February 21, 2019
Jose Di Gregorio: Optimism with Angles
The spiritual teachers of the world tell those of us who are seeking a deep spiritual connection that we must be so deeply immersed in the practices of knowing The Divine, that in so doing, we become walking embodiments of it. At that point, they say, we will vibrate at its frequency and, as a result, become walking gifts. We will, at that stage, begin to touch, move and inspire everyone we meet without even trying to do so.
When I recently spoke with Multi-Media Artist Jose Di Gregorio, the first thing I told him was that his work evoked this divine energy for me. Immediately. That the geometric perfection of his images reminds me distinctly of some of the world’s well-known “spiritual” images: The Flower of Life, Fractals, Mandalas, and The Seven Chakras of the human energy field come to mind when I look at Jose’s work.
“You know, for me,” Jose responded “aesthetic considerations in the work come first, and any sort of conceptual notion about the work comes in after the fact. I don’t put any sort of concepts on the work. But people say exactly what you’re saying all the time. I mean, it comes up a LOT.”
I remind Jose of what I’m sure he already knows; “Artists who are making work like yours are frequently doing so as a way to ask questions about the nature of being and existence. Are you doing that at all?” I ask.
“You know…” he responds, vulnerably and with total transparency. “I’m really just a maker. I just make things.”
What simplicity. What clarity. What humility, I think. He sounds so… Spiritual.
It’s just “a part of me now,” Jose says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy some commercial success with the work which has allowed me to sustain my livelihood. Gratefully. So gratefully. But, it’s all kind of interwoven now. The livelihood, and the art-making. I just do this. I would do it regardless.”
I wonder internally how he got to this point. As if on cue, Jose offers:
“I mean, it didn’t start this way.”
How It All Began
“I was living in Santa Cruz, and was sort of directionless in my 20’s. My parent are immigrants who worked factory jobs. So, I was just asking the question ‘How do you even get by, you know? Like, how do you have any sort of mobility at all?’
“Fortunately or unfortunately, I suffered a leg injury, and was laid up for a few months, and started to write poems and take pictures, really just to pass the time. And I liked doing it enough that it sort of planted a seed of productivity. I started to wonder ‘How do I turn this into something? How do I make this my life?’
“So I started to draw images that were based on the photos. And eventually there was this sense of, like, alchemy, you know? Like, I made this thing. From nothing, you know? And that felt great.”
“At a certain point,” Jose tells me “I landed in Indianapolis, of all places, and was encouraged by my girlfriend at the time to apply to art school. People would see my work and say ‘Wow, this is pretty cool stuff, there are a lot of scholarships here that could help you.’ And I just thought, you know, ‘there’s no way any college will ever accept me because my transcripts are so poor.’
So, I really couldn’t believe it when I got into this 4 year university- because I was such a bad student.”
As Jose talks, I can’t help but be reminded of another common spiritual teaching I’ve run into over the years. The 12 Step people are known to say “Just show up for what’s in front of you, and the rest will work itself out.”
Jose, by virtue of his organically “surrendered to the flow” nature, stumbles into a 4 year eduction, a full-ride scholarship, and the beginnings of life as a working artist. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty “spiritual” to me.
I mention this to Jose.
“You know,” I say. “Some of the most grounded, evolved, generous people I’ve ever met call themselves atheists. And some of the most self-righteous, fearful, controlling d-bags I’ve known claim to be quite spiritual.”
“What do you mean?” Jose asks.
“Well,” I tell him, “you sound like the guy who should be teaching the class on how to ‘let go’ and ‘calm down’ cuz you actually DO that. You ARE that. Meanwhile, all the spiritual people are out here freaking out, wearing white robes, and working real hard to ‘know God perfectly.’
Jose laughs a little, in that understated, enlightened Buddhist/non-Buddhist way of his. (Jose is not a Buddhist, he just freaking seems like one to me.)
“A lot of people might say that me just drawing these straight lines over and over is redundant, but for me it’s as close to anything spiritual as I get, I guess. It’s meditative. It has a calming effect, you know? And, lucky for me, people buy the thing I make through engaging in that process.”
“So, lemme get this straight,” I interrupt. “You spend all day engaging in a meditative, calming practice that makes you feel good, and that results in the creation of objects that touch, move and inspire people so deeply that they happily pay you to do so. Is that about right?”
“Well. I hope so,” he says. “I’m just… motivated to keep challenging myself and grateful for any and every opportunity to keep doing so. And I just hope that it inspires people, you know?”
I do know, my unwitting spiritual teacher. I do know.
You can see José’s work at The Wal Artists Lofts, on walls and murals all over the world (check out 701 S St. here in Sacramento for starters), and at his website: www.josedigregorio.com
And don’t forget to follow him on Facebook and Instagram! @josedigregorioart