Alex Grey just hit the crowd-sourced lottery. The king of visionary art will be building the “sanctuary” for his trippy, visual-laced spiritual paintings and structures that he calls the Entheon. His Kickstarter campaign received over $210,000 from more than 1,500 backers. That sum is the second-largest sum of money ever donated to an art project on Kickstarter.
The Kickstarter campaign ended on May 31, which was the 39th anniversary of Alex and Allyson Grey’s first meeting. The two have been making visionary art ever since. It was also the 39th anniversary of the first time Alex every dropped acid. “We spent the night together and never left,” said Allyson at their fundraising party in LA last month.
As Grey posted on his blog, “It takes a miracle of creative imagination on the part of a community to envision a sacred space into existence and that is precisely what happened.”
The Entheon will be one of the trippiest buildings you can imagine. Emblazoned with a gazillion cosmic eyeballs on the roof, walls, and doors, a pattern of faces watch you from every corner. There’s also a group of angels and slithering dragon snakes, not to mention symbols from Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and a ying-yang symbol. It’s all very tribal and otherworldly. It’ll be built in the Hudson Valley, a region just north of New York City that's been a renowned artistic haven since the painters of the Hudson River School produced their luminous, transcendentalist-infused landscapes.
The Entheon will be “a place to experience the God within.” The first show will be the art of Alex Grey including the Sacred Mirrors series. You can get in with their special entry coin (stay tuned for the opening party, as well, if all goes as planned).
Last time we spoke with the Greys, they told us about their donation-based church, the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. Now that they found the funding for the Entheon, they will break soil soon. We chatted about their building plans and how it feels to make this miracle come true. They speak as one voice, so their responses below are from both of them.
VICE: Hey, Allyson and Alex. Congrats on meeting your goal. How does it feel to be so well supported on Kickstarter?
Alex and Allyson Grey: Thanks so much! We are very excited and grateful. It was an exhilarating ride and a tremendous learning experience inside a new social media community. The Church of Sacred Mirrors has been a nonprofit since 1996 and a church since 2008, yet it feels like this is the first real fundraiser we’ve done. So many friends took part in this fun game where no one wins unless everyone wins. CoSM folk are immersed in getting rewards together for all the individuals that backed our campaign. All rewards will be shipped by Gordo, the unstoppable force of CoSM's online shop!
What inspired the wildly imaginative architecture of the Entheon?
Allyson: On June 3, 2012 Alex had a vision of 30 interlinking heads wrapping around the carriage house, a symbol of 30 wisdom traditions embedded in the foreheads of the faces of God. The religious symbols are in alignment with the cosmic eyes of the Creator that sheds tears that are angels of the creative imagination bridging the eye of God and the human eye. Dragons of evolutionary consciousness lead to the One expressed in the many, the steeple head on the top of Entheon.
This feels like a once-in-a-lifetime project. What kind of visionary art can we expect to see in Entheon?
The first long-term exhibition at Entheon will be the CoSM collection of painting, drawings, and sculpture, offering devotional portrayals of the universal human journey from birth to death and beyond with love, family, and enlightenment as the unfolding iconic narrative.
Entheon is the visionary art sanctuary at CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in Wappinger, New York. The purpose of Entheon is to empower the evolution of consciousness and advancement of the worldwide visionary art movement. There will be a great variety of artists exhibited at Entheon. Already at CoSM, many contemporary visionary artists have exhibited or presented their accomplished works to interested audiences. We cultivate alliances with collectives of visionary artists including Tribe 13, the Further Collective, Vienna Visionary Art Academy, plus the Federation of Damanhur, and Wisdom University. At CoSM, Visionary Salons host presentations of art, dance, and music, light projections, and fire spinning by some of our favorite mystic artists. Entheon will be an attraction as a sculpted building and a soundproof container for performance and ceremony.
Visionary Art has become a growing movement worldwide as more and more people experience altered and mystic states of consciousness through yoga, contemplative practice, or heart-opening sacraments. Careful depictions of inner journeys become validating for other psychonauts. Visionary Art has become a way of introducing evolutionary symbolism to the cultural meme stream through the internet, galleries and museums, print media, tattoos, fashion, clubs and festivals. A sense of sacred community hovers around visionary art events because of the holiness of the creative imagination and the importance of sharing our deepest inner illuminations and strangely detailed worlds of the Beyond Within.
You have found a location and a structure to build upon. Could you tell us where it will be in Hudson Valley?
