The 14th Ray + 311

“The 14th Ray” by Morena Tan

16” x 20” liquitex acrylic on canvas
Add “The 14th Ray” to Your Collection

By mystic law David introduced himself to me last Memorial Day through a local arts Facebook group I’d joined the night previous, offering to share his personal outdoor gallery space at the upcoming First Friday here in Las Vegas. “Of course!” – my words lunge. “One caveat,” – he lingers – “I am a disabled Vietnam Vet. What I need is someone who will provide transportation.”

A U-Haul for him and his extensive portfolio of framed glass paintings would be no small task. I don’t drive, let alone own a license! At that moment another recent acquaintance, a Vet himself and an Uber driver at that, came to mind. I dialed immediately. “You know you’re lucky, Friday and Sunday are my only days off.” – Jay was on board. Nothing was going to get in my way of presenting at my very first First Friday.

June 2, 2017: David, Jay and I are at FF, sitting in a circle under the gracious shade of a neighboring dining tent. It’s 5pm, 104 degrees, and all the paintings are finally on display lining the ground perimeter of Rodeo Raggz in grassroots fashion. We may have made it successfully- no broken glass, no damage, a cooler stocked with ice and hydration- but we sure lacked the basic street gallery wares that first-timers commonly overlook (lighting, signage, tent, etc, etc).

As I sweat over my blank canvas contemplating a subject to begin live painting at the event, the Vets (now friends) share their stories, insights on life, women, and underground conspiracies. A phrase uttered drifts into my thought space – “Infinity room?” David goes on to explain the early seventies practice: “You take an enclosed space- a closet, whatever, nothing too big- and line it with mirrors. Fill it with mirrors- floor, ceiling, walls. You take this light and you shine it through this prism. And it bounces off the mirrors and reflects back and forth on everything and you sit there, tripping on.. whatever it was that day, and just stare into the mirrors into infinity.”

Infinity Room… I start painting.

That night we learned David was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. He suffered countless operations and conditions, and defied two death sentences. Hanging with guy you’d be hard-pressed to believe that anything could ever get him down. He’s completed about 300 of his signature style glass paintings in the past 5 years on and off (most of them donated to charity), he just finished a chalkboard-top bar in his backyard made with neighborhood reclaimed wood, and he spends his days reclining in an infinite room of projects also known as his studio / Bat Cave / garage.

David turns 65 this Thursday. We’re barbecuing.

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“Bomb the Town” – 311, Archive. Lyrics here.

The first stage of “The 14th Ray” was painted throughout that First Friday. I completed the piece on June 4 while at home, listening to the entire repertoire my favorite living band, 311, on Spotify shuffle. As always when in my creative zone, a certain song plays and instantly resonates with my art. This time around the music behind the inspiration is “Bomb the Town.”

Bomb the Town” was an original track on the 2001 bonus EP to 311’s second self-made tour documentary Enlarged to Show Detail 2. The underground song resurfaced on 311’s 25th Anniversary B-sides and rarities box set Archive with a previously unreleased spoken verse by SA Martinez, the band’s DJ/vocalist- and my personal favorite member.

The final step in my creative process is always revisiting that one song that stands out, after finishing my piece. So I sat a couple feet back from my fresh art and pressed play. Initially I reflect on Nick Hexum’s lyrics which call to mind the tenacity of a vet like David muscling through resistance and adversity- refusing to die not doing what he loves. While “bombing the town” actually refers to 311 rocking cities on tour show to show, there is a clear and obvious connotation to war.

Alternatively, SA’s more profound words evoked to me images of what an Infinity Room experience might be like. Somehow his poetry jived precisely with the visual interpretation I’d laid out on the canvas. He specifically refers to “the 13th ray” and, unbeknownst to me until that moment, there are 14 beams of light in my painting. Upon some shallow Google research I discover that there are such things as the 13th and 14th chakras- beyond the commonly known seven. In certain beliefs, the 14th chakra is considered the gateway to the next dimension and associated with the Third Eye. It focuses the mind directly on your higher plan and connects you with your karma, granting clarity in your thoughts and actions. Interesting…

For me, “The 14th Ray” simply represents opening your heart to infinity and seeing beauty beyond the surface.

What do you see? Comment below ♥




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