Saturday, October 31, 2009

Alex Grey's COSM

image from

(note: this tour of COSM took place in 2006)
COSM in NYC has closed, and a permanent home for COSM is being built in upstate New York

COSM (Chapel of Sacred Mirrors) is a unique art gallery/sacred space in New York City featuring the art of Alex Grey

Alex Grey's art is unlike anything else I've seen. It depicts multiple dimensions of reality--scientific, mystical, energetic, transcendent.

His paintings depict the human body in all its systems, anatomically precise, and also shows the subtle energy systems of the body. 

Seen through the skin, the miraculous machinery of the body is evident even in functions as basic as breathing. 

Grey worked in a morgue to study cadavers and taught anatomy to fine art students at NYU.

I looked up Alex Grey on the Internet before my trip to New York in the Fall of 2006.  

I was amazed to see that COSM, which in Grey's book Transfigurations is described as a theoretical space, without a site, has actually been created.  

It now exists in New York, and is around the corner from my friend's  new gallery in Chelsea.  And Grey was scheduled to give a tour of COSM at the same time I planned to be out in New York.     

About 75 people were there to tour COSM with Alex Grey, a slender man dressed in black with a long silver ponytail that hung down his back.  

He spoke for nearly 2 hours, eloquently, with great detail and precision, analyzing every painting in the gallery. 

Grey's purpose was stated thus:  

"The COSM is a womb for the gestation of human awareness."  

COSM is a tool for enlightenment, a way to understand the relevance of unseen energies and the spiritual soul in a world that emphasizes the visible, material plane.  

It is also a way for us to understand the universalities of human experience that bind us together.      

The paintings illustrate the journey of human life, from birth through death and the cycle of re-generation and transformation of energy manifest as physical and spiritual evolution. 

The Sacred Mirrors series are life-size paintings that "mirror" an aspect or function of the human body. 

Grey means for the paintings to be a "way to see inside of yourself.

For example, one painting depicts the skeletal system, another the nervous system, etc. 

He begins, literally, with our elements from the periodic table, etched in pieced-together mirrors. 

Grey explained that this material essence alone doesn't show the whole picture of what a human being is, so the mirrors don't allow one to see oneself fully.

After exploring what's inside the body and its outward physical appearance, then we see the subtle energy systems of the body--the chakras, acupuncture points, illuminated with light. 

As we go from mirror to mirror, we see yet another reflection of our bodily existence and the energy within.

The "Universal Mind Lattice" is the turning point in the series, as well as in Grey's life. 

It shows an infinite web of white light in space, each intersection of light representing individuals in a unified whole. 

This is the transcendent moment, the merging of one individual with the universal life energy, joining with and being a part of God.  

As Grey put it, "We are cells in the body of God."     

The mirrors then become reflections of the Boddhisatva, or messiah, within. 

These include the Buddha, Christ and Sophia, goddess of wisdom. 

Out of love, these enlightened ones are reborn to help save humans from suffering.

Other paintings in the gallery depict the cycle of life, love, family, death.  

We see reflections of peaceful states of awareness and loving connection with others. 

Further along are disturbing paintings depicting the self-destructive nature of humanity. 

We see a species on hyper-drive toward self-cannibalization and imminent destruction of the planet.

The painting "Gaia" shows the Tree of Life and Death. 

One half shows the tree flourishing in a natural paradise, 

while the other side shows the hell of man-made pollution and war. 

Eerily, the painting shows the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the path of two low-flying planes. 

The painting was made in 1989. 

Grey said that after September 11th, 2001, he felt it was important for New York to see these paintings. He even bought back some of his own paintings in order to create COSM.

The final painting is the "Cosmic Christ," a fiery divine image created from a montage of events in human history and science, showing the potential evolution of humanity from a primitive, animal consciousness to a global and even cosmic consciousness.   

In Cosmic Christ it has become clear that the survival or destruction of our world is in our hands.  

Recognizing our connection to all life is the key to saving ourselves.

COSM presents us with a synthesis of the wisdom of many ages and cultures that suits a modern sensibility. 

Grey offers a new world-view that blends science, art and universal spirituality. 

It is a worldview which unites rather than divides us. 

I think this is a hopeful injection of consciousness and cosmic perspective 

that has been lacking in our culture, 

which has always dedicated itself to the utmost pursuit of materialism.  

I hope that Grey's message of unity and progress reaches many people through COSM. 

Our damaged world needs a bigger heart, 

and a re-focusing of energy towards tending our earth.