Art by Mokii

The Facebook event for Mokii's opening promised that, if you came to play and mingle, vibes of the hip hop, chill bass, and minimal techno variety would be provided. And provided they were, from a laptop with pretty decent speakers, filling the funky sliver of a pop-up gallery space in the back room of the new Vape Shop (formerly Penny's Pantry) with a smooth neo chill vibe. But the best vibe to be found on the premises was undoubtedly that of the artist himself, Mokii.

A self-taught multi-disciplinary artist, Mokii (pronounced "MO-key") creates art which links the spirit world into the physical to create abstract decorations and artwork devoid of human concept — which is mission statement artistspeak for saying it's groovy and psychedelic. The main output of his work is digital mixed media and photography reproduced on high-quality giclée. The Art Nouveau work of Alphonse Mucha was a major influence on his style, and H.R. Giger (less the nightmares) is clearly visible as well. But mostly, it's all very groovy.

There were also many eye-catching one-offs on display: a green skull in acrylic showed great promise in technical draftsmanship and originality; collage blocks of young women, exercises in lavender gray pastel tones, were interesting treatments in balance of form; and a large wood carving, made by his friend Andy and based on one of Mokii's digital mixed media pieces, was a conversational ice-breaker for nearly every visitor upon first entering.

Moqui or Moki or Mochi marbles — a.k.a. Shaman Stones, or Navajo cherries, or Indian marbles — have an iron oxide shell and solid sandstone center. They often have a slight magnetic charge. Looking a lot like a lime that's been left out for about a year, and nearly as hard, Moki marbles are said to stimulate chi and bring knowledge and deepening of ancient ways. They may be used to contact animal spirits, totems, and guides, and to aid in shape-shifting (if you're into that). The artist liked the way the word Moki sounded so he created another alt-spelling and then took it up as his artist's moniker.

An indigo child from Prince George, B.C., Mokii (born Kevin Hepburn) moved to Victoria as a teen and is now a bona fide Salt Spring resident and member in good standing in the island's holographic consciousness plant spirit dance party tribe. Despite the decorative appearances of youth — nose ring, blueberry-tinted hair, Bazooka Joe skewed baseball cap, those black wooden ear lobe plug things — Mokii has been wise enough to resist the temptation of wasting one's 20s (alas, not everyone gets that memo). He lives his life with a true DIY ethos, driven by whatever inspires him.

A veteran of Burning Man and its various global consciousness festival progeny (Envision, Luminosity Gathering), Mokii gained a hands-on apprenticeship as a festival coordinator and manager of artists before only recently stepping out as an artist himself. Instilled with a natural willingness to be of service, Mokii also volunteered with Tribe13, an international visionary psychedelic music festival art gallery, where he learned the finer points of artist-run exhibition, and the whole event production she-bang, from the ground up.

Art by Mokii

It's hard not to bring up ayahuasca when reviewing Mokii's work, and so the topic of psychoactive substances was enthusiastically engaged. Entheogens have a long history in the sub rosa subculture on the island and surrounding environs, and there's plenty of artists similar to Mokii who are engaging in Alex Grey inspired work which mirrors the experience of interacting and communicating with the spirit of the plants. Ayahuasca ceremonies are considered a sacred form of deep spiritual and psychological healing, which is clearly reflected in a lot of this kind of art, Mokii's included. (All woo-wooness aside, though, it certainly doesn't hurt that everything in your entheogenically altered universe becomes so gosh-darned orgasmically awesome when you're tripping balls. Consider it an accidental fringe benefit, a parallel universe bonus track.)

A side discussion about LSD and the Summer of Love perked the ears of an older visitor, a contrarian curmudgeon with a thick French Existential accent, who bemoaned the selling out of all the 60s pioneering radicals, predicting a similar and inevitable turncoating of the artist on hand and all his confederates into the maw of a consumer-driven cubicle life. Another visitor's voice countered, emphasizing that the primary function of youth is to be that of a strong Nietzschean Vanguard, artistic boundary breakers and destructors of out-dated social forms, empowered with varying degrees of whatever means of anarchy are necessary to tip over any clay-footed sacred cows which need tipping over. A lively impromptu exchange between the artist and his visitors ensued, and a central question about the essential nature of our times soon formed: Can any hope whatsoever be found in our over-populated resource-scarce late-stage capitalism world of perpetual war and daily civilian bombings of both the terrorist and corporate military type?

No doubt the future can look more than a little bleak when viewed through the lens of media and political systems hellbent on peddling and encouraging the very worst aspects of our common human nature for their own power and profit. For those too easily hypnotized by the bullshit of these shameless merchants of greed, disgrace, and dehumanization, anything less than total depression and demoralization of the self is clearly a false deluded response. But regardless of the savagery of our degenerate times, the sea change from Innocence to Experience — our human inheritance — always comes with plenty of disappointments and letdowns without any help from us ("Bring to me mustard seeds from a family where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend," the Buddha once said, in the first known snipe hunt in history) — not to mention the hardcore existential troika of aging, sickness, and death.

But if the macrospirit of the future is reflected in the microspirit of Mokii, it's easy to put one's self down as hopeful. Fresh out of the gate at age 28, firmly dedicated to his work and his community, it will be interesting to watch the man and his work progress, to see which ways the winds of life take the idealism of his spirit and the direction of his tribe. One thing is certain: no matter where he goes, no matter how his art forms morph, everything will always remain uniquely Mokii.

The artist Mokii

The Salt Spring Island COUGAR is open to art, literary works, poetry, creative non-fiction, photography, and other submissions from local residents.