When it comes to art-heady, psychedelic art, we like to think there's something for everyone. Whether you're a pale metalhead or a tanned surfer, a comic book geek or a steampunk burner, the artists below will speak to your proverbial spirit animal. Let's be very clear here: We're not saying you have to be high or even should be high when checking out the artists below. We're just saying it's not going to hurt. Just don't stare too long.
THE BEACH BUM
The lysergic tones in the paintings of Kelsey Brookes are undeniable. The local artist meticulously applies dazzling colors and shapes to canvas resulting in a psychedelic surge of cathartic light. It’s made him one of the most successful local artists over the last decade with solo shows everywhere from Quint Gallery in La Jolla to Velmorbida Gallery in London. Much of his past work was figuratively based in biochemistry, a topic the avid surfer studied extensively in college and in a broader sense, by experimenting with hallucinogens. His recently released book, Psychedelic Space, features paintings of the molecular framework of things such as LSD, mescaline and, yes THC, but the North Park-based Brookes has never been limited in his approach. He’s currently working on a 19- foot commissioned mural for a building in Detroit as well as a solo show for the Library Street Collective in the same city which he says will depart from the more trippy work he’s done in the past. “Conceptually, everything has changed,” Brookes says. “I’ve stopped doing molecules. Right now, I’m painting patterns that are generated through number sequences, mostly through geometry. It ties in with the other works in the sense that it’s empirical-based concepts. They’re aligned, but they deviate a bit.” kelseybrookes.com
Self-proclaimed “necro-realist” David Gough likes to compare San Diego to a Fabergé egg: lovely and exquisite on the outside, but empty and dark on the inside. It’s easy to see that outlook in his highly evocative, but unquestionably bleak paintings that draw influences from Hieronymous Bosch, ’70s occultism and his own Catholic upbringing in Liverpool, England. “My style definitely doesn’t fit with a lot of the art people want to buy around here,” says Gough, who has a studio inside La Bodega Gallery space in Barrio Logan. “Nobody wants to come home and be greeted with eviscerations and mortal truths. They’d rather be looking at surf art and I get that, but I have my crowd and I’m happy with that.” Most of his work features fantastical elements, a la Heavy Metal, and bad tripstyle depictions of religious extremism, and his “Man/Son” series was recently featured in the John Borowski documentary film, Serial Killer Culture. “It mostly runs the gamut, and by and large everyone is pleasant,” says Gough, when asked about his admirers. “Still, you’ll occasionally get someone who has a particular religious ax to grind, but I just remind them that they sit prostrate before a man who’s hanging from a cross and bleeding from every orifice so my stuff’s pretty tame in comparison.” davidgoughart.com
THE VISION QUESTER
Travis White, who goes by the rather munchie-friendly moniker Teddy Pancake, specializes in a unique brand of psychotropic pop-surrealism that has landed his work in the pages of High Times and on the walls of Thumbprint Gallery. And while the Poway native’s paintings seem perfectly suited for a blacklight, there are themes of existentialism and spirituality that make us think his work could appeal to a demographic outside of the desert-dwelling, Burning Man-types. “I’m kind of in the middle of a bunch of different genres,” says White. “It’s kind of dark, but it’s kind of cute. It’s not heavy metal enough for metallers, but it’s not sunshiny enough for the hippies. It just floats somewhere out there in the middle.” He says his style really took root in 2008 when he got burned out working in graphic design and wanted to let his “inner madness” come out a little bit. He’s made enough fans to where he’s now planning a crowd-funded line of merchandise that will include things such as patches and pins. Still, he hasn’t lost sight of where his art might sell best. “I’ve been talking with some of my buddies in head shops,” says White, referring to the stores that sell smoking paraphernalia. “I feel like it’s a good move for me.” teddypancake.com
Encinitas-based artist Mary Fleener has been working in the underground comic book scene since the ’80s on titles like Weirdo, Twisted Sisters and her own Slutburger, to her credit. Influenced by the likes of Zap Comix, Mad Magazine and Matt Groening’s early work, Fleener developed a bright, kinetic style that evokes both Picasso as well as Robert Crumb. She’s become a bit of a feminist legend at comic book conventions, but remains humble. “This was our industry and it didn’t offer riches, but it didn’t need to,” says Fleener when asked about her early days. “I have been fortunate enough that people seek me out and it’s enough to keep me busy and get published, but there is no money in it.” Her recent cover for Mineshaft, a comic and literary magazine is a great example of her style: vivid and bizarre with subtle touches of psychedelia and the “Golden Age” of comic books. Her work was just featured in a two-part, hardbound collection of the ’80s series Wimmen’s Comix and she’s also working on a graphic novel about her music career. At this point, Fleener says she knows her audience: “They’re people who don’t have money to buy art. Shit, they can barely afford rent and food.” maryfleener.com