[Art/Spirituality] An interview with: Rick Jacobi
Deep dive into the psychedelic universe of American artist Rick Jacobi.
We immediately fell in love with Rick's work, playfully illuminating alien and mystical iconography in rich multi dimensional colour schemes, art that transports you into a realm of magic, peace, love and universal wonder.
It was a pleasure to speak with the talented painter to find out more about the ideas behind his brilliant pieces and the man himself...
Where did your journey into art begin? Have you been creating since a young age?
Most young children naturally like to draw; I was no exception. I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to pursue both art and music. I took art classes after school, and also studied art and music for several summers at Interlochen Arts Camp in northern Michigan.
How long did it take you to develop your style? How much has your environment influenced the work you make?
I was a commercial illustrator in Detroit for twenty years. I got burned out on that career and became a high school art teacher, which I did for thirteen years. During that time, after much trial and error, I finally "found myself" as an artist. The breakthrough for me was my painting "The Opener of The Way". I don't think I could say that my environment has had a major impact on my art; it's really more about the sum total of my experiences throughout my life.
What movements have inspired your work the most and why?
I've been drawn to surrealism from an early age. Somehow or other, I discovered the art of Salvador Dali when I was very young. I loved it! My two favorite artists are Dali and the psychedelic surrealist painter Mati Klarwein. I also very much like many of the "pop-surrealist" artists-- people like Robert Williams, Todd Schorr, etc. However, I have a great interest in ALL of art history, and art from other cultures as well. History in general, particularly ancient history and pre-history is fascinating to me; also mythology and symbolism. Oh, and aliens hahaha!
What is your personal relationship with spirituality and how does that inform your creative practice?
I was raised in a Lutheran home, and quit going to church as soon as I was allowed (mid-teens). I'm 67, so I was there for the whole hippie / counterculture scene of the 1960s, and like a lot of people, broadened my search for spiritual meaning in my life. Years later, I became agnostic, and eventually, atheist. However, after some time, I had a spiritual re-awakening and came back to being a Christian. I'm not very good at it, to be honest. Part of the reason for that is that I'm still very interested in other religions, and a broader form of spirituality.
Regarding creativity: as I used to tell my students, much of our so-called creativity seems to come from "somewhere else". If you believe in God, you could say it comes from God. If you are spiritual but not religious, you could say that it comes from "the universe" or whatever. If you are an atheist / materialist, you could say that it comes from the inner recesses of our mind. It could also be a combination of all of the above. Wherever creativity comes from, the trick it to find ways to tap into that "source", and then be able to use it in your art.
Have psychedelics inspired your art?
Yes, that's probably fairly obvious. I did a fair amount of tripping in the late 60s and early 70s, and a couple times in the late 70s, but have not done any since then. I used LSD, and also mescaline and psilocybin. It was a long time ago, but I remember it very well, so yes-- it's definitely been an influence on my art. Incidentally, I have been totally sober now for many years. No weed, no alcohol, nothing. Well, coffee.
What advice do you have about finding creative flow in your practice and being 'in the zone', any routines or things you do that help you?
Getting into that "flow" state is not always easy. I used to enjoy smoking weed and doing art (and music), but I became too dependent on it, so I quit. Honestly I kind of struggle with getting "into the zone" much of the time. Some days it comes easier than others. A brief meditation before I start working is helpful sometimes. However, the biggest secret is just sitting down in front of my drawing/painting table and getting to work. Simply put, apply ass to chair, and start painting.
I guess my best advice is to not wait for inspiration, just do it whether you feel like it or not. While much of my work is done very deliberately-- often going through a series of sketches before painting-- I try to work as intuitively as possible, and just let ideas and images come to me. This is done in various ways, and really, is a whole other topic, but suffice it to say that basically I try to allow the work to come from a place of mystery. That place may be from my subconscious mind, or other even more mysterious sources. This is what keeps me interested in painting-- creating work that I myself do not always fully understand.
Tell us about your love of Aliens ?
Aliens? What's not to like?! Overall though, I suppose that reading and watching science fiction has been an influence. Plus, in general I'm just drawn to all things weird, unusual, and mysterious. Also, the concept of aliens connects with my search for meaning and understanding of existence-- who are we, where have we come from, where are we going, etc. By the way, when I was a young kid, my grandfather died, and when I was helping my dad clean out his basement, I discovered that he had a collection of flying saucer magazines! He was obviously really into them, as he had underlined many sections. And now, almost sixty years later, I still have those magazines. How cool is THAT!
