Critical Mass

Critical Mass

1980-81, oil on canvas, 26" x 36"

"My grandfather used to say: 'Life is astoundingly short. To me, looking back over it, life seems so foreshortened that I scarcely understand, for instance, how a young man can decide to ride over to the next village without being afraid that--not to mention accidents--even the span of a normal happy life may fall far short of the time needed for such a journey.'"

--Franz Kafka,
from the short story "The Next Village"

A true relic from my college days, I like to think of this as a postcard from a foreign land I visited once. Being the death-defying young man most young men are, I dabbled with quite a few drugs back then, and this is literally what I saw one evening while taking acid, smoking pot and drinking beer with my roommates (the items in question displayed on the tabletop). What is lost here is the internally-generated glow encasing all the objects I saw, and the way my roommates, now looking like stretchable alien insects, spoke in a clicking sort of bug language. I awoke the next day and immediately sketched my impressions of the day, including a surreal trip outside, before I could forget the details. During my time painting this, I was amazed by how most people could immediately recognize my roommates in the painting despite their distortions. Although this was not the last evening I would spend recreating with this combination of drugs, I never again saw anything even remotely this bizarre. The painting has become like a postcard from some far away land, reminding me of a strange world I once visited. This is probably as close as I will ever come to realizing my childhood dream of visiting alien planets and meeting their inhabitants! The title is a play on words, meaning both the critical mass of chemicals required to induce the vision, as well as the religious connotation as a mass of critical significance, such as one might require as one meets death. To read the story behind this work in its entirety, click here.

All work displayed on this page © 1981, 2000 Rick Hines.
Material may not be used without the artist's written permission.