Ken Kesey: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Ken Kesey, the artistic “Pied Piper” of the psychedelic era, is best known for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, a novel set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital — considered to be one of the best English-language novels ever written. Kesey’s bond with drugs was formed during his time in the creative writing program at Stanford University, during which he volunteered as a subject in experiments involving newly discovered hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD. The experimentation took place at a psychiatric hospital near the school (starting to see the connection here?) where Kesey would spend much of his time talking to the patients, sometimes under the influence of mind-altering substances. This is where he developed the concepts for his groundbreaking novel. Later on he would become the leader of a group of friends and artists, dubbed the Merry Pranksters, that drove from San Francisco to New York in a brightly colored bus while experimenting with the same substances. This same event would become the subject of writer Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: Untitled (Head)
Basquiat employed several types of drugs while creating his works of art. An earlier girlfriend of his was quoted in The Guardian as saying that the “little tiny detailed paintings” are his “cocaine paintings”; and ones with larger, more dramatic brushstrokes came out of his heroin use, the drug that would kill him when he was just 27.
Francis Crick: The Double Helix
Innovation in the world of science relies on artistry – and what’s more artful than the molecular structure that defines and makes up the human body? Francis Crick, of the Watson, Crick and Franklin team that discovered the structure of DNA, reportedly discussed experimenting with LSD while formulating the concepts that led to its discovery. A Cambridge contemporary of Crick’s, Gerrod Harker even spoke with the Daily Mail about university researchers occasionally using small amounts of LSD as “a thinking tool.” Supposedly Crick told Dick Kemp, a friend he had in common with Harker, that he had “perceived the double-helix shape while on LSD.” Bet you’ll never look at the beautiful shape the same way again!