Art Inspiration From an Herbal Muse

Marijuana has long been linked to increased creativity and the ability to open one’s mind up to new levels of thinking about the world around us. Recent studies have even narrowed down the physiological phenomenon behind this burst of creative drive. It turns out that pot increases blood flow to the frontal lobe, the area of the brain where creativity is born, and causes the brain to increase production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are responsible for lowering latent inhibition and invigorating a person’s perception of their environment. Weed creates an environment ripe for creative expression for those who are so inclined. For the following artists, their herbal muse has been everything from a social commentary to the actual medium for their artistic expression.

Chris Burden

Chris Burden is a performance artist whose 1978 installment Coals to Newcastle, pushed the boundaries of pot, art, and the law. Burden created a rubber band powered model airplane, to which he attached two spliffs, one to eachChris-Burden, cannabis art wing like little bombs of resistance, and then flew it across the Mexican/ American border in Calexico, California. The plane was inscribed with “Hencho en USA (Made in USA), Fumenlos Muchachos (Smoke It Kids), and Topanga Typica (Typical Topanga). One of Burden’s undergraduate students from UCLA, Bruce Licher,  assisted with the piece and described it as having “an aura of danger…as not only was marijuana much more illegal than it is now, but to be caught doing something suspicious at the border would also have had consequences.”

Forest Ray

Forest Ray is a “use every part of the buffalo” kind of artist. His art is produced from the resin and ash of cannabis. An average piece requires about a half of a pound of weed be smoked to produce enough ash and resin to complete the image. Luckily, he has a great base of supporters willing to donate materials for his work! He even uses hemp paper! In an effort to take his art to the next level, Ray is also perfecting his own process for developing a full spectrum palette of colors using the multi-hued pistils from different strains. Ray’s most recent project has the potential to spark controversy far beyond the artistic community though. Ray has created a full-size American flag created entirely out of cannabis derived materials! One has to wonder what would happen if this “illegal” work of art was seized by authorities. Would they burn it in the same way they do most seized marijuana contraband?

Fred Tomaselli

Fred Tomaselli is known for embedding cannabis directly into his works. When discussing his methods and influences for the New York Public Library’s Art and Literature Series in 2014, Tomaselli pointed out how “the rhetoric around paintings was very similar to that around psychedelic drugs.” Tomaselli has exploited his interest in the “dislocated nature of reality” and  played on that rhetoric in his psychedelic works. He has been quoted as saying

“Art is really about perception and mine have been changed through visiting other realities.”

One of his more well known pieces, Super Plant, created in 1994, prominently features cannabis leaves combined with resin and acrylic for a unique minimalist style that highlights the natural beauty of the plant.

Fernando De La Rocque

Puff, puff, paint. Kind of… Fernando De La Rocque’s exhibit entitled “Blow Job- Work of Blowing,” takes smoking to a whole new level. Rocque’s work is not only a creative expression but a significant form of protest that is drawing attention from all sides of the marijuana legalization issue in Brazil. The Rio Times quoted Rocque as saying,

“more important than freedom to smoke marijuana is the freedom to think about it and make art with it. Polemic issues divide opinions, forcing people to think and debate. Inertia is useless when we want to overcome something.”

Rocque creates his images by blowing cannabis smoke directly over a stencil of the picture he wants to create. The resulting pieces are striking and the smoke lends them a movement one would be hard-pressed to recreate with another medium. Rocque  is changing the world, one stereotype at a time. “You have to break some paradigms, this stereotype, this image of the so-called ‘stoner’.  It is the result of how opinion leaders, media, government and industry address the issue.”

Jurassic Blueberries

Jurassic Blueberries is an Oregon based artist whose vibrant, colorful depictions of the cannabis leaf can only bJurassic Blueberries, Cannabis Arte described as inspirational.  In an attempt to capture the simple, natural beauty of the plant, Jurassic Blueberries’ work features impressions of whole leaves against multi-colored backdrops that reflect the mood of each individual work. Some are calming and serene while others are psychedelic and energizing. They are all, however, thought provoking. You may even recognize Jurassic Blueberries’ artwork from news and blog sites from around the web, as it has been featured as go to stock images for cannabis over and over!

Ricardo Cortes

RIcardo Cortes is an artist, author, and illustrator, probably most well known for his illustration of “Go the Fuck to Sleep,” a hilariously relatable children’s lullaby parody that every parent should definitely read! However, Cortes has also written and illustrated “It’s Just a Plant: A Children’s Story of Marijuana,” whose artwork is not only beautiful but thought provoking. The book follows a young girl’s adventure to learn more about pot after walking in on her parents toking up. She explores how pot is grown, prescribed, and even how it became illegal; leading her to vow to “vote to make the laws fair” as she grows up. Cortes says, “The book is not pro-drugs by any means. It’s about reconsidering the drug laws.” Cortes’ artistic contribution is changing the conversation surrounding the way we teach children about marijuana and bypassing fear and propaganda through art.

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Amber Faust

About the author: Amber Faust is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in natural lifestyle pieces and sociopolitical commentary. Amber is a lifelong activist for social justice and environmental issues. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, painting, drumming, meditation, and yoga.