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Visionary Art, Part Two: Art as catalyst

I have always been a visionary. I may have inherited this quality, if that's possible, from my father, who could foresee systems and transportation, all kinds of public services that would provide greater ease and equality of standards of living. He knew where highways should go; he inspired his city to install a new flood control system to improve safety in poor neighborhoods. He often -- with his visions - overlooked the details of daily life but definitely saw the future. I sometimes anticipate fashion or economic trends, or have utopian visions that overlight a project, or a place, like a 'fantasy city' over a real one.

Visionary artists give us pictorial or musical representations that take us beyond the everyday ways of being and seeing, into a new frame. Philip Glass, the great modern composer, interjects all kinds of odd rhythms and instrumentation into what seem like classical composition, and all of this upsetting our normal ways of anticipating the flow of music. Here's a link to one of his more well-known early compositions that inspired other artists like Brian Eno and David Bowie:

One of the most widely known visionary artists is Alex Grey, is the New York-based artist i mentioned in the last post. His portraits of energy in motion have been inspired by ayahuasca and other altered states, and take us to both microscopic and macrocosmic dimensions simultaneously. A detail of one of his works is featured above. Recall that Grey tells us, “When artists give form to revelation, their art can advance, deepen and potentially transform the consciousness of their community.” This is the profound metaphysical potential of the artistic process: converting dreams into reality.

People have inspirations, revelations, and some higher guidance that informs them, which they in turn transfer or translate onto page, or music, or dance, or canvas. In Mr. Grey's case, we are bombarded by a hyper-symbolized depiction of the interconnected, energy-infused nature of the movements of life itself, usually invisible; but Mr. Grey gives us mental images of how living potential swirls around every movement. This work oddly reminds me of Van Gogh, whose "Starry Night" serves as an energetic portrait of a dark sky potentiated by spirals and vortices of unknown origin. The darkness wasn't void, in his experience; rather, it was a swirling field of interconnected lights and streaming movements. It was an energetic portrait about 100 years before its time. Van Gogh never succeeded in making any money from his artwork and struggled most of his life in relative obscurity, and yet today is hailed as one of the supreme artists. Perhaps his time has come. I call him a visionary artist not because he achieved fame post-mortem, but because he literally gave us a new vision of how cosmic and natural forces move around us.

Another visionary artist whose work i want to share with you is Jean-Luc Bozzoli, a French-born painter and now digital painter and film producer whose mind-blowing works about our cetacean friends also provides a cosmic wakeup call to the interconnected nature of life but in more precise ways that Van Gogh hinted at in his time. Featured below is "Starseed Child," whose title alone takes us to a much vaster frame of reference than most artworks do. Bozzoli renders star cities, integalactic families, angelic presences and futuristic sea-sky-scapes that touch the other-worldly in all of us.

Visionary art often blasts past our comfort zone. It's not an easy category to stay with, but this aspect of art could not be more revelatory in opening broader doors of both perception and understanding. So here's a wild new move for you to try out: Set aside an hour. Just. One. Hour. You will need: pastel tissue paper in at least three colors, glue (i recommend some conbination of glue sticks and liquid), and posterboard in a manageable size like 8 1/2" x 11." You can also use shirt insert from the launders if that is something you relate to... Envision for yourself for just five minutes, an otherworldly scene, or a futuristic vision, whatever comes to mind, the wilder, the better. Once you have an image, don't overthink it: create a scene with tissue, scissors and glue only. It may seem odd or weird but it will hold the magic. Most importantly, just as we stretch our muscles, it's good to stretch our imaginations and take them out for a lap or two. Enjoy your visionary creations!

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