This Sublime Dance, a Journey Between the Covers

Good coffee table books are like presents that you unwrap layer by layer each time you open them. In our age of social media, we often forget the joy of flipping through glossy pages and sinking into luscious imagery in a real book. It is a timeless experience that evokes senses which are missing from the immediate, on-the-go, fleeting nature of digital devices. Visionary Artist, Michael Divine recently lured me into this magical realm with his new release, This Sublime Dance.

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Michael Divine’s paintings make me reach for words that don’t exist in an effort to translate the feelings my eyes swallow as they glance at the colorful pages. Somehow these still images capture the morphing shapes that clouds make when they glide across the sky. There are stories in his work that are delicately unfinished, leaving just enough room for my dreaming mind to complete them. Beautiful combinations of geometry and perspective overlaid with whimsical dancing curves and silhouettes of invisible landscapes.

“It is crucial for the Visionary Artists of today to transmit their highest glimpses of mystical experience, to plant seeds of liberation in the mind-streams of viewers, and to validate the psychonaut’s sacramental gaze. Michael Divine is a champion brother in this quest.” -Alex Grey

Divine’s academic studies in comparative religion are apparent with each brush stroke as he  intertwines East, West, past, and future. Recognizing that academia only gives an objective discussion of the writings and experiences of others, Divine set out to create snapshots of his own journey visually. This playful, free-spirited, joyous celebration of color and form functions as a doorway into my own inner world causing me to reflect upon the journey I have made in this life. This is a true accomplishment for any artist, or art-lover!

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He shares parts of his own subjective journey and evolution through travel, meditation, and art as vehicles for personal liberation. There are fold-out pages that allow you to explore the detail that might otherwise be overlooked. I also enjoy seeing the preliminary sketches of some of the larger compositions so that I feel brought into the secret dimension of the artists process.

In the foreword, the editors mention that Visionary Art is and has always been a “people’s movement”. This accessibility to everyone and the willingness for the artists in this genre to celebrate each other rather than silently compete is also quite inspiring. Featuring the art of his contemporaries like Amanda Sage, Android Jones, Randal Roberts is also a testament to the mutual respect in this emerging creative community.

“With his imagery, Michael Divine creates access points to the “Divine” and holds the gates of “Heaven” open and ready for our arrival – a passage well worth taking.” – Martina Hoffman

Michael wanted to be an architect in his younger years but realized that art allowed him more freedom. Now he builds palaces of impossible visions, hallways of thought, and temples of imagination that are visible through keyholes engraved with Celtic Knots. One feels as if they have fallen into a kaleidoscope as they flip through the pages. I felt like I was soaring through arches and domes of stained-glass within a house of mirrors inhabited by whirling dervishes ascending and angels descending.

“I saw that all the stuff of life- all the wonder and beauty and darkness and disharmony, all the words and all the songs, the people and the places and the things, the emotions and opinions – it it was all this one ineffable thing. Feeling it, knowing it, didn’t require religion or spirituality – this thing-within-all-things simply was, and is. It was so sublimely beautiful, so supremely blissful, that I couldn’t help but call it Love.”  -Michael Divine

I am grateful to have taken the time to sit with a coffee table book. I miss it already like a vacation I took to a place that I long to visit again. I am  eager to journey into many others like it to give myself a much-needed break from hours at my glowing screen. If you haven’t done so in a while, give yourself some time to cuddle up to an art book. This Sublime Dance is a great place to start.

Inspired Contemporary Art by Women

Laura Borealisis

Historically, too few Women Artists were able to attain any level of mastery because lack of access to learn, cultural disapproval during their time period, or the challenge of balancing obligations as mothers and various other gender roles. While some of this still echoes from the past, it is indeed the past! With the internet and social media, our opportunities for connection & sharing are expanded exponentially and we are able to cultivate and change these old patterns that once prevailed.

The soul force and nourishment of the feminine expression is needed in our world so I have compiled a preliminary list of Women Artists for Culture Collective. By no means is this list complete… in fact, we think it will always be a work in progress. This collection does not include some of the often-overlooked old masters, such as Artemisia Gentileschi, nor even more staple names such as Georgia O’keefe or Frida Kahlo. While I actually really love the idea of such a collection, this gallery consists primarily of artists living and creating, Now.