Chapel of Sacred Mirrors is a wooded 40-acre center for visionary culture, an interfaith church where we practice creativity as a spiritual path. CoSM is located in the Town of Wappinger, 65 miles from Manhattan. We are within easy walking distance to the river. The Hudson Valley is a place of great beauty and spiritual history. And the home of the first American art movement, the Hudson River School.
The Hudson River Landscape painters like Cole, Church and Bierstadt visually paralleled transcendentalist sentiments expressed by Emerson and Thoreau that Nature is divine. The native Wappinger people called the Hudson River Mo-He-Kahn-I-Tuke, the “great flow that goes both ways.” The Hudson River is a Moon River, a tidal river that flows from the ocean up to just past CoSM and then back out to sea, changing directions every six hours. The river is a metaphor for community. Each of us is a small stream flowing into the great river with increasing speed and power toward the ocean of love bliss. In the case of the Hudson River, or the Mo-He-Kahn-I-Tuke, we have a spiritual ocean that is pulled within the community, even upstream, and the community is empowered with this special influx of holy energy from the greater body. This is one of the reasons we have always met on the Full Moon, in honor of the river, which we were the same distance from in the city. A number of spiritual movements have originated in the Hudson Valley and there is a pearl necklace of retreat centers up the river, like temples on the Nile. Within several hours of arguably the greatest art capital in the world, next to an exquisite river, artists are finding a place in nature to be creative. Who wouldn't?
Wow. When do you plan on breaking ground this year?
Town planners have given site approval. The bank is ready to make a construction loan when the engineering and architectural drawings have been finished and the bids from contractors are complete. Two sets of engineering drawings are needed for this sculpted building, one for the main structure and interior and another for the sculpted panels that will clad the building. This is an especially custom building. A new well has been dug and much site work and structural reinforcement has already gone into transforming this 1882 carriage house into a temple of visionary art.
New Yorkers may remember the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, which ran from 2004 to 2009. How is Entheon different?
CoSM operated 12,000 square feet in the heart of the gallery and club district of NYC. A dance studio, CoSM Shop, the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors and MicroCoSM Gallery, our studio, office, merchandise and shipping were all on that floor. But we couldn't build an enduring temple of the fourth floor of 542 W. 27th Street so we started looking for land again soon after CoSM NYC opened.
Entheon is a freestanding two-story building with a third ground floor at the back. Many of the works that were exhibited at CoSM in the city will be on view in this installation including all 21 Sacred Mirrors, Cosmic Christ, Net of Being, Theologue, Oversoul, and many others. Within Entheon, MicroCoSM Gallery will once again exhibit the works of excellent visionary artists. CoSM in the Hudson Valley is a tranquil yet very lush and alive natural setting. It is a very large "canvas" for art, creative projects and installations.
The name is inspired by the Entheon Village from Burning Man Camp. How will you be honoring this tradition?
It was Alex that offered the name Entheon to MAPS and Matt Atwood in 2006 for the Burning Man Camp we initiated with them that year. Within that camp, CoSM created a 60-foot dome chill space offering 24 hours of DJ down-tempo music. Entheon is a place to experience the God within. Originally, Alex was looking for a non-church name, one not already identified with a sacred space like temple, shrine, cathedral. A new kind of sacred space.
When did you find out about the approved bank loan? Are you taking a big risk by building this project?
Yes. This is one of the biggest risks of our lives. The bank is very fond of our project. Our bank representative tells us CoSM is the most responsibly operated non-profit business with whom they have worked. We spend our lives seeking friends who might join us in building something beautiful to leave a trace of our visionary culture.
Do you have plans for when will the Entheon opening celebration will take place? Can people buy tickets?
A CoSM coin is admission for two. Buying a ticket is taking a risk, gambling that we are at our word and will actualize Entheon. The coin is good for any item within CoSM worth $20, however. As coin holders, we vision the opening of Entheon together and trust that we can all make it happen. It will take many friends to build a temple.
The admission coin looks fantastic. How many are being produced?
It is an unlimited edition. Nine hundred eighteen Kickstarter backers of our Entheon campaign will receive a CoSM coin in exchange for two admissions to CoSM. The coin will soon be in the mail. Kickstarter backers will all get theirs before any additional ones go on sale.
If Entheon is your greatest challenge so far, is it also your greatest reward?
Our daughter, Zena is our greatest reward. Our love is our greatest reward. Entheon will be a tremendous satisfaction when it is completed, which may take two years or more. Our greatest blessing is our love being shared with a global community.
Entheon: Sanctuary of Visionary Art
Concept and Design by Alex Grey
Digital Modeling by Ryan Tottle
Follow @nadjasayej on Twitter.
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