A number of artists have attempted to render the striking visual experiences that occur after ingesting ayahuasca or DMT. In the Upper Amazon, there are both indigenous artists, whose traditional work consists largely of abstract patterns, such as those found on the now well-known pottery, clothing, and other household goods of the Shipibo; and visionary artists, mostly mestizo, whose work is characterized by detailed representations of spirits, trees, animals, objects, and participants in ayahuasca healing ceremonies. These latter works fall almost paradigmatically within what has now come to be called outsider art, sometimes naïve art, and sometimes visionary art — direct, intense, content-laden, narrative, enormously detailed, personal, idiosyncratic, two-dimensional, and brightly colored. While indigenous artists work for the most part in anonymity, their work stigmatized as craft rather than art, the work of mestizo visionary artists has become much better known, largely through the publication, fully annotated and sumptuously reproduced, of the visionary paintings of former shaman Pablo César Amaringo.
Outside the Amazon, artists not born into or raised in indigenous or mestizo ayahuasca-using cultures, including such well-known visionary artists as Alex Grey, Robert Venosa, and Martina Hoffmann, have also rendered visual experiences attributed to the ingestion of ayahuasca or DMT. For want of a better term, I will call this body of work DMT art.
There are some remarkable convergences between DMT art and the abstract representations of the ayahuasca experience in indigenous Amazonian art. The indigenous work on the left, below, by Cashinahua artist Arlindo Daureano Estevão, represents the different worlds of the ayahuasca vision as houses with doors to be entered and paths linking the different contained spaces. This type of design is called nawan kene pua, or stranger’s design, since it is a map that keeps one from getting lost in the ayahuasca world. This abstract representation is strikingly reflected in the work on the right, below, entitled DMT, by photographer Peter Kosinski. It is difficult to say whether such convergences are due to acquaintance with indigenous art or to similarities in the visionary experience.
|Arlindo Daureano Estevão, Nawan Kene Pua||Peter Kosinski, DMT|
|Anonymous, Shipibo Woven Cloth||Vibrata Chromodoris, Emergence|
|Pablo Amaringo, Ayahuasca and Chacruna (Detail)||Robert Venosa, Ayahuasca Dream (Detail)|
|Cyril Lanier, Ayahuasca Vision of the Blue Perfume||Michael Jacobs, Ayahuasca Dream|
|Alex Grey, Ayahuasca Visitation||Roger Essig, DMT Entity|
|Martina Hoffmann, La Chacruna||Luke Brown, Pineal Feline|
|Dennis Konstantin, DMT Entity||Nisvan, Ayahuasca Vision (Detail)|
Another recurring motif we can call the wingspread. This is a pattern very similar to the wings of a moth or dragonfly. Below, for example, is a more or less typical moth — actually, the tobacco hornworm moth (Maduca sexta):
|Dennis Konstantin Last night I was Astro Dynamic (Detail)||Carey Thompson, Diosa Madre Tierra|
|Danny Gomez, DMT (Detail)||Robert Venosa, Yage Guide|
|Mariela de la Paz, Ayahuaska at the Gates of San Pedro||Alex Grey, Light Weaver|
|Alejandre Segrégio, Presente Divino (Detail)||Olga Spiegel, Rendezvous|