For him, the process of artistic creation holds the potential of transcending the limitations of the mind and more fully expressing the divine spirit. He also believes that art can induce within the viewer an elevated state wherein spiritual states of being are attained (Grey). In this essay, I am going to cover a brief history of his life, the progression of his art and performances, where his art is displayed and has been used, and some positive and negative reviews of his works. My purpose is to critically critique Alex Grey's artistic style and vision.
Alex Grey was born in Columbus, Ohio on November 29, 1953. Being the middle child of a middle-class couple, he strove to please his father by excelling in drawing. It was his father, who was a graphic designer, who saw in him his exceptional talent and encouraged his drawing ability. As a young child he would collect insects and dead animals from around the neighborhood and bury them in the back yard. From his earliest drawings to his performances, paintings and sculptures, the themes of death and transcendence have been woven throughout (Grey). During his teenage years he lived a solitary life in a world of his own imagination that could not be easily understood by others and did not give much concern to right or wrong. His art during that time shows how confused he was about himself, and about life and spirituality. It led him to express the tearing apart, the confusion, and the duality within his being.
He attended the Columbus College of Art and Design for two years (1971-73), then dropped out and painted billboards in Ohio for a year (73-74) (Grey). He then attended the Boston Museum School for one year to study with the conceptual artist Jay Jaroslav (Grey). This is also where he met his wife Allyson, the artist. During this period he had a series of entheogenically induced mystical experiences that transformed his agnostic existentialism to a radical transcendentalism (Grey). He then spent five years at Harvard Medical School working in the Anatomy department studying the human body (Grey).
As expected, the earlier works of Alex Grey (both drawing and painting) are simpler and more of self portrayal. His later works have shown maturity and complexity, moving out of self but still focusing on the human anatomy. What stuck out most about his early works is how talented and detailed his lines and features are, and how almost perfectly he has recreated himself in his visual arts. His later portrayal of himself reveals his own self realization and self actualization, revealing the inner struggles and duality of his inner being. He is able to show his audience what transpires within himself and the difficulties he has been going through as he is initiated into the growing complexity of his inner and outer world.
In addition, his focus on the human eye in many of his works reveals an all-knowing existence of somebody, be it himself or God or any other important person in his life, which truly affects him and all of his life. One example is the "Vision Mission." The eye is placed above, which is believed as the vision, while the hand with the pointing finger below may stand for the mission. This drawing may have a spiritual implication and may have a much deeper meaning from what is actually shown.