What I would buy at Head for the Hills

The latest show at Art Discovered in Grass Valley was a group of artists afiliated with Luna Rienne Gallery in San Francisco.  The show featured works by NoMe Edonna, Telopa, Ursula X Young, Romanowski, Eric Otto, Evan Venagas, Ruben Rude.

Romanowski, a Swiss/San Franciscan scavenger of wooden detritus, bends time and tone by putting them in a box.  He has reframed the frame.  He has dissected and resurrected all the wood in your life so that every detail is vaguely familiar but unplaceable.  They are studies of the past, certainly melancholic, but also happily and humorously repurposed.  The old picture frames, bed posts, violins, crown moldings are organized, almost filed away.  He fills in the gaps with words, with half hidden drawings.  They have a haunted quality that reminds me of Joseph Cornell.  Had I the money, I certainly would have purchased “Wingspan”.

Ursula X Young was recently featured in the SN&R in Sacramento for her murals .  She has a love affair with wistful women and frolicking city scapes.  She has also successfully tried her hand at specializing in children’s bed room murals.  My daughter has a dreamy view of rural heaven when she wakes up thanks to Ursula: cows, dragonflies, clouds.

I have to say it: NoMe Edonna is a mindfuck.  Really, the guy is at once absurd and technically truthful.  His canvases were little in this show, but they glowed like TVs.  The aliens are probably studying his stuff with their intergalactic satellites.  Or maybe just sending him signals.

Ruben Rude, I am not moved.  I’ve seen it.  Rudes’ work evokes two or three versions of sad.  And by then I have lost interest.  I have sad, I get sad, I fight sad every day, I don’t need it in my living room.  If you are looking for that particular style of street Doze Green has more range, more glyph, more radiance and more fun.

Telopa, like Young, does portraits of women.  His stories are draped with staged symbolism, a still life super-imposed on a cartoonish real life.  Each painting presents something that should not be. Despite their cartoonish beauty the withering glance of his subjects are nothing you would want to encounter in real life.  I have the sense he has spent alot of time staring at Kahlo.  As he should.  Remember that portrait in Vertigo?  Yeah, like that but creepier.

Appearances by other local talent included painters Oliver Vernon, Doze Green and Sarah Coleman.  DJ Shnezzy in the house.  it was a respectable turnout as usual.  This stuff us good enough that it should fly off the walls.

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Soup Night at the old Stonehouse Brewery

Because I was restless and didn’t feel like cooking and it actually happened early enough that i could bring my 2 yr old, I took a chance on Soup Night at the Stonehouse last Wednesday.  And I am glad I did.

It’s unusual for me to walk into an event in Nevada City or Grass Valley and not know anyone.  But that was the case and it made me realize there is a whole community of families and farmers that I have yet to get to know.  The place was packed by the time we got there, people stood in line with their bowls and spoons at the ready while happy servers doled out beef curry, old school chicken or potato leek soup.  Little girls ran around  with their shoes off as the dj’s warmed up with a little 80’s kraut rock.  We ate and observed, then moved upstairs where people sat eating, talking and reading from the lending library.  Blossom followed the older girls with gleeful awe.

If you’ve never been to the Stonehouse, it’s like a cross between a medieval castle and a Goldrush era bar.  Its cozy and cavernous at the same time.

The event was an annual fundraiser for Food Love Project to promote farming in education.  So it was forgivable that the potato leek was a little on the thin side.

People in Nevada County take this kind of thing seriously.  We live in a bubble where people want to know what they are eating, where they really see local food production as a salve to a broken food system.  Wander too far out of the bubble and you will find very different ideas about what is good for the body and what is good for the economy.

Little moments like this make me really appreciate living here.  Everybody was full and happy when the DJ’s busted out some disco and Blossom and I couldn’t resist getting out on the dance floor for a few songs.

I think the answer to some of our big problems is maybe just this simple: party more!  Participate, communicate, educate, grow together, eat together, dance and laugh.  Ok, not all our problems.  But many of them would quickly evaporate if we shared more.

Thank you to the Stonehouse, one of our beautiful historic buildings, for acting as a home for these kinds of happenings.  Thanks Nevada County, for caring about your land, your food and your children.

The illuminated Manuscript of the Body: Alex Grey’s Net of Being

Note:  I submitted this article to the Sacramento Bee but they did not pick it up.  So I’m posting it here as is.  I also include the full interview with #AlexGrey and #AllysonGrey.

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Imagine the world’s wisdom traditions combined and compressed into anatomical drawings of the body. Visionary artist and spiritual icon Alex Grey has spent more than 30 years merging esoteric religion and biology though his art.  His figures are like human light bulbs lit so brightly from within that their skin is transparent. Grey will be signing his latest book Net of Being for eager fans at Art Discovered in downtown Grass Valley on April 10th.

His appearance in a small town at a fledgling gallery may come as a surprise, but it is entirely consistent with his ideals about creative life. His advice for artists trying to make a living in a small town: “Stay as close as you can to what you love. The most important thing for an artist is to find their subject, the thing they make art about, that keeps them hooked on creation…be a strong artist community and make offerings to the greater community and they will support you.”

Grey was born and raised in Ohio where in the mid 70’s he attended #ColumbusCollegeofArtandDesign on a full scholarship but dropped out before graduating.  His work as a research technologist at #HarvardMedicalSchool and as a medical illustrator gave him unique insight into the form and function of the human body.  Combining this understanding with hallucinogenic experimentation and rigorous study of world religions, Grey embarked on a lifelong exploration of human consciousness.  He has taught at New York University, Naropa Institute and Omega Institute, among others.

