In this interview we continue our conversation with Rebecca Ann Hill and David Jay Brown, authors of the new book Women of Visionary Art, and discuss the rise of women and the importance of ecological awareness in the context of visionary art and psychedelic use. To read the first part of our conversation, click here.
Wesley Thoricatha: We touched a little bit on ecology and the importance of ecological awareness in our last conversation. What is your take on how psychedelics and visionary art can contribute to these causes?
David Jay Brown: Psychedelics are especially important right now because one of the things they tend to do is increase ecological awareness and make people profoundly aware of their interconnection to the environment. For example, a high percentage of people who do ayahuasca are shown to get involved with environmental projects. With the scary looming prospects of climate change and ocean acidification and pollution, psychedelics are one of the keys to making people more ecologically aware. We as a species, and the whole biosphere, are in terrible danger right now.
Rebecca Ann Hill: …and the coral reefs are dying.
DJB: It’s a scary time right now from an ecological perspective, and psychedelics are the only thing I know of that can turn someone around literally overnight, like Scrooge in the Christmas Carol. Someone can go from being a cigar-puffing CEO destroying the rainforest to starting to work on ecology projects that need to happen. That’s one of the main reason these things are so vital and so important right now in history.
WT: It’s clear to us who are well versed in this field how psychedelics help make people more connected to nature and sympathetic with ecological causes. Would you say that visionary art can help with that too? Would it be simply because the art is reflecting the psychedelic experience, or does it have virtue in and of itself to instill ecological awareness in people?
DJB: That’s a really great question. I think the visionary art itself can be a psychedelic experience. You don’t need to imbibe anything to be moved; you just need to be absorbed in the painting. You stare into a very well done piece of visionary art long enough and you start to experience what the painter was experiencing when she was inspired to do that painting. There is some kind of mirror-neuronal process going on, and you start to empathically experience the artist’s consciousness. If you’ve ever had a psychedelic experience, and even if you haven’t, you can start to resonate very strongly with the painting.
When I look at an ayahuasca painting or some other beautiful piece of visionary art, I feel the interconnectedness that the painter felt with nature and everything that exists. This is one of the main themes in visionary art, and I think it can be transferred to the person who is viewing the art. The painting itself can actually instill a psychedelic experience.
WT: Wouldn’t it be a fascinating study to look at the effects of certain psychedelics on people, and then to look at the effects of a visionary painting on people, and see if they are experiencing the same generalized effects, but just at a different level?
DJB: Yeah, now wouldn’t that be a great study. That would be wonderful… I’m not sure it’s ever been done.
WT: The next thing I want to ask is, there are a ton of great visionary artists out there, both men and women. What inspired you to just feature women in this volume? Which I think is awesome, but I’m just curious how you arrived there.
DJB: When we did this book, we had no idea that the publication was going to coincide with the Me Too movement and all the women voted into Congress and this incredible rising right now of women to power and the understanding of how important it is to integrate the female perspective into the collective.
RAH: When I first starting painting and I was really wanting to reach into the minds of other artists, I noticed that there was this whole ancient and modern tradition of visionary art. I started getting really immersed in that culture and becoming friends with a lot of the women that we eventually interviewed. I noticed that a lot of the men that I was friends with were having their work showcased in large galleries, and I didn’t really see that same trend with the women. With David’s experience of interviewing people and all of his previous books, I thought we should try to interview these ladies and make a book of it and showcase their work. That’s how it happened from the get-go.
DJB: As we were talking before about the ecological crisis on the planet, I think that this problem was largely caused by men. Part of the problem on the planet right now is male dominance of politics and corporate ownership in many of the big decisions that are made. Women need to be more involved in the decision making. Men tend to be more competitive and women more cooperative. I think that’s one thing that’s really missing from the global picture right now.
WT: Yeah, and I feel like it comes across in the artwork too. There’s a sort of a masculine style of visionary art and a more feminine style. With women artists, you tend to see the female form more— you see eggs, more natural and Gaian imagery. Sometimes the Kali energy!
DJB: Right, and visionary art in general tends to have a more feminine aspect to it.
RAH: With more waves and organic forms.
DJB: The fact that everything usually blends into everything else, the interconnectedness… qualities like this I see as more feminine.
WT: Yeah, and I love it. There are many ways of looking at the crises of the world right now, but the imbalance of the masculine over the feminine is a very valid and succinct way of looking at it. So putting these women visionaries at the forefront is absolutely fantastic.
RAH: Thank you, and it’s weird that as this book was being made, the Me Too movement and other women’s movements were happening right around that time.
DJB: It’s like we were part of something bigger than us. There was this huge wave that was culminating in the collective mind to bring women more to the forefront. I think that’s what is happening right now on a major level. Women, I think, will save the world.