"Amoris Foedere", oil paint, ash, gold leaf and resin on wood panel, 12"x12", 2013 (private collection)
The beginning of this month I had the pleasure of accompanying my partner, visual and tattoo artist Natan Alexander to the “Saint Bowie” show at the Stephen Romano Gallery where a piece of his work was showing. I was pleased by the quality of the work shown, especially that of the concurrent show “Midnight Paracosm” by Matthew Dutton and the excellent reception of Natan’s illuminated glass painting.
However, I found myself quite put off by 2 women in bikinis and lightning bolt face paint hired to be part of the opening. While Bowie, whom the show was in tribute to, was certainly a sex icon to many, he was one that represented deviations from the norm of heterosexual aesthetics. I for one am one of the many girls who crushed on his character Jareth in the Labyrinth movie, feeling simultaneously confused and excited by his heavy makeup and foppish dress. So what did two heteronormative looking women in bikinis and heels have to do with either Bowie or Occult Art?
My intention is not be critical of this particular choice, but to discuss the issue of Occult Art being a trending topic in popular art and culture. I use the word “issue” as don’t see proliferation of occult based shows as either a blessing or a hindrance, but rather a currency that must be wisely invested while available, in service of creating an Occult Art Movement that is more than just a flash in the pan. My annoyance with the bikini girls stems from deeply wanting Occult Art to be viewed as something real and credible, not something posed beside mostly naked women to make it that much more of a pop culture commodity.
With this moment in the limelight there is an opportunity to create a credible and powerful voice for Occult themes as valuable and intrinsic parts of why some artists create. And I very much mean “why” and not “what”, for I am not so much interested in the celebration of an aesthetic of the occult (skulls and sigils) as in creating visibility for the process and intention – an Occult Art Movement. An occult aesthetic appreciates the way skulls and sigils look. An occult art aesthetic will rise and fall out of fashion the same way styles of hair and jeans do.
An Occult Art Movement brings together art with varying aesthetics because they are created with similar intentions – to give voice and presence to the unseen mysteries of existence. This in no way excludes skulls, sigils and beautiful women as possible elements of Occult Art. It instead clarifies that irrespective of imagery its defining element is the manifestation of a final product that has the potential ability to impart Occult information or experiences.
Shows such as “Language of The Birds” curated by Pam Grossman and the 2014 Fulgar I:MAGE show are beautiful examples of what a mature Occult Art Movement can look like. These shows have highlighted artists making strong and varied work, shown that work in the light of its Occult underpinnings and given artists a platform to freely discuss their motivations. They have been points of light in substantiating this movement within the greater art world, perhaps even in a lasting way.
My intention with voicing these thoughts is to create discussion around what Occult Art is and to unify artists who fall under the movement’s umbrella. If we are to cultivate both the visibility and validity of these themes it is absolutely imperative that they not be overshadowed by a shallow understanding of Occult Art as pop culture occult aesthetic. While the Occult has its 5 minutes of mainstream attention, how are we representing ourselves as artists and how are we allowing our art to be represented?