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The Artist as Visionary

May 08, 1999

Leah Ollman's vicious attack on my art exhibition, "Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey," now at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, raises issues that go beyond a nasty review ("The Anatomy of an Artist: A Mind-Body-Spirit Cliche," April 27). Ms. Ollman speaks for contemporary art's spiritual blindness and betrays her own when she sarcastically dismisses the 20 years of devotional labor on view.

It is my mission to create work that encourages the viewer to see deeply into themselves, into the subtle realms of being, even if such were possible, into their own soul. In her utter contempt for the work, I am reminded of other unconscious biases like homophobia. I believe there is a deep-seated intolerance operating here, and it afflicts many post-modern intellects. I would call it "soulphobia."

Our post-modern intelligence fears and suppresses the intrusions of soul on its political intrigues, money games and divisive delusions of separateness. The soul has a much more expansive agenda. It sings of our inter-connectedness with the cosmos, fostering our love, forgiveness and potential for beauty, truth, goodness. Our spiritual nature is our only source of meaning and value in life.

It's a shame that "soulphobia" is so rampant in our desacralized cultural media and that my attempts at birthing a post-denominational spiritual art are interpreted so scornfully. Every sacred art has relied on visionary access to what William Blake referred to as the Divine Imagination.

It all comes down to vision. When you open the eyes of the soul, you begin to see the world in its sacred radiance and cultivate a reverence for each other and our wounded web of life. Daring to create healing and uplifting art that integrates body, mind and spirit is heroic and necessary in these dark, cynical days, not an "embarrassment" as Leah Ollman snidely suggests.

ALEX GREY

Brooklyn, N.Y.

*

I was disturbed by Leah Ollman's review on more than one level. As a longtime fan of visionary art, I have the feeling Ollman was trained in reviewing the abstract. She obviously misses the point of visionary art, which is to show the artist's vision. As a neo-pagan, I believe the world needs more visionary art that has nothing to do with the "big three" patriarchal religions and resent her use of New Age music and atmosphere as being something nasty and superficial.

Next time, get a reviewer who knows what she's talking about or don't write a review at all.

DEBORA HILL

San Francisco

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