© 2015


Solar Burn

burned vellum
6 drawings, 20" x 16" each

In 1948, Dr. Peter Witt dosed spiders with pharmaceuticals and then set them lose in picture frames to spin webs. He chose the following substances: benzedrine, caffeine, chloral hydrate, marijuana, mescaline, and LSD. These, of course, each have a powerful place in human culture.

The webs that were spun while under the influence seem to visualize a surprising analogy with human experience under the same. How could this be? Evolutionarily, we find ourselves far apart, separated by the major lineages of vertebrate and invertebrate. The suggestion in Witt’s experiment is that we are not so different from the spider after all. What other emotional and physiological responses might we share?

In Solar Burn, I redrew these altered-state webs onto translucent vellum, tracing the delicate lines with a magnifying glass in the sun. The burned traces allow light to penetrate the vellum, and in dense areas where lines converge, nearly destroy the drawing itself in its making. They were framed in-between panes of glass to hold the drawings together, and slightly elevated from the back of the frame, to allow light to infiltrate the drawing, casting shadows and bright spots.

In 2012, I drew these webs again at a larger scale for an exhibit at the UC Botanical Gardens, calling them Under the Influence.

Chloral hydrate
Lysergic acid diethylamide
Mescaline detail
Dr. Witt's original studies