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Many in the 60’s and 70’s had an awakening but few were able to define it, sustain and articulate it with Grey’s diligence. He peels back the material and energetic layers of the body to reveal the miraculous in the mundane: the phenomenon of smelling a flower or making eye contact with a loved one.  For Grey, the work is a spiritual quest to unify, to lift the delusional boundaries that separate human from human.

His images are ubiquitous, as Net of Being attests.  Tattoos, posters, album covers, clothing, all brandish Grey’s signature third eye.  While this propagation of image might make some artists queasy, Grey seems delighted that these ideas have gained such traction.

“When visions come, an artist may feel a moral obligation to share the iconography that has been personally meaningful, even sacred to them. When an artifact transmits this mystic truth, the viewer recognizes and identifies with it as an icon.”  He often refers to this principle as a #sacredmirror, a seed planted in the mind of the viewer meant to inspire enlightenment.  Grey and his wife, Allyson, have worked on an ambitious project in Wappinger, New York called the #ChapelofSacredMirrors, a temple honoring the world’s wisdom traditions and indeed, inventing a new, art-based religion.

It is brave in this cynical era to advocate universal love and world peace. “Art is the opposite of war,” Grey writes in his book.  In an interview, the Grey’s explained further: “In the future we propose everyone is an artist of their life: a creative node in a unified earth citizens brigade that saves the precious life web, sharing our gifts and emphasizing what unites people rather than what divides.”  When Grey makes bold proclamations like this, people listen and believe.  It may be because he is so studied and draws on such a wide range of sources, or because he has been so consistent in his message and in his life.  Or it may be simply because his images are breathtaking.  Alex Grey’s vision and voice will continue to energize people.  Awe at existence does not go out of style.

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For more on the Alex Grey book signing please visit: artdiscovered.com

Below is an email interview exchange I had with the Grey’s in its entirety:

I was noting in Net of Being your delight at the propagation of your images in the counterculture, i.e., tattoos and merchandise.  Can you tell me about the relationship between art making and commerce?  How do you, as an artist navigate that tension?
 
When visions come, an artist may feel a moral obligation to share the iconography that has been personally meaningful, even sacred to them. When an artifact transmits this mystic truth, the viewer recognizes and identifies with it as an icon. An effective icon is a sacred mirror that provides a glimpse of the viewers innermost being and imaginal experiences. When an artist gains access to the divine imagination and creates an effective icon representing that experience, the consciousness of a viewer can be transformed to a higher spiritual orientation by contemplating that art. This is the Dharmic principle of Liberation Through Seeing — to plant a seed of enlightened vision in the mindstream of the viewer.  The Orthodox Christians call it Theosis, coming closer to God by meditating on icons.
 
Right livelihood, one of the Eight-Fold Noble Paths of Buddhism, means doing a job for which you are not ashamed, a job that supports yourself and society.  People have asked for reproductions of my artwork so we make them available.  All proceeds from all sales of merchandise go toward building Entheon, a sanctuary of visionary art at CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.  Everybody that buys stuff is a builder with us.  Buy the poster, get the world view. Get the tattoo, embody the message.  We don’t think of it as counterculture, but more as visionary and underground culture, like the mycelial web of creative intelligence alive at music festivals throughout the world.

 

In a small town with a very young art scene, making art for a living is like winning the lottery.  Do you have any advice for our local artists in finding a balance between art and making a living?
 
Stay as close as you can to what you love. The most important thing for an artist is to find their subject, the thing they make art about, that keeps them hooked on creation.  Then it doesn’t particularly matter whether you sell it or not, you are doing what needs to be done on a Soul level.  Solitude and deep reflection for years is necessary sometimes.  This is why we think of art as a spiritual calling, you don’t really get into it for the money.
 
Make art events happen and attend those organized by others. Be a strong artist community and make offerings to the greater community and they will support you.
 
Use the internet to make more friends. In any business or endeavor, make more friends and share your most inspiring work. Make art everyday if you want to make a living at it. Keep a sketch book. Read Think and Grow Rich. Zena summarized How to Be a Great Artist by creating a small book when she was five. “Do Your Best. Be Yourself. Never Give Up.” If your art is your uncompromising best work, if the work represents you authentically and without pretense and you practice art-making daily for a lifetime, continually sharing that artwork fully and inspiringly, your work will touch others and support you no matter where you live.
 
You and Allyson have traveled all over the world.  Can you tell me about other cultural approaches to art making that have made an impression on you?
 
We have been particularly drawn to the world’s holy places because we are called to build one. A sacred site puts a philosophical framework around a sacred artifact. A gallery offers a sales environment. Art in a museum offers an anthropological, archeological context, classifies and educates, giving historical perspective. A site created to honor the divine provides a protective boundary around mystic art that represents the core teaching of the faith of that sacred place.
 Excellence exists in every art form in every corner of the planet. Worldwide, we meet visionary artists depicting their experiences in a new kind of sacred art that portrays their personal visions of the divine.
 
In the book you say: “art is the opposite of war.”  I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel powerless in the face of war and that this modern era presents an increasingly efficient, global war machine. As a result humanity feels more fragmented and separate. What does the future of humanity look like to you?
 
In the future we propose everyone is an artist of their life, a creative node in a unified earth citizens brigade that saves the precious life web, share our gifts and emphasize what unites people rather than what divides. Finding unity and discovering the gift of life, no matter what the current conditions, is a sacred path.