Covered in kooky cartoon characters such as Felix the Cat, Daffy Duck, and Beavis and Butt-head, logos such as the Rolling Stones' luscious lips and protruding tongue, colorful Tibetan sand mandalas or peaceful Oriental motifs like lotus flowers or the yin-yang symbol, the sheets of perforated stamplike squares soaked with the substance D-lysergic acid diethylamide, a.k.a. LSD, are more than just a means to the end of going on a psychedelic trip. Now they're considered art, hoarded by collectors and exhibited in galleries around the world. Especially prized are sheets signed not by their creators but by counterculture icons like Ken Kesey, Alan Ginsberg, and Timothy Leary.
Why not just pop a blank square on the tongue and go from there for a fuss-free high? The elaborately designed blotters have an important function: to ease a user's mind before he embarks on a trip. Created in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann to invigorate the circulatory and respiratory systems, the powerful hallucinogenic proved virtually useless until Hofmann accidentally discovered its extreme psychoactive effects. In the Forties the drug was used for psychological treatment. Later it was appropriated by intelligence agencies for mind-control experiments. LSD may make people see things. But does everyone see the sheets that convey it as art?
“It's folk art. It reflects our culture's interest in psychedelics,” says Steve Paisley (not his real name) about the works that sell from $40 to $50 for an unsigned piece and $400 to $500 for an autographed one. Paisley is promoting the event Tune-In, Turn-On, Drop Artthis Friday at the Luna Star Café. Psychedelic jam-band Dionysos and folksinger No BusFare Johnson will perform live, but the real star of the show will be a collection of blotter art signed by high lama of the spaced-out set, Timothy Leary. The sheets will be “undipped” of course. But a nervous Paisley makes doubly sure to quell any doubts: “None of these pieces have LSD on them. They never had any LSD, and they don't have it now. You might say they're on acid-free paper!”