We are honored and ever-so grateful to have Stanley Mouse, poster artist extraordinaire, in Edition #4, “Keeping Art Alive”. Mouse was kind enough to share some amazing artwork and photos, as well as some wonderful words and thoughts. Take it away, Stanley!
The ‘60s were a portal to an inner-dimensional multi universe, and possibly a door to parallel worlds. We were explorers of inner space. Being a psychedelic ranger, the big lesson from the Summer of Love was to not live by the dictates of a confused society, but to live by what spontaneously springs from your own spiritual nature.
We rejected the robot way of life dealt to us in the ‘50s and behaved like the noble beings that we really were. No longer marching to the beat of an authoritarian state but dancing to the rocking beat coming out of our inner original being. In that free state, we were not afraid of anything or anyone. We had found our primal origins. Anything could be achieved. We changed the face of advertising. We returned to organic food.
We found Love, the basis of all religion, and showed the world how to party doing good rather than war and destruction.
I could tell you stories on how fun the Summer of Love was.
Doing psychedelics and watching the molecules move in a rock, or how you could talk to animals or trees and transfer thoughts from mind to mind. Or I could tell you negative stories about bad drugs or being pushed out of my studio by the Diggers or how Bill Graham commercialized the scene or how we got dubbed ‘hippies’.
Instead, I will tell you about the more important result of the Summer of Love. How it changed the society and is still changing it today worldwide. How the commercial art world was never the same after the posters of the ‘60s. The psychedelic experience was a short cut to God. Exploring other dimensions, multi dimensions. Inner space. The door to the sub-conscience. Things got sorted out. You could get higher by meditating than on drugs. We thought about organic gardening. Foods without pesticides that caused sickness.
Sharing with your brothers and sisters. Taking care of them. Celebrating life instead of making war. Money wasn’t that important.
We danced a whole lot to some of the best bands in the history of music. Yes, there were bad scenes and bad trips — but overall a Renaissance.
A second coming that no one noticed.
Everybody asks, “Were you on acid when you did these posters and album covers?” It goes much deeper than that. It was a whole movement based on higher consciousness, or altered consciousness. The art reflected that movement. If I was on psychedelics when I was drawing or inking posters, the pencil would probably melt into the paper. Actually, Victor Moscoso said that! You need a clear mind to do poster or album cover art. It’s a complex medium. A great deal of planning and measurement goes into it. Working with Alton Kelley was one of my life’s greatest experiences. He was a lefty and I was right-handed, so we could sit at the drawing board and work on the same piece like a four-handed monster. Together we produced some of the most cosmic and funny art known to mankind. Haha!”
In 1967, I rented a storefront on Haight Street. Called it “Pacific Ocean Trading Company”. Aka POT CO.
Money was spare and there were many of us involved in the project. First thing that we acquired there was a button machine financed by Bill Buck. Made buttons of Janis Joplin from some photographic proof sheets and made enough money to buy a few loaves of bread and some cheese to make sandwiches so we could all eat.
Then we would sell handcrafts that people would make, like beaded necklaces and posters. We got some paint. Many colors to make it psychedelic. We left “Martoon, master of the mystic poobah”, to paint the shop. We came back in the morning and he painted it all brown. He said he worked up to brown the hard way.
In the street was a constant parade. Up and down the street. Drums. Cymbals. Bongs. Fire dancers. All kinds of musical instruments. A circus or a zoo!
Tour buses lined the street. One broke down in 90 degree heat. Tourists were afraid to get off the bus. No air conditioning. They were clawing at the windows in total fear. Military guys would don a wig to fit in and joined the party.
Sometimes we would lock the front door and line up chairs just to sit in there to watch the parade.
Somebody was planning a gathering of the tribes, a “Human Be In”. The Oracle asked me to do a poster and a cover for the event. Griffin did one also. Michael Bowen and Casey Sonnabend were contributors on my poster.
In my studio, there was a fellow named Tree. He was a silk screen artist. He ad silk screened some pot leaves that I did on flag material. We mounted them on tall poles. The morning of the Be-In, we all dropped acid and carried the flags from the Haight Street shop to Golden Gate Park. It was quite a walk and it started getting muddy. The acid was coming on and things were getting wobbly. The flagpoles turned into a cross.
I found myself carrying my cross into the event. My feet muddy and my head part on earth and part in heaven. I wanted somebody to take my cross from me. Everyone refused. I became desperate and started to freak out. Something I never experienced before on acid. I always had wonderful trips.
Bob Seidemann, a friend (famous for his Janis photograph and Blind Faith album cover) saw me in trouble and helped me back to my shop where we stayed for the rest of the day. We had a fun day on Haight Street, laughing about missing the Human Be-In.
LSD is like …
A mini judgement day.
A talk with Gabriel.
