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.
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.
Outside 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!