Visionary Art: like love, you know it when you see it.

art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without or with minimal formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.

- American Visionary Art Museum

Trained artists come from years of academic study and apprenticeship and many are widely respected and enjoyed. While there is much value held in this field of art, the rule-based system of which it operates can cloud an artist’s vision. Visionary Art stems from the idea that there is great power in not knowing what will or will not work and that ignorance often paves the way to discovering creative possibilities that others do not see. As outsiders to the traditional art community, visionary artists often do not even consider themselves artists because they may be doing something as simple as decorating their house. They tend not to care what others think of their work because they do it just to please themselves. While some visionaries create art simply to express themselves and to find happiness, others claim they actually see things that they must interpret into art. Certain artists are said to receive visions from god or other beings and to either produce art in that state or later while remembering the experience. Whichever way they are influenced, visionaries are truly rebels of the normal art world and while some would not consider them artists, others consider them the only truly creative people who make art.

The Artists

Alex Grey 19Alex_Grey_-_Self_Portrait_age_49.JPG53-
American Visionary, Spiritual and Psychedelic Artist

"Alex Grey might be the most significant artist alive. In a world gone postmodern, bereft of meaning and value, cut loose on a sea of irony and indifference, Alex is taking a stunning stand: there is a God, there is Spirit, there is a transcendental Ground and Goal of human development and unfolding. Higher realities are available to us, is the message of Alex Grey's art and words...He has set himself the extraordinary task of depicting, in art, these higher truths and....encourages all artists to find their own unique means of serving art's abiding mission." - Ken Wilber

Ever since he was little, Alex Grey was interested in the themes of death and transcendence, exemplified by his habit of collecting insects and dead animals from his suburban Ohio neighborhood and burying them in his backyard. When he grew older, he attended only two years at the Columbus College of Art and Design before dropping out and then spent one year at the Boston Museum School. At the museum, he studied with conceptual artist Jay Jaroslav and he met his wife, Allyson. After leaving this art school as well, he began his education at Harvard Medical School along with Allyson working in the Anatomy department studying the body and preparing cadavers for dissection. He also worked at Harvard's department of Mind/Body Medicine with Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Joan Borysenko investigating the healing energies of the body through science and later taught Artistic Anatomy and Figure Sculpture for ten years at NYU. Grey now lives in New York City and teaches courses in Visionary Art at The Open Center in NYC, Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York along with his wife Allyson of whom is also an artist. Although Grey never got a formal education in art, his extensive study in the medical field along with his and Allyson's LSD trips together prepared him for many of his works, which continue to express his interest in life, death, and tgaia.jpgranscendence in a highly precise and psychedelic style.

Gaia - The title of this artwork comes from Greek mythology and represents the Greek version of 'Mother Nature'. Perhaps one of Grey's most environmentally aware and controversial paintings, this 1989 oil on linen work compares the beautiful earth that Mother Nature has provided with the present state of it, of which has been destroyed by humans. On the left, there are flowing streams, roaming animals of all kinds, birds soaring in blue skies above tall mountains and a healthy half of what is interpreted as the 'Tree of Life'. On the right, there are no animals, the sky is polluted and filled with smoke, planes and cityscapes replace birds and mountains, power lines smother dead and lifeless land, and the Tree of Life is burning in flames. The bottom left of the tree features a hand with an eye, perhaps the 'all seeing eye', watching the world. Eyes are a common theme in Grey's works and appear in almost every one of his pieces. Eyes are seen as the gateway into the soul as well as represent truth, and this work of art certainly reveals a harsh reality that has the potential to touch people's souls. In an excerpt from Grey's writings, he gives reason for creating this kind of work, "Mystic art is spirit expressed into mAlex_Grey_-_Kissing.jpgatter. A mystic artist receives and transmits revelation, providing their art as a medium for messages from the divine matrix of creation." As a visual and spiritual artist who claims to receive visions from divine powers, he suggests with his writings and this painting that Mother Nature is suffering at the hands of humans who do not care enough about the environment. Powerful, beautiful, and real, Gaia serves as Grey's message to everyone - to protect the land we have been blessed with and to start living harmoniously again with Mother Nature. At the least, it serves as a guilt trip for viewers who previously failed to realize or who have ignored the present conditions the world is in on the right.

Kissing - One of Grey's most famous works of art, Kissing exemplifies his famous style of creating images of humans taking part in what he calls the 'progress of the soul' in an x-ray like view. Other subjects of his similar works include copulating, pregnancy, and birth. This image and the other like it are the direct result of his medical schooling years, where he learned how to draw anatomically and to integrate in one view the mind, body, soul, and spirit of a person. Kissing portrays a couple embracing and kissing each other with body parts intermingled and brain waves of love electrifying the air around the two. All of the couples energy and love is being directed to the kiss and a small yellow ball in between both of their heads, the place where the two become one soul. In another excerpt from his writings, Grey explains his view on love, "Share your presence with others, no boundaries, completely openly lovingly. Love is what makes us alive, that is why we feel so alive when we love. Service is being available to love. Life is the combustion of love. That we love ourselves here, that is the true magnificence in the mountains of being. We are constantly drawing the line between love and not love--enter into the Non-duality Zone, and all judgments dissolve in the Vast Expanse."

