For thousands of years humans have lived with the cannabis plant, using it for food, fuel, clothing, medicine, and inspiration. However, only recently has anyone begun exclusively using pot by-products as their sole artistic medium.
His name is Forest Ray. He’s a lifelong Pacific Northwest artist who creates his art completely out of cannabis derived materials: the paper is produced from hemp, the “ink” from resin, and the “charcoal” from ash.
Most recently, Ray has begun using “the color green,” actually fresh leaf material, which he dabs onto an area of paper already coated with a layer of sticky, glue-like resin. Without revealing the exact procedure by which he applies the resin or leaf to the hemp paper, he swears that it is a rather tedious and exacting process requiring a precision that, medium aside, is the most noticeable hallmark of his work.
Ray is also refining a process to use the multi-hued pistils from various strains of marijuana to create an almost limitless pallet of colors.
Inspired by a sculptor who worked in a steel mill and collected discarded steel shavings that he later combined with driftwood from the Columbia River, Ray loves the fact that his materials are the free by-products of another process. Considering Ray’s medium, however, “free” is a relative term.
Although his materials are all donated from numerous friendly sources, they’re made from a substance that is as valuable as gold. Ray estimates that almost a half-pound of pot has to be smoked to collect enough resin to create the average eight by ten inch drawing or painting. However, not all of his pieces are resin saturated, a number are traditional pencil drawings, including a series of elaborately embellished marijuana leaves.
As a former member of the United States Air Force, Ray not only refuses to back down from controversy, he prefers to jump in head first. “This is second nature for me now. Some people pick up pens, I pick up a ball of resin. What’s the government going to do? Arrest me? Make my art illegal? This is my medium. If America won’t let me make my art, maybe I’ll move to Canada.”
He might just have to flee the country after authorities catch wind of his most recent project ? a full-size American flag, made completely from cannabis-derived materials. This flag may prove to be the first inherently “illegal” symbol of the United States ever created. How the authorities choose to deal with such an object remains to be seen. Would officials burn the flag, as is often done with other seized contraband?
Ray’s art raises other questions. Since this art is made from cannabis, can only medical marijuana patients possess it? Who determines the value of “forbidden art?” Is the illegality of this medium relevant in determining artistic merit?
Many artists have been inspired by cannabis, but Forest Ray is the first one known to be using the herb as his canvas, palette and ink. Let’s hope his work serves as an inspiration to others, both as an artistic innovation, and yet another example of the endless uses and boundless opportunities presented by the cannabis plant.
? Forest Ray: firstname.lastname@example.org