Transcending Art

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I chose Alex Grey’s Net of Being, featured in his Progress of the Soul gallery, because it is featured in Tool’s 10,000 days album which really interested me. Alex Grey’s style of transcendental art is inspiring to me and I feel a connection to it because it is very spiritual and is created to make you look within yourself, to make a connection between mind body and spirit. I chose Net of Being because I love the colors in it and all of the detail and sharpness of the lines. I also like the fact that this piece is almost like and optical illusion because it pulls you in with it’s depth. I see and feel something new each time I look at it, even though it is a lot of repetition, it’s detail makes you ask a lot of questions and look closer every time. Most famous art pieces from the Renaissance are based around religion like The Last Supper or The Creation of Adam. Alex’s paintings are to spirituality and transcendentalism what these are to Christianity or Catholicism. They are the art depicting the newest forms of spirituality.

I was wondering how Alex came up with piece, what inspired him? After looking through a couple of interviews I found that many of his ideas come from hallucinogenic journeys he and his wife would take on ayahuasca, as explained in his book Net of Being, “[Alex Grey’s] painting Net of Being–inspired by a blazing vision of an infinite grid of Godheads during an ayahuasca journey–has reached millions as the cover and interior of the band TOOL’s Grammy award–winning triple-platinum album, 10,000 Days” (alexgrey.com). He also does a lot of anatomically accurate paintings which interests me because one of my favorite classes has been anatomy and physiology. After reading into his biography I found that “for five years, Alex worked in the Anatomy department at Harvard Medical School preparing cadavers for dissection” and from this experience he learned the human body in and out and turned it into his own form of art (alexgrey.com). Seeing art and science come together, to me, is one of the most beautiful things, it’s probably why I love his work so much. The final question I asked myself is what other artists influenced Alex’s “outsider style” of art? Within his biography I found that he worked as a studio assistant under Jay Jaroslav, a conceptual artist. This is where he picked up a lot of his technique and basis of human anatomy. Alex Grey’s art maps a connection between mind, body, and spirit and opens the door to new concepts and designs.

Click here for a full Gallery of his work.

  • How does this piece make you feel? Does it illicit a certain emotion? Why?
  • Does using mind enhancing substances alter the authenticity of art?
  • In what ways are art and science connected?

Katie Flynn

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18 thoughts on “Transcending Art

  1. In high school I had to write a short essay about how art and science were related, I remember reading in an article that they are both means of a kind of investigation. Also, that they both involve ideas, theories, and hypotheses that are tested in places where the mind and hands come together, which would be either a laboratory or a studio. Artists and scientists study materials, people, culture, history, religion, and learn to transform that information into something else. I always thought that art and science were the complete opposites, but after having to write this essay I realized that they are almost exactly the same things.

  2. Very interesting piece! This piece makes me feel a little confused because it has this ongoing aspect about it, especially with the endless tunnel in the middle. Because of that, I do not feel any emotion from the piece but it is interesting in the way it is painted. Through that, I do not think this piece alters art through its mind enhancing substances because art can be anything really. Art is very spontaneous and interesting in many ways, even in transcendental forms. I think art and science are connected with each other because one can affect the other.

  3. I like this piece a lot. The way that the artist used the shapes of the faces really makes you notice the fine details that are there. I also like this piece because it makes me look inside of myself as a person and wonder if the way that I’m living my life is the way that I should b living my life. I feel like the message of the piece is to look at yourself as a person and give a overall reflection on how you have lived your life so far and just think about what you would do to make the way your living better.

  4. I think this is a really interesting piece. The first thing I think is who has the patience to do this? I admire the piece because there are so many technical aspects to get right or else it would not look as good as it turned out. For example the symmetry of all the faces, the repetition of all the shapes and colors for each mirror image. I love that there are complimentary colors that kind of just surprise you when you first look at it and then analagous colors fading in the background. It makes me feel surprised at first and then calming when I take a closer look at all the details. I also have taken anatomy and physiology and it was one of my favorite classes because the human body is amazing in itself. There are so many different components that make the body work as a whole, it’s beautiful how they all come together. Art doesn’t have to be inspired by classical music or famous operas, it can be elicited from all kinds of things. Anything that speaks to you really.

    • This piece does seem a bit intimidating but if you take the time to focus and take it all in, the symmetry and accurateness of the design make it feel calm.

