I’ve always had the perception that visionary art is synonymous to psychedelic art, well, after seeing the stimulating paintings of Mark Henson, my perception has not only changed, but has been rewired.
Mark Henson, a California-based artist, relies on his personal vision rather than inspiration from other contemporary artists to create compelling images (satires) revolving around the political, social and cultural situation facing our society. He tells a story through his art, that shows a state of emotion or consciousness.
He also expresses his sense of eroticism in a more spiritual and divine manner – he shows the merging of souls as the manifestation of the cosmic design inherent in all living things.
Each piece is like a narrating a story, displaying a state of emotion or consciousness. One of his paintings that really resonates with me is, ‘New Pioneers’ – depicting the epic drama of life, death, war, peace and the inalienable right to choose. It shows the pioneers and refugees making it to a new world of awakened consciousness.
We had the chance to interview Mark and talk more about his journey as an artist, encountering ancient wisdom of India, and his path of self-realization –
1) What was the moment when you decided to become an artist and make a difference in society?
I didn’t decide to become an artist. I was born this way! Seriously, I always wanted to make stuff, and draw or paint, or make things from clay, or wood, or any old thing. In my second year in High School, sitting in my art class, was when the inner voice let me know that by just expressing myself thoroughly I could find my way as an artist. It came in a flash! Just draw up my most insane and perverted thoughts and all would turn out well. After all, other artists didn’t sit around trying to be the next big thing- they went into their studios and worked!
Once I had mastered some skills the question comes up what to do with them? Do we want to make some pretty pictures or can we really make an impact? I found that my strangest imagery received the strongest response.
2) What brought you to India and how has it influenced your work? You have mentioned on your site of encountering ancient wisdom in India, please tell us more about it?
I first came to India in 1978. I had traveled the year before to Bali, in Indonesia for a few months, wanting to learn from artists and artisans there. The following year I visited Nepal, where I met a gemstone dealer who invited me to India, so I went…I didn’t go with any particular quest in mind, other than to experience the place. I already had learned somewhat about the religions and cultures out of general curiosity, probably initiated by hearing Ravi Shankar music from the Beatles influence, and had been practicing some yoga and meditation since high school days. I was not there to find a guru or ashram or anything like that.
I stayed with this Indian family of jewelers in Jaipur, and they introduced me to the arts community there, where I had the opportunity to meet the renowned artist Ramgopal Vijayvergiya, who sponsored a small exhibition for me at the Lalit Kala academy in Jaipur. Mr. Vijayvergiya was kind enough to allow me to visit many times at his studio and to look through his hundreds of sketchbooks.
3) How do you choose a particular theme or an issue for example? Is it based on your current state of mind/events or what you have read etc?
Inspiration comes from everywhere…it is usually a matter of remembering when an interesting thought flits through the mind…I do read a lot – I like to know it all! Often the lyrics of an expressive song can release visual images in my mind, or from a line in a book, or perhaps something I hear in a conversation. I like to listen to informative radio shows while I am working, and often topics being discussed will fill my mind with ideas. I do like to choose themes that will still be current in a couple of hundred years – I want to play with the time machine.
4) Many of your paintings talk about the current political/brainwashing situation facing our world, what do you see as the best way that we can all come together?
I find the Internet to be, along with LSD, among the most powerful agents for evolution created in the 20th century. Without the web, you wouldn’t know about me or be reading my words here! I thing it is also very important for people to gather together in the physical space, to get to look each other in the eyes, and hug, and to come together to celebrate everyone’s creativity. I am a believer in the eternal party for peace!
5)How has your personal path of self-realization shaped the trajectory of your vision?
I think they are one and the same. I like to think I am a work in progress.
6) Did a psychedelic experience open a door leading to this part? If so, do tell us more of the experience.
Not exactly…I learned to meditate from reading an article in the San Francisco Oracle underground newspaper in 1967. The late Swami Satchidananda, founder of San Francisco Yoga Centre, wrote a practical article about opening the chakras through meditation. I tried it out, and it worked! A year or so later I experienced LSD which worked also, and for long periods. All of this did in fact open the doors – I learned how to really see things…and how to allow space for wisdom to enter.
Thank you and hope we can manifest the positive thoughts expressed in these paintings and reawaken the mind to a higher consciousness.