owleyes: The Psychedelic Icon Maker
Roky Erickson, the most psychedelic Texan ever, sang of girls with coral snakes in their eyes. owleyes, a "huge" fan of Roky who lists Brion Gysin and Max Ernst as "family members," puts those visual collisions into his own work — in "årçhå¡çå," for instance, which wreaths a snake-eyed girl with flowers and water and indistinct shapes that could be cell structures or undeciphered ancient languages, which for owleyes are very likely identical.
Owleyes is an artist who makes collage seem like cryptography, an alchemist who turns found imagery into profound imagery.
He's a mystical ex-Texan who sports the kind of scruffy beard loved by prophets, madmen and wanderers, with the far-eyed gaze that comes from looking long and hard for the true but hidden nature of things. How did he become a seeker? Well, he grew up in Houston, and Houston offered a simple choice: "H-town, as we call it, was pretty much a bust unless you had guns or LSD," he explains. "I never owned a gun."
Instead, he spent his youth prowling the primeval regions of east Texas, looking for what he calls "portals" and developing a righteous conception of art and reality with the guidance of his mother. When he heard voices from his closet, she'd tell him to listen because they were angels. If they were frightening, she'd help him pray until the angels came. To little owleyes, these were art lessons.
"I still think my mom's idea is the purest," he says. "She showed me from an early age that art is not something to be picked apart by critics, dried out and hung on a wall. The true function of art was to commune with the divine. A pure source of the spirit spreads out before you when you create — it's you and your maker or makers or whatever things you are in communion with. Art is our forgotten hotline to the divine."
When his mother died in 2006, he found himself sickeningly alone. It was as if he'd lived his entire life in front of a computer that had been suddenly smashed, and everything important was just meaningless data stuck in a ruined machine. When the voices started again, he had to remember how to contact the angels. "Is their number the same?" he thought. "Can I reach them through the Internet?"
He moved to L.A. the next year and found his angels — in people, places, ways of walking, clothes, dance, light, words and music. Check out his album covers for Manimal and Disaro Records. Those are reservoirs of "living truth," he says, and that's the raw material and the final goal of his art.
"I make work that lives," he says. "I am not making work to be shown in a gallery or magazine. I make ideas. I fuse the astral cords with others like me. We are building utopia — astral world space programs. It's all the same thing. And it's all there if you know how to break the code."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.