The Artwork of Michael Divine




Art Basel II: Moksha Art Fair I

December 8th, 2009

The antithesis of “The Art Basel Art World” was the Moksha Art Fair, put on by a family of local lovers of “visionary” art and alternative lifestyles. Part art show, part warehouse party, part performance, and, for better or worse, a lot of craziness, it spanned Thursday through Sunday, with an all-night party planned for Saturday night.

Thursday evening, featured two panels of artists discussing their work – the process, intentions, etc. The first panel featured some of the “emerging” artists featured in the show: Amanda Sage, Andrew Jones, Nemo, Adam Scott Miller, and Shrine. The latter panel was older more established artists like Martina Hoffman, Robert Venosa, Alex and Allison Grey, Mark Henson, and some others I wasn’t familiar with.

The “emerging artists” panel seemed to have an interesting and positive take on what they felt their art was for, where they were going with it, etc. It was an interesting talk that nicely glossed over the world of psychedelia because, at this point, that kind of talk just seems redundant.

The latter “established artists” panel left me feeling somewhat disappointed. Asked about considering ones audience when creating their work, one answer was:

“Well, if they’ve taken psychedelics then they get it and if not… they usually don’t.” The artists didn’t seem to care much about the ones who don’t and felt that those who do get it required a key of some sort to understand. So much for helping the world to grow! But then, perhaps that was not the mission of said artist.

The truth is, and here is where my disappointment arose is that the entire panel seemed to devolve into a flag-raising, banner-wielding conundrum of ENTHEOGENS AND ART! LSD AND ART! to the sounds of a whoop or a cheer every now and again and, well, for me – that gets old.

Yes, yes, psychedelics are a doorway and a gateway and they can open one up to all sorts of interesting vistas and understandings. We know they are powerful, we know they are helpful but: tell us something different, please. The truth is: great art is not made by taking some drugs and grabbing some paint. Great art is made through patience, dedication, imagination, and vision. And all of that takes work.

I have always felt, and I may be wrong, that the work created by the “visionary” artists has some deep intentions around healing, spreading enlightenment, raising consciousness, etc. So I thought that the comment about work that almost requires the viewer to have had a psychedelic experience seemed selfish and self-indulgent. I considered my own artwork: should it require some kind of magic decoder ring in order to be understood? Sometimes the people who get it the most or who seem to be affected by it the most are the ones who’ve never seen anything like it before and now, in front of them, is this vision. And some little old lady reacts as if she’s waited her whole life to see it. It’s beautiful and affirming and rewarding. Some kid, fresh out of high school sees it and recognizes an element, an archetypal experience within it’s lines and colors.

True art, something truly beautiful, should require nothing more than the senses needed to experience it – and that is really just two eyes and some mode of transportation to be able to arrive in front of the piece. If it is good, then it will be received as such and will be able to stand on it’s own. Otherwise, we are merely (and rather self-indulgently) painting pictures along the walls of our own castles, letting in only those whom we see fit and are no better or worse than the rest of the “Art World”.

We can’t change the world by living in our own bubble and waiting for others to make it through a door or a veil we have constructed. If that is the case then we have fallen prey to the same sort of selfish elitism the plagues much of the art world. If I sound cynical, well, in some respects I really may be, but I am also hopeful. Incredibly so.

In conversations with the so called “younger” artists (a category that I certainly fall into as well) I found, through subsequent conversations, a similar feeling that the old cry of “Entheogens and Art” or drugs-will-change-the-way-you-think-just-look-at-me should be taken out back and given a proper burial and a new and broader understanding must be integrated.

This art, these visions, doesn’t just come from some psychedelic experience. It comes from an integrated and holistic approach to life. It comes from personal exploration and deep inner work. It comes from yoga and eating well. It comes from deep inner work, a consciously aware mind, and a desire to push ones edge a little further every day. It comes from living a well-lived life. Some people, with a good imagination, might just hit on something along the course of that path. With an adequate amount of talent, they might just create something beautiful. If they have the passion for it and the drive, they might just continue onwards, exploring, broadening, unveiling profound understandings of how the world works and, along the way, create more artwork that reflects that, bringing visions into this world that speak of that well-lived life.

This is not psychedelic art. It is not “visionary” art. However, It is certainly art with a vision, and it is certainly based on many types of experiences – from the sacred to the profane, from the profound to the mundane. And it is art based on a long long tradition of exploration and discovery. It continues the narrative begun by those unknown artists who created the paintings and hieroglyphs we find along the walls of caves and canyons. It grew and changed: through the hands of ancient sculptors, painters and writers. It was Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Bosch, el Greco, Blake, Monet, Picasso, Boccioni, Kandinsky, Dali, Magritte, Fuchs, Klarwein, and many others, on and on, into today.

What is this art we create? I am waiting for a cohesive name that doesn’t make me cringe each time I hear it. Visionary. As if we are the ones with vision and everyone else was just doodling.  I’ll tell you one thing, this art is as substantive as anything that came before it. Another thing: It is as relevant as anything in the pages of Janson’s History of Art.

And, for the most part, it is highly nutritious. Eat up!

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