A powerful light on your soul
showing you your pure self.
Going to the mountain top
Seeing the earth as it rotates in infinity.
checking yourself rather than blaming others.
seeing the multi dimensions of this world.
Bathing in the glorious now.
It was a beautiful summer morning.
I had crashed that night in my studio on the 3rd floor of the Grateful Dead house. I woke up to some hauntingly beautiful music coming up from the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park. I jumped into my clothes and walked up to the park two blocks away. The music just got better and better the closer I came. It seemed to be only a solo guitar. It was early in the day and there was only a small group of people there dancing to the music, their eyes revealing that there was something special going on. I saw on the bed of a flatbed truck, Jimi Hendrix playing his guitar under the eucalyptus trees.
We all danced.
Jimi Hendrix was playing at the Fillmore ballroom! It was 1967 and I am sure almost everyone was tripping. Rick Griffin did the famous flying eyeball on the poster for the event. It was printed two up with the John Mayall poster I did for the next weekend. Hendrix rocked!
After the show was over a friend said to me, “Stanley, I am driving right past your studio. Do you want a ride?” I agreed since I was on foot. I jumped into the back seat and we took off. It was dark and I couldn’t tell who else was in the car and they were not talking much. On the way down the street, the lights lit up the car and I noticed that sitting next to me was Jimi Hendrix.
One thing you don’t do on acid is small talk when there are galaxies and centuries drifting thru our minds.
KELLEY and ME
I came to San Francisco from Detroit where I had been airbrushing thousands of sweatshirts at hot rod shows in different cities mostly in the east. My airbrush and drawing skills became amazing. I started to dabble with psychedelics and was searching for the next evolvement of my skills. San Francisco called to me like a siren out to sea. Hundreds of similar avatars gathered there. The City was pristine and antique and secondhand stores were full of Edwardian clothes ready for the picking. Bands were forming around a new music influenced by an anti-war sentiment and British and American rock and roll. It had a unique sound all to itself.
The San Francisco beatnik scene was on the wane and retiring to the Haight Ashbury — a cute little mom-and-pop store neighborhood. The bands were playing at parties in people’s houses. The parties got bigger and bigger until they started to rent halls for them. Kelley had come from Connecticut and teamed up with several people and called the group the Family Dog. They started putting on these party/dances and Kelley did some posters.
The story was they made some money on the dances so they went to Mexico to score some weed and when they got back, Chet Helms stepped in as business manager. Kelley became the art director. Kelley was a motorcycle mechanic also and I had a broken axel on my Porsche. I asked Kelley if he could try to fix it. He tried but couldn’t because of a lack of tools but we became good friends, and he gave me a poster job with the Family Dog. I moved into an old firehouse and set up a studio.
Kelley was an outrageous, excellent idea man. My hand was like an Olympic athlete. We did a poster together: the Zig-Zag poster. Bullseye!
One day Kelley and I were walking down the street in San Francisco’s financial district. Our long hair (we were called long hairs, not hippies) was blowing in the wind. Kelley said, “You know, there are at least 500 of us freaks here in SF.” Lol
We did a poster every week for around a year. We used to go to the SF Main Library to study the poster books there. While searching for an image to do in an up-and-coming Grateful Dead show, we came across a skeleton bathed in roses in a book of poems. Kelley cut it out with his pocket knife but we always told people that we zeroxed it. (There weren’t any xerox machines back then). By then we knew we had the tiger by the tail and we felt a real importance to what we were doing. We heard how some of the posters got to the Hermitage Museum. The dance/concerts kept getting bigger and better. People came from all over the world to experience the scene.
Great music. Great art. Everybody dancing. Edwardian/Carnaby costume/fashions.
Then the media picked up on it. Life magazine did an article on poster artists. I was in it. Kelley missed the photo shoot. But then Look did a spread and Kelley was in that. I missed that one. Ramparts magazine did an issue with both Kelley and me and then an issue with me on the cover. The coverage was an honor. But it didn’t stop there.
The SF scene got so popular thru the media, in the summer of 1967, a million people showed up and our beautiful scene tuned into a zoo. The “Summer of Love”. Bad drugs moved in. Followed in the end of summer with the death of the hippie.
We left the Haight. I went to London and worked there for a year with the Beatles and Blind Faith and Nova magazine.
Kelley got the job to do the signing at Woodstock. I returned to America to help out. After Woodstock, we stayed in Cambridge and worked on Jimi Hendrix’s album cover. As we finished it, he died. It never came out.
In 1972, we started a T-shirt company in San Rafael, California. We borrowed $500 from the Grateful Dead and pioneered four-color process on T-shirts. Kelley and I started doing album covers for Steve miller, Grateful Dead, Journey, posters for Paul McCartney & Wings, The Rolling Stones and many others. Our posters made it into museums all over the world.