In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how the legacy of this spiritual freedom enables artists to make creative work as part of their practices.
The Golden Dome in Los Angeles is a school that enables artists, thinkers, healers, and feelers to learn about the interstices of creativity, mysticism, and ecology. The organization's founder, artist and intuitive Eliza Swann, has modeled it after the Garden of Eden, only with tarot-framed artist intensives, lectures, exhibitions, and performances designed to reunite creativity with spirituality.
After studying at the San Francisco Art Institute and earning a master's degree in Fine Art at Central St. Martins in London, Swann had a nervous breakdown. "I experienced a complete dissolution of reality and lost sight of the purpose and meaning of art," she tells The Creators Project. "I was split down the middle—I had been discouraged by the art institution from bringing my mystical leanings into conversations about my artwork. I felt adrift and like my soul had left."
The experience led a half-cognizant Swann to Greece before the Oracle of Delphi, which instructed her to reconcile her passions and return to her home country. Meanwhile, she kept hearing birds sing tones that sounded magically like "L.A.," so three years ago, she joined the city's mystical milieu. Inspired, she founded the Golden Dome to help other artists rediscover the threadbare weaving together of soul and creativity. "My time in Los Angeles has healed the schisms between my art, clairvoyance practice, and life—the mystery of reconstitution has presented itself," she says.
Originally from New York City, Swann also studied hypnotherapy, yoga, tarot, and meditation at various schools of thought around the world. She believes that today, people have been profoundly hypnotized into dismissing their own merits as a sinister, relentless chorus of doubt delivers discordant notes of insecurity and isolation to the masses. "I am tired of watching our planet, our bodies, our communities, and our psyches destroyed for the profit of a few," she says. "I want to create a structure for life that is in revolt through its generosity."
As a community, the Golden Dome cranks out zines, installations, photographs, performances, and sound works. It's also been performing an annual ritual called The Resurrection of Care, which invites Los Angeles artists and mystics to respond to what Swann describes as "the culture’s violence, ecocide, caustic hierarchies, and exploitative capitalism." Participants in The Resurrection of Care pledge to not only nourish themselves, but also the earth's animals, and even its elements.
"In Los Angeles, I am surrounded by profound, generous, radical visionaries who are working together to overthrow corrupt systems with bold magic," Swann says excitedly. "I am ecstatic to re-enchant reality with the kindred spirits I have found in this city."
In terms of her own practice, Swann is particularly enamored of painting, but allows herself to move through disciplines according to whichever form the subject matter takes on its own. "All of my art is channeled," she explains. "I let the 'downloads' tell me the correct format—the medium is the medium." Right now, Swann's working on a series of paintings based on her communications with plants.
"Art, for me, is an instrument for the liberating force of sacred magic and the awakening of free will," she believes. "I am interested in art as an apparatus for psychic hygiene and as an instrument for transmitting more compassion and freedom to this plane. True art transmits full consciousness and full responsibility to the receiver. I employ art as a tool for taking full responsibility for my births, lives, and deaths."
Ultimately, Swann is humbled by the idea that both the seeker and the source are part of the same circle, and that frequencies transmitted through sound, word, and image impart personal wisdoms that are absorbed by our bodies. Swann, however, also feels that much of our knowledge as a species has been eradicated under a capitalist worldview, although fear of women and healers extends back centuries. Yet while the reality may be dark, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no light ahead.
"The witch hunts in the Middle Ages targeted the midwives and healers whose traditional roles included what we would now classify as obstetrician, medical doctor, pastor, philosopher, performance artist, and psychotherapist," Swann says. "The atrocious and humiliating deaths to which so many of them were subjected left indelible marks on the collective psyche and destroyed thousands of years of traditional healing wisdom; we were forced to view their work as dangerous and irrational or suffer similar violence ourselves."
"At the same moment in history," Swann continues, "the transatlantic slave trade and the genocide of the indigenous people in the ‘New World’ destroyed millions of lives and declared that the healing, philosophical, and spiritual traditions of the murdered, enslaved, and displaced people were 'heathen' and 'primitive.' All of this terror was engineered by the European ruling elite to implement the capitalist system so that our bodies and our land could be owned by a few men. As a mystic, I am proud to belong to a world that capitalism is anxious to destroy: a world with strong female leadership, a world rooted in local communities and knowledge, a world that respects wild spaces, a world alive with magical possibilities, a world of generosity, a world where people are connected to their own healing process, a world deep in the process of resistance and renewal."