Dion Hitchings
American Visionary and Illustrative Artist

" can call it primitive narrative, childlike, colorful, self-revealing, erotic, funny, strange and lots of eyes..." - DH

Drawing with crayons ever since he was three years old, Dion Hitchings never felt like he belonged in his home state of Missouri. Once he was old enough he planned to move
single sunflower2, Dion Hitchings. crayon, coloredpencil,andmarkeron paper
away from the Midwest but before he could he attended Washington University in Saint Louis and earned a bachelor in fine arts. After graduation, he got lucky, and landed one of the only art jobs in Saint Louis, a fashion illustrator at Jean West. Hitchings worked in the fashion illustration, direction, and retail industry for the next three years and continued the same jobs after moving to Chicago. In Chicago, he worked for Marshalls, and another three years later, he moved to New York City to work for Bloomingdales. Once in the city he met the best of the best in the fashion industry and landed jobs working for Conde Naste, Avon, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Aerosoles. His next move was to rural New Jersey where he lost his significant other to a car accident, lived through 9/11, and was laid off from his last job. From that point on, Hitchings decided to rearrange his priorities in life and decided to pursue his career as a full time artist outside of the fashion industry and to work doing what makes him happy. He began drawing and painting again, met someone new, and picked up the pieces of his life, all with the help of the peace his art brings him.

single sunflower2 - Hitchings art works are very childlike and colorful and thus represent the beauty and imagination of youth. This drawing of a sunflower is vibrant and cool, with multicolored petals and leaves that branch out from the normal color schemes of real life sunflowers. A single eye, drawn as an actual eye rather than the normal dark circle of a sunflower, seems to gaze beyond the paper and personify the colorful sunflower. More eyes are scattered throughout the sky, and a small sun in the distance provides no realistic shading upon the sunflower. The image is simple and yet it is possible to interpret it on a deeper level when taking into consideration the use of the eyes. As previously mentioned, eyes symbolize truth and honesty, and the honesty that exists in childhood is pure and natural. Sunflowers are natural, and the way in which Hitchings creates art is so childlike and pure that the connection between the eyes and his style are there.

D.M. Kirwin
D.M. Kirwin along side a dumpster he passes by everyday and loves.

American Visionary and Abstract Artist

Art can come from self. Art can be Truth.

Born into a middle class southern family, D.M. Kirwin did not grow up in a particularly artistic environment. His childhood was hard, as one of his brothers was severely autistic, and that caused him great pain and confusion. From his hardships at a young age and later in life when he became an alcoholic, art was always his outlet, his one vice that did not hurt him but rather provided a truly productive release and escape from his troubles. Kirwin has become famous for his online collection of work on the popular photo sharing website, where he posts pictures of his artwork and allows people to buy them, many of which have been sold. His works are also featured in various small museums in the south and in coffee shops all around the country. His style is unique but he too tends to focus on human nature, life, and death. Although much of his work involving humans is moody, depressing, satirical, and/or humorous, a few are positive and focus on the beauty that can come from humans despite his obvious cynical view on humanity. In his late thirties now, he struggles with alcoholism but has been leading a more sober life and now believes that drinking was only preventing his happiness more than it was providing an escape for his pain. His most beloved past time is still creating art and he helps use that escape to keep him sober. Although he never received any formal art schooling or training, his photo stream of works is one of the most viewed and most popular on the site.
Lovers, D.M. Kirwin. 1992 acrylic on board

Lovers - A great example of one of Kirwin’s art works that shed a positive light on humans is his 1992 acrylic on a framed board piece titled Lovers. Kirwin does not provide captions for his artwork and because he is not only a visionary and therefore outside of the normal art world itself but also a rebel in life in general, therefore he has never provided an analysis or interview for his works. He tries to stray away from the museum cultu
Do-Not, D.M. Kirwin. 2008.
re of art, does not like to analyze it, and simply presents it as it is for sale to whoever enjoys it. This piece has either not been sold or is not for sale, as he does not specify on his account, and although no other users have commented on it the pure love and beauty expressed in this painting cannot be ignored.

Do-Not - Kirwin's 2008 self-portrait serves as a negative example of his work. The colors are dark and moody, his face is scowling in anger and/or pain, and the overall feeling of this work represents the cynical side to Kirwin that is expressed in many of his other pieces. In the painting, the artist is holding a donut, and the title Do-Not implies two things. The first and more unlikely of the two is that Kirwin is on a diet and trying to restrict himself from eating donuts, which are bad for health. The second is that the donut represents anything that he should not consume and the fact that the spelling 'do-not' is so similar to 'donut' could be the reason why he chose a donut to represent what he should not do. Drawing from the confusion of dark colors surrounding his head and the painful expression on his face, Do-Not notably serves as Kirwin's own self-reminder not to drink alcohol. Despite its depressive nature, this work is still yet another piece that deals with human nature and emotions.

Visionary artists are truly the artists of the mind, body, and soul. They interpret their own feelings into their artwork along with the feelings of others and create multiple layers of paint that make you think, feel, and find meaning. Messages can be clear or hidden, but most of the time they are provided by accident, as the artist is simply expressing the way he feels about the world and his own philosophies on life. Visionaries create art for themselves and indirectly affect the many people who happen to see it. They are rebels with a cause, whether they know it or not.

Works Cited
Alex Grey. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.
"Alex Grey." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.
American Visionary Art Museum. Web. 07 June 2010. <>. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.
"Gaia (mythology)." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.
Kirwin, Mary Jean. "Flickr: D.M. Kirwin." Welcome to Flickr - Photo Sharing. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.
"OFF THE MAP." PBS. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.
" | Living | Artist Who's Overcome Addiction Offers Works with Sobriety as His Muse 09/26/07." Online Athens | Athens Banner-Herald | Athens, Ga. Web. 07 June 2010.
Raw Vision - the World's Only International Magazine of Outsider Art, Art Brut, Contemporary Folk Art. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.
"Untitled Document." Student Email. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.
"WikiAnswers - What Does the Eye Symbolize." WikiAnswers - The Q&A Wiki. Web. 07 June 2010. <>.

This page was created by Jacquelyn Rutchik ( and was last edited on 6/8/2010.