As we did with church, going for a Sunday drive was a family ritual of ours. On one fateful Sunday, back in the summer of 1972, while driving through rural Wisconsin with my Dad, my black and white world turned Technicolor.
We often did not have a destination. We would drive through the counties that surround Milwaukee and enjoy the country. We would often stumble across festivals, events, or perhaps a carnival. Such was the case that day we stopped at a carnival in Germantown. The carnival had your typical rides, food vendors and midway games. I asked my Dad if I could play the darts and he said yes. Pop! I got the balloon and won. My prize, I got to select a poster. There was one that was the coolest thing I had ever seen, so I picked it. I liked the colors. This was the beginning of my life long obsession with psychedelic art. This was the rabbit hole I climbed into. This was the door I opened, went inside, and have never returned.
The poster’s main character was Timothy Leary floating in a dripping sun above a hippy filled mushroom valley. The top read ‘Timothy Leary for Governor of California’. The bottom read ‘Come Together…Join The Party!’. I just recently learned the history behind the poster. How I ended up with a copy defied all odds. It was meant to be. For this was one of the rarest black light posters ever produced.
In 1969, Timothy Leary ran for the governor of California against Ronald Reagan. John Lennon wrote the song ‘Come Together’ for Leary which became his campaign slogan. Psychedelic artist Joe Roberts Jr. was commissioned to create a campaign poster and a limited number were printed. In 1970, when Leary was jailed, without bail, to prevent him from running (and possibly winning) against Reagan, the poster was never mass produced or distributed. This poster masterpiece, brilliant and striking, was Leary’s original campaign poster printed on thick stock measuring 28.5”x20.5”. How a copy ended up in Germantown, Wisconsin baffles me. What I do know is that it has hung on my walls ever since and has influenced almost every painting I’ve ever done. It also, with the aid of certain chemical agents, took my mind and eyes into lands I am not capable of describing with words. It is my inability to use words to express and describe these experiences which first made it necessary for me to paint and draw. To this day, it is the reason I create art. Art has become the tool to try to record events and places I have traveled alone. It is surely a humble and feeble effort at best. My artwork is but a few snapshots of a vast dimension of spectacular beauty, horror and magnificent glory. I will never be able to capture things correctly, but I still feel it is important to try.
The poster has become quite valuable these days. A copy recently sold on eBay for $1250. I will never sell mine, it is priceless, as is my love for the psychedelic art of Joe Roberts Jr. As for me, I’ve never ‘dropped out’ of society as Timothy Leary once suggested. I do however, still occasionally do my resource….for art’s sake.