The women are not divided up by professional status here, although in future features there may be more focus on those areas. All that was required was a consistent body of work, easy accessibility to the work, and proper photographs (no weird light, not blurry, and cropped properly when necessary).

With such volume, it was a bit wonky to curate all the imagery, and I’m sure it is ripe for scrutiny. However, it has been cultivated in a spirit of Sisterhood, where women in all different phases of their artistic journey, as well as different styles, have been included. It was crafted in a manner of finding what makes us relate. So, you may see that work is grouped or coupled with similar works in similar styles, mediums, or color schemes.

My hope is that these Artists will find connection with each other, community, mutual growth, and also expansion beyond where we are each currently at in our processes. May the opportunity to see more art from women help the youth find new inspiration and role models for crafting their own creative voice, as well as find the courage to share their unique creative identity alongside their male comrades. And of course, may any artist find beauty and inspiration here, regardless of gender.

My other hope is that this collection will inspire a deeper interest and desire to cultivate knowledge in the culture around Art; to expand our awareness of Art, Artists, and the various ideas, impulses, and belief-systems being put forth through Art. May we know more artists and their works, and may gender no longer be an inhibitor for engagement with Art. I implore you to develop a broader, yet more acute taste and vocabulary with which to engage art and creativity; to see deeper, to feel deeper, to find ourselves more fully resonant  & articulate with that which is known as Art.

Please enjoy this gallery. Contact the artists via social media or personal websites – Most of them provided their art via facebook, so I suggest that specific network for contacting them should you desire to do so. I could not link everyone’s info here, so another wonderfully convenient option is to consult the mighty Oracle of Google ~ And, of course, take some time to see, feel, think about, and enjoy these works from the feminine side of the spectrum.

Many Blessings,

Ashely

Featured Image (top)  Laura Borealisis – “Frida”

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Visionary Art & Transformational Culture at Sananda Gallery

Before capitalism, visual art was traditionally used to capture the dreams and aspirations of a community. Displayed in palaces, cathedrals and churches these works were considered the highest expression of culture treasured by the elite and the peasant classes. Today fine art has become so intellectualized and high-priced that it rarely serves these functions of giving vision, inspiration, definition or a shared expression of emerging culture within society. Though art comes from the artist, it is meant to have roots in the community that birthed it and sustains it. The Sananda Gallery in Venice, Ca. highlights the tremendous talent of the emergent visionary art scene combined with a vibrant community of cultural creatives. This sophisticated, yet gritty collective is making art relevant again by placing it back into the heart of the community and freeing it from the narrow confines of over-priced, intellectualized, and often sterile galleries.

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When we study history we often reference art: art is the cultural commentary, it reflects the flavor and feeling of the time period on a deeper level than written or oral histories can.  Art gives context and adds dimension to the story, providing a sensory window into what life was like during the time of its creation. -Liana Sananda

I was lucky enough to be present at a recent art opening at Sananda Gallery at Full Circle Venice in early April. The environment was like a carnival, an immersive experience of creativity. Cannibal Flower, a curating team made up by L. Croskey and Valentine Reitblat, have been throwing art parties in LA for over a decade. They are intrinsic in the low brow art culture in Los Angeles, and are curating partners with Liana Sananda at the gallery. All together, they are building a narrative to the growing new contemporary art scene and the visionary art scene.

Stiltwalkers, patrons in eccentric and colorful attire, dancing, live music, people cuddling on pillows in the corner, lots of laughing and vibrant conversation filled the air. While the high brow art world is about exclusion, loftiness, and elusiveness, the community that gathers around the Visionary Art movement is characterized by inclusion, openness, and connection.  Where the environments of contemporary art are sterile and cold, a visionary art show is warm, dynamic, and buzzing with energy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 9.33.57 PMOutside in front of the gallery, artist Michael Divine and his wife Violet Divine were showing their public mural in process. They have been working on it for weeks with the help of other artists in the community. Public art is perhaps one of the most potent forms of bringing art back into the community and it is rarely given the credit it deserves.

For a deeper look into the power of murals to inspire and tell important stories, check out this article, or see the work of other visionary artists like Xavi Panneton and Chris Dyer in Taking it to the Streets. Essencia Art Collective is also excelling in using public art with students for educational and community-building purposes in Making Walls Talk. Sananda Gallery is taking all of these diverse creative elements and weaving them into a community center.

