- Full Name Alex Grey
- Occupation Visual Artist
- Nationality America
- Birthplace Ohio, USA
- Born Year And Birthday November 29, 1953
Alex Gray | Biography 2021
Alex Grey is an American visual artist, author, teacher, and Vajrayana practitioner. He is known for his paintings that depict anatomy with psychic and spiritual energies.
- Full Name Alex Grey
- Occupation Visual Artist
- Nationality America
- Birthplace Ohio, USA
- Birth Date November 29, 1953
Alex Grey is an American visual artist, author, teacher, and Vajrayana practitioner. He is best known for his paintings that depict multiple layers of reality and portray biological anatomy with psychic and spiritual energies.
Who is Alex Grey?
Alex Grey is a renowned artist in the field of art and spirituality. Born in 1953, his innate interest in drawing led him to pursue a formal education in fine arts. After working at the Anatomy department and Mind/Body Department of the Harvard Medical School, he turned his knowledge about anatomy, healing, and psychedelic drugs into a visionary art. His art portfolio started in drawing, and it expanded to paintings, installations, sculpture, performance art, and process art.
Grey's artworks can also be found in his books 'Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey' (1990), 'The Mission of Art' (1998) and 'Transfigurations' (2001), and more.
Early Life and Education
Alex Velzy, alias, Alex Grey, was born on November 29, 1953, in Columbus, Ohio, United States. His father was a graphic designer and artist who encouraged his early drawing ability and guided him as a teacher. When he was five years old, Grey collected insects and dead animals and buried them in the backyard. He would then make a drawing of its skeleton. Anatomy played a vital role since his early artworks as his arts had subjects like identity, morality, and consciousness.
In his early teens, Grey did his science project on a drug called Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). LSD wasn't illegal at that point.
From 1971 to 1973, Grey attended the Columbus College of Art and Design on full scholarship. Dropping from the art school, he painted billboards for Columbus Outdoor Advertising for a year. In 1974, he moved to Boston and studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
While studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, he worked as a studio assistant for conceptual artist Jay Jaroslav. At the Museum School, he met his lifetime partner artist Allyson Rymland Grey, with whom he took 'sacramental journeys' on LSD.
For five years, Alex worked in the Anatomy department at Harvard Medical School, preparing corpses for dissection while studying the body himself. Later, he worked for Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Joan Borysenko as a research technologist in the Mind/Body Medicine Department of Harvard. He conducted scientific experiments to investigate subtle healing energies at the department.
Grey's anatomical training prepared him for painting the 'Sacred Mirrors', and upon seeing images of his 'Sacred Mirrors', Doctors at Harvard hired him as a medical illustrator. He instructed Artistic Anatomy and Figure sculpture at New York University. He, along with Allyson, also taught Visionary Art Intensive and other art workshops at several institutes in Colorado, California, and New York.
Although it was not his career ambition, Grey worked as a medical illustrator for about ten years to finance his addiction to art and support his family.
About his career as a medical illustrator, Grey said, "Medical illustration gave me the opportunity to investigate and portray the bodily systems in dramatic ways. Prior to my work as a medical illustrator, I prepared bodies at a medical-school morgue, which provided important training for understanding the fleeting nature of life. It also provided unforgettable studies into the iridescent, fibrous architecture that forms our physical body."
When Grey was 18, he painted splitting heads and bodies. It was called 'identity-crisis imagery.'
"For instance, I painted a two-headed self-portrait, tearing myself in half, one side in the shadow, one side in the light. In later performance works, I kept half my head shaved for half a year. The other side of my hair was very long. I discovered that there was some scientific basis to the splitting of cerebral activity. The right hemisphere of the brain is primarily intuitive, and the left hemisphere is primarily logical. Obviously, a well-functioning brain and mind will be a balance of both these forces," said Grey, explaining his painting style during the initial days of his life. Moreover, his paintings blend sacred, visionary art and postmodern art.
LSD for the first time
In 1975, at the age of 21, he thought of ending his life. He was depressed and found his existence meaningless. He took LSD for the first time, and like a miracle, he met his future wife within 24 hours. They got the vision to build a new kind of sacred space to house art based on the psychedelic mystical experience at their meeting.
After getting a new vision of art based on the psychedelic experience, Grey and his wife co-founded Entheon. It is the sanctuary of visionary art which consists of a three-storied building surrounded with massive ornamental sculptures of interconnected faces bearing symbols of humanity's wisdom traditions. It generates the metaphor of symbolically walking into God's head. Another goal of the project was to exhibit the 'Sacred Mirrors' and the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) collection and various unique psychedelic relics of Grey.
In 1979, Grey began creating a unique series of contemporary sacred art called the 'Sacred Mirrors'. It is a life-sized series of 21 paintings, which presents the physical and subtle anatomy in the context of cosmic, biological, and technological evolution. It took ten years for him to complete the series.
In 1996, Grey formed CoSM as a non-profit organization to create a permanent public exhibition of the 'Sacred Mirrors'. The goal of the CoSM was to provide unique creative events and workshops in a spiritual context. Since January 2003, it celebrates Full Moon Ceremonies every month.
In September 1990, Grey's large-format art book entitled 'Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey' was published by Inner Traditions. The book is based on a series of paintings that take viewers on a graphic and visionary journey through the self's physical, metaphysical, and spiritual anatomy. The book also takes one to the spiritual/ energetic systems with such images as 'Universal Mind Lattice.'
The book has been translated into five languages and sold over 150 thousand copies. It includes essays on the significance of Grey's work by the eminent transpersonal psychologist Ken Wilber and by the noted New York art critic Carlo McCormick.
In 1998, Grey's philosophical text, 'The Mission of Art', was published by Shambhala. It uncovers the evolution of human consciousness through art history and explores the role of an artist's intention and conscience, echoing the creative process as a spiritual path.
Grey's second large-format art book, 'Transfigurations', was released by Inner Traditions. It contained over 300 color and black and white images of his work. The book explores Grey's popular portrayals of light bodies, performance works, relationship with his wife, and their quest to build a CoSM.
In 2000, Sound True released Grey's reflections on art as a spiritual practice, 'The Visionary Artist', on audio as a CD.
Grey co-edited the book 'Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics'. He curated a collection of images that only suggest the enormous variety of Budddhist and psychedelic experiences and some of the two's links. The book was originally published in April 2002.
In 2004, he published his collected works in Visions. It was a boxed set containing a portfolio of new work and his 'Sacred Mirrors' and 'Transfigurations'. In 2012, Inner Traditions released the book 'Net of Being', which consists of spectacular photos of Grey's collaboration with the cult band 'Tool', his worldwide live-painting performances, and his reflections on how art evolves consciousness.
Philosophy, Psychedelics, and Spirituality
With prolific experience in art, Grey contributed to the philosophy of art in his philosophical book 'The Mission of Art'. A combination of memoir, critique, and art history, Grey promotes the mystical potential of art. He argues that the process of artistic creation should play a role in the artist's enlightenment. He also opines that art can elevate the viewer's state and attain the spiritual state of being.
The psychedelic mystical experience between himself and his wife after taking LSD in 1975 also led him to believe in spirituality and spiritual practice.
Grey lives in New York City with his wife Allyson Grey, whom he met in 1975. She is also an artist. The couple had a daughter Zena Grey.
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