Cosmic Christ and the Art of Alex Grey
Cosmic Christ was created between 1999 and 2000 with oil paints on a wood surface by artist Alex Grey. It is surrounded by and part of a carved wooden frame. It is presently the centerpiece of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in New York, his personally created sanctuary for the inspiration of other artists. It is not only a wonderful representation of the work that he does, but an incredibly powerful and symbolic piece of art.
One of the reasons I find this particular piece of art so appealing is its effect on and similarity to my own artistic ideas. One of the consistent themes found throughout his art is the idea that all parts of the image are intertwined. There is no part that is unaffected by the rest of the picture, which is a reflection of how things in life truly work. There is no action or idea that ever occurs without having been the product in some way of previous reactions. All things work in patterns to create new things and in that process, destroy old things. In this sense I think that it can be said that there is something beautiful to be found in destruction. These ideas are represented wonderfully in Grey’s art in a way that holds so much profound meaning. Specifically in the Cosmic Christ, both realistic images and images representative of ideas combine to create a symbol of significant influence to the viewer. I can connect with this concept because I too try to relate all parts of my art with the piece in its entirety. I find something comforting in the lucidity and sense of cooperation of a picture where one part flows right into the next, virtually seamlessly without the strict boundaries created by outlines and definite shapes. Our bodies are in constant interaction with our surroundings, consistently exchanging energies with everything around us, both emitting and receiving them. This idea is so commonly overlooked nowadays, people assume that the senses we have are the definition of reality and existence. Many people assume that what they can see and touch, that is what exists, but there is so much more to what is. For example, many animals have sensory systems that we do not, so they must have some vastly different perception of their surroundings. I like to think Grey’s and my art are subtle reminders that there is something more to the universe than what you perceive here and now.
On that note, another main theme of his art that draws me to it is that of perception. Grey plays with the idea that human perception is often limited, but has the ability to expand and change. His art is often a visual interpretation of the idea of transcendence, placed in the setting of human activity. He believes that we as people have the ability to break these barriers of perception and are able to move beyond the material world and its simplistic and somewhat ignorant view of what is. Being too involved with the material world can, in my opinion, have a negative impact on a persons’ well-being. You need to have a connection with your environment itself, and not just the things it produces for you, to have a fulfilling life. I am a wholehearted believer of the ability for humans to expand perception and increase understanding of their surroundings. Perception is such a subjective thing that there are virtually endless ways to look at and understand a given situation. Merely having an experience that is out of the norm can drastically alter how a person views the world, thus changing how they perceive and interact with everything else they then become involved with. The more we can expand this limited aspect of ourselves, the more fulfilling of a life we can lead.
Another prominent idea that is being conveyed by Grey in the Cosmic Christ is the concept that people are made up of stories. Each section of the painting depicts a different story or concept, all coming together to make this single image of a man. The idea is simple, our experiences make us who we are, but the message is strong. Had this been a different person, not Christ displayed, I am sure the images that made him or her up would have been quite different. Our personalities, outlooks, perceptions, actions, and thoughts are all a product of what we have experienced, and the way we tell others of these experiences is what they have to create an image of us. The more experiences you have, and the more you have to say for them, the more intricate and beautiful your image becomes. Stories are a powerful means of communication, and to tell them is to put a piece of yourself into someone else’s image. I love the idea of the literal interpretation of this, having Christ composed of actual stories, bits and pieces of the human experienced bunched together to make a person.
This piece of art is one of my personal favorite paintings. It houses many strong important messages and was created with care, thought, and purpose. It is also vividly colored and in my opinion quite aesthetically appealing. It resembles my art in some aspects, and has influenced the way I go about creating art. Anyone can make something look nice, but to do so with purpose is the way to creating better art.
You can see some of Alex Grey's other work below: