was then that I decided to change my name to Grey. My mission as an artist was now clear: to reveal and unite polarities, male with female, flesh with spirit. This propelled my search for the One love and light at the heart of all mystical traditions.

Allyson: I never intended to change my name to match my husband. Until I met Alex, I intended never to marry. But since Alex was changing his name and I fully resonated with his transformation in consciousness, I chose to change my name when we married in 1977. It has been a great benefit for us to share a name as we share principles and intentions. Alex had to go to court to change his name. Women in our country do not have that burden. Alex’s parents and family may have felt hurt by the change, but have never expressed that and their relationship with us has always been loving.

What are the particular elements contained within your art that you feel cause it to evolve consciousness rather than simply mirror it?

Alex: Archetypal and symbolic images representing a higher vision of universal humanity, bridge the dimensions of body mind and spirit in which we navigate. My work is trans-denominational, portrays the light body and points toward a synthesis, an integral and inclusive mapping of the physical and subtle energy realms

Art can offer the beholder an attractor toward higher development. Icons of wisdom masters like Christ and Buddha, represent what we might become. Portraits of Bodhisattvas, Angels, and Deities are Sacred Mirrors of possibility for our own enlightenment. — from Net of Being by Alex Grey, 2012

Would anyone benefit in an evolutionary way from viewing your work or is there a certain spiritual background or readiness required?

Alex: It is my intention to make my work as accessible as possible. The broad implications of the artwork should be interpretable by anyone and is meant as a tool and may favor the spiritually inclined. Symbols of world religions consort in my paintings intentionally to point to the underlying unity of all wisdom traditions.

Allyson: Any benefit received from an experience is fully the responsibility of the individual having that experience. When Buddha held up a lotus flower, one disciple attained instant enlightenment.

When working on a new piece of art, do you envision the entire piece before you actually begin work on it or do you start your work with a kernel of an idea and see where it leads you? In other words, are you creating the art or is the art creating you?

Alex: The piece I am working on now is entitled, "Monochord." After an initial vision of the image, I worked for many weeks on detailed drawings. I draw until inspiration comes that replicates the experience of the mystic vision. The work then evolves as I am painting and planning, sometimes changes dramatically along the way but there are also times when the image flows out satisfactorily without dramatic change from the initial concept. "Monochord" is coming along in that way but it is far from complete, so we will see.

In "Remembering 9/11 Before It Happened", a section in your new book, Net of Being, you talk about predictive imagery of the attack on the World Trade Center that appeared in your painting "Gaia" that you completed in 1989, as well as the predictive works of some other artists. What were your thoughts and feelings when you first realized these precognitive elements in your painting and how did this affect the content of your work going forward?

Alex: I had no sense that what I was painting was precognitive at the time I painted it. The symbolism came in a vision on the day our daughter was born. Apparently art can function like prophecy. Can artists promote a picture of reality that could wrench people’s minds toward a possible positive future and raise awareness of the cosmic miracle in which we are immersed?

Are you currently working on a new project?

Both: Our greatest work so far is the building of Entheon, a sanctuary of visionary art now being built at CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, a church and art retreat center we co-founded in the Hudson Valley of New York. "Entheon" refers to a place to discover the God within. Alex first offered this name to the renowned Burning Man Camp, birthed in 2006, where many of the best and brightest visionary painters exhibited banners and live paintings in Entheon Village’s various domes and sculptural tents.When completed, the first long-term exhibit at Entheon will be the art of Alex Grey including all twenty-one Sacred Mirrors plus over twenty-five of the best loved originals such as Theologue. Cosmic Christ and Net of Being. The sculptural elements of this unique architectural design point to the transcendent unity of the world’s wisdom traditions. New technologies in 3D scanning, modeling and printing will be utilized to bring this vision to manifestation. Estimated cost to build this two story public structure is about $1.5M. This enduring legacy is being manifested through the donations of many visionaries from all over the world. The completion of Entheon is targeted for the end of 2013. Until then, visitors are inspired by the art, altars, fireplaces and welcoming environment of CoSM’s guest house, the Wisdom Trails and the natural wooded beauty. Friends are invited to take a retreat at CoSM, located in the heart of the region that stimulated the first American art movement, the Hudson River School, remembered for great mystic artists that captured the exquisite and colorful landscapes.

To find out more about CoSM and Entheon, visit www.cosm.org.

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