Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

I don’t do drugs.

2012 . 02 . 20 - Comments / Commentaires (9)

I don’t. I don’t even drink alcohol or caffeine.

beach dot

The closest I’ve come to drug use was when I lived with a couple of stoners a few years ago. In the mutual interview process before they moved in, I was sure to mention that our house wasn’t a party house—that my brother drank but never had lots of people over, that neither of us did drugs, and that we weren’t interested in living with people who did. The soon-to-be housemates had been charming throughout our conversation, and they didn’t switch gears then. “No problem!” they assured me.

I soon learned that this is something that some drug users do. Their reality morphs and shifts depending on the situation, so they didn’t even feel like they were lying to me, just that I’d misunderstood them for some inexplicable reason.

Truly, living with those stoners was an education in purposeful vegging. They saw their role as vital. They believed that the world would be better off if everyone just smoked weed like them. When I tried to explain that if everyone was stoned all the time there wouldn’t be anyone coherent enough to work the Taco Bell that they liked to frequent at all hours of the morning, reality slipped again, and they insisted that I would totally get how it would all work if I would just get high.

feather in sand

Not a pretty picture. In fact, it’s a lot like how religion tends to work.

After all, a lot of religious-types are really good at shifting reality. For example, ask a traditionally Christian woman about the gender disparities inherent in her religion and you’ll end up on a logical merry-go-round:

God is everything. 
God is a He. 
Jesus teaches us that all people are equal.
And that’s pretty awesome considering He’s a guy. 
Jesus is the son of God, but He’s also God.
God is everything. 
But God is still a He, not a she or even an it.
God is certainly not a transgendered man.
Don’t try to define God: He is perfection.

That the statements contradict each other does not matter. It you don’t get it, you don’t have faith.

Which brings me to the “everyone should do it” thing that drug users do. Believers are notorious for this, only their high is hard to reach and rather elitist: faith is something that you have to want, but, no matter how much you want it, you’ll only achieve it once the deity chooses to bless you with it.

Religion and drugs. Both fascinating and both things that I love reading about but not partaking in.

beach foam

Of course, I won’t claim to be clean. Drugs and religion are definitely linked, but art should be grouped with them too.

I’m not trying to be cute by comparing my career choice to chemical mood-enhancers and cults. This isn’t me going on again about how I have the coolest job ever. This is me admitting that art-making can be dangerous to the maker and often ends up being annoying to others. 

For one thing, I definitely hide from the world in my studio, just like some people choose drugs as their sanctuary and others insulate themselves in a community and a text. Not everything that I do in the name of art-making is good for my mental state either. A lot of it is, but not all of it.

As for the changing of reality that drugs and religion do so well, why that’s the whole reason for art! What’s more, I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if everyone embraced their creativity.

In the end, I think that art differentiates itself from drugs and religion by encouraging exploration and critical thinking, but the striking similarities stand. It doesn’t matter so much what you choose: art, drugs, religion, they’re all about how you see your purpose in the world.

- Opinionated and open
- Institutional backing and artistic vision
- Artists are future-makers.

CATEGORIES: - English - TOP POSTS - Feminism - Philosophy - Photography -

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(9) Comments / Commentaires: I don’t do drugs.

-- Allie -- 2012 . 02 . 20 --

Agree with much in this post.  Some of my thoughts while reading-
Drugs, religion, all types of art release happy brain chemicals in users.  It’s what brings all a PROFIT, too.
You did not touch on this but I wonder if you agree - I intensely dislike the stereotype that all artists use drugs or that drugs make you more creative.  I personally think that many artists out there are creative despite drugs, not because of them.  Thoughts?

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 02 . 20 --

Absolutely!  The stereotype of the drug-using artist has some basis in life, but I can’t help but feel that the artists who “medicate” themselves into a creative state have somehow disconnected from an essential aspect of creation.  That or their drug use is more about covering for their fear of failure…

And as for the connection to profit, you are so right.  What makes these things valuable is the good feelings they inspire regardless of their less than positive side effects.

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-- cory huff -- 2012 . 02 . 20 --

I think that perhaps each of these things should be judged by their fruits.

Art inspires, moves to action, fascinates and brings joy. Alternately, it can inspire hate, blind obedience, and consumerism.

The same can be said for mind altering substances and religions. There good and bad in each area. It’s the choices we make with them that matter.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 02 . 20 --

@ Cory: I like how you put that (about the choices we make).  Even though I still think that art tends to be better—more open, more tolerant, more questioning—than drugs or religion, I am very aware that all three are intricately linked, and I believe that it would be a good thing if that connection were acknowledged more widely.

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-- Vaianu Hunter -- 2012 . 02 . 21 --

Il a des extrêmes qui peuvent se rencontrer. Mais ces extrêmes, peuvent-ils soutenir une quelconque définition ou être représentatifs du domaine dans lequel ils apparaissent?
L’intégriste religieux n’est pas la religion, l’artiste reclus dans son atelier et camé jusqu’à l’os n’est pas l’art…
Vous avez raison de croiser religion, drogue et art car ils permettent à différent degré une certaine forme d’introspection et c’est dans l’éventail des possibles que propose cette introspection qu’il nous faut choisir. Ce sont effectivement nos choix qui comptent.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 02 . 22 --

C’est vrai que les extrêmes ne représentent pas toute l’expérience d’une chose, mais elles font partie de la chose quand même.  Elles aident à décrire les limites de la chose—du moins, elles nous aident à décider ce que l’on considère comme les limites, personnellement…

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-- Seth Harding -- 2012 . 02 . 23 --

I am doing a art activity in class. i am only 13 years old however I wished to thank you for the information-rich text that was sprawled in an abundance on these pages. In class I was asked to make a portrait of myself and I was intrigued by your artwork. i am allowed to use any medium, and I wanted to ask how and what I should use to complete my portrait. Thank You!

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-- Seth Harding -- 2012 . 02 . 23 --

I apologize for my grammar mistakes.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 02 . 23 --

Thank you, Seth!  I paint with acrylics on stretched canvas or panel.  All the posts in this section of my blog show process images of my work and might answer some of your questions about the technique I use.

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