Appellate Judge James A. Stewart tripped over his own feet in the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. He now has 147 years of bad luck.
"All of the wisdom traditions point us back to the ultimate ground of being that is beyond depiction, but it's the essence of who we really are."
"Welcome to the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, offering my devotional portrayals of the universal human journey from birth to death," artist Alex Grey says at the start of CoSM: The Movie. It takes viewers on a tour of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, his surreal exhibition of religious imagery in New York. The movie is a microcosm of CoSM, if you will.
The Sacred Mirrors is a set of 21 paintings that "take the viewer on a journey toward their own divine nature by examining, in detail, the body, mind, and spirit," according to Grey's online biography. As a practitioner of "radical transcendentalism," Grey mixes imagery from a variety of faiths in his works. One painting, Prostration, includes icons from Christianity, Islam, Yogi, and Hindi traditions. It also features vices such as greed, hatred, and jealousy; "They're there, but they're kind of on the run because this person has surrendered to a higher power," he says.
The surreal juxtaposition of imagery is most dramatically shown in works such as Cosmic Christ, which includes images of the Wright Brothers, the first astronauts, and men of peace like Martin Luther King and Mohatma Gandhi. It also includes flying saucers and aliens. Nuclear Crucifixion shows Christ against a mushroom cloud. The latter painting is Grey's statement about war, comparing the people who would deploy a nuclear weapon to the mobs that sought Christ's death. Grey also has a strong environmentalist bent in his works, depicting power lines and smokestacks as devilry.
At times, Grey's works seem like health-class textbook illustrations of the human body. His suite of works featuring the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, and the lymphatic system evokes this comparison most directly. Grey portrays himself, his wife, and his daughter in similar fashion elsewhere in the CoSM. His biography notes that this aspect of his work stems from a stint working in the Harvard Medical School's anatomy department.
Grey's works are complex, but Grey makes a good tour guide as he explains the art and his motivations. The documentary reveals the elaborate detail in his paintings. Extras include a brief interview with Grey, which is redundant because the movie itself is devoted to the artist explaining his paintings. The production's New Age score enhances the images without overwhelming Alex Grey's narration in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
In addition to the Grey interview, the extras feature a naturalistic, behind-the-scenes look at the movie, which shows the camera crew setting up and shooting scenes inside the CoSM in New York. Since the production is rather straightforward, this segment is dull and unnecessary. If you're hooked on Grey's work, the deleted scenes will be interesting. The package also features biographies of Grey and director Nick Krasnic, along with a trailer for the movie.
Artistic nudes, a painting that depicts copulation (albeit with textbook figures rather than realistic people), and lots of veins and arteries make it obvious that this isn't one for the whole family. Grey also relates his experiences while tripping on LSD to fuel his surreal visions; he may have survived it, but this is definitely one for the "don't try this at home" category.
Is CoSM: The Movie for you? Grey's works are meant to startle people into thinking about the common ground between faiths. While Grey is an articulate guide to his own work and that work is represented well on this DVD, I found it overwhelming on one viewing. If you're not familiar with Grey already, I suggest taking a tour of the Web sites listed at right before making that decision.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Behind-the-Scenes: Capturing CoSM: The Movie
Review content copyright © 2006 James A. Stewart; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.