The Tasteful Intersection of Art and Cannabis

Widely represented in visual art, the bud leaf as a symbol predates the written word. The first image of a pot leaf might have been seen in a neolithic cave painting in Japan, as well as fame and reputation spread, cannabis vision was engraved in Egyptian secular monuments, drawn into spiritual texts, and in artsy botanical illustrations in manuscripts.

As cannabis became cannabis art could be observed in anti-drug propaganda. Its popularity in American american culture catapulted by 1968, once you could open a matter of Gilbert Shelton’s avant-garde underground comic The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and enjoy colorful characters scoring weed and smoking joints in their funny mishaps and adventures.

The bud leaf is an icon, and the culture surrounding it is finally coming out of the shadows, embracing a sophisticated, artful take on cannabis and modern design.

What Makes High Art?

“artists work in territories outside the mainstream and have a long history of subverting boundaries. It makes sense cannabis and art would intersect in an artist’s studio, where the aesthetic of an industry traditionally associated with kitsch and ‘low art’ can be broken down and reimagined with a greater level of sophistication,” shared Astrelle Johnquest, curator and founder of Now Space, an alternate space art gallery and hybrid vintage boutique in El Sereno, on the east side of Los Angeles.

The innovation and style which newer artists are bringing to the table makes it exciting to get a creatively designed piece again.

Her interest in this intersection manifested recently in PipeDream LA, a cannabis pop-up she hosted with curator and Los Angeles-based stylist Michael Cioffoletti at Wittmore, a fancy retail shop in the arts district. The higher-end retail engagement encouraged consumers to see pipes and other weed merchandise otherwise than in a head shop, and rethink how they connect with cannabis.

(Courtesy of Now Space)

PipeDream LA featured original pipes made by collective and individual artists. After fleshing out their concept, Astrelle and Cioffoletti approached the pop- up the same they would any gallery exhibit. They had conversations and studio visits with artists about their practices. “It was really important for us to be able to discuss the work and back-story of every artist we included in the pop-up,” she explained.

The well-curated selections include gorgeous geode pipes by Jackei Laurita Cortese. Functional, the crystal-glazed ergonomic rock-like pipes could be used for 420 but would be magnificent as décor on a shelf in a house.

Contemporary Art in the Cannabis Space

(Courtesy of Now Space)

The pipe as modern sculptural art object is not a giant leap; Bob Snodgrass started the gorgeous color-changing borosilicate glass pipe motion in Oregon over 30 years ago. Unfortunately, bad imitations and Chinese-mass-manufactured bulbous glass pipes are sold in every gas station today, and it may be a challenge to find a reasonable glass pipe as unique as a Snodgrass or any of his apprentices. But the innovation and style which newer artists are bringing to the table makes it exciting to get a creatively designed piece again.

Ceramicist Michelle Summers makes one-of-a-kind one-hitters by etching each of her enchanted illustrations to the porcelain, and she inlays the glaze before firing which gives it a cool, raw, and hand-drawn feel to her work. Whether it’s her traditional pipe or the rectangular Enlightener, Cho’splayful approach and application of custom colors make using it special. Savvy but easy pipes by Ben Medansky showcase his process exploring variations on radial symmetry and grids, while still producing an superb smoking utensil.

But pipes aren’t the tasteful cannabis art. Debra Broz rescues vintage porcelain figures from thrift stores and uses ceramic restoration techniques to bring them back to life (with a twist). She changes the antique narrative by adding subversive elements, like the iconic bud leaf and a smoking joint to “Weed Panda. ”

(Courtesy of Now Space)

Craighill, a high-end house goods brand, made a custom rolling tray for Wittmore, using their distinct design philosophy with an emphasis on industrial experimentation and basic utility.

As retail paves the way for the artistic cannabis marketplace, we should observe tasteful art experiences appearing more frequently.

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