No one walks into the Great Hall of the DIA lighting candles and slipping into deep meditative trances. That said, artist Sameer Reddy believes that although museums are not traditionally sacred spaces, art can be made sacred by acknowledging how “art objects” can provide tools for spiritual transformation through observance.
Originally from Bloomfield Township, Reddy is a former restaurateur of Oslo (currently the Whiskey Disco) fame and an ex-rave kid who once partied in the warehouses of Detroit. Now he’s busy creating art that combines elements of the sacred and the secular.
His photography is an amalgamation of classical religious forms with evocative details ranging from strap-on dildos to glow sticks. By digitally manipulating photographs, he composes vibrantly colored, tension-filled images that may come off as confrontational, but he claims that there’s no agenda regarding how people should feel about his work.
“Each figure that’s reimagined and represented symbolizes different qualities, and people can research that or interpret that however they want. … There are clues to what they’re about, but each one is different.”
According to the artist, the photographs are representations of figures from various religions; their forms, however, are consistently drawn from Indian depictions of deities. “They’re intended to function as icons as well as photographs,” Reddy says. “Icons in the sense of a Byzantine icon, where the image is meant to be alive in a way. … They’re meant to have an energetic effect.”
Reddy places such an emphasis on the energetic effect of his work in part because of his own spiritual practice, a teaching that he follows called the Fourth Way. It was conceived in the early 20th century and encourages people to achieve a state of higher consciousness, which can be done by transcending the state people normally live their lives in, a state called “waking sleep.”
Although this metaphysical idea is one that highly influences the way Reddy creates his art, he isn’t pretentious about it. “I would never say that I feel awake,” he says when asked about his own enlightenment. “Maybe there are degrees of sleep. I can be less sleepy than I usually am, and it definitely comes in waves … it fluctuates.”
Reddy, a graduate of Bard College in New York state, is currently in the Detroit area for an installation piece, The Tabernacle, which can be found at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit until May 4, as part of the museum’s DEPE Space residency program.