Lots of people ask me about the spirals I keep drawing all the time. You notice I put a spiral on the center candle. Where did this fascination with spirals start anyway?
Well, truth be told, it started with Kenny Scharf. I went to interview Kenny around 1981 and he showed me a piece of paper about spirituality, religion and the use of icons (which I now call sigils) that he’d recently written while coming down from mushrooms. I was blown away by the insights Kenny expressed in that essay and keep in mind, Kenny was only 23-years-old at the time, just out of college.
I’m looking for the original xerox Kenny gave me of those ideas on art and spirituality. Can’t seem to find it in this immense archive I’ve collected over the last 45 years, but I did locate a copy of the same material that was printed in a 1983 brochure for a solo show at the Tony Shafrazi gallery that may have been Kenny’s breakout moment (see left).
The essay concluded with the line: “Hydrogen God is the creator: sun, planets, earth, man. The sun being hydrogen, fusing to helium as an after product. Man plays God by using atoms, destroying himself in the process: nuclear catastrophe. Jetsonism is Nirvana.”
The one thing in this essay that really stuck with me however, was how a spiral could take you to a higher level. Kenny had stumbled onto this magic after he’d painted one on his ceiling and began staring into it while high on mushrooms. It actually helped him take his art to a higher level and I don’t think he’d deny this.
I grew up worshiping the Merry Pranksters, who created a ton of magic in the 1960s. When they painted their bus Furthur, they made it magic in the process. Then they began painting themselves and everything around them, transforming their world. I don’t think Kenny knew anything about the Pranksters, his magic bus icon probably came from the Partridge Family. But Kenny instinctively understood the magic of customizing everyday objects, ritualizing them in the process. At the time, Kenny had recently customized a vacuum cleaner and was taking it for walks around the neighborhood like it was a pet dog, all part of the magic world he was manifesting.
Today, the specter of nuclear annihilation has diminished considerably, but the threat of environmental and/or social collapse still hangs around, although I refuse to get involved with apocalyptic thinking. Fear is the basis for all mind control.