December 3, 2012

"We leaf through Bryan's drug sketchbook."

"The drawings are beautiful and compelling."
"That's lighter fluid," he says. "I used metallic crayons to give it that lighter fluid feeling. That's computer duster. If you don't do it right, it can freeze and shatter your teeth. That's crystal meth. That painting's probably the seventh or eighth on the same piece of paper, because I kept doing it over and over again. I couldn't stop. That's marijuana…"
If you don't do it right, it can freeze and shatter your teeth. Holy lord.

Anyway... here are the drawings, self-portraits done on drugs.

For comparison: Here's a series of portraits done in the course of a U.S. government experiment with LSD (back in the 1950s). 85 minutes into it, the artist was all "'I can see you clearly, so clearly. This... you... it's all ... I'm having a little trouble controlling this pencil. It seems to want to keep going.

I got to that last link via "3 Myths And 8 True Stories About LSD." Apparently, "The US Government Gave Artists LSD To See How It Would Affect Their Work."

23 comments:

Surfed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Surfed said...

I resemble those portraits. I originally wrote "potraits". To close to home that one.

Pogo said...

Drug-fueled outsider art. Subtract the medication and dosage, and there's little interest; it's entirely context-dependent.

The same fascination is felt when driving by a car wreck.

Michael K said...

I wonder if the doctor in the LSD series was Sid Cohen ? He was a UCLA psychiatrist who was very involved in research on LSD in the 60s. He was also the commander of my army reserve medical unit. He had taken LSD many times and written a lot about it.

edutcher said...

This is your brain.

This is your brain on drugs.

Anybody else feel like a fried egg?

Levi Starks said...

Possibly the the best thing you've ever linked to.
The man was seriously dedicated to his art.
Even in the midst of the drug reactions he was able to maintain enough coherence to complete the assignment. Considering I've never spent a day in the hospital (except birth) It seems to me like he spends a lot of time there. During the last few years of my dads life, while he was living with me he was on a few of those drugs, and seeing a graphic display of this sort, helps me "see" some of what must have been going through his head.
In a sense looking at his portraits allows the viewer to experience some of the pleasure/discomfort of the drug experiences.
In isolation none of the works, are all that phenomenal, but when seen in the context of the entire body of work it's impressive.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Drawing #7 is really quite interesting and very good.

Makes you wonder about the 'hard wiring" in the brains of artists or their susceptibility to environmental factors that might cause or enhance natural artistic tendencies.

Ann Althouse said...

In some of the pictures in the LSD sequence, the artist obviously can't see what he's doing. It probably looked fabulous to him, enhanced by hallucinations. But further along, as the drug wears off, he does some interesting things. Who knows what it looked like to him, but he's gotten some new perceptions and he's using them.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Whatever the stature of Saunders' art, he's not quite the isolated recluse the article makes him out to be. On his website, http://bryanlewissaunders.org/, you can find his CV, discography, tour schedule, press clippings, and links to other avant-garde artists. (You can't find a place to buy his work, though.)
His Dilaudid portrait -- the drug that Keith Richards used to shoot -- looks like a Rolling Stones riff.

EMD said...

Even in the midst of the drug reactions he was able to maintain enough coherence to complete the assignment.

I wonder if the Zyprexa made him fatter — I doubt it had much mind-altering effects. Same thing with the Zoloft, unless he's taking a heck of a lot.

Also, is the brain damage he now claims he suffered worth the art?

Amelia said...

someone should gently tell him that his art isn't worth his mind.

Amelia said...

someone should gently tell him that his art isn't worth his mind.

Levi Starks said...

"not worth his mind"?
People have given their lives for far less than this.
Why is it that our human existence must be defined by the number of years we live? He will die eventually in some way, possibly he will suffer his final years with alzheimer's which will without mercy take his mind from him.
I currently know an elderly couple (he's 100) who are living out their final years confined to wheel chairs in assisted care units, and they're not all that happy with their current circumstance.
When I see what old age brings it makes me wonder why I'm not living life a little more recklessly.

ricpic said...

Anything and everything must be celebrated when standards have been tossed. Who dares grade a so-called artist nowadays? The very thought is fascistic. So we're left with...self-expression. And what could be more sacrosanct than that?

Robert Cook said...

Mr. Saunders' self-portraits are indeed compelling. At his website he has pictures of the dozens (hundreds?) of sketchbooks he has kept since (he says) the mid-90s, all of which contain self-portraits. The site also has links to samplings of his self-portraits, many of which have nothing to do with the drawings he's made while on drugs. In fact, some of the drawings in the "yellow room" and "anxiety" series are far more intense than the drug portraits.

He seems a latter-day Vincent Van Gogh, in some respects.

I look forward to looking through the entirety of the work Mr. Saunders has put on his site.

Robert Cook said...

"Who dares grade a so-called artist nowadays?"

Artists have always been graded...no less at all today than ever.

TMink said...

Pogo, I really liked them, and I am sober at work. I appreciated how diverse his approach was.

I must confess to worrying a bit about him as a person though.

Trey

Robert Cook said...

Article with video about Brian Saunders

Robert Cook said...

Oops, I see I linked to the same article w/ video that Prof. Althouse had linked to.

Pogo said...

@Trey

I liked them as well. However, I never would have found them at all interesting save for the drug reference, which causes me to suspect their value otherwise.

Freeman Hunt said...

The moral of this story is that you can have a girlfriend if you want one.

Amelia said...

Levi Starks, I think you misunderstand me. I don't argue that the artist's drug use will shorten his life. You're quite right that death is inevitable - I'm merely advocating that he arrive at that point with his wits intact.

Methadras said...

Uh, yeah. I don't think the drugs helped him.