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Drugs

Traditional Chinese Paintings of Cannabis Aim to Change Perceptions About the Medicinal Plant

Daniel Fetcho’s paintings honor marijuana beyond cliche stoner culture.

by Sean Neumann
Apr 20 2017, 8:20am

Images courtesy of Daniel Fetcho.

When you see weed in pop-culture, it's often some play on pot leaves and a swirl of Rastafarian colors. Daniel Fetcho became fed up with the stereotypical way marijuana is represented and wanted to help get rid of the clichés. Marijuana has a history in almost every culture, so Fetcho decided to look back into his bi-cultural Chinese-German and Irish background to create different representations of marijuana that appeal to a broader audience.

The Los Angeles-raised artist says, "It was clear to me that a major barrier keeping cannabis from the mainstream was a branding one. To change public perception towards the plant would require a change in how its image was being portrayed."

"While cannabis was generally accepted by the Western half of my family, although not necessarily condoned, it was a completely different story for the Chinese half who continue to denounce it," Fetcho says. So he began painting marijuana plants in the style of traditional Chinese paintings, using traditional bamboo handled brushes, Chinese calligraphy ink, and watercolor on rice paper.

"Traditional Chinese painting is one of the oldest artistic traditions in the world," Fetcho points out. "I wanted to appeal to the art form's reputation and rich history as a way of enticing people to explore deeper the stigmatization of cannabis which, far too often, paints an unflattering portrayal and obscures the objective truths of its many medical and pharmaceutical benefits."

The absence of bright colors and over-sensationalized leaves make Fetcho's work not just unique, but impactful in reducing the hysteria over the plant. "My mother's side of the family grew up during the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, who was a huge advocate of anti-drug policies," he says. "She and my grandmother both tell stories of how they were taught to despise drugs, and to see them as a poison that ruins individual lives and society at large."

Five years after Fetcho first started painting pot plants in traditional Chinese style, he noticed a gradual change in his family's perceptions: "While my mother is still firmly opposed to the idea of cannabis for recreational use, she has developed a growing interest in investing in it for pharmaceutical purposes."

That's the slow, individual change that cannabis art works to attain: Changing someone's weary perception of the drug and representing it in a way that the person might never have thought of. In this case, removing the hippie, stoner vibe and replacing it with elegance and history.

"We are currently in the midst of a generational change, wherein the old guard, traditionally wary of cannabis, is slowly making way for people who are more open about the idea of reintroducing cannabis to an accepted social norm," Fetcho says. "Changes in public acceptance and perceptions take time and require extensive consensual discussions."

For more information on Daniel Fetcho's work or any inquiries about his paintings, you can reach him at theinkdispensary@gmail.com.

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