Up until recently Visionary Art, like public art, has also been under appreciated because artists paint live at festivals, or the inclusive nature of the community embraces artists at all levels of expertise. The capitalistic model says that scarcity increases profits. Exclusivity may help a piece sell for a higher amount but it also distances art from the community at large. The cost that a piece of art sells for in a gallery and it’s intrinsic value within a community are 2 distinctly different things.

In Michael Divine’s recent blog, The Mystical Lineage in Contemporary Art, he gives a detailed history of art that shows the relevance and context of Visionary Art. He poignantly dispels the common criticisms of Visionary Art, turning the mirror back on the Contemporary Art community and inviting art to reclaim it’s rightful place in community, and in the human experience. Michael’s art is amazing, and the fact that he can so eloquently articulate in his blog about Visionary Art helps to push this genre to the forefront. I highly recommend reading the blog in it’s entirety here!

So we return to the relationship between artist and viewer. The Visionary Art that we see – the resplendent and transformative pictures that are being created today – allow the viewer to step into a direct relationship with themselves. It doesn’t require intellectualized ideas and pomp and circumstance to make it mean something. The best pieces – the masterworks of these artists – can be looked at as actual equations of our relationship to the divine. -Visionary Artist, Michael Divine

I have been a huge fan of this movement and enjoyed writing about it over the years. In Visionary Art, You’re painted Into the Picture I explore the idea of mirror neurons mimicking the exalted state of consciousness that is depicted in in transcendental art. It is very clear that we are still at the very beginning of this modern renaissance that invites both artist and art-lover to look within towards the transcendent. Artists like Vajra and Ashely Forman are using their skills to bring awareness and support to social and environmental issues. Elders of the scene like Mark Henson and Alex Grey continue to innovate and define this emergent genre. Others like Amanda Sage, Morgan Mandala, and Elizabeth Banker bring a uniquely feminine flavor to the scene making this not a boys-club of artists. This collaborative community of artists continue to support, influence and elevate each others highest expression.

If you happen to be in Venice, California you should definitely stop by and tour the Sananda Gallery at 305 Rose Ave. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to participate in one of their community events at Full Circle, live paintings, workshops, or be the first to see new works at an opening.

Visionary Artists are transforming our culture with colorful brush strokes but transformational culture is a whole lot more than paintings… This movement continues to evolve and make history, it is incomplete without your voice! You don’t need to be in Venice to experience this scene though, you will find many of these artists painting live at numerous transformational festivals across the country. Support them by sparking a conversation, buying a print or sharing your own inspiration, this is an inclusive community!

Essencia Makes Walls Talk

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.47.25 PMArt changes the way we perceive the world. It’s no wonder that large companies spend millions of dollars littering our urban landscapes with billboards. Public murals, in contrast to advertisements, have the ability to teach, inspire, and even bring healing to communities. The Essencia Art Collective is raising awareness of the importance of water with a mural that is bound to inspire people well beyond the neighborhoods surrounding it. With members from across six continents, Essencia expresses itself from a unique and global perspective that continues to enrich the communities they work with.

The collective has run artistic projects with youth, first nations, refugees, immigrants, prison inmates, galleries, and festivals across the globe. Essencia encourages artistic storytelling, and expresses itself through muralism, street art, graffiti, graphic design, photography, video, music, poetry, dance and love!

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The project was headed by Canadian/Chilean artist, Shalak Attack and her sister Fiya Bruxa, who both co-founded and co-direct the collective.  Shalak’s husband Bruno Smoky  from Brazil (pictured with her below right) also assisted on the project as Artistic Director of the mural segment. Many renowned  artists like Chris Dyer and others were brought in to collaborate.

Taking it to the Streets is powerful, engaging youth is necessary, cultivating inspiration is evolutionary, and educating local communities is how we grow from the roots up to make positive change in the world. Check out the uplifting video below to see the mural in progress or visit here to see photos of the project.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.36.01 AMThis is a continuation of a global awakening to reclaim our connection to the sacred, and we have seen this collaboration between artists, indigenous elders, and activists continue to build momentum and Unify over recent months. Artists like Ashely Foreman recently dedicated the proceeds from one of her paintings to Water Defense, an organization spearheaded by actor Mark Ruffalo to protect waterways. Artist Vajra also created a piece called Man in the Middle dedicated to Sea Shepard for their work protecting marine life. Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a 12-year-old Sliammon First Nation activist from Canada recently collaborated on the #Lovewater Campaign and was depicted in the Earth Revolution mural by Lmnopi in Brooklyn. No matter where you live or what you do, you are being called to participate in the healing that is so needed right now on our planet. What will you create?

