Article from Glow International Magazine, Summer 2011.
Artist Gregg Rosen lives and works in the Meher Baba community in Myrtle Beach.
Here he shares his insights into an artist’s life and his quest to capture Meher Baba’s divinity in his paintings of the Beloved.
I had the good fortune to be born to my mother Ruth and father Burt Rosen. I was still an infant when my mother became a follower of Meher Baba. As a result of her abiding faith, our family attended the Last Darshan in India in 1969 when I was twelve.This was one of the most pivotal events of my life. The out pouring of love I experienced ther made a profound and sustaining impression on me that abides in my heart to this day.
I came to painting quite literally by accident. As a teenager I fractured a kneecap and had to recuperate at home. During the healing process, I took a drawing class. I knew immediately and absolutely that in this life, it was my destiny to aspire to be an artist. I grew up on Long Island and moved to Manhattan, where I resided for many years. The proximity to museums, galleries and painters provided artistic sustenance. My aprenticeship with a true master, Steve Rettegi, lasted for many years. His orientation to art was was as a portrait and landscape painter. He taught me to see the abstraction in nature and the human figure, and the important role it plays in all visual perception. My impetus to paint a human being was to try to capture the essence of a subjects soul through their endless variety of expression.
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to study at the Art Students League, National Academy of Design and the New York Studio School with figurative painters such as Nelson Shanks who studied with Pietro Annigonni and Steve Rettegi who Studied with Oscar Kokoschka.
It would be impossible to choose one artist who has had the most influence on my art. I am equally in awe of the spiritual quality in a landscape by George Inness,anything by Cezanne, Rembrandt, Matisse, Monet, Bonnard, Sargent, Zorn, Gacommetti, Kokoschka...etc from every century to current day. I look to them and others daily for continued artistic inspiration. Many artists looked for and painted God in the face of man. To me their work has in it what Joseph Campbell said could only describe as “sublime” when viewing a great work of art. I interpret this to be a glimpse of universal truth.
As a young artist, the first subject I was motivated to paint was Meher Baba. The effort to continue to paint him was set aside as I pursued more conventional images. It was to be many years of study before I was to return to the subject that originally inspired me. For the first time I felt absolutely charged in my work. I hoped that my ability was now ready to attempt to produce his image. My creative life was in harmony with my spiritual life. I felt as thou I was on fire.
It is truly a gift that has been given to all artists who paint Meher Baba for it is the first time we have photographic images and living memory of the face of the Avatar. My greatest inspiration comes from painting my spiritual master Meher Baba. Unlike any other subject, painting Meher Baba has given me the opportunity to work with myself. For me both positive and negative emotions are brought to the forefront in this process. Baba has stated “Give it all to me” , so I continually try. This has been much like the death-rebirth experience that mirrors the attempt to capture the subject in painting. To quote my first teacher, “The subject becomes lost and then found in a cycle which repeats itself again and again.” What I seek so often eludes me.
It has been said that “heaven opens behind us.” In my pursuit to become an artist there are two artists I greatly admire: Matisse once said, “It takes twenty years to paint with ones heart.” Bonnard simply stated toward the end of his life, “I know nothing.”
I am trained to paint from life, that is, having the subject in view of my easel. The process of painting the Avatar has been a leap of faith. I focus on Meher Baba’s photographic image [most of which are black and white]. I begin to work as if he were posing here, in living colour. I am not solely trying to reproduce his image, but to use this image as a point of departure in my quest to capture and convey the experience I receive from meditating on his divinity. I see all images of Meher Baba as objects of meditation.
In the last four years I have focused exclusively and intensely on painting Meher Baba. This has resulted in about 60 paintings of him as well as several seascapes of the beach at Meher Spiritual Center. In addition I have just completed paintings of the five favorite masts. In painting the masts it was my hop to capture the expression of human beings who are truly God intoxicated.
Since all my work is oil on linen, I work on numerous paintings simultaneously. This serves the dual purpose o having the drying time necessary for painting in oils and for my creative process to be in sync. Sometimes I have made changes a year or more later, until the painting expresses what feels true to me.
I live and work in the Meher Baba community next to the Meher Spiritual Center and spend time meditating, reflecting and renewing there. The vibrations of love and beauty in the natural surroundings of woods, marsh, ocean and the creature that dwell there feed and rejuvenate my spirit.