Mixed Bag: Marijuana in the Highlands

Artists: H. Lee (NY), Benjamin Rasmussen (Denver), Theo Stroomer (Denver)
May 13 – June 27, 2015. Admission to the gallery is free.

Mixed Bag: Marijuana in Highlands is an exhibition featuring the work of three photographers on the front lines of the historic “green rush” movement toward marijuana legalization in the US. Mixed Bag encompasses the semi-clandestine pot environment of Humboldt County, CA; Colorado’s transparent, industrialized marijuana trade; and the cannabis gatherings that take place throughout the US.

“Despite their differing aesthetics and milieus, similarities of the pot industries’ process, consumption, and commerce are clear in each body of work,” said Rupert Jenkins, Director of CPAC.  “This exhibition visualizes our culture’s tentative embrace of marijuana use, the legalization, and the commercialization of its trade. As Denver residents know all too well, the benefits of that trade are a mixed bag.”

Here in Colorado, Denver-based photographer Ben Rasmussen has been ahead of the story since recreational marijuana became legal in 2012, capturing all that goes on behind the scenes in grow houses and retail stores for The New York Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and other major media platforms.  His images visually and metaphorically embody the scientific sheen of Colorado’s pot industry, with its businesslike dispensaries and piles of deodorized cash.

Nearly 1,400 miles away, New York-based photographer H. Lee (a pseudonym) spent a year documenting the culture of cannabis in Humboldt County, CA, where farmers must operate in secret, hiding their gardens from law enforcement. Lee’s project, Grassland, delves beneath the towering redwoods to capture intimate views of a community shaped by marijuana, readying for what looks like the end of pot-prohibition but still laboring under the threat of jail time.

Theo Stroomer (pronounced “Tay-o”) works as a commercial and editorial photographer in Denver. His giff animations were taken at cannabis gatherings using a lenticular camera. Each exposure produces four, side-by-side frames; they are scanned and then animated to create a “wiggle GIF.” His photography has been recognized by CENTER’s Review Santa Fe, the FORMAT festival, the Eddie Adams Workshop, and the online journal BURN. His clients include Rolling Stone, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and 5280 magazine.

All three artists will be present for the opening reception on May 13 (6-9 pm). H. Lee will sign copies of her book, Grassland (2014, Kehrer Heidelberg Berlin) during the event. A calendar of exhibition events will be announced soon.

Exhibition Review by Ray Rinaldi in the Denver Post

Mixed Bag Radio report by Colorado Public Radio’s Mike Lamb, featuring interviews with Ben Rasmussen and Rupert Jenkins

Read an interview with Ben Rasmussen and curator Rupert Jenkins on PDN here

Mixed Bag article featuring Ben Rasmussen on Wired.com

Read an interview with H. Lee on the photo-eye Blog
Read another interview with H. Lee on Lenscratch

See work by Ben Rasmussen in Wired magazine here
And more images from Ben in the New York Times here

See Theo Stroomer’s giffs on The Guardian blog here

Saturday, May 30, 1 pm. Panel: “Legitimacy and Uncertainty: A Fireside Chat about Colorado’s Pot Industry.”

Speakers: Stephen Lewchuk, Manager of Smokey’s 420 House (formerly Cannabis Care Wellness Center), Garden City, Colorado; Bridgette Marlow, former bud tender who worked for 2.5 years at six different dispensaries in Colorado; Miranda Niles, Lab Manager with Botanico Marijuana Center, Denver; Guy Rocourt, Co-owner of LiveNeos, an electronic vaporization oil company in Colorado.
Moderated by Marty Otañez, Assistant Professor, Anthropology Department, University of Colorado Denver; he studies along visual lines the ways cannabis workers achieve health and wellness; and Jordan Wellington, Attorney with Vicente Sederberg, formerly with the Colorado Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division as a policy analyst.