By Sharon Letts Psychedelic artist, Andi Astra, grew up on a farm in the heartland of America, on the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan. Their upbringing included conservative, Evangelical ideology – something not reflected in their art that features extraterrestrials, robots, and anything else that highlights the otherness felt within, typically shunned by the masses. […]
By Sharon Letts
Psychedelic artist, Andi Astra, grew up on a farm in the heartland of America, on the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan. Their upbringing included conservative, Evangelical ideology – something not reflected in their art that features extraterrestrials, robots, and anything else that highlights the otherness felt within, typically shunned by the masses.
Astra attended Eastern Michigan University, graduating in 2017, with a focus on English Literature and writing, and a minor in Fine Arts.
“I’m a full time, working artist,” Astra shared. “Writing is something I keep for myself, something I enjoy – providing a narrative alongside the imagery, words and visuals.”
In college Astra butted heads with professors who attempted to shape their narrative.
“I was headstrong and vocal about what I wanted to do, with my blinders firmly on,” they laughed. “No one could lead me down another path. It’s led me exactly to where I am now, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Their partner, Nikko, was raised not too far away in Chicago, but they both met in Hawaii, where they now reside on the smaller island of Oahu, and where Astra finds inspiration among the wild, tropical textures, colors and culture of the islands.
Cannabis as Muse & Healer
When Astra was 13 years old, they were diagnosed with cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS). A disorder that typically begins in childhood, causing repeated episodes of being and feeling sick, with nausea and vomiting. CVS is not fully understood, as the episodes are not caused by infection or any other illness. Triggers may include emotional stress, anxiety or panic attacks, brought on by a life event.
As a footnote, CVS is a disorder often labeled as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), if the patient is or has been using cannabis, as detailed in Alice Moon’s Daily Dose (Oct. 2022).
“I suffered for a decade, with doctors dismissing it as CHS when I started smoking cannabis at 16, after leaving home,” they said. “I was also undiagnosed with ADHD, and grew up with anxiety – in and out of therapy most of my adult life. I also suffered from gut issues, and had trouble eating – but we know now that too can be all emotional.”
Their otherness in a place of conservative values may have caused much of her life stress. It’s not uncommon for members of the LBGTQ+ community to suffer from Complex or Childhood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), as they are rejected, often at a young age, by the very people that are supposed to love, support and at least try to understand them.
“The vibe on the island is chill and that helps,” they laughed. “We have our chosen family and community here and that adds to our well being. I prefer medibles over smoking, and use the plant for emotional and physical issues. I can still experience symptoms, but they aren’t as bad. Eating more fruits and vegetables found here in abundance also helps. The plant also helps me connect with my muse for creative expression.”
Per a study found on the National Institute of Health’s website, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is associated with a lower instance of depression. It also aids in better digestion and a healthier gut, which we now know is in direct relation to emotional well being.
Regarding Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD), there’s also a direct correlation between gut health, digestive issues, emotional well being and focus, per study.
Otherness, Art & Community
According to ScienceDirect.com, the concept of Other or Otherness, “… is the result of a discursive process by which a dominant in-group (Us, the Self) constructs one or many dominated out-groups (Them, Other) by stigmatizing a difference – real or imagined – presented as a negation of identity and thus a motive for potential discrimination.”
In other words, if you are different than the norms of society dictate, and don’t fit into one type of human box, there’s still a place for you in otherland.
This is what Astra’s professor attempted – to put them in a graphic design box he may have thought was safer for her. But artists don’t typically take the safe path to happiness or success.
“My brand, Spooky Girl, was created from a place of perpetual otherness,” Astra waxed poetic. “My latest project, The Outer Rim Collective, is focused on community and collaboration, sustainable business practices, and growth.”
Spooky Girl art offers up original art that Astra has transitioned into home decor, with pillows, linens, clothing and accessories. Their work hosts extraterrestrials and robots in outer space, and beautiful and strong humans; with a focus on nonconforming identity, and the ethereal, ignoring boundaries and the expectations of society. You might say, their tinfoil hat sits squarely on their head, with no apologies.
Astra said they had to facilitate pop-up events, workshops, blacklight art parties, and social media events themself, proving the age-old theory of “if you build it, they will come.”
“Being different and not fitting in makes you feel like an alien,” they surmised. “Meeting other like minded artists who may also be struggling to fit in and build their own careers and life, eventually became our community. It’s become my role and calling for me, in a sense. Sometimes we need to make our own place to fit in. I believe it’s a matter of channeling any message from the universe and trusting yourself. Cannabis actually helps me to trust my own creative process and conceptualize a future.”
For more information on Andi Astra visit, https://andiastra.com/
To better understand otherness visit, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/otherness#:~:text=Other%2FOtherness&text=Otherness%20is%20the%20result%20of,a%20motive%20for%20potential%20discrimination.