Where does all the weed-themed art come from? There can be few subjects that engender such a vast body of work across a broad range of genres and mediums from devoted amateur artists.
Go to Google Images and type in anything you can think of, preceded by the word "weed." There you will find doctored photos of historical figures toking up ("weed abraham lincoln," "weed mussolini"), gifs of starry-eyed Rasta felines ("weed cat") and less-than-pious depictions of holy figures ("weed jesus").
There are airbrushed cars, sculptures (some doubling as smoking contrivances), tattoos, origami, blacklight posters, rugs, tapestries, necklaces, earrings and stickers, most barely graduated from third period social studies binders.
But weed-themed art isn't just relegated to the margins of college syllabuses or DeviantART accounts. A recent exhibition at Los Angeles' Known Gallery featured, among other things, a life-size indoor marijuana garden constructed out of LEGOs. And Eureka's Piante Gallery is currently home to Randy Spicer's exhibition of paintings "dealing with Humboldt County's largest agriculture product." Among them is a beaming, hatless (and out-of-season) Santa Claus — straight out of a Coke ad — clutching joints in both hands while exhaling a smoke ring.
There's more alluring weed art, like Jason Mecier's relief portrait of Snoop Dogg (Lion?) constructed out of hash balls, buds and half-smoked joints. It's one in a series of pop icons Mecier constructed from the cultural detritus that defines them. Or Gail Wight's delicate recreations of webs constructed by spiders under the influence of drugs, including marijuana (now at the First Street Gallery in Eureka).
That's keeping it to "fine" art — popular music and movies are another discussion, although they treat marijuana in largely similar ways: winking references, broad comic tropes and general reverence.
Why the weed reverence? Does weed spark the creative mind? Or do "marijuana artists" like the pseudo-edginess of penciling a pro-weed message and the supposed counter-culture it represents? Does pasting a doobie into Gandhi's hand feel comically subversive, sans the troubling cultural implications that a needle — or an opium pipe — hastily Photoshopped onto his person would bring?
Beer — more widely consumed than pot, in the U.S. — doesn't permeate the second-rate art world like marijuana. Maybe that's because beer has long been a corporate commodity. Aside from wise-ass beer slogan T-shirts prevalent at brewfests, beer art is commercial art, by the businesses and for the businesses. And beer, and its ingredients, aren't often part of company branding and marketing. Commercial beer art often evokes a lifestyle — sexy, active or leisurely — to be associated with the drink, rather than the specific feelings or flavors experienced.
To be certain, those themes are present in weed art too (don't Google "weed sexy" at work), but there's no ad firm behind those amateur images, no calculated marketing campaign. Just a motivated someone with a set of Prismacolors and pastimes that include weed and ... you know, anything else.
Those artists may be a casualty of legalization that hasn't been much discussed. We on the North Coast have been witnessing the birth of commercial weed art (researchers at the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research have been archiving years of marijuana-themed ads from North Coast media — including this paper).
But when weed is legal — its stigma and anti-authority underground appeal dwindling by the minute — what will become of the hobbyists, the doodlers of bong-laden Sesame Street characters, the 3-D sculptors of heady (and busty) cartoonish pot-vixens, the fledgling collagists bound by duty to take each of history's icons higher?
What will become of weed art?