UK Happenings

Gaines Center’s Breathitt Lecture to examine blotter art movement

Josh Cola

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 21, 2024) – Josh Cola, a University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts senior, has been selected to give the 29th annual Edward T. Breathitt Undergraduate Lectureship in the Humanities. Cola’s lecture will explore Mark McCloud's departure from the blotter art movement of the 1990s.

“A Hit of Nostalgia – Mark Mccloud’s Through the Looking Glass and Blotter Art in the 1990s” will be presented at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4, in the Davis Marksbury Building. Cola is an art history major from Aurora, Ohio.

“The Breathitt lecture is our annual opportunity to publicly showcase some of the amazing undergraduate humanities scholarship taking place on our campus,” Richard H. Schein, acting director of the Gaines Center for the Humanities, said. “We are excited to hear Josh’s art historical treatment of Blotter Art and 1960s counterculture nostalgia.”

Established to honor an eminent Kentuckian and an outstanding UK alumnus whose interest in higher education and the humanities was exceptional, this lectureship is awarded to an undergraduate whose qualities of mind and spirit have been expressed eloquently on one or more of the basic concerns of the humanities.

In 1993, blotter art collector and artist Mark McCloud created Through the Looking Glass. Blotter art was a printing technique where the artist would print an image on highly absorbent blotter paper and infuse the paper with a liquid version of the LSD drug, or acid. This process would result in edible art, an LSD tab containing a printed image. Through the Looking Glass uses images from Lewis Carroll’s original novel, Through the Looking Glass (1871), which had permeated 1960s San Francisco counterculture due to its psychoactive elements and characters. However, the blotter art piece Through the Looking Glass is unusual from other works of blotter art in that this print never contained LSD and that blotter art had fallen out of popularity by the 1990s. 

This talk investigates the unusual circumstances of McCloud’s Through the Looking Glass. Through analyzing its ties to the modern blotter art community, the original novel’s illustrations, and McCloud’s life story, this lecture explores why this print never held LSD, and how the lack of acid in blotter art affects the significance of the piece, especially in regards to nostalgia for the counterculture of the 1960s.

"Josh’s paper, originally completed for the capstone seminar in Art History & Visual Studies, examines the curious transformation of the printed blotter sheets, which were used in the 1960s as delivery vehicles for LSD, into highly desirable collectibles associated with the psychedelic counterculture," Anna Brzyski, director of Graduate Studies for Art History & Curatorial Studies, said. "His highly original case study bridges traditional art history and visual studies to examine how nostalgia for the 1960s underpinned the emergence of the market for blotter art in the 1990s."

Admission to the event is free and open to the public. To reserve your spot, click here. To livestream the event click here:

The Breathitt Lectureship is presented by the Gaines Center for the Humanities. The student speaker is chosen through an application process that includes a lecture proposal submitted by the student to an independent committee of readers.

Founded in 1984 by a generous gift from John and Joan Gaines, the Gaines Center for the Humanities functions as a laboratory for imaginative and innovative education on UK's campus. The center is devoted to cultivating an appreciation of the humanities in its students and faculty. The Gaines Center embraces varied paths of knowledge and particularly strives to integrate creative work with traditional academic learning.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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