  5. Very interesting piece of art. The more I tried to make sense of the art, the more I felt that I am pulled in some stage of hypnosis. First I studied the grid of faces and its repetition. Finally I came to the conclusion that the endless tunnel with the mesmerizing blue light is not repeated. The artist expresses true fascination, not only with the human body, but also mind and spirit. In my opinion the blue light symbolizes the infinite soul.

  6. I think science can connect to art just because science is like an experiment. And so it art cause when though you may know the out come of both experiences it always comes out to be a little more interesting at the end of the “project”.
    Looking at this pieces of art it’s pretty cool…I love how it looks 3D I love how it all these faces in one. I love how the colors in there are so connected..

  7. When I first saw the piece the image that came to my head is meditation. The vanishing point down the center of the image draws you in. There is a lot of repetition. The picture has a royal feeling to it. I can see how the art was derived from a hallucinogenic state The image looks like it is unfocused and woozy. Makes you think of a lava lamp. I would think they are connected because art in itself is a science. An artist has to have a formula for their works. A system that makes their works stand out.

  8. I love how this piece immediately draws you into its creative depths and the use of repetition was spot on. I like the hues of red and shades of blue that add great contrast and draws the viewers attention into the lighter spectrum of colors leading into the tunnels of light. The square panels appear to have galaxies within them that give of this power of the universe. The eye shapes between the panels and on the faces give this omniscient feeling to the piece. I believe that using mind-altering substances help to open the doors to a dormant creativity that has been untapped and waiting to emerge. It should not affect the authenticity due to the fact that it is still done by the artist.

    • I agree that mind-altering substances do tap into creative thoughts from forming new perspectives and creating new experiences.

  9. I like the repetition of the piece, I see some images repeating themselves over and over again. The galaxies are everywhere and the face repeating itself everywhere in the painting creates some patters that make me think of Hindu art. The colors are bright as if making a statement creating the feeling of space, it gives me the sense of motion as the colors fade into the focal point. I like the piece because it creates something unusual.

  10. When looking in this piece i get lost inside myself and i really do feel the spiritualistic effect the artist was going for. The multiple god heads in one with varying depth perceptions provide a very trippy illusion to your eyes and i enjoy art that makes you think and makes you have to look at the piece more than one to fully grasp the concept. However with this piece no matter how many times you look at the picture you will never fully capture everything going on and i would guess thats where the science aspect comes into play. No i do not think mind alternating substances should influence the authenticity of art because it still takes an artist to be able to draw what he is experiencing and it is amazing that he was able to remember the picture image he saw while under the influence and recreate the image.

  11. I think this is beautiful. The way the colors blend together, and how my eyes were drawn and scattered all over. This piece has a lot of patterns with the faces that are swirled all over and the way the circle/bubbles are. I like this picture a lot because it brings a lot of questions/topics up about religion. When I first looked at this piece, I thought of 4 pharos, but as I continued to look at it, I saw more faces. Great piece to grasp everyone’s attention!

  12. I’m impressed with Alex Grey’s dedication to his ideas and the time it took to create this piece. From a technical standpoint, his art is amazing. His use of the science of the body’s structures and blood vessels is very creative and unique. I think creativity is the sensorial expression of science. Creativity is always mixing colors, textures, light, figuring dimensions, tasting, touching, sizing things up, experimenting etc. At its base, all those have some kind of science. Alex Grey seems to embody that for the science of human body. From a personal standpoint, though, I can’t say I enjoyed looking at this particular piece or even many of his others. I’m usually attracted to pictures with a lot of analogous colors, especially reds, oranges and yellows, but this particular one feels very chaotic and kind of harsh. I had the feeling someone that wasn’t happy was watching me. A lot of his art seems chaotic to me. Some of his pieces seem to have an underlying beauty to them, but by the completion of the picture, it seems lost in another goal the artist had in mind. I do believe beauty and art is in the eye of the beholder though. I don’t believe using mind altering substances changes the authenticity of art any more than coming up with a crazy and creative story or concept while having a 105 fever would. But to clarify, that’s not an endorsement of them. 🙂

    • Your response connecting art to science was perfect. I think you hit the nail on the head saying art is an expression of science. Great idea. And yes, a lot of his pieces are crazy and have a lot going on, sometimes you need to take a step back and see the whole thing and sometimes you need to look at the hidden details. It takes a lot of work to look at his art.

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