Mike Cuomo and His Visual Inquiry Into Space and Spirituality
The cosmos has always been a fascinating venture for humans, filled with endless questions and endless possibilities. It also brings about a multitude of emotions in us: curiosity, excitement, fear, hope. New York-based 3D artist Mike Cuomo explores all these emotions through art. ‘Reliquaire Fusion’ — his creative project and alias — is not only ignited by the need to indulge his curiosity, but also to “satisfy his soul.”
His piece, ‘You Might Not Believe It But I Still Talk to Jesus’, is one of the many ways he explored the theme of finding the divine in the vastness of the universe. An astronaut — the ultimate pilgrim of space — holds on to a cross of light. “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.”
You may purchase his piece as framed wall art here.
Tell us about who you are. How did art come into your life?
I’m still figuring that one out. Maybe that’s the purpose of life, to find out who we truly are. Boss Ross would probably get the credit for bringing art into my life. Gotta give it up to PBS.
What does the creation process look like for you? How do you feel while you’re creating a piece, and after a piece is complete?
I would describe my process as finding clarity through the chaos. It begins with a million different contrasting “this would be cool” ideas. Then I hone in on a feeling or thought that fully engages my mind. Once I have that, the true work begins, which is actually starting the piece. This part of the process is the hardest. Making that first mark will take all that you have to give sometimes. But once you break through this step, the enjoyment begins.
Just to be clear, I work diligently everyday to find and create within this flow for all aspects of my life. So for anyone out there hesitant to start their first piece, I will say this: The thing you are creating right now may not be the masterpiece you seek, but I promise you the exploration you go through will beat the darkness of regret when this moment we call life is over.
I never really know how long a piece will take. It usually differs drastically but I think that’s what's fun about it. I will glance at the time to see that hours have gone by, but for me, it felt like time didn’t exist. After I have an enjoyable scene I will render out the piece, add a few final touches and then I write something I feel captures the idea behind it all.
Who are your influences?
There are so many incredibly talented people out there. If I had to pick a couple I would have to say Aaron Draplin, Daniel Arsham, Beeple, Banksy, Slimesunday, Robbie Santos, Terence Brown and of course Bob Ross.
The project ‘Reliquaire Fusion’ is so cool! You mentioned that it was inspired by your “journey through the cosmos.” Can you tell us about that? What fascinates you about space and otherworldly elements?
One day, I asked myself the question: “If given the chance to explore either earth in its entirety or space in its entirety, until I felt satisfied, which would I choose?” Now you can travel and go anywhere you want, but you are on your own in this journey. You can explore the deepest depths of the ocean, hike the highest mountains, or travel through space to its furthest points searching wherever you like. However, neither have a guarantee for discovery.
You can search space for a lifetime and find nothing, or travel the earth and wonder what it would have been like to explore past its borders. With that risk of ultimately finding nothing to satisfy my soul, I chose space.
Just to note, you can only travel at speeds that currently exist. So teleportation and speed of light are out. This ensures you understand the lengths you must go on this journey, and the restless feelings you might have at times facing the unknown. This would be your last journey and after you decided to end it, you would die.
You feature a lot of surreal landscapes in your work. What fictional or real life places are you inspired by when you create these landscapes?
The surreal landscapes in my work aren’t directly based on exact fictional or real life places. It’s really a vision of how I would like the world to look. I’m sure it’s subconsciously built from all the beautiful places I’ve seen in real life and fictional [worlds], but I’m not purposely basing it on specific places.
Crosses appear several times in your work. How would you describe your relationship with religion and spirituality?
I’m not sure how to describe it. I was raised with religion but not spirituality, if that makes sense. Anytime I would ask deeper questions in Sunday school, I was met with “God works in mysterious ways.” My logical sense of reasoning couldn’t accept this school of thought no matter how much I tried. I lost interest in it all after hearing that dead end answer for any question I asked.
However, on this second go around, it’s been more of a personal exploration. I’ve learned it’s okay to have my own interpretation. This was a huge turning point for me. Understanding that everyone finds spirituality and religion differently would have been a great lesson to teach in Sunday school. The way I experience and learn things is going to be different from you. There is no point in saying this is how it is, and if you don’t get it, then — oh well. That goes for everything in life.
Follow Mike Cuomo on Instagram here and check out more of Reliquaire Fusion here.