Self-portraits under the influence of marijuana (L) and absinthe. All photos courtesy of Bryan Lewis Saunders
When it comes to DUIs (drawing under the influence), Bryan Saunders holds the record. From crystal meth to cough syrup, here’s a collection his self-portraits done while on drugs.
When it comes to artistic inspiration, many roads will take you there — being in love is a personal favorite, but being in suffering, or simply being batshit crazy will also take you there. Yet aside from these internal stimulants, there’s also crystal meth, cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms and countless other external substances with that potential creative trip — or a trip to the hospital.
Bryan Lewis Saunders would know best. In 1995, the artist began drawing a self-portrait everyday for the rest of his life (over 8,000 presently and counting). But from this collection, his “Drugs” series is the one that has gotten the most attention. Beginning in 2001, Saunders resolved to take a different drug everyday while completing his self-portraits. The results are extraordinary:
On Crystal Meth:
After a few weeks after the initial experiment, Saunders became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage. It was then that he realized that the experiment must be conducted over greater lapses of time.
Ativan / Haloperidol:
Today, in the age of liking and sharing, his amounting collection of self-portraits on drugs surface on the Internet from time to time to both acclaim and controversy. Regarding his viral phenomenon, Saunders tells Artparasites via e-mail that “Originally the best part of it all was the ability to acquire exposure by basically having exhibitions on my website, Myspace and Facebook without having to spend any money on self-promotion.” This came after he had spent a great amount of time and resources sending slides of his work — Ah, the 90s — to galleries, seeking exposure. “Still even with the internet, not much came of it until the 3rd year in a row that the drug pictures went viral. It was after that when MIKA Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv contacted me and now they represent me well, and it’s really super cool to have people that know what they are doing acting on my behalf.”
Butane Honey Oil:
Dilaudid / Morphine:
When asked about the worst part of going viral with this series, he mentions “the personal attacks on my beard and ‘weak chin,’ death threats, you know, stupid Internet lunch break people stuff.” He also admits that it’s a bit frustrating being known for only one body of work while the rest is ignored. “All of my other works, except for the “Extreme Makeover (Fuck Mattress) Edition,” require thought. There is more to them than just ‘This is your face on bath salts or whatever…’”
Huffing Lighter Fluid:
Marijuana (Kine Bud):
2mg Nicotine Gum:
Nitrous Oxide / Valium IV:
Valium IV (Albuterol, Saline & Oxygen mixture)
While the online response hasn’t changed the way Saunders perceives his work, it has certainly altered how he sees the Internet and media. “I tell people all of the time, ‘I’m a six trick pony but the world only likes one of my tricks.’ And now this time around I’m a seven trick pony!”
About the Author
If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.