Stanley ”Mouse Miller” is one of a select few surviving , legendary graphic artists of the West Coast Hippie era. With the recent death of friend and associate Alton Kelley the genre is fading and Kelley’s passing may define the end of a long strange trip.
The Mouse Studios production was an eccentric blend of Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Pop Art ,Modernism, Cartoons, Hot Rod Art, Americana and all and none of the above. The curvilinear forms were enhanced by ”whiplash ” motifs, colorful scrolls, swirls, spirals and exaggerated lettering; a beautiful chaos built on dense layers of small details.
In effect this psychedelic art was not a reaction to an existing form. It is an art form that is a manifestation of the intense LSD experimentation of that era . This acid art is out of fashion today and lacks a purpose to re-define itself. The distinctive and memorable images require time and material as well industrial doses of hullucinatory substances.For example, the homemade typesetting was painstakingly long without any computer software. Miller and Kelly are best known for rock posters and album graphics including the Grateful Dead’s signature ” skull and roses” among many others.
After high school expulsion, Miller moved to Southern California and began painting professionally in 1958 with car painting and air brush designs on t-shirts carburated by Hot Rod Art and Dick Dale style surf-metal music. He eventually met Alton Kelley, a collage artist in Haight-Ashbury in the mid 60′s at a collective group home. They both gained notoriety with their handbills and promotional material from the art and musical happenings scene centered around the Avalon and Fillmore in San Francisco.
Miller and Kelley’s methodology involved researching library archives of old etchings and photos and employing them with elements of other art movements, all with the youth culture in mind. It was the American melting pot eight miles high on a psychotropic voyage: ”It was a furious time, but i think most great art is created in a furious moment” he told the Associated Press.
Aldous Huxley has spoken about LSD, peyote and mescaline in terms of ”permitting one to have an extraordinary view of life which you would not have had in any other way”. This Brave New World would allow the artist to introduce themselves into and out of the realm and habitation that a Van-Gogh or Blake continually occupied. However, other studies show a negative correlation between creativity and acid trips. Ken Kesey, author of ”The Electric Cool Aid Acid Test” has confirmed the tradeoff between damage to health form hullucinatory consumption and the creative benefits.
Their original 5$ handbills often given away now sell for thousands to art collectors who compare them to the masters of French ”belle epoque art” such as Toulouse-Lautrec. Miller and Kelly lacked the financial and legal acumen to profit from their creativity, and lost many contracts after corporate interests assumed a more comprehensive role in the recording industry.