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.

Sananda Gallery Full Circle1

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!

Taking It to The Streets

There is nothing quite like getting dressed up on a Friday night and going to an art opening in a local gallery. Strolling with a glass of wine in your hand and talking about art may bring momentary inspiration but what does it mean to take that feeling home and paint your life with it? Those who study ecopsychology understand that our environment affects our consciousness and the ways we think. Let’s explore two artists whose work would be at home in the finest galleries, but are not content to keep their art (or the inspiration it creates) confined to gallery walls and coffee-table books.

When artists take their work to the streets, they shape the environment that we inhabit and affect our consciousness in subtle ways. Advertisers hire artists to create billboards because they understand the power of art and perhaps they can convince you to buy something you don’t want or need with a billboard. Street and graffiti artists also know this truth and they use city walls to vent their angst and reclaim their territory. Both above have their place, but there is a middle road with endless possibility that creative people are exploiting for the mere purpose of inspiring others and making the world a more beautiful place to inhabit.

2013-10-30-ScreenShot20131029at11.33.53PM.pngXavi Panneton is one such artist who deserves more than the few paragraphs I have room for here. I first met him many years ago as a teen in Prescott, Arizona. Xavi, a dynamic force in the global Visionary Art movement, creates vibrant paintings, live murals and multi-media art installations for festivals and venues around the world. Recently he was artist in residence for Arte En La Calle, Ecuador where he painted a 100 foot wall in downtown Quito. Which he called “one of the most significant projects he has worked on to date”.

2013-10-30-xavi2.jpg“To do light-work, sometimes you need to go into the darkest places and make something beautiful,” he told me over the phone. While painting near San Blas in Quito, he witnessed drug dealers, fights, poverty, and wore earplugs because the noise of the city was overwhelming. He said he was, “on a mission to make a mural dedicated to the land.” He described Ecuador as a very significant place on the planet because of the rich native history, the rain forests, and the thriving movement towards permaculture and sustainability in the region. The ecosystem in Ecuador, particularly its tropical rain forest, is considered to be one of the richest and most complex communities of plant and animal life on the planet, much of it threatened by deforestation and oil exploration.

Xavi, a meticulous and conscious artist, took time to learn the culture and visit local museums while creating his mural. He mentioned that he was not interested in “copying in a boring academic way to replicate historic images,” but rather to, “allow the inspiration of the land, the history, and the native spirit to channel through the art naturally.” His finished work was warmly received by the community. He placed two guardian spirits on either side of The Sun (below) saying that, “Native People have a fierce love for their family and for the land and it takes a certain fierceness to protect what is sacred.”


Inspired by Alex Grey, Xavi recently painted a mural at The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors known as, Cosm. While there, he also hosted a Visionary Salon workshop entitled “Tao of Design” illuminating how designs from nature can inspire the most elegant, eye-pleasing compositions.


Panneton has painted murals in Portugal, Australia, Costa Rica, and Canada but is probably most well known in America for murals in San Francisco. His recent work at Jammin on Haight (above) looks like one of the many lingering psychedelic fantasies of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jerry Garcia who still haunt the streets where they once played and wrote music that inspired a generation.

2013-10-30-chris1Chris Dyer, art director at Creation Skateboards, embellishes the concept of Visionary Art by bringing it to a traditionally rebellious counter-culture, skate-boarders. Though Chris has a coffee-table book and shows his paintings regularly at galleries, his public murals can be found in Canada, Italy, Belgium, Hawaii, Cosm in New York (pictured left) and elsewhere.

Chris says, “Being mean is easy, negativity sells, but being spiritual is true rebellion in a mean society.” In the documentary film about Dyer, you see him grow through his youthful angst in the streets of Peru to arrive at a place of true intention as an artist. He says that sketching everything he sees when he travels the world influences him and painting a mural is his way of “giving some new flavors” as an offering of gratitude to the places he visits. He coined the term “Visionary Graffiti” which is an interesting concept to ponder considering the traditional definition of both terms. Chris defines Visionary Art as “positive spiritual art” saying that it comes from the pure intention of doing positive spiritual work in your life.


Both artists, along with many others, have generously donated signed prints in support of an independent film project called Up Against The Wall, Public Art Indicted, which I will be covering in my next blog.

Paddle out to catch the waves being made by Visionary Artists who are dreaming and creating a better world. Take note of your environment whether it be in a city, small town or in the country, how does it shape the way you think about the world? There is a relationship between our inner and outer worlds, we are mere reflections. Thank your local artists and take your own inspiration to the streets.