Cannabis has been inspiring art and artists for as long as humans have been consuming it. Throughout history, some of our favorite writers have been known to partake as part of their creative process. And more recently, cannabis culture has provided a space for glass blowers to showcase their talent and vision. But some artists take that inspiration a step further and actually incorporate cannabis into their physical work. We’re going to review four artists who create weed art — that is, art out of weed.
Fred Tomaselli is a psychedelic collage artist and painter known for incorporating psychedelic drugs, including pills and pot leaves, into his works. Coming of age in the 1970s, he recognized early on that, “the rhetoric around paintings was very similar to that around psychedelic drugs,” specifically that each was considered a ‘window into the world.’ But this repurposing of psychotropic materials is not merely subversive, he insists. “For me, when I started putting psychoactive material in the work, the pot leaves and that sort of thing, I was really thinking about rearranging the use value of those objects. [Instead] of traveling through the bloodstream to alter consciousness they travel through the eyeballs.”
Photo Credit: Fred Tomaselli via Christies
Tony Greenhand may be the one of the world’s most famous joint rollers. Scrolling through his Instagram you’ll find models of Pokemon, Futurama characters, Mike Tyson and more — all completely smokeable. He even holds the world record for largest joint with this 4.2 lb watermelon, and hosts the show Let’s Roll on Roku, where he rolls joints for celebrity clients then smokes with them.
Photo Credit: @tonygreenhand Instagram
As a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Cliff Maynard was strapped for cash and saving every last roach he could to roll into second gen joints. Working one night on an introductory mosaic, Cliff looked from his pile of magazine clippings to his jar of roaches, and inspiration struck. Since then, Maynard has produced eye-popping portraits of Snoop Dog and John Lennon, as well as unique pieces like the official poster for Seattle’s HempFest 2011 — all using roach paper.
Yasmin Bawa is a sculptor based in Berlin who works with “hempcrete,” a mixture of hemp, clay, and lime. She began as a fashion designer, but left that fast-paced world to “focus on something slower, where I could really spend time nurturing my design aspirations.” After leaving fashion for sculpture, Bawa initially began sculpting with concrete, but wanted something more environmentally sustainable. Between manufacturing and shipping, concrete is responsible for an estimated 4-8% of the world’s CO2, trailing only coal, oil, and gas. But in hempcrete, the biomass of the hemp rounds out the lime for a sturdy, lightweight building material that actually serves as a carbon sink, absorbing carbon emissions out of the environment and into the structure. Hempcrete, or hemp lime, is already being used as insulation in next-generation green buildings.
Photo Credit: https://www.yasminbawa.com/vessels
The Wrap Up
There are tons of other names making cannabis art including Alyssa Serpentini, who mixes hemp powder into her paints, and Chris Burden “Coals to Newcastle”’s performance in which he flew joints across the Mexican border on paper airplanes in 1978. Undoubtedly more artists will emerge as barriers to cannabis continue to fall through legalization. We can’t wait to see what high art lies ahead.