Sex & Nature, Evocative Paintings by Mark Henson

Sex arouses the body, nature enriches the soul, and art inspires the mind. Artist Mark Henson makes love visible with a paintbrush. It’s not porn, and it’s not exactly what you were thinking but it might just turn you on in ways that you have never imagined.

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Sunset Sacrement, Oil on Canvas, 60″ X 60″

These visions show us something that Darwin spoke of which has been forgotten… that nature thrives on cooperation equally as it does on competition. Waterfalls make love to the rocks they splash upon and the interdependence between all living things brings a deep sense of connection to anyone who ponders the idea. In a society fixated on competition, survival of the fittest, and oppression, these paintings are refreshing on all levels. Of course the most explicit ones can be seen at his online gallery.

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Ravine Rapture, Oil on Canvas 86″ X 48 “

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Riverine Reverie, Oil on Canvas, 66″ X 42″

Henson is 62 years old, grew up in Sacramento and spent his formative years in The San Francisco Bay area. Influenced by the art and social movements of the 60’s he painted backdrops for theater productions like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and musical acts like Jimi Hendrix. Mark attributes meditation as a source of much of his inspiration. He first learned about it at a talk given in San Francisco by the founder of Integral Yoga, Satchidananda Saraswati.

Sylvan Serenity, Oil on Canvas, 66″ X 48″

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Double Helix, Oil on Canvas 52″ X 32″

His meditation practice might be why he has the ability to embrace the spiritual, political, and paradoxical nature of our society simultaneously in his art. Even Darwin refuted Social Darwinism which says that humans are here to compete, winner takes all, and society should be ruled by that model. As is so well depicted in Sharing the Wealth below and in the news everywhere, there are some real downsides to living in a society ruled by this belief alone.

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Cooperation of species may well be the missing story to resolving much of our planets problems, and art might be the most powerful way to convey this idea. Humanity’s capacity for destruction and discord is equally matched by it’s ability to create beautiful inspiration. Sex, or better yet, making love is not limited to naked bodies but includes the concept of procreation with a paintbrush, a musical instrument, a dance, or the exchange of mutual respect within the larger community of life. The painting below is aptly titled Paintbrush Warrior.

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We know that each person is faced with a choice about the kind of future we’d like to build on this planet, but a masterful painting puts you in the middle of the picture. New Pioneers (below) took almost a year to paint. You can see the influence of Paolo Soleris‘ vision for urban centers that work with the flow of the land on the right side of the painting. I’m not quite sure who to credit for the war and destruction on the left side of the painting but we all know that it is a very lucrative business for a few people…

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In the mid 90’s Mark racked up a bunch of library fines taking out books and learning how to paint the animals in March of Progress below. If we choose to fight against nature we might all lose that battle in the end but seeing it on canvas (or in a blog) somehow bypasses the usual mental filters. The word “progress” in this painting and in our world seems to be defined in the context of the Social Darwinian nightmare. I can’t help but wonder what “progress” would look like if it were applied to the ideology of a cooperation of species rather than a conquering of species… I think the word commonly used in that paradigm is “permaculture”.

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Perhaps we could all learn something  from the paintings and vision of Mark Henson. Maybe a little quiet reflection and meditation somewhere in nature would help us conceptualize how the polarities of our human nature might flow into one stream of connected consciousness.

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Healing Waters, Oil on Canvas, 16″ X 20″

Whether it’s sex in nature, making love, or appreciating great art, we have many reasons to ponder this great gift called life and reflect on our role within this larger web of existence. Mark Henson has continued to be an inspiration to many other artists in the Visionary Art world. You can also read more in Visionary Art, You’re Painted into the Picture and other articles on Culture Collective. It is apparent in Mark’s work that stories rule our world and what we believe to be true is often what we create. How might we re-consider the stories that rule our world and what might the world look like if we did? This question is actually quite sexy…