Mushrooms are an important part of San Francisco based artist Michael Campbell’s sculptures, vibrantly colored mixed media works that sprout these cryptic growths. In a recent short film about his work, Campbell shares that since childhood, his art has demonstrated an affinity for the divine nature of things. As he grew older, his curiosity developed into an obsession about the imminent death of all creatures, something that Campbell feels the mushroom perfectly embodies. In art and literature, mushrooms take on a variety of meaning; Alice in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll after he had experimented with mushrooms and the changes in size and time perception described in the book are characteristic effects of mushroom intoxication. It is also speculated that the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls saw mushrooms as the original sacrament of the eucharist, which formed the basis of early Christian doctrines, including the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In an email to Hi-Fructose, Campbell explained, “In essence, mushrooms are symbols of decomposition of dead, organic matter and of altered states of consciousness. They are tools of enlightenment and sometimes death by accidental poisoning. They have a history of use in both kitschy Christmas ornaments with gnomes and as entheogens by mushroom cults for spiritual practice.” He addresses these meanings in his figures like skeletons and statuettes of divine figures, each decorated with a variety of natural and fluorescent colored fungi. “I think that making physical things is a manifestation of your own psyche.”