By Budtender Diaries by Tom Layou
Art is a peculiar thing to do. Imagine being the first person to wiggle around in front of someone before you could call it a dance. Why would anyone do that? Why would someone scrape lines on a cave or streak paint on a canvas? It’s an inner drive and I feel like comfort may be at the heart of it. A time to turn inward, away from persistent troubles that may be quieted for a while. That sounds a lot like why some people smoke weed, and that people combine art with cannabis seems about as natural as grilled cheese and tomato soup.
Jennifer Woods, owner of Bushrat Boutique, does tie dye, including a technique called batik, which involves applying wax as a resist for the dyes in order to create images in the fabric.
So, Jennifer, you like to get high and make art?
Jennifer: (laughing) “Yes, it’s always part of my art. Cannabis is a big part of my life. It’s is how I make art and function, I couldn’t use my hands if I didn’t use cannabis.”
Does cannabis free you up creatively?
Jennifer: “I started using cannabis at fourteen; it was always part of my life, and I was kind of like, ‘why are people always smoking this?’ And then I tried it and I could actually focus on one task. I would say it helps. I probably couldn’t finish a project if I didn’t have cannabis.”
What effect does consuming and creating have on you? How do you feel right after?
“I would say amazing. Cannabis is good, it helps how I function and with making art. Feeling relaxed, more in control of your life for a minute. Life is a lot of chaos. When you’re doing art, it’s just you and your art.”
One artist wishes to be called Big Mama Spenard. We met at the same Kaladi Brothers where I purchased one of her pieces a few years ago. On display at that same time was an action scene of a childhood friend of mine in a chaotic bicycle race, but Big Mama S. also likes to do a lot with skulls. An arctic scene popped from the far end of the room, a glacial landscape dotted with small skulls and above those, two large ones floating in space, jaws hanging open toward the moon. The skulls were brilliant untouched white, vacant spaces made vibrant by contrasting rounded strokes of varied blue.
I lost my shit over the colors and found three different ways of contacting her before confirming the piece was mine.
What does cannabis do for you, creatively?
Big Mama Spenard: “I guess it’s changed over the years. I started smoking in college, writing papers in college. Writing was hard. I cried literal tears over the typewriter. I smoked a bowl, things got easier. I got calmer and was able to get things to pass muster. I do think it’s important to say I don’t think it’s good for the developing brain, and in the teen years it can reduce creativity as opposed to help. There’s something to getting through the angst unimpeded.”
Do you feel more involved in your work with cannabis?
Big Mama Spenard: “I mean, we have to be honest, it’s a drug, and it’s malleable, you can use it how you want to. When I’m working on something at home I have an addiction to detail, so when it’s time to blend, and shade, it’s helpful. And then working on big installations, or in a theater working an all-nighter, stopping to smoke a bowl can be really helpful for that.”
The skulls in your work often have what look like bursts of energy radiating from them. Does that represent consciousness and do you envision marijuana as part of that?
Big Mama Spenard: (wincing) “Part of it is, I actually do see that stuff, it’s nothing magical. If I look at lights I get halos. It’s nothing drug related, it’s biology. As Monet aged he kept painting what he saw, and people were like, ‘Oh, Monet’s getting more Impressionistic,’ but it was just his eyes were failing and he was being honest, he just kept painting what he saw. Paul Klee was like that.”
How does consuming cannabis and creating have you feeling after?
Big Mama Spenard: “Sometimes pretty damn good, for sures. I think of that David Crosby quote that’s something like, ‘I challenge you to write any song sober that’s as good as one I wrote blasted.’ You can feel pretty good about it. I have that addiction to detail and it’s great when you can be like, ‘ah, it’s done.’
I tried to draw on acid one time — it was a horrible experience — there was no control, bad design, I’d scratch right through the paper. Pot inspires you, and can get you through the drudgery. Sometimes it’s just doin’ it. But you need some amount of sobriety to do a good job.”
Darci Lynn Dixon is a prominent figure in the local cannabis community who is known for being arty as well as weedy. Somewhat recently she has gotten into glass-blowing, but over time I have seen some humorous cross-stitching among other things. Once at Subterranea I saw she had a piece on display made out of Perler Beads, the multicolored plastic beads kids arrange into rainbows and unicorns and shit before asking mom to press it with an iron to melt it all in place. Darci had depicted April O’Neil, the feisty reporter friend from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but topless. It was hotter than plastic should be, which pretty much sums up April O’Neil’s presence in my childhood.
What is the place of weed in your art?
Darci: “If I’m doing art sober it feels forced. After I’ve consumed it comes to me; I’m not inhibited. I’ll try brighter, different color combinations. I’m more daring, I’m fearless to try something new.
Normally I don’t like doing things I don’t know the outcome of. The medium knows what it wants to be, and you’re just there to guide it into that. With cannabis you know what the medium wants. If I’ve consumed, I’m more go with the flow, I’m not a stiff, I’m not anxious or worried about the end result. I’m more in the moment, in the now.”
Do you ever get too high to art?
Darci: “The worst thing that happens, I’ll have to take a nap. Set an alarm for twenty minutes, and do it again. No, it’s never impeded being able to do art. Without cannabis I couldn’t do fifty percent of my art hobbies because of physical limitations. Blowing glass you’re holding things up a long time, you need all that arm strength for the duration. And it’s hard embroidering, you’ve got your needle and thread, just sitting there working with your fingers.”
What does combining cannabis and art do for you emotionally?
Darci: “Oh, gosh, it helps me become more mindful, more aware of what’s happening in the moment. It helps slow down the world around me in conjunction with focusing me. Cannabis slows my thinking down, and art helps focus that concentration. I can’t go more than a few days without some kind of project. Even just to make my thoughts sit still for a little bit.”