The Garden of Forbidden Fruits and the Laws of Cosmic Consciousness

Kelby James
Project Room
July 2–27, 2024

Through a mixed-media installation featuring screenprints, textiles, and found objects, Kelby James invites viewers into the world of The Garden of Forbidden Fruits and the Laws of Cosmic Consciousness. Starting from the rhythmic repetitions of printmaking processes, then embracing the expansive possibilities of their deconstruction and reassemblage through installation, Kelby’s work illuminates queer psychedelic experiences through rich visual language and material processes.

Header Image: Kelby James, Moist (K-Netics), 2024, Mixed-Media (serigraphy & digital media) | Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Parallel Programming

Psychedelic Storytelling Gathering
Wednesday, July 24 at 3pm


Kelby James presents his mixed-media installation The Garden of Forbidden Fruits and the Laws of Cosmic Consciousness (2024). Kelby’s artwork explores the visual aesthetics and cybernetic modalities of psychedelics and altered states of consciousness, along with their socio-political contexts through queer perspectives.

Kelby employs themes and theories including phantasmagoria (the surfacing of the unconsciousness through haptic and optic qualities, as well as the friction between whether things are true/real or a dream/hallucination), along with enantiodromia and syncretism (the former being Carl Jung’s theory of the merging of opposing forces or when opposites turn into each other, and the latter relating to Roy Ascott’s thinking around the likeness between unlike things). These themes allow Kelby’s work to delve into the conceptual foundations and tensions inherent within their artworks and entheogenic experiences. The series examines the interplay between structured printmaking processes and the expansive nature of psychedelic experiences, highlighting the dualities between control and surrender in both realms.

The compositions function as a reflection of the self, the psyche, the substance, and the system or interface within the natural world that psychoactive substances filter and simulate for the user experience. Collectively, the artworks visualize the cybernetic system, or feedback loop, coded within psychedelic interfaces and altered states of consciousness. Kelby’s writing analyzes how these artworks visually represent entheogenic experiences through an aesthetic schema and material process whilst critiquing societal perceptions surrounding psychedelic consumption.

The series includes digital media, screenprints, along with a deconstructed mixed-media print installation and a modular, found object textile installation. Collectively, these artworks aim to aestheticize and contextualize the physiological and psychological impacts of altered states through a queer lens, while exploring the intricate dynamic between psychedelics, technology, consciousness, and art/media.

Kelby James

Kelby James (b. 1993) is an emerging mixed-media artist exploring the intersection of psychedelics, consciousness, and printmaking through their queer perspective.

He received the Dean’s Award of Excellence at Queen’s University in 2024 and recently presented his research at Queen’s University’s 18th Inquiry for Undergraduate Research (2024). Kelby’s screenprint, The Entheogenic Dance, was featured in Open Studio’s virtual exhibition Future Proof (2024). He has exhibited in Union Gallery’s Side by Side fundraiser exhibition (2024) and their group show Honesty, Glory and Possibility: Queer Experiences of Gender (2022).

Upon completing his undergraduate degree, Kelby plans to pursue a Master’s degree, continuing his research on psychedelics through mixed media. Born and raised in Kingston, ON, he currently splits his time between here and Toronto, ON, where he works in the film production and hospitality sectors. Kelby is also the studio assistant for Sameer Farooq, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s Stonecroft Artist in Resident, helping Farooq prepare for their modular installation that will be showcased at the MOCCA for the upcoming Toronto Biennial 2024.


From the artist:
I would like to thank the Department of Fine Art and Art History at Queen’s University, particularly my advisor Professor Alejandro Arauz for his influential pedagogies and creative direction, as well as Dr. Jen Kennedy, for her thoughtful and informative contributions to my research.

I would also like to thank Dr. Sharday Mosurinjohn for providing me the platform to share my research in her class Drugs & Religion this past spring, and for her encouragement to continue on my psychedelic research.

I would also like to thank Ryan Laidman for his helpful assistance in the studio, as well as my colleagues part of the Without These Walls collective for their continued enthusiasm in my research practise.

Lastly, I must thank my partner and my mother for their unconditional love and support during my academic tenure at Queen’s.

UNION GALLERY is funded and supported by Queen's University, Alma Mater Society (AMS), Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS), Ontario Arts Council, City of Kingston Arts Fund–Kingston Arts Council and the City of Kingston, with partnerships with Stauffer Library, Cultural Studies, Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies, and Art History and Art Conservation.