Cosmic Reflections on the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, CoSM
The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM), located in the Chelsea gallery district of Manhattan, is a sanctuary for art that reflects our own divinity and a vital center of visionary culture. Over fifty of Alex Grey’s famous paintings that “X-ray” the multiple dimensions of reality, interweaving biological anatomy with psychic and spiritual energies are on display in the Chapel. Co-founded by Allyson and Alex Grey in 2004, CoSM serves a growing community of people who are bringing together the paths of spirituality and creativity. CoSM hosts the largest regular Full Moon and New Moon ceremonies in the region, and the Entheocentric Salon, a widely renowned monthly all-night alcohol-free, live-painting, dance and DJ event. MicroCoSM gallery has sponsored exhibitions of dozens of emerging and leading visionary artists. The Chapel will be closing it’s doors in New York City at the end of 2008 and move an hour up the Hudson, so this Fall is the last opportunity people will have to visit the current incarnation of CoSM. We had a chance to get an update from the Greys on their plans for the future.
New Life: The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors has been a popular pilgrimage place for thousands of visitors since you’ve opened in 2004, why are you moving to upstate New York?
Alex & Allyson: The mission of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors has always been to build an actual temple of art as an enduring sanctuary of Universal Spirit. We love our current exhibition in Chelsea, but it is in a rented warehouse, and we wanted a more rural setting for the permanent structure. So when CoSM’s lease is over at the end of 2008 we will begin our transition, our metamorphosis, to a larger and more beautiful setting. The 40 wooded acres provide a place where people will be able to stay overnight and attend in-depth workshops, as well as visit the exhibition. The new CoSM will meld eco-consciousness and sacred space together. We are raising funds to bring solar power to the existing structures and harness other sustainable technologies. It will be a little bit more of a trek for New Yorkers, but easy to reach via the Metro North train and just one hours drive from the city. You know, Chartres Cathedral is not directly in Paris, but pilgrims have always found their way.
New Life: These past few years have been busy for you two, you seem to be at all the various events at CoSM and many around the world.
Alex & Allyson: This past winter we painted for 20 hours straight, in front of 25,000 people at Brazil’s Tribe 7 trance dance festival. It was a mural called Stardancers showing the interlacing energies of people dancing around us. The live painting phenomena is something we’ve been doing at the Chapel joined by many other painters, during our monthly all night music and dance celebrations. Making a painting in front of people is a totally exciting merging of “community-mind” or “group-soul” with what is normally a very private act of creation. We usually begin and finish something in one night, challenging for us because we are both artists who usually spend months on obsessively detailed works. Some people may be in altered states and spend all night watching the paintings emerge. At the end of the night they feel the painting has been a “co-creation.” Because of this potentially deep connection with others, there is an immediate ethical dimension to the iconography, so we aim at creating uplifting icons that affirm the values of love and perennial wisdom.
New Life: It seems that you are expanding the role of artist to include the shaman, mystic or priest.
Alex & Allyson: We think that has been happening for a lot of artists and musicians who want their works to reflect an integral perspective and more global spirituality which is not necessarily front page news yet. In a world beleaguered by religious strife, political violence and a perilous global environmental crisis, CoSM celebrates the universality of the human experience, the visionary imagination, the transformative potential in all of us, the integration of scientific and spiritual truths, a deep reverence for the web of life and the transcendental power of art. We are disciples of the One Creative Force of the Cosmos, the boundless spirit out of which all beings and things emerge and to which all life returns. Art is our religion.
New Life: Do you have any specific advice on how a person’s creative life can serve their spiritual life?
Alex & Allyson: Well, Alex’s books The Mission of Art and Art Psalms go into a lot of detail about that, but basically, prior to beginning any creative work you prayerfully acknowledge that your creativity is a gift of God, that your work is to glorify God, attuning yourself and others to a higher consciousness and conscience. You declare that you are making art for God’s sake.
Most wisdom traditions have specific rules to creating art. At CoSM we celebrate a new alliance of creativity and divinity. The great uplifting of humanity beyond it’s self-destruction is the redemptive calling of art. We are interested in the core mystic truths of the many paths and how we can distill that knowledge into a more universal spiritual approach to art.
We are all artists of our own lives. The medium we use is our consciousness. We live in the unfinished masterpiece of the Great Creation, our world, our cosmos. The path of art connects us with the power of beauty to restore our souls. The ease with which we appreciate the beauty of any situation event or person may be a gauge of enlightenment, actually.
New Life: Your work with the rock group TOOL won a grammy award and you have collaborated with them on video projects, how does this relate to your work at the Chapel.
Well, a lot of young people are TOOL fans and have been introduced to Alex’s work through the albums or concerts or video art. We are great friends with the band and at the new Chapel we intend to make a TOOL Shrine, which fans will help us build. Alex’s work has also been on album art for David Byrne, the Beastie Boys, Nirvana, and SCI. The art has a large underground following and hundreds of people have Alex’s art tattooed on their bodies.
New Life: Any parting thoughts?
Alex & Allyson: In the heart of New York City, the temporary site of CoSM has been a vital oasis hosting a wide range of authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, thinkers, and spiritual leaders, including such celebrities as Deepak Chopra, Eryka Badu, Daniel Pinchbeck, Woody Harrelson, Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Kucinich. We hope everybody who wants to can visit here before it closes, because there is nothing like it in New York. CoSM has served as an experimental cultural space, showing art not as a commodity like most galleries, but as a portal to the mystic dimension. Alex’s artwork emphasizes a reverence for the web of life and venerates earthly, visionary and transcendental realms. In past cultures, sacred art and architecture has embodied the wisdom of humanity. At the dawn of the 21st century an emerging universal spirituality embraces the truths of both science and mysticism. For the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors to fulfill its larger destiny, the time has come to create its permanent home. This ambitious undertaking will require a sustained effort and the support of the dynamic community of artists and friends of all stripes who have coalesced these past few years and are now part of the CoSM family of angels. It takes a community to build sacred space.