I enjoyed reading Grey's chapter 3 of "The Mission of Art" called "Deeply Seeing". It is about how to truly comprehend a work of art. Grey talks about looking at things, making a difference between simple looking and engaging our minds in a transcendental form of existence where we can find a true deep meaning.
Grey says: "When deeply seeing, the object of our contemplation enters our heart and mind directly" (Grey 72). He means that we absorb the true message that the object conveys and we become united with it. We put our souls into analyzing or creating an object and we get satisfaction because it helps us understand better the meaning of life.
Saint Bonaventure talks about three eyes of knowing: the eye of flesh, which sees the "outer" realm of material objects, the eye of reason, which sees symbolically and the mystic eye of contemplation which sees the transcendental realms (Grey 73). Saint Thomas Aquinas believed that three things are needed for beauty: wholeness, harmony and radiance (Grey 73).
The artist both enjoys and admires the object. Grey says: "The artist's eyes of knowing are inspired by the radiant spiritual beauty of the subject, fascinated by the subject's harmonic structure, and motivated to express the unique wholeness of the subject by drawing a bounding line around it" (Grey 74).
There are stages in the creative process, some of which are unconscious and some conscious. However, all of them occur in the mind of an artist (Grey 75). This process requires a lot of energy from the artists and therefore exhaust them. That is why most of them have "periods of avoidance" in order to recover from "the shadowlands of their psyche" (Grey 89).
In order to create, an artist gets in touch with his metaphysical understanding of the world and has to explore it spiritually. Then he recognizes unconsciously some element of the Universe in an object which inspires him to create. He gets the idea, dwells on it and in the end finds a way to represent it to the world in order to relieve himself from the positive pressure, which haunts him and become his life mission. It is also important to get a feedback from viewers. Viewers also have to engage profoundly in order to deeply understand the transcendental meaning. This can sometimes cause health problems, like the Stendhal syndrome (Grey 83).
Grey mentions that viewers can communicate with an artwork, which literally speaks to them (Grey 85). He probably means that when a viewer deeply connects with the Universe, then anything is possible, especially on the unconscious level, and next step is materialization.
Grey also talks about broadening the context of what art can be and expanding classification according to preexisting definitions. Dadaists and performance gestures do this for example (Grey 88). In 1906 Donald Judd declared that " if an artist claims something to be art then it is art" (Grey 89).
There is also a theory about chakras. There are seven primary chakras of energy located along the central axis of the body. They "mediate the energies of the auric bodies that surround and interpenetrate the physical body" (Grey 94). Each chakra represents a certain emotion and when we create, they allow us to see deeply. I would like to point out the similarity between chakras and the unconscious part of human mind.
I was impressed by watching James Turrell on art:21. He used a crater, the Roden Crater to make a sort of a well from which one can become united with the Universe by looking at the sky through the opening above. Turrell says: "I had this thought of bringing the Cosmos closer down to the space we occupy" (Turrell). He chose that place because he felt positive about its sense of power. Richard Walker, astronomer said that: "the crater is a wonderful example of blending hard science, physical science with art and vice versa" (Walker). Turrell feels that people will realize that they are in the atmosphere, not separated from the sky and that they will have a feeling that they are one with the Universe (Turrell). I would love to visit the Roden Crater to experience this unique bond with the Cosmos in person. I love how Turrell channels natural light in order to make people feel their spirituality, because they cannot feel by using reason.
Grey, A. (2001). Art as Spiritual Practice. The Mission of Art (1st ed., pp. 71-106). Boston & London: Shambhala.
Video: Spirituality | Watch Art:21 Online | PBS Video, from http://video.pbs.org/video/1237561674/