In Loving Memory of Robert Venosa, 1936-2011

Winter 2011 Vol. 21, No. 3 2011 Annual Report

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AN OUTSTANDING MASTER of Visionary Art transitioned peacefully on Aug. 9, 2011. He will be remembered by an audience of many generations for his unique genius in capturing the crystalline, light-filled energy of the source. His long and brave healing journey with cancer was greatly supported by shamanic journeys with ayahuasca in the Amazon regions of South America.

Venosa experienced lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for the first time in the 1960s in his Manhattan apartment while surrounded by a group of voyeurs who did not yet have the courage to partake themselves. LSD was still legal, and Robert was not afraid to stretch his mind and pituitary gland to accommodate the synesthetic merging of new concepts and visions. He felt he had become part of a liberating global revolution, the likes of which the world had never before experienced.

These experiential beginnings launched Robert onto a lifelong spiritual and artistic path that cemented his memory of the deeply transformative and healing power of psychedelics.

Throughout his life and in whichever part of the world he happened to reside, Robert felt kinship with the psychedelic community and considered many of its luminaries his friends. Amongst these friends were the archetypical psychedelic artist of the 1960s and 1970s MatiKlarwein, the renowned psychonaut Terence McKenna, the legendary Dr. Albert Hofmann, and the brilliant consciousness pioneers Stan Grof and Ralph Metzner. He had dear friends in the visionary art community, including Alex and Allyson Grey, Pablo Amaringo, and Jan Kounen, and enduring connections with shamans Louis Eduardo Luna and Kestenbetsa, to name just a few.

Awakened by his psychedelic experiences and mentored by Klarwein, Robert embarked on the path of becoming a fine artist. His accomplished creative and spiritual path has been beautifully recorded in three monographs, Manas Manna (Big O), Noospheres (Pomegranate Artbooks), and most recently Illuminatus (Fine Arts Press). Illuminatus features the Haiku-like poetry of Terence McKenna, probably McKenna’s last published writing before his own passing in 2000.

Terrence and Robert had a special friendship that was deepened by the complementarity of their work: Venosa skillfully painted what McKenna had seen in the “hyperspace” of DMTm, and McKenna used the power of his words to describe the realms that Venosa painted. They spent special times together at each other’s homes, and in 1999 Venosa presented his inspirations and views on visionary art at McKenna’s AllChemical Conference in Kona, Hawaii. Here he also met fellow visionary artist Alex Grey.

Referred to by younger members of the visionary and psychedelic family as one of their seasoned “elders,” Robert spoke at many conferences and events exploring human consciousness, including MindStates; the Prophets Conference; Convergence, the Amazonian Shamanism Conference in Iquitos, Peru; the International Conference on Expanded States of Consciousness at the University of Cuernavaca, Mexico; as well as at Burning Man’s Entheon Village and Portugal’s Boom Festival. He was known to be extremely approachable, down to earth, and endowed with a great sense of humor.

My husband Robert and I have for many years been regular teachers at the Omega, Esalen, and Skyros Institutes. The exchanges that ensued between us and fellow visionary artists about the source of consciousness and its relationship to (as well as inspiration for) art were a kind of alchemy that nourished us both. Robert felt especially strongly about offering budding artists the proper support and technical tools that would enable them to create more skillful expressions of the psychedelic experience and alternative realities and perspectives.

Robert’s association with MAPS and the rest of the psychedelic research community emerged through our mutual participation in their various events throughout the years. We’ve crossed paths many times with MAPS founder Rick Doblin at celebrations and community events all over this planet. Our annual visits to Europe brought us to meet “the good doctor” in Switzerland, and were always great highlights in our life. It was Robert’s distinct pleasure to create a special portrait of Dr. Hofmann, which MAPS now uses as one of its cornerstone images connecting visionary art and psychedelic research.

Venosa’s deep personal connections to the indigenous medicine community were a blessing on many levels, facilitating both his spiritual and artistic growth. Artistically, he was immensely inspired by the numinous quality and breath-taking visions of the “mother’s realm,” while his paintings took on a range of color he had never tackled before.

On a spiritual level, he experienced yet another personal renaissance. Robert was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003, and doctors told him he had just three months to live. The ayahuasca vine became one of his great allies in cleansing his body and strengthening his lifeline. His ayahuasca experiences helped him sort his priorities, to see what was most essential at that point in his life, deepened his spiritual connections, and solidified his faith that there is continuation after death. Contrary to the doctors’ predictions, he enjoyed another very active and full eight and a half years of life.

Thank you, Robert, for showing us all what’s possible when we’re unafraid to hold true to what we believe in most.

“The role of the artist means belonging to a unique, exciting gang of outlaws. It will always be the explorers, artists, poets, curious intellectuals, musicians, and all the other existential samurai who are creatively courageous, who desire to advance their yearnings for higher truth, and who will take the leap of faith into the unknown. The art and architecture of every great, or minor, culture, was given its visual power through the artist, and, in fact, culture itself has always been defined through the artist’s creativity. The artist has always been the catalyst for change.” —Robert Venosa