“THE QUEST”

Magazine of the Theosophical Society,
July-August 2000

THE MISSION OF ART, BY ALEX GREY

Book review by William Metzger
The reviewer is a former editor of the Quest and Olcott staff member.

Alex Grey recalls that when he watched his father draw, his father’s pencil was “like a magic wand to me” and young Alex’s excitement made his hair stand on end.

In his earliest work, the boy revealed what became a lifelong artistic obsession with drawings of skeletons and references to death. At the age of five, Alex painted a detailed skeleton watercolor that was predictive of his life’s work, revolving around the subject of mortality. Grey even worked in a morgue for five years, and his paintings are detailed images of the human anatomy, skeletons being the foundation of his art.

An artist’s mission, according to Grey, is to make inner truths visible or audible, in some way sensible and manifest in the material world. This book sets out Grey’s own experience as an artist and his understanding of how artists go beyond mere representation or duplication of what they see – how they seek to reveal more than the surface appearance of things.

The main thrust of the book is seeing. Deep seeing. It ultimately examines art as spiritual practice, not merely an expression of personal creativity, but a form of worship and service. Moreover, Grey says, art can provide evidence of contact with the universal creative force beyond time: “The highest class of artist spirituality unites with universal energy, and the resulting art becomes a divine outpouring.”