Psychedelics & Art
This presentation will provide a snapshot of some of the ways that psychedelics have impacted the history of visual art. Although modern-day psychedelics conferences and festivals generally focus on “visionary art,” we will explore a broader range of artistic schools and practices that have been impacted by psychedelic experiences. This talk will be split into three sections. First, we will explore some of the artists who have explicitly been influenced by their personal psychedelic experiences, such as contemporary artists Fred Tomaselli and Deborah Kass. Next, we will explore New York Times art critic Ken Johnson’s contention that “culture” tripped out in the 1960s, such that psychedelic aesthetics trickled out into visual art regardless of whether individual artists were personally experienced. Lastly, we will take a look at the production of visual art in the context of psychedelic experimentation, including Oscar Janiger’s research on psychedelics and creativity in the 1950s and 1960s and René Robert’s experiments with artists during the 1960s. Although the impact of psychedelics on visual art is impossible to contain within a single talk, these perspectives will provide an overview of psychedelic visual aesthetics.
NESE DEVENOT is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Puget Sound, where she teaches classes on psychedelics and literature and is also working on her book project, "Chemical Poetics: The Literary History of Psychedelic Science." In 2016 she was awarded "Best Humanities Publication in Psychedelic Studies" from Breaking Convention in the United Kingdom as part of their First Annual Psychedelic Research Awards. As a 2016 Cosmic Sister Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance grant recipient, she is working on a journalistic account of a fully-funded trip to ayahuasca retreat centers in the Peruvian Amazon. She was a 2015-16 Research Fellow at the New York Public Library's Timothy Leary Papers and also a Research Fellow with the New York University Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study, where she participated in the first qualitative study of patient experiences. She received her PhD in 2015 from the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied psychedelic philosophy and the literary history of chemical self-experimentation (“trip reports”). She taught the class “Drug Wars: The Influence of Psychoactive Rhetoric” as a 2014-15 Critical Speaking Fellow, and she was also a 2014-15 Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Research Fellow with the Penn Humanities Forum, where she worked on the project “‘Innumerable Fine Shades’: Psychedelics and Synesthesia in the Literary Self-Experiments of Aldous Huxley.” She is a founder of the Psychedemia interdisciplinary psychedelics conference, and the former editor of “This Week in Psychedelics,” a Reality Sandwich column that reported on psychedelic news in the media between 2011 and 2013. She was a founding member of the MAPS Graduate Student Association, which she moderated during 2011-13, and she has presented on psychedelics at numerous conferences in the United States, Canada, England, Australia, and the Netherlands. Her opinion articles about psychedelics and social justice have helped to inspire a psychedelic "coming out" movement in the United Kingdom.
[Photo by Tracey Eller for Cosmic Sister]