At the beginning of his career, Alex Grey faced a defining moment. It was during this period that he developed a technique that would become an integral part of his work.
Grey practiced a new style of drawing using a ball-point pen on large sheets of paper. He was able to capture the line and detail of his subject matter without the need for preliminary sketches or layouts. The exacting nature of this method required hours upon hours of practice and execution.
After almost a year, Alex had created over 100 drawings in this manner. He spent the next year sending out portfolios and showing his work to galleries and art directors from New York to Los Angeles. After showing and re-showing his portfolio to anyone who would look at it, he became disheartened by the lack of positive response. “I was discouraged by all the rejections,” he says, “but I kept going because I knew my work was good, and I felt that no one had seen it before.”
Finally he received some exciting news: “One day I got a call from Stephen Seemayer at Tundra Publishing who said they were interested in seeing more of my work…and then I received another call from Barry Moser, head illustrator
In the early 80’s, Alex Grey was a struggling New York City artist, selling his paintings to a small group of collectors and dealers that included Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Genesis P-Orridge. He had already made a name as a psychedelic rock poster artist in the 60’s and 70’s, and this association with the New York music scene had helped him gain recognition among certain sectors of the art world. However, the art establishment itself was quick to dismiss him as a mere “pop artist” and his career was stagnating.
As Grey recounts in his autobiography, he had hit rock bottom when he met a woman at one of his shows who sold him some high quality blotter acid at a discount. He decided to try it at home instead of taking it out clubbing like he usually did and that night had one of the most intense psychedelic experiences of his life. It was after this experience that he for the first time saw what would become The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors series.
He spent over three years painting what he saw during this visionary experience in order to accurately represent it on canvas. When he finished, he had created paintings that were unlike anything ever seen before in terms of their spiritual power and
“At age 18 he attended a lecture at the International Academy of Consciousness in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he met artist Robert Venosa. This meeting had a profound impact on his life, as he wanted to learn more about visionary art. He then signed up for classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but after a few months he was forced to leave due to lack of funds and inability to travel from Boston to New York City for classes.”
The years that followed were difficult for him, as he considered himself “a starving artist”. His artwork received little attention until 1982 when it was featured in a solo exhibition at the Wexler Gallery, where it generated more sales than any other show in the gallery’s history.
The next year his painting The Web of Life was chosen for the cover of Science Digest.
During this time Alex Grey began collaborating with fellow artists across the United States, and in 1985 opened the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) in New York City, which houses a series of three-dimensional mandala paintings based on original designs that Grey created. In 2008 he completed construction on a new chapel in New Zealand, at Mystery Mountain Retreat Center near Wanaka.*
Alex Grey is widely recognized as one of the foremost visionary artists of our time. His works, with their complex mixture of mysticism and science, have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world.
The first thing to know about Alex Grey is that he was a successful artist before he ever saw a psychedelic drug. A native New Yorker, he studied at the Pratt Institute there in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He started doing psychedelic art in 1976 when he was living in Boston, as a response to both his reading about LSD and his encounter with an underground chemist who was making it available.
The second thing to know about Alex Grey is that he isn’t into drugs now. He never was terribly interested in them except as a way to get people interested in his art. As he puts it, “I wasn’t interested in getting high; I was interested in getting forward.”
He didn’t discover psychedelics until much later when he was already a successful artist – indeed, someone who had already been celebrated by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his contributions to art – so you could say that after his initial exposure to psychedelics, which led to him starting to do psychedelic artwork, that he has done
Alex Grey is one of the most prolific, talented and interesting contemporary artists. His work has been described as “visionary”, “psychedelic”, “spiritual” and “alchemical”; and while those labels are sufficient to convey his artistic merit, they don’t tell us much about Alex Grey the man.
Fact is: I’ve never met him. But I’m a big fan of his work nevertheless. And in this blog post I’d like to share my passion for his art.
Alex Grey is an American visionary artist whose work explores a wide range of themes including art history, philosophy, science, religion and the human psyche. He has received a great deal of attention from mainstream media over the past two decades due to his Neo-expressionist paintings and large-scale installation artworks which portray a synthesis of eastern and western philosophical ideas, religious iconography, scientific concepts and psychedelic states of consciousness.
Grey’s art often features representational imagery interspersed with symbols from Eastern religious traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. He once said: “I try to use images that are both iconic yet open to interpretation.”
Alex Grey is no stranger to controversy; he has been arrested on charges of obsc
Alex Grey is a world-renowned visionary artist and spiritual teacher who has been at the forefront of psychedelic art since the early ’80s.
His paintings, prints, and sculptures utilize a unique visual language that translates complex spiritual concepts into readily accessible imagery. His work is immediately recognizable yet continually surprising, offering new insights and interpretations with each viewing.
Alex’s artwork has been featured in several films and videos, including The Secret Life of Plants (1979), Magic Trip (2004), Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within (2006), and DMT: The Spirit Molecule (2010). He is also a prominent figure in the new psychedelic culture, having lectured at major conferences such as Burning Man, Boom Festival, Earth Dance, and UniverSoul Circus.
Alex’s art has been shown in galleries around the world and was most recently featured in Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogenic Substances as Treatments by Rick Doblin, M.D., Ph.D., which features a foreword by Sting. Alex was one of six people interviewed for the book.*
Alex’s three books on painting include Beyond Fence (1995), On Visionary Art (2003), and Transfiguration: Sacred Art