If God "sent his son" to Earth, would God not also do the same thing on other planets with alien civilizations? I think that it would be quite likely, at least in some cases. Of course, it would not be the earthling known as Jesus, a.k.a. Yeshua; it would be some alien being with a name we probably could not pronounce. Alien beings on other worlds may or may NOT be humanoid; however, I have presented them as such, and given them they typical "gray alien" heads, and dressed the figures in typical "biblical clothing", just to make the image more understandable and iconic. (See the painting "Alien Christ, above)
Would you be able to give us a few examples of ancient history that you have resonated with the most and what we can learn from it?
I first learned about the ancient Egyptians when I was very young, and have been fascinated by them ever since. From there, I also became interested in other ancient civilizations-- those of Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and Mesoamerica being of particular interest, not to mention the more recently discovered and incredibly old megalithic sculptures at Gobekli Tepe. I think that there was a "lost civilization" that was destroyed, from which these other most ancient civilizations sprang. Call it what you will-- Atlantis, Lemuria, whatever. What kinds of knowledge did they have, much of which has been lost? I want to know! I think we see clues here and there.
Learning about the past can tell us many things, not the least of which is human nature. Read "The Histories" by Herodotus, and you will see for example, that people going to war against each other in the Middle East is nothing new-- they have been at it for thousands of years! Fighting other people and stealing their stuff has been around since day one. Another point would be that we as humans are not necessarily any smarter than people of the past; a close look at ancient history shows this quite clearly. We can see it in their literature, and most certainly in their architecture and art.
Other than art, one of the things I'm most interested in is that BIG QUESTION: who are we, and where do we come from? To try to get some clues as to the answer to this question, we can look to a number of different sources: the history of world religions and spiritual traditions, the history of esoteric and occult traditions, ancient history in general, and ancient PRE-history-- known and unknown. We can also sometimes get some information through personal spiritual or metaphysical experiences brought on through meditation or by various other means, including the use of mind-altering substances.
In my reading and general research into these topics, I have also become very interested in symbols, particularly the many ancient archetypal symbols that appear again and again throughout history. Oftentimes we see the same or similar symbols in different cultures at different times all throughout the world. Some of these symbols are extremely ancient, and many of them go back to Paleolithic times. Even that long ago, humans sought answers to the "big question". I often like to make use of some of these symbols in my art. I use these symbols as ways of getting the viewer to connect with deeper meanings and concepts that they may or may not consciously be aware of-- to open a portal to deeper understanding, so to speak.
Could you explain some of the symbolism behind your painting Deus Arcanum (Mysterious Diety) ?
In this painting, I have used a number of symbols. First, and most dominant, is the eye in the triangle, known as the "all-seeing-eye". For many people today, this is a symbol of the Illuminati, that elusive secret organization of the global power elite. Whether there is actually a specific group called the Illuminati or not is a moot point-- the symbol represents that power elite in whatever form they take. The all-seeing-eye is also known as the "Eye of Providence", as seen at the top of the pyramid on the back of the American one dollar bill (ooh, Illuminati!). The Eye of Providence is basically a symbol for God, and may have as its origin the ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus.
Another symbol in this painting can be found on the gold disc in the breast area-- the headdress of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, comprised of a sun disc set between cow horns (although in this case, the disc perhaps is more symbolic of the moon, in that it is painted blue). The headdress sits on top of a skull, symbolizing death. Below that is a lizard perched over a stylized vaginal opening. Don't ask me what it means, because I really don't know. All I can say is that lizards and other small creatures sometimes find have found their way into my paintings. (Some people say that humans are the result of genetic experiments carried out by "reptilian" aliens, so I suppose you could read that into it, but that was not my intent.)
We also see in this painting a mouth with a protruding tongue, perhaps reminiscent of the Hindu goddess Kali. At the crown of the deity is another disc symbol; in this case it is the Seal of Shamash, the symbol of the Mesopotamian sun god. Additionally, there are two serpents that are eating each other. This is similar to the Ouroboros, the circular self-eating snake or dragon that is seen in many cultures throughout history and in many esoteric/occult traditions. So, who or what is "God"? If we are talking about the One God, the Creator of all that is, this is a question that defies answer. Any entity or force that is responsible for creating the universe (perhaps even a multi-verse, potentially even unlimited "parallel universes") is by its nature going to be totally incomprehensible to mortal minds, a mystery. This painting, by presenting a mysterious deity comprised of aspects of several different gods and goddesses, asks us to contemplate the existence and nature of God.
After some research, I decided to use something known as Enochian script, from 16th century mathemetican / scientist / occultist John Dee, who was an adviser to Queen Elizabeth I of England. Dee worked together with his colleague Edward Kelley, who was a spirit medium; they claimed that this language was revealed to them by "Enochian angels".
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- PSYCHIC GARDEN