Alex Grey was born in Columbus, Ohio on November 29, 1953 (Sagittarius), the middle child of a gentle middle-class couple. His father was a graphic designer and encouraged his son’s drawing ability. Young Alex would collect insects and dead animals from the suburban neighborhood and bury them in the back yard. The themes of death and transcendence weave throughout his artworks, from the earliest drawings to later performances, paintings and sculpture. Alex went to the Columbus College of Art and Design on full scholarship from 1971-3. Grey dropped out of art school and painted billboards for Columbus Outdoor Advertising, 1973-4. Grey then moved to Boston to study with and work as studio assistant for conceptual artist, Jay Jaroslav, at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1974-5.
At the Museum School, Alex met his life-long partner, the artist, Allyson Rymland Grey. At their meeting in 1975, an entheogenically induced mystical experience transformed his agnostic existentialism to a radical transcendentalism. The Grey couple continued to take “sacramental journeys” on LSD. For five years, Alex worked in the Anatomy department at Harvard Medical School preparing cadavers for dissection while he studied the body on his own. He later worked for Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Joan Borysenko as a research technologist at Harvard’s department of Mind/Body Medicine, conducting scientific experiments to investigate subtle healing energies. Alex’s anatomical training prepared him for painting the Sacred Mirrors (see below) and for working as a medical illustrator. Doctors at Harvard saw images of his Sacred Mirrors, and hired Alex for illustration work.
Grey instructed Artistic Anatomy and Figure Sculpture for ten years at New York University, and has taught the Visionary Art Intensive and other art workshops with Allyson at The New York Open Center, Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, the California Institute of Integral Studies and Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. The couple now teach MAGI workshops (Mystic Artists Guild International) at CoSM in Wappinger, New York.
In 1972 Grey began a series of art actions that bear resemblance to rites of passage, in that they present stages of a developing psyche. The approximately fifty performance rites, conducted over the last thirty years move through transformations from an egocentric to more sociocentric and increasingly worldcentric and theocentric identity. In a major performance entitled WorldSpirit, spoken word poetry in musical collaboration with Kenji Williams was released in 2004 as a DVD.
Grey’s unique series of 21 life-sized paintings, the Sacred Mirrors, take the viewer on a journey toward their own divine nature by examining, in detail, the body, mind, and spirit. The Sacred Mirrors, present the physical and subtle anatomy of an individual in the context of cosmic, biological and technological evolution. Begun in 1979, the series took a period of ten years to complete. It was during this period that Alex developed depictions of the human body that “x-ray” the multiple layers of reality, and reveal the interplay of anatomical and spiritual forces. After painting the Sacred Mirrors, he applied this multidimensional perspective to such archetypal human experiences as praying, meditation, kissing, copulating, pregnancy, birth, nursing and dying. Grey’s recent work explores the subject of consciousness from the perspective of “universal beings” whose bodies are grids of fire, eyes and infinite galactic swirls.
Renowned healers Olga Worral and Rosalyn Bruyere express appreciation for the skillful portrayal of clairvoyant vision his paintings of translucent glowing bodies. Countless teachers and spiritual leaders, including Deepak Choprah, incorporate Alex’s art in their power point presentations. Grey’s paintings have been featured in venues as diverse as the album art of TOOL, SCI, the Beastie Boys and Nirvana, Time and Newsweek magazines, the Discovery Channel, rave flyers and sheets of blotter acid. Exhibited worldwide, Alex’s art has been honored with solo exhibitions at Feature Inc., Tibet House, Stux Gallery, P.S. 1, The NYC Outsider Art Fair, The New Museum in NYC, the Grand Palais in Paris, the Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil. Alex’s art has been featured in several year long exhibitions at the American Visionary Art Museum including a room installation he created with Allyson entitled “Heart Net” (1998-99). A mid-career retrospective of Grey’s works at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego in 1999. A keynote speaker at conferences all over the world including Tokyo, Amsterdam, Basel, Barcelona and Manaus, the international psychedelic community has embraced Grey as an important mapmaker and spokesman for the visionary realm.
For 2011 an 2012, the Watkins Review named Alex Grey one of the top twenty spiritual leaders alive today, in the company of such towering luminaries as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Eckhardt Tolle, and Oprah Winfrey. The Temple of Understanding awarded and sighted both the Grey’s as two of the world’s top fifty Interfaith leaders.
Grey’s first monograph, the large format art book entitled, Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey, has been translated into five languages with well over one hundred thousand copies. His inspirational book, The Mission of Art, traces the evolution of human consciousness through art history, exploring the role of an artist’s intention and conscience, and reflecting on the creative process as a spiritual path.
Transfigurations, Alex’s second monograph, contains over 300 color and black & white plates of his artwork. The Visionary Artist, a CD of Grey’s reflections published by Sounds True, leads the listener on a journey of art as a spiritual practice. The video, ARTmind incorporates Alex’s images in an exploration of the healing potential of Sacred Art. Grey co-edited the book, Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (Chronicle Books, 2002). In 2004, the VISIONS boxed set contains both earlier monographs of Grey’s artwork plus a portfolio of new works.
Alex Grey’s upcoming book Net of Being, to be released in late November 2012, shows how Alex’s visionary art is evolving the cultural body through icons of interconnectedness. Grey’s latest monograph includes over 200 reproductions of Grey’s artwork, contains spectacular photos of Grey’s collaboration with the cult band TOOL plus his worldwide live-painting performances, and offers Grey’s reflections on how art evolves consciousness with a new symbology of the “networked self.” Alex’s painting “Net of Being”—inspired by a blazing vision of an infinite grid of Godheads during an ayahuasca journey—has reached millions as the stage set and the cover and interior of the band TOOL’s Grammy award–winning triple-platinum album,10,000 Days. Net of Being is one of many images Grey has created that have resulted in a chain reaction of uses—from apparel and jewelry to tattoos and music videos—embedding these iconic works into our culture’s living Net of Being.
A five-year installation of Grey’s best loved artworks were exhibited at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, CoSM, in New York City from 2004-9. Alex and Allyson have collaborated on performance art, live-painting on stage throughout the world, and the “social sculpture” called CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, that the Grey’s cofounded in 1996. The Grey’s live at CoSM in Wappinger, New York and in Brooklyn since 1984. Their daughter, Zena Grey, born in 1988, is an accomplished actress and artist living in Los Angeles.