A Brief Survey of Artists Under the Influence


We’ve made an exasperated plea to musicians to stop singing about drugs. Still, we don’t expect the eternal fascination artists seem to have with substance experimentation to end any time soon — especially if one artist’s cocaine sculpture is any indication. We spotted the snowy white creation on Lost at E Minor earlier this week (featured after the jump). It felt like the appropriate time to revisit a few narcotically inclined artworks — those created under the influence and several inspired by drug culture and its icons. Feel free to mention your personal favorites, below.

You’ll remember Dutch artist Diddo from the womb-like coffin he created several years ago. Now he’s fashioned a skull out of real cocaine (and gelatin for support). The street-sourced drug even was tested for purity. “Ecce Animal is not intended to be a parable on the self-destructiveness of addiction or substance abuse,” Diddo told Bullet. “I don’t want to over-intellectualize, but it’s the fusion of two icons that provokes thought and discussion on the nature of man. Specifically, about his creation of, and participation in, a society which echoes his own tendency to lose control.”

“Minimalism had ‘this idea of paintings as a transportational vehicle to take you out of yourself and into another world, and I thought that interestingly paralleled some of the rhetoric of psychedelic drugs,'” Fred Tomaselli has said of his work. Embedded in the resin of his collage-like paintings are pills, hallucinogenic plants, and herbs.

Chemical X, the same artist who created the iconic Ministry of Sound logo, created two works composed of over 12,000 colorful tablets of ecstasy. Love & Death and Taste the Rainbow were “drawn” with MDMA pills and encased in acrylic. The work examined “our relationship with MDMA as a society and as individuals, through the use of imagery closely associated with drug culture and the drugs themselves. After the scaremongering and headlines fade, this is a drug taken by many thousands of people every week with little or no ill effects. One hundred years since it was patented, this is a re-examination of an old friend or perhaps a feared enemy.”

London street art collaborative Miss Bugs created a controversial portrait of Amy Winehouse out of hundreds of prescription pills. “The capsules symbolize the troubled and destructive side of Amy,” a rep for the artist duo said of the piece. “However these are small things, it’s her overall beauty, color and complexity that we remember from afar, and which we’ve tried to show in the pattern work in the resin that makes up the whole piece.”

Last year, we introduced you to the work of performance artist and poet Bryan Lewis Saunders who created a series of self-portraits under the influence of different drugs. “Within weeks I became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage,” he revealed. “I am still conducting this experiment but over greater lapses of time. I only take drugs that are given to me.” The above portrait was made after consuming two caps of psilocybin mushrooms.

The creation of artist-poet Henri Michaux’s electrifying mescaline drawings are documented in his psychedelic tome, Miserable Miracle. He embarked on the drug-induced, mystical journey after his wife died from complications of a bizarre accident (her robe caught fire).

In Memorial of Albert Hofmann 1906 – 2008 by Mathieu Briand is a series of sculptures that pay tribute to the Swiss scientist, who was the creator of LSD. The pieces of Briand’s “laboratory of consciousness” included a silkscreened coat — which featured the Sandoz pharmaceuticals company logo (the first company to sell LSD) and the Superman symbol (printed on the first LSD blotters) — and a “dream laboratory.”

Joachim Koester’s solo show, From the Secret Garden of Sleep, featured various references to psychedelia. A series of black-and-white photos of cannabis buds “[testified] to a history of political debate and legislation concerning the domestic marijuana industry,” while the 16mm projection Tarantism linked the superstitious belief that spider bites cause hysteria to otherworldly, psychic experiences.

Design collectives Cochenko and Quatorze created a traveling installation for a drug awareness campaign commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture and MILDT that was meant to show the effects drugs can have on our minds and bodies. They constructed three chambers emphasizing “pleasure, repetition, and awakening.”

Art collective USCO (The Company of US) recreated the LSD experience for the multimedia exhibit Psychedelic Explorations in 1965. This nine-foot tall painting of a Hindu deity emitted pulsating colored light.