Art Dive: Mike Cuomo’s Astronauts and the Search for the Divine
Can God possibly be a part of an infinite universe? Is he somewhere there, is he the universe itself, or is he even beyond our comprehension of “infinity”?
Some may say that the answer is none of the above — there’s no such thing as a divine being. But innately curious minds could wonder otherwise. We can’t possibly prove one thing or the other, but we can always think on the side of the ‘what if’.
These ‘what ifs’ aren’t irrational at all: on the contrary, they make us gather more possibilities and allow us to be open to the extraordinary. If there’s one thing modern life has taught us, it’s that science and faith can coexist.
And maybe it doesn’t even end at coexistence — they might just be deeply intertwined. In his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, planetary scientist Carl Sagan had written: “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”
Modern artists seem to agree with the assertion. They work with a diverse range of elements, subjects, and ideas; some are more natural with their approaches, while some are more surreal. Both can turn to the divine for inspiration.
That’s the case with Mike Cuomo: a lover of space, sci-fi, and everything the galaxy has to offer. But he also loves to explore the questions of spirituality and religion within them. For example: Where do they lie in the middle of it all?
Cuomo — who also goes by his alias and project Reliquaire Fusion — is by no means devoutly religious. But he still finds the value in these ventures, and perhaps even revels in it in his own way (that is, through visual art).
“Religion has always been a difficult subject for people for hundreds of reasons. However, where most saw differences, I saw a huge similarity,” said Cuomo. “That similarity is hope.”
Metaphors for Curiosity and Spiritual Musings
In Cuomo’s immersive Reliquaire Fusion series, space is always the backdrop, and the astronaut is the protagonist. He doesn’t have a name, doesn’t represent a narrative; but he is the epitome of Cuomo’s inquisitive nature.
“My love for everything cosmic has been with me since I was a kid. The cosmonaut represents my own curiosity to explore what could lie beyond life as we know it,” he said.
Cuomo did mention that he’s not practicing a particular religion but he’s learned to appreciate it for what it offers. He was “raised with religion, but not spirituality.” Later in his life, he questioned and rejected its conventions, but eventually realized that he had the freedom to define his spiritual life.
“[This time around], it’s been more of a personal exploration,” he told us. “I’ve learned it’s okay to have my own interpretation.”
His vehicle for these explorations, of course, was visual art. Cuomo’s analogy for his creative process was “finding clarity through the chaos” — and this was the exact principle he had in mind for the piece ‘You Might Not Believe It But I Still Talk to Jesus.’ Cuomo made it during the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak after mulling over religion and its role in a turbulent world.
The answer he found was simple: religion was the tightrope that kept people from falling into despair.
“It’s in our greatest moments of darkness we all say some sort of prayer with hopes to get through whatever we are dealing with because we feel as though we’ve exhausted all of our options,” Cuomo pondered.
So, despite being ambivalent to religion himself, he created several pieces that explored his thoughts — among them ‘You Might Not Believe It,’ which has more overt religious undertones. He said that it “depicts the contemplation of someone exploring the possibility of faith helping them, despite their disbelief.”
You Might Not Believe It, But I Still Talk to Jesus
Cuomo is not the only artist who has qualms about faith — the title ‘You Might Not Believe It…’ borrows from a song called ‘i still talk to jesus’ by American indie-pop band LANY. Unlike Cuomo, though, they don’t ruminate on religion as a whole — they sing about their relationship with God.
“I was raised in church, but there are things I do now that I grew up thinking I would go to hell over. This is my confession,” said lead vocalist Paul Jason Klein in a Genius commentary. “I wanna believe that prayer works. However, I think they’re answered in ways we don’t expect or recognize.”
Cuomo said he shared Klein’s sentiments. “[LANY’s] curiosity to know whether or not he was worthy of heaven had moved me,” he remarked thoughtfully. “As the song continues, you are brought through the trials and tribulations of someone trying to be a better person. Even though he never seems to do the right thing, there still is a genuine apologetic tone that creates some sympathy.”
It was the same depth of emotion he tried to explore in ‘You Might Not Believe It.’ Although the message isn’t too explicit, Cuomo hopes, at least, that it starts more conversations about the modern person, all the worlds we have discovered and yet to discover — and where our spirituality lies amidst it all.
“If you trace everything back to their origins, there are quite a few things that don’t make sense,” he said. “Science and faith may have more in common than we realize.”
Check out our full collection of religious and spiritual wall art here.