"It seemed as if the 'real' material world was an illusory veil, now withdrawn, and the energetic scaffolding of causation and creation, the Ultimate Reality, eternal and infinite, was laid before us."
Alex and Allyson Grey
Alex Grey was born in 1953 in Columbus, Ohio. His first published self-portrait, done at age 16, shows him literally wrestling with prayer, no doubt displaying his frustration with spirituality at the time. After high school, he worked in a medical school's morgue, preparing the cadavers for dissection and studying human anatomy himself. While working at the morgue, he began having visions and mystical experiences, radically transforming his then existential agnostic beliefs into transendentialism, much like that of Drunvalo Melchizedek. In 1979, he began working on Sacred Mirrors, a series of (eventually) 21 paintings showing the various physical and psychic systems of the body.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Grey engaged in a great deal of avant-garde performance art, dealing greatly with his apparent obsession with polarity. In Prayer Wheel, performed at the University of Massachusetts in 1983, he and Allyson (his wife), along with a skeleton and a baby doll, walked around a gigantic Tibetan prayer wheel for 3 hours, intoning the mantra, "Om mani padme hum.", which was also written in Sanskrit on the wheel. 1989's Goddess featured Allyson sitting at the center of an ancient goddess design created out of apples by Grey and friends, nursing their daughter Zena. Meanwhile, Alex performed 100 prostrations at the foot of the figure. At the end of the day, the same friends assisted the Greys in gathering and boxing up the apples, which were donated to a local homeless shelter.
At the first showing of Sacred Mirrors in 1980, 4 of the paintings were complete and on display in Massachusetts at the Fifth International Conference on Transpersonal Psychology. The Mirrors were presented in a manner that allowed the viewer to mimic the position and see how each system flowed through his body. Grey marked a portion of the floor in front of the painting and the viewer was invited to stand in front of it and attempt to isolate and feel the portion of the body visualized inside himself. All 21 Mirrors were finally complete and displayed in New York City at the New Museum. The entire Sacred Mirrors exhibit is condensed into a book, published in 1990, which is heartily recommended.
Many people have seen his artwork without even realizing it. Nirvana, Tool, and the Beastie Boys have all used his artwork in their album covers/booklets, and many of his spiritual energy paintings have found their way onto promotions for raves. His latest book, Transfigurations, discusses the work he did for Tool on their album Lateralus, as well as including several of his newer paintings in the transparent-body style he discovered while working on Sacred Mirrors.
Alex maintains a website of his own, at http://www.alexgrey.com. Most of his paintings from the Sacred Mirrors era are on display, and his new book Transfigurations is on sale, along with Sacred Mirrors and The Mission of Art.
Sacred Mirrors, 1990, Alex Grey with Ken Wilber and Carlo McCormick