The Otherworld art exhibit, a portal ‘beyond our limited perceptions’


Photo by Anna Norwalt-Reporter

Michael Pearce explains the intricate meanings behind the psychedelic artwork held at The Otherworld exhibit at California Lutheran University.

Anna Norwalt, Reporter

The Otherworld, California Lutheran University’s most expensive art exhibit to date, showed how religion, psychedelic drugs, and inspired abstract art all have one thing in common: a world beyond what can be seen.

The exhibit was displayed Nov. 12, 2021 through Feb. 3, 2022, in the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art.

“I knew I wanted to do a show of visionary art and psychedelic art and religious transcendent experiences because I think there is something that connects them all together and what’s struck me about all of these different kinds of approaches was that the other world was the important connecting feature of them,” Michael Pearce said, a professor at Cal Lutheran and curator of The Otherworld exhibit.

The artists whose works were on display were a mix of psychedelic users, religious persons, and those who were inspired by others.

Pearce gave a tour of the art exhibit on Feb. 2, 2022, the day before it was taken down. This was the first curator tour of a Cal Lutheran art gallery since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

With more than 60 works of art being showcased at this exhibit, it was not only the most expensive but also the largest art exhibit Cal Lutheran had to date.  

“It’s almost overwhelming because there are that many pieces in it and that was the aesthetic that Michael was going for,” Rachel Schmid said, who administered The Otherworld exhibit and is the curator of collections and exhibitions at Cal Lutheran. “He was hoping for that experience where someone comes in and they’re just in awe.”

The exhibit featured artwork of different eras of time and different shapes and sizes.

“Some are eight feet, some a couple inches, and there’s so much detail that someone could see that people really do spend a couple hours in here,” Schmid said.

Despite this, Pearce gave an hour-long tour where he explained the different artworks and artists.

“So, there’s lots of labels next to each work and they’re very long and someone could spend hours in here reading that or spend hours reading the curatorial essay, but to hear it in person directly from the curator’s mouth, there’s something really magical about that and I don’t think it can be replicated by reading or doing a self-tour or anything else,” Schmid said.

One of the artists, Jasmine O’Campo, who goes by Jasmine Alexandra O, is a student at Cal Lutheran. The Otherworld was her first time having her artwork in an exhibit on campus.

O’s painting, Quetzalcoatl, is about an Aztec snake god with the same name which depicted him in the underworld helping souls.

The mix of O’s interpretation of the underworld with psychedelic and other religious understandings of the world beyond, makes Pearce’s vision come together.

“I think that the exhibit is really overwhelming and the feeling that you get from it is this sense of the universe being bigger than we perceive it to be with our senses,”Pearce said. “It’s something extraordinary and I think that- I hope that what people take away from the show is this sense of the extraordinary. That we do live in a really remarkable world and it’s beyond our limited perceptions. It’s something even more great than what we can already see.”