heARTbeat: Gail Wight’s Spider Web Drawings

Inspired by a science experiment carried out in the late 1940s, artist/academic Gail Wight is spinning her own set of drug tales.

In 1948, the pharmacologist P.N. Witt did a well-known study in which he dosed spiders with pharmaceuticals, then set them loose in picture frames to spin webs. The study was repeated again by NASA in 1995.

Photos of original experiments: Effects of caffeine, LSD & hashish

In 2011, artist Gail Wight, who is an associate professor at Stanford, was inspired to create her own version, utilizing photographs from the original experiments.

Wight’s approach to her art has a strong scientific base. Much of her work deals with the intersection of the creativity of science and the poetics of art. Working solely with sunlight and a magnifying glass, Wight burned vellum to achieve these exquisite drawings of webs made by spiders under the influence.

Looking at the meticulous marks that trace the spiders’ drug-induced experiences, makes one think about our own processes of organization and production, not only drug influenced, but stress and fatigue-fed.

Solar Burn; Benzadrine

Solar Burn; Marijuana

Solar Burn; LSD

Solar Burn; Chloral Hydrate

Especially interesting is caffeine (below), which most of us ingest regularly, and maybe now with more thought about its repercussions on our work. Looking at the effects of other drugs, the meticulous LSD spider trip is maybe the most fascinating for observing possible OCD, Chloral Hydrate for the biggest space-out, and marijuana for sort of losing one’s way along the path.

Solar Burn; Caffeine

Inspired by:  Tessa Wilcox

Images via Gail Wight


Eco, trends, art, creativity and how they tumble through social media to shape culture fascinate EcoSalon columnist Dominique Pacheco. Her personal blog, mixingreality, speaks to these topics daily, and here at EcoSalon, she takes a weekly look at the intersection of eco and art. We call it heARTbeat.

Dominique Pacheco

Dominique Pacheco is the author of EcoSalon's weekly heARTbeat column.