Substance-Free Psychedelics | High Art

Fluidly paintings of mushrooms and melting women mark the surreal work of Lauren Young Smith.

by Hannah Stouffer
13 March 2016, 7:10pm

Hairanoia, Ink and watercolor on panel, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist

The connection between the influence of an outside substance and the creation of hallucinatory art is an easy one to pass off with assumption. Realistically, we're all wired differently, and some, like Lauren YS (Lauren Young Smith), just have that natural psychotropic touch. Her fluid, surreal work lends itself to the genre of blacklight posters and drug use.

We caught up with YS to hear her take on the psychedelic association that he work sometimes offers. “I was pretty straight-edge throughout high school,” YS tells The Creators Project. “My work has just always been a little on the weirder side. I was heavily influenced by psychedelic bands like The Flaming Lips from an early age, and their aural aesthetic sort of bled into my visuals. It's not surprising that people sometimes assume that my art is influenced by psychedelics/substances. I was always a bit apprehensive about getting into any of that because I didn't want anything to dilute my psychology and its relationship with my aesthetic..”


Growing Up, Ink and acrylic on paper, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist

Despite her highly trippy content, there is a definite distinction between what YS is taking in and her creative output. “It's cool when people can tap into new veins of creative energy or expand their fields of vision—but there are so many different ways to do that. Drugs, exercise, traveling, sex, reading, poetry, music, late night conversations, hypnosis, dreams, games, watching Pee-wee's Playhouse... We all have our things.”


Mushroom Hunter, Ink, colored digitally, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist

She continues, “My work is really separate from my recreational life. Mushrooms make their debut in some of my work, but they're not meant to explicitly represent psychedelic mushrooms. I just really love mushrooms in general—as organisms, as food items, as art objects. They have gills, and through their gills they literally release spores into the earth to reproduce. That is fucking cool."


Hive, Ink and watercolor on panel, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist

“It's nice that if you were to happen to have, say, some kind of interdimensional flight of the night, that can feed your work in new and weirdo ways—we are lucky as artists to be able to draw inspiration from those kinds of experiences—but it's not as if inspiration can't also come in full and overwhelming magical flumes from a walk in the desert or a bath or a conversation in a park with a stranger.” YS says, “It never really occurred to me to work under the influence, and now I feel I probably should at some point, but I bet it wouldn't produce any earth-shattering results. People are always surprised by that. I kind of wonder what would happen if I did, though, since my stuff is weird already. Maybe I would just start making really, really boring art. Like super realistic landscapes of Idaho…”

Recently, YS has been swept into the motion of travelling for her work, painting and exhibiting across the globe. “Right now I'm in New Zealand painting at the Museum of Transport and Technology with Pangeaseed, a nonprofit organisation focused on creating artwork for the purpose of activism, especially geared towards dispelling knowledge about environmental issues.” She concludes, “I'm headed to Napier to paint a piece on protecting hammerhead sharks next week... I want my work to be more immersive; so trying to think more outside the second dimension, you know.”

Click here to visit Lauren YS' website. 


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High Art
Lauren YS
Lauren Young Smith