City: Los Angeles
James Weigel a.k.a. Astral Eyes is an artist and clothing designer who lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
Interview by Emma Kathan
Can you tell us a little about your upbringing and where you grew up?
I was born and raised in Screwston . . . the City of Syrup, Houston, Texas.
My mother (who passed in 2006) was a major inspiration on me. After my mother passed away, the etheric bubble that protects us from the spirit realm burst. She was a very gifted artist who had visions of angels. I recall at an early age that I started to hear voices. When I told her what was going on, she would tell me that they were demons trying to attack me. She would then pray over me very intensely. From that point on I was convinced that a war between Angels and Demons was constantly being waged over my head. By high school, like most kids, I began experimenting with LSD and that was when things really changed for me. The doors of perception were ripped off and I was flung far into the unseen world. I was in and out of school and hearing voices all day long. My parents even had two exorcisms performed on me. I was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and pretty much fell into a dark space where I spent most of my time at home, convinced that my friends and family were conspiring against me. The one thing that helped me through everything was creating, collage , drawing, painting or writing. The active force of creation is very healing.
What was it like for you growing up in Texas? Did the environment there influence you creatively or does it still in any way, thinking back on it?
I really believe that Texas is a liminal space, a place between two realms. So growing up there, I had my fair share of strange experiences. I also feel that there is a pretty dark vortex of energy focused there, maybe its the fact that most of Houston was built over marshes and swamps. There was a lot of destructive energy around me growing up. At one point I was pretty consumed by it. I think touching that dark void helped me have a better understanding of the nature of creativity though.
How does living in Los Angeles affect you now?
Los Angeles has changed my life actually. Not only does the geography offer the ocean as well as mountains, there are very strong pockets of energy here, and, not to get too metaphysical, but I also think there are ancient portals here, a very large one in fact opening to Lemuria. L.A. has been the epicenter for dozens of new religious movements such as Theosophy and to this day the city is still attracting more and more like-minded people in search of change. I have most definitely found my community here. My dear friend Maja D’Aoust for example does lectures on magic and alchemy at the Annie Besant Lodge once a month. I’ve been going to her lectures for years now and it has slowly grown into a solid community of like-minded folks, many of whom are artists and musicians whose work I relate to very much.
Your work is beautifully colorful and dreamlike. Do you have vivid dreams that you remember well, and, if so, have you ever pulled inspiration from your own dream imagery?
I have been making collage work since I was a child. My mother, who was also a visionary artist, taught me a lot, one of the main things she taught me was the importance of dreams and dreamwork. So from a very early age I have kept dream journals and as I grew older I learned how to control my dreams through lucid dreaming. I believe that dreams are our key to unlocking the subconscious as well as well bridging the gap between our realm and the the spirit world. There have been several times where I have woken up with an image from my dream that I then transfer into a piece, and visa versa. If I am dealing with a problem I’ll make a collage about it, then meditate on it before I sleep. Most of time, elements from the collage will filter into my dream, those are the elements that symbolize pieces of the problem that I then work on in my waking life.
In your collages, do you use mostly found art or are they photos you’ve taken and work with?
The content varies. Most of my work I share online is from found images online, digital reflections, alchemical transformations of various degrees. By that I mean, if I am feeling a certain way I will spend some time searching to find images that symbolize the emotion I am feeling. Then I cut it up and infuse my intention of healing the problem, then I release the transformed image online in hopes that it will find others who can benefit from that same healing. I also use found images as well as photos I have taken for the work I do in real life. I make a lot of mixed media paintings that I don’t really share with the public. They’re more personal, my craft, so to speak.
What inspires you on a daily basis?
EVERYTHING! No really, just about everything inspires me. I love my cats. I love my friends . My friends are really blowing my mind lately. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most inspiring creators around right now (many of whom I believe you interviewed for the last issue!). I think having a positive state of mind breeds creativity. I don’t trust people who are always bored or always criticizing other people’s work. Bottom line, if you are creating something from the heart, your mind is not in a state to ridicule others. So either you are are a critic or you are a creator, you can not be both.
Musician Snow Wite in Goldnbones Clothing.
What projects are you currently working on?
For the last year, I’ve given all of my energy over to my new clothing line Goldnbones which I started with my friend Shelly Erion. The main focus behind the clothing line is the idea to basically transform the body into a temple, and by collaborating with artists with whom we love working, we’ve tried to create wearable art pieces. Some people we have been recently collaborating with have been: Isis Aquarian from The Source Family and the work of Polish Surrealist artist Stanislav Szukalski through the art collector Glenn Bray.