Nostalgic graphic design, comical renderings of monsters and psychedelic experiences line the walls of the quaint and banal Harborside Oakland special events room with “A Spring Celebration of Cannabis Art,” a collaborative design project and art exhibition put on with Califari and Harborside. Like posters for a slew of fantastical cannabis-inspired films or plays, large scale fine artworks line the walls of the gallery—with bright colors and intriguing compositions, these posters call out for attention, for reflection, and to bask in the warm and familiar euphoria that these strains provide—and viewers are undeniably moved by them.
Steve DeAngelo, founder and CEO of Harborside found that many patients are often looking for a visual representation of their favorite strain, something they become so intimate with, find relief in and truly appreciate, and this art gives them that satisfaction.
“Patients would come into the room and have these intense, almost religious experiences with the piece of art that represented their favorite strain,” he told us. ”People yearn for tangible symbols of this most intimate of relationships, and feel joy when they get access to them.”
With well-respected professional artists like Ron English, Tracie Ching, Hide Your Toys, Matt Leunig, BINX, Jesse Hernandez and many more, this may be one of the first fine art exhibitions that fully embodies the narratives of cannabis strains without any visuals of the cannabis plant. Curator Jason McHugh explained to Green State that he didn’t want the art to incorporate the traditional giant pot leaves that taboo cannabis-inspired artwork often uses, and instead wanted the artists to create fascinating visual experiences inspired by these strains and their individuality and unique effects.
“They were to be thought of as a ‘Fillmore Poster crashing into a Vintage Fruit Crate,’” he said. “Something branded, yet far out, that could appeal to the generally mirthful mindset of a cannabis lover. There was one major restriction, which was that we wanted to steer away from huge pot leaves that we have all seen for eons by now.”
Inspired by the arrival of recreational cannabis, Harborside and Jason McHugh of Califari wanted not only to celebrate this monumental moment in time, but also to set the stage for the future of cannabis-inspired art.
“Part of the concept is to empower high-quality boutique cannabis farmers and dispensaries with the highest quality artwork that could be used for packaging or promotion,” McHugh told us. “We wanted to launch specifically as a high-end art show that elevates the public perception of cannabis.”
With artists like Ron English, known all over the globe for his particular brand of fine artworks that bridge the gap between high and low, infusing pop culture, political imagery and social commentary into interesting and accessible fine art, cannabis is now on the radar of not just artists and creatives, but everybody.
“There are lot of politics around the little weed and there is also a lot of branding to be done as the promise of legalization looms over the horizon,” English told us. “The idea is to show what a prohibition-free society might look like.”
Whether it’s an abstract and meticulous screen-printed expression of G-13, a sour-puss faced lemonhead sweating on the farm like in Sour Diesel, or even a vintage-inspired cruise ship full of pineapples crossing the ocean as the ‘Pineapple Express’, these strain-inspired artworks are thoughtful expressions of that embody the unique life force and style of each strain.