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Brooks: Is this how you see most art today?
Grey: All the forces of tradition and the history of art come like a locomotive into the mind of a young artist. What is he or she supposed to do? Nowadays the artist has the widest range of possible modes of expression. Instead of tireless experimenting, I say, bring back the artist to what they are doing. Ask them: why are you making what you are making? What is the sense of it all?

This time of experimentation, modernism, post-modernism, all the previous romantic and impressionist and other approaches, had to do with the engagement of the artist with themselves, to individuate them from their culture, in a sense. This rebellion was necessary to establish art as a free agent of expression, not tied to one ideology or another. Art was an agency whereby you could be totally free to express who or what you are or aren’t. As egoic as it is, that is modernism’s hard won freedom, but it comes with no sort of requirements of conscience or consciousness.

Brooks:In light of that, do you have hope that sacred art has a future?

Grey:I think our task in the twentieth century has been to integrate the Eastern and Western approaches to our path in art. We’re at a time when we can access the many spiritual paths, each of which has a unique kind of sacred art. Today, artists are collaborating with each other all over the world, and there’s potential for a universal spiritual art, individually based but able to tap the archetypes of the collective.

This work demands its own kind of sacred space, instead of a normal art gallery. There’s a tremendous amount of religious art in a place like the Metropolitan Museum, it’s seething with spiritual fervor, in a sense, but it is like a butterfly that’s been pinned to the mount. It’s not necessarily expressly placed there for its transcendent function. It’s not specifically oriented toward that.

I feel that creation of sacred space, sacred architecture for the sacred arts, is an essential move in the twenty-first century. This why I want to build a chapel I’ve been calling Enthion, a place to discover the spirit within. You could call it interfaith or post-denominational. It would be a place inclusive of all spiritual paths which addresses the transpersonal or spiritual reality through contemplation of works of art that elicit immersion in the transcendental ground of being.

So the spiritual art of the twenty-first century and beyond can do these things, orient us to reverence for life and make a new kind of universal spiritual statement that underscores the value and meaning of life. I think that’s what’s to come.

For more on the work of Alex Grey visit his web site at:

Alex Grey: The Mission of a Visionary Artist, Steve Brooks, Shambhala Sun, July 1999.

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