Maybe the question should be are there any drugs that allow an artist to be transformative in her/his work. While not a new area of discussion the topic was recently raised again. Even something as “mild” as marijuana, which has THC — the agent in marijuana that produces feelings of euphoria, and in some users mild hallucinations and paranoia, was a significant part of the 60s art making where OP art and Psychedelic works were highly popular. The effects of other drugs, including designer drugs and prescription drugs, have been touted as having the ability to produce hallucinogenic visions.
[“Dash Snow Cutting Lines – photo: Ryan McGinley”]
I had been thinking about this recently but brought it up because of the recent overdose death of Dash Snow: http://www.nytimes.com/200 9/07/26/nyregion/26dash.html.
Sam Leith: writes, “Dash Snow, the New York artist who died this month, was responsible for a rolling piece called Nest Project. It consisted of shredded paper, bodily fluids, and graffiti about bestiality, Abraham Lincoln’s drinking binges and a ‘gang bang at Ground Zero’. As one writer said after Snow’s death: ‘He simply didn’t give a shit.’ Most people would not regard this as praise for a working artist. Proper nihilists don’t bother to make art, and if they were forced to do so – under, say, a community service order – why would they bother to make it any good?”
Replies were received from a number of people, not all artists, a few of which are posted.
Photographer Mark Diamond says, “Well specifically visionary insights have been conveyed by artists in shamanistic practices for 1000s of years. I don’t expect to find these individuals and their art on an average saturday gallery walk. However, from what I have seen from one such individual I have met and read his book a very transformative experience is documented and illustrated . A scholarly review of the book is here http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v08n3/08318sha.html.”
Artist Andrew Binder adds, “Well.. Creativity is training oneself to think differently, and then making something that validates those connections… Drugs can change the way that you think…So that is why drugs are a real seduction for creative people… Think of how addictive a substance is when it not only addicts you physically, but is part of your creative process too. Real bad mojo but it can certainly work. Think Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Tim Spence, computer tech guy says, “Alex Grey is an artist who has had quite a transformation in his work through LSD: http://www.alexgrey.com/.” Mr. Spence was one of a rather high number of techies at that event considering Art Basel Miami Beach was going on at the time and that was the event (two days) I knew techies attended, not the main events. The Alex Grey was a lecture with a $65.00 fee for each day.
Zac Morris, another techie from North Carolina adds, “Absolutely! We have had the “Drugs are bad” mantra pounded into our heads to the point that the first time one does “drugs” becomes this liberating experience of overcoming all that Fear; and realizing that even on drugs you still have a level of control over your actions. I think that such an experience can make you radically open to try new things AND look at things in a very different way.”
I became familiar with Alex Grey while he was here during Art Basel Miami Beach giving a talk I attended. His painting could be described as psychedelic hyperrealism with animals and humans painted in a very photorealistic way but, highly charged with colors and patterns representing auras and spiritual fields. Of course, that is a simplistic statement kind of describing of Grey’s work.
[Alex Grey] At the Collabo Show, I heard some things about the drinking and drugs in the history of Miami’s art community before it turned into the hot spot of the moment it is today. In those days, 80s and early 90s, the art scene was a small very insular one, unlike today. I’m not sure there is a concensus out there and that’s probably why artists continue to experiment and explore with attempts to make transformative art. We’re all looking for the answer.