I know that you get asked this quite often; do pieces of your work reference to psychedelics and/or experiences you have encountered through psychedelics?
Definitely. I don't really shy away from admitting that. Part of it is coming back to that initial surgery, you know, coming back to my first real near-death experience. I kind of found that throughout my life, I have always been attracted to that near death feeling. I had definitely experimented with different psychedelics in college at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. Our sister college, New College, was where the group “MAPS”, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, started and there was a lot of co-mingling with access to really high grade chemistry. I moved to San Francisco around 2005 and got into a habit of locking the door, turning my cell phone off, and going really deep and seeing what would result from that. And I found that the zone that I can enter into with psychedelics became a lot more sacred than the zone I enter when I am sober. It boosted the aspect of sacredness to it, and I felt that for me, it allowed me to connect to a higher aspect of myself. Even though you are having these hallucinations, it enabled the ability to connect me to a deeper aspect of truth. The process that I have employed to create my art doesn't come from my visual imagination, because my visual imagination is not very strong. I don't know if it's from the brain surgery, but I am very active and in tune with my inner vision but not my visual imagination. My process is more around starting in a subjective way of thinking really bold, emotional strokes, throwing down random ink blots and splotches. And back to exploring consciousness, after I throw down a series of colors, shapes and forms, then I let my imagination interrupt those forms. It's a psychological process called pareidolia. It's like when you look at clouds or snow and are able to see patterns and dragons; that's more of what I employ. And that combines with an academic background of anatomy and form, and I am able to look at something abstract and see something in it. And whatever my subconscious sees, then I start refining it toward that direction. That's how I really explore what is going on in myself; whatever I am seeing will give me insight into what I am not able to access directly through my own mind. I found that what psychedelics did for me with that aspect of pareidolia and the ability see something and see, for instance, a random collection of cues or something and being able to interject something more objective onto that, that's where psychedelics really took that aspect of the mind and put it on steroids. I felt like it helped enhance being able to slowly focus and concentrate on the moment because the moment was so visceral and so alive. It turned the volume down on everything else. That experience became such an all-encompassing and powerful journey. Every piece that turned into this epic narrative that was taking place, it was a conversation between my myself and my subconscious and higher conscious. For me, I think that the moments in my life that have been the most transcendent and mystical have all happened through this feedback. There's an area where once all of these pieces are in place, a larger narrative starts taking place and there's moments as the piece starts to come together where I feel like I am able to communicate with something that is beyond my subconscious and self, and there's always this connection and interaction with the other that feels transcendent and powerful.
And beyond the synergistic energy that collects you to individuals that are intrigued by your work as well, because that adds to the collective energy of it.
Yes, I think it does. I definitely think that the art community that I have surrounded myself with over the past twenty years has been really powerful. For awhile, I felt like I was a closet psychedelic artist. It wasn't something that was really respected by galleries. I did a lot of work in the entertainment industry to pay off art school. I even had my own company that was making art for films and videogames, but to the outer world, I was the guy who was doing drugs over the weekend. Nobody really understood. It added to the outcast archetype that I had developed. I grew up in Boulder and in 2006, I got invited to this visionary art show called Synergenesis that was happening in the city. I was friends with this man named Robert Venosa and he and his wife invited me out to a show that they were doing which was a full concentration of psychedelic and visionary artwork. The culture around it abounded with all of these amazing people with tattoos and dreadlocks. As soon as I walked in the door, I realized that here was a community of people where getting high and making art was celebrated and not something that people were ashamed of. They had built their entire lives around it. And once I saw that there was a community that actually embraced the things that I felt like I could only indulge in within my privacy and seclusion, that was when I was sold on it. That was one of those moments where I felt like I found my tribe. I found this family that I have been looking for my whole life. And then after that it was pedal to the medal with psychedelia, events, festivals, and Burning man. All of those things started to come together and bring to life a new identity around that.