The White Rabbit Chasing Its Colored Tail - Psychedelics in Art & Fashion | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

The White Rabbit Chasing Its Colored Tail – Psychedelics in Art & Fashion

There is no chicken and egg dilemma when discussing which came first, psychedelic music, or psychedelic art & fashion (of course, we can add psychedelic-influenced filmmaking there). It was psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD, that started the whole thing.

As BBC Culture wrote about one of the connected themes, “When you think of LSD, a very specific aesthetic probably leaps to mind: the psychedelic pink-and-orange swirls of the ’60s; naked people with flowers in their hair; the shimmer of a sitar.”

The term “psychedelic” (coined by British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1956) comes from the ancient Greek words for “mind-revealing.” Psychedelics, such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, mescaline, and peyote cactus, can induce sensory distortions, hallucinations and various other sensory effects that were also dubbed as ‘mind-bending.’

As they add, “the drug’s after-effects have seeped through much of Western culture, from art to literature to, most obviously, music, which was never the same after Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix dropped acid. Whole genres have since flagged their debt to mind-altering substances: psychedelic rock, psytrance, acid house… the latter hailing from that other spike in psych: ’80s and ’90s rave culture.”

Psych-Rock Didn’t Come First – Visual Artists Did It

While psychedelic rock didn’t come first, it seems that it was the influence of psych that left the strongest and the most prolonged effect on music, as its effects last to this day.

Psychedelic art, on the other hand, can be seen as having started in the late ’50s. That’s when British artist and writer Francis Crick (of DNA fame) took LSD for the first time and had hallucinations that included “geometric patterns of vivid, primary colors.”

The White Rabbit Chasing Its Colored Tail - Psychedelics in Art & Fashion | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

As reset.me explains, “Psychedelics often trigger a rich flood of visual content. One may for instance experience highly intricate patterns, otherworldly landscapes and mysterious beings — some angelic; others demonic. Colors are frequently perceived as being extremely intense and objects may transform into bizarre and unthinkable shapes.”

It’s not surprising that “psychedelic” as an adjective was first used to describe art in 1962 by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond. As Tate explains, “Psychedelic art is any kind of visual artwork inspired by psychedelic experiences and hallucinations known to follow the ingestion of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and psilocybin. Psychedelic art is also sometimes referred to as visionary art or liquid light art.”

One of the most famous examples of psychedelic art is undoubtedly the work of American pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein. As Artnet writes, “In 1965, he began creating a series of paintings based on comic book panels that referenced the trippy, hallucinogenic quality of early-’60s underground comics, as well as the aesthetic of Andy Warhol’s soup can paintings and Ed Ruscha’s stoned-seeming word paintings.”

Of course, the connection between psychedelic rock and psych-visual art was closest when it came to album covers, posters and promotional materials.

As writer Rob Fitzpatrick notes, “Psychedelic rock thrived on the fertile cross-pollination between music and art.” He adds that “in the late ’60s you couldn’t move for mind-bending posters, album covers and handbills. Psychedelic imagery was everywhere, as were psychedelic drugs.”

The White Rabbit Chasing Its Colored Tail - Psychedelics in Art & Fashion | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

And while it’s hard to narrow it down, some of the most iconic examples of this connection between music and art come from the album covers of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland.

The Sgt. Pepper cover, in particular, is often cited as being one of the most influential and iconic album covers of all time. Designed by British pop artist Peter Blake and his then-wife Jann Haworth, the cover features a collage of 57 life-sized waxwork models of famous people.

As The Guardian explains, “The effect was disorientating: it created a hallucinatory sense of being able to step into the picture. You could see yourself reflected in John Lennon’s glasses, and there were hidden messages and symbols everywhere.”

Psychedelic Fashion – What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

It’s harder to say when psychedelic fashion started. Was it with The Beatles’ adoption of Indian clothing and Hare Krishna robes? Or was it the hippie movement of the late ’60s, which popularized tie-dye and batik?

It’s probably safe to say that psychedelic fashion is a result of the convergence of several different influences. As Vogue notes, “The hallmarks of psychedelic style—bright colors, wild prints, and exuberant embellishments—were a direct rebuke to the grayscale uniformity of postwar society.”

But one thing is for sure: psychedelic fashion has had a lasting influence on fashion today. As Harper’s Bazaar writes, “Many of the trends that we take for granted today were born out of the free-loving, drug-induced haze of the ’60s and ’70s.”

Tie-dye, for example, is now a staple of summer fashion. As Vogue explains, “What was once the purview of deadheads and raver girls has become a mainstay of the mainstream fashion industry.”

And it’s not just tie-dye. As Harper’s Bazaar notes, “The bohemian aesthetic of the ’60s and ’70s has infiltrated almost every corner of the fashion world.”

The fashion industry quickly co-opted the psychedelics and the aesthetic that came with them. In 1967, The Beatles caused a sensation when they appeared on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band dressed in colorful military uniforms designed by British boutique owner John Stephen.

As The Guardian explains, “It was a sign that fashion was moving away from the miniskirt-dominated London scene and towards a more international, cosmopolitan style.”

The following year, 1968, saw the launch of British designer Ossie Clark‘s first collection. As Vogue notes, his designs were “defined by their use of colorful, often psychedelic prints.”

Clark’s designs were hugely popular with celebrities and fashion icons of the time, including David Bowie, Twiggy, and Mick Jagger.

And it wasn’t just London. In New York, designers such as Betsey Johnson and Halston were also experimenting with psychedelia. As The Guardian notes, Johnson’s 1967 collection “featured tie-dye dresses, print minidresses, and paisley-print jumpsuits.”

Meanwhile, Halston’s 1968 collection featured “colorful caftans, print dresses, and wide-leg trousers.”

The influence of psychedelia on fashion can also be seen in the work of contemporary designers, so the influence of psych and its connection to rock music continues.

The Psychedelic Connection Between Music, Art, & Fashion Today

Psychedelic music, art, and fashion are all still very much alive and well today.

The connection between psych rock and psych art, reflected in album covers, for example, continues the trends that began in the ’60s. As Pitchfork points out, “Many of the best album covers of 2017 wouldn’t have looked out of place on a shelf in 1967.” Five years on, that trend has not changed much.

And it’s not just album covers. The connection between music and fashion was also evident at this year’s Coachella festival, where attendees showed up sporting psychedelic-inspired looks.

Whether the use of psychedelic drugs has changed since the ’60s is a moot point when it comes to the influence it had on the connection between music, art, and fashion. It seems that influence is here to stay.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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