According to Insider, prolific artist Bryan Lewis Saunders set out to expand his self-knowledge and understanding through art. To do this, he created the art series, “Under The Influence,” which includes a multitude of self-portraits, which he painted at least once a day starting in March of 1995, while under the influence of every different type of drug he could get his hands on.
The Washington, D.C.-born artist said on his website that, while he is still conducting this experiment, he is doing so “over greater lapses of time” and only on “drugs that are prescribed to [him] by a doctor.” The daily dose of different narcotics took a toll on his mental and physical health, but the negative effects were not permanent.
This is not the only extreme art experiment that the artist has done. He has also deprived himself of certain senses, like talking, hearing, and seeing, and then created self-portraits. In Europe in 2014, he performed in an art installation titled, “Under the Influence of Torture,” which involved him being strapped to a chair and receiving electric shocks. He stated on his website that he was shocked by politicians who signed off on torture of the kind he experienced, but “knew full well that [the] acts would end and that [he] had final control over them.” The purpose of the art perform was to shed light on the fact that 200 countries still practice and use torture in wartime and questioning.
His self-portraits on drugs truly represent the different effects each drug has. In his self-portrait on Adderall, he depicted himself as a snake. While on DMT, he split himself into two sections, one very elaborate with detailed parts, and the other mostly just scribbles and circles. On Vicodin, he drew his entire body with his face melted into a large puddle. The most frightening, perhaps, is his self-depiction while on bath salts, where he looks like an extra in the film, The Hills Have Eyes.
On his website, Saunders said that this experiment was started after he “experience[ed] drastic changes in [his] environment,” that caused him to look “for other experiences that might profoundly affect my perception of self.” He most definitely succeeded in altering his self-perception; however it is uncertain if that perception lasted day-to-day and changed as quickly as his drug-intake, or if the self he was exposed to has completely altered his permanent viewpoint.