Winter 2006-7 Vol. 16, No. 3 Low Maintenance, High Performance
Albert, of course, will always be present as part of the higher state of consciousness he helped birth in us all. With that in mind, I must mention that the first time I met Albert I blurted out ‘Father!” as he opened the door of his home in Burg, Switzerland. My beloved Martina and Dieter Hagenbach, who introduced us to Albert that day, were somewhat embarrassed by my unexpected and slightly weird outburst. But, as Albert was responsible for the re-birthing of a consciousness in deep-sleep, I believe I could not have been more honest in my spontaneity. And what a pleasure, a joy(!), to meet this man who became the alembic for the alchemical sacrament that empowered a generation in-waiting. That first meeting took place in 1996, and for the past 10 years, as we drive through Switzerland on our way to Spain, Martina and I make sure we spend a day with Albert and Anita, sharing new art and recent adventures, entheogenic and otherwise, while walking through the gardens and fields where Albert can name every plant, herb and other of nature’s variations in the beautiful environment that he calls home. This year was no exception, but it did mark a very special occasion as I introduced Albert to my recently finished portrait of him. In a way this painting is a culmination, or a crossing point, in the spiral of the creative dynamic LSD instilled in me that night (and many nights and days thereafter) in New York 41 years ago. Never having picked up a paint brush, acid commanded I do so, and then proceeded to provide a few other-worldly visitations and inspirations, then put me together with masters Mati Klarwein and Ernst Fuchs to learn some technical magic, and, with that in mind and hand, I’ve been attempting to externalize those phantasmagorical worlds in form and color ever since. And here was my paternal alchemist, Albert, gazing upon his portrait with pleasure-filled approval! What more of a reward, what maximum honor, could I ever hope to receive?
I once mentioned to Albert that he is surely one of the 20th century’s greatest revolutionaries. “That’s very kind, and perhaps overstated,” he responded.
“However, whatever recognition I have received from the public comes primarily from my association with LSD. But I have also discovered the compounds Ergometrine and Metrogine, both of which prevent post-partum hemorrhage, saving a number of lives of woman during childbirth. Hydergine, which stimulates oxygen flow to the brain, relieving symptoms of deteriorating mental capacity, is also another discovery of mine. And I consider these discoveries equally important as LSD-25. These are also kinder, but perhaps not as problematic.” It should also be mentioned that Albert synthesized psilocybin, and when he presented the compound to Maria Sabina, she assured him that it had the exact same spirit as in nature’s psilocybin. Albert said that he has always regretted that the potential of LSD as a psychotherapeutic aid and/or cure for various ailments and addictions was short-circuited in the 1960s by governmental interdiction and prohibition following LSD’s rapid, widespread and uncontrollable dissemination. The horror! Reports of trippers jumping out of windows trying to fly; hair on men growing below their shoulders, the devil’s lance of Hofmann and Leary impaling the souls of innocent children; and most threatening of all, a generation was discovering a spiritized individuality, contesting greed and war, and, horror of horrors, enjoying sex, drugs and rock and roll!
Once LSD became a Schedule I drug, Albert was saddened at the ensuing loss of the unlimited potential of his demonized “problem child.” However, it’s so satisfying to know that he has survived the barbs of ignorance and stultifying limitation, and is here to see a wonderful, long-hoped-for turnaround. Fast-forward to present-day Switzerland, where, after years of forced hibernation, the subdued promise that LSD held is now being re-awakened by Dr. Peter Gasser’s proposed MAPS-sponsored LSD-assisted psychotherapy research, which would be the first clinical trial evaluating the therapeutic use of LSD in several decades. This study will move ahead with financial support from MAPS through various channels of donation and fund-raisers, including portions of the limited edition print sales of my portrait of Albert Hofmann. In regards to the portrait, which I had been working on this past Spring, I spent time considering what stage of life I should represent Albert. I thought back to a visit we had with him in 2000, and how impressed I was with his regal profile and enthusiastic energy at that time. How inspiring to know that one could maintain such a youthfulness at 94 years of age! And so, with oil paint, I’ve tried to capture that handsome, leonine structure, along with the accoutrements of a magic garden, the molecular structures of LSD, psilocybin and DMT, and a halo of form and energy.
I spent approximately 100 hours painting the portrait of Albert, working in both my Boulder, Colorado, and Cadaques, Spain studios. As any artist will attest, painting a portrait is a major challenge, with each stroke within the framework of the face, especially the eyes, nose and mouth, demanding absolute concentration. One or two wayward strokes and the artist struggles to regain the magic. The challenge is not so much to re-create an acceptable resemblance-that’s the easy part-but to capture with brush and paint the soul essence of the one being painted. No small feat.
I told Albert at that time, during the Millennium, that we would be celebrating his 100th birthday with him in six years, and so it has come to pass. This year I mentioned that we would next celebrate 101, and beyond, with him. And, so I expect, if not here in this realm, then surely at the crossroads of eternity and infinity. •
Editor’s Note *
Robert Venosa’s portrait of Albert Hofmann is now available as a full-color print in a limited edition of 50 exemplars. Printed on archival, acid-free Somerset Velvet paper, these prints measure 27"x 33", with a 23′ x 28" image area. They are pencil-signed by both Robert Venosa and Albert Hofmann, and numbered 1/50 through 50/50. A Certificate of Authenticity, signed by the artist, accompanies each print.
To purchase or for information regarding available prints, contact MAPS at email@example.com or phone (831)336-4325, or visit www.maps.org/catalog