Since its adoption as a mind altering substance, LSD has been soaked into sheets of paper, which is a primary and most efficient method of distribution. Rip off a piece, place it in your mouth, and travel through Wonderland for about eight hours or so. To add character to their own “brand” of LSD, dealers print recognizable designs on these perforated sheets, giving birth to what is known as “blotter paper”.
San Francisco’s Institute of Illegal Images is a museum that showcases the unique art on which LSD has been distributed over the past 40 years, and features over 30 million hits of real LSD on these paper sheets. Featuring the Mad Hatter or fine art, perhaps a psychedelic vision of John Lennon or a Hindu god… or Homer Simpson, blotter paper has become its own style of artistic endeavor, not just serving as container for the drug itself but encapsulating the culture and mindset of the scientists, distributors and users and the rebellious paradigm-shifting culture in which they all thrive.
Mark McCloud, who dropped his first hit in 1967, personally curates the collection at the Institute of Illegal Images. Equipped with a Masters of Fine Art, he’s also shown pieces of his collection in a San Francisco rock (music) gallery and the Psychedelic Solution in New York City, and he blows up blotter sheets into non-psychoactive versions of 35×35″ posters for a show called Blotter Barn. Even the FBI tunes into his collection to learn a thing or two.
He claims LSD pioneers had been discussing and experimenting with blotter paper since the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that people realized they could immerse whole sheets of paper into liquid LSD. That’s when the unique imagery started to appear on these sheets.
One of the first popular designs was of Mr. Natural, an old comic character. And of course, Alex Grey’s psychedelic artwork (his piece “Bardo Being” pictured below) couldn’t escape the blotter phenomenon.
Early on, McCloud got into producing his own blotter paper for about 15 years because his friend, a blotter artist, had been busted and locked up.
Perhaps his most stunning design features Alice (from Alice and Wonderland) breaking the fourth wall by climbing out of the sheet.
Of course, being involved with LSD in America has its own perils. He’s been to trial twice, but legally maneuvered his way out of any prison time. Not everyone is so lucky. His friend, a blotter artist, spent 10 years in San Quentin for partaking in the craft.
McCloud’s collection is perhaps the biggest publicly accessible collection of blotter on the planet, serving as a rival to even the FBI’s massive storehouse. Know more.