No matter how you feel about cannabis from a political standpoint, it’s hard to argue against the fact that it’s simply a beautiful plant. And if there’s one thing a botanical illustrator gets really excited about, it’s a beautiful plant.
In a nutshell, this is how ‘Cannabis: A Visual Perspective’ was born.
Presented by the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Arts (RMSBA), the first-of-its-kind exhibition brings together 20 illustrations, paintings and prints of cannabis plants from some of the country’s top botanical artists.
It will hang at the Museum of Natural History at the University of Colorado in Boulder for six months before hopefully hitting the road, according to RMSBA president Vanessa Martin.
“Our vision in highlighting the cannabis plant was for this to be educational,” said Martin, adding that, as a non-profit, it was important that they not make any kind of firm “political statement.”
“We just wanted to take it back to [the fact] that this is a plant – just like any of the others out in your garden. It’s nature. Let’s let the dialogue go from there.”
Getting to this point wasn’t always smooth sailing, however, according to Martin. Not only were some of the RMSBA's members not exactly thrilled at the prospect of illustrating cannabis, but most “hadn’t seen a pot plant since high school.”
Nonetheless, Martin and a devoted team of illustrators “wanted to be contemporary and wanted to embrace this.” First things first, though, they had to find a cannabis plant.
“As botanical illustrators, you have to have the physical plant because that’s what we do: we look at it and cut it up and really study it ... I have to tell you, none of us were very savvy about how exactly to go about that,” Martin told Civilized.
“We started meeting with experts in the field ... and [discovered] we could either grow our own plants at home or go to various facilities and draw and sketch their plants.”
Martin chose to grow her own – the Indica-dominant (and “very smelly”) Dakini Kush, to be exact.
“It’s a very complicated plant. It’s not easy to illustrate and we all kind of came away from the experience going, ‘Oh, my gosh’,” said Martin. “We definitely learned a lot.”
It’s Martin’s hope that this will be the takeaway for viewers of the exhibition. While Martin maintains that the project is not a political one, it’s hard to stay necessarily neutral in a climate wherein Attorney General Jeff Sessions is lobbying to squash medical marijuana programs.
“We did feel that this was a good time to just show the plant in its beauty and start the conversation that way,” said Martin. “I think that’s what we’ve been able to accomplish. It’s baby steps.”