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Exclusive Interview With The Grass Hopper Magazine
Sandro Botticelli's famous masterpiece "The Birth of Venus" has long cast a spell over Asia Taber, artist and cannabis lover from California. How she then managed to stage this picture in her own fascinating way, and how it came about that this work of art was lying in a drawer for a long time, she told us exclusively in an interview.
Asia, how did you get passionate about cannabis and art?
I originally came to LA to work as a model. When I met my partner Waylon ten years ago, who comes from a family that is the second generation to grow cannabis in LA, I didn't have the best access to the plant, also because I was a long-distance runner at the time and preferred the "runner's high" as weed that got me munchies, paranoia, and dry mouth. But then, like in “Aladdin”, he opened up a whole new world for me when he showed me that cannabis is not just cannabis!
During my psychology studies, I then began to deal more with the pharmaceutical applications of cannabis as an alternative to the classic drug treatments for my problems - at the time I had post-traumatic stress disorder and was depressed. That then helped me in ways that I could never have imagined. At the same time, I regularly accompanied Waylon to his work at 3C Farms on my days off and noticed that, as a woman and female cannabis user, I did not feel represented or addressed at all by cannabis publications and advertisements. So I started taking photos of flowers and plants myself and posting them on Instagram.
How did you come up with the idea of staging “The Birth of Venus” with cannabis flowers, and what symbolism is behind this motif?
A few years ago, a major magazine in the US asked me to design the cover for their women's edition. An incredibly exciting opportunity! I then really started thinking about what it meant to be a woman in the cannabis world and how I could capture the meaning of femininity and cannabis. The image of Botticelli's Venus immediately came to mind. That was the first picture of a female nude, until then nudity was a sign of strength, dominance and masculinity. So I thought, how nice it would be to reinterpret “The Birth of Venus”, created by a female artist and bedded on a sea of female cannabis flowers! So I wanted to give this special "Divine Femininity", the divine femininity, back to all women.
Much of my art is inspired by these flowers and what this wonderful plant can do for people. So I'm trying to break a stigma that has been and still is held globally for far too long. The image of Venus is also a kind of “moral compass”. If someone looks at this picture and sexualizes Venus, then they do the same with women in general. But when someone sees this beautiful, divine feminine being, then that also reflects his image of the woman.
There is also a special story behind this picture, you called it some kind of conspiracy. What's it all about?
Yes, long story short, they withdrew the cover shortly before printing. That was at the time of #MeToo. So something happened behind the scenes and the picture has been in my drawer so far and has unfortunately never been published. But then I got a message from Andy, the editor of your magazine, and here it is! I am very happy to have the opportunity to share this wonderful recording and the story behind it with you and your audience in this context.
As you told us, there is an enormous amount of effort behind the picture. How did the production work and did you have any support?
I planned the whole project in four days, the photo shoot alone lasted 18 hours, then I slept maybe four hours, then the editing etc., that was really just crazy! A whole crew stood by my side on the set, a make-up artist, a videographer and my brother, who is also an artist. He was the only one who helped me to set up the work of art itself, I like to call it the Venus Mandala. We started at about six in the morning, and it took until about eleven for our model to lie in the flowers.
If you look closely, there are three different varieties of cannabis flowers, in purple, green and red-orange, all provided by 3C Farms, where we also took the picture. I wanted to keep the arrangement really authentic, which is why the underground under the flowers is also made of rock wool, which is used in the cultivation of the plants. I also used grow lights for lighting, and since we did the whole thing in mid-August, it was incredibly hot on set, as if we had brought the sun inside! Because of my experience in the fashion industry and because I know what amounts of garbage are generated during shoots there, I always try to pay attention to sustainability in my projects as best I can. So I'm particularly proud of
What projects are you planning next?
I've been asked by so many people over the years whether there are prints of my pictures for sale so that they can hang them up at home. So after a long time I finally decided to set up a website for it. These will soon be available on highpilotdesign.com. I also just finished my psychology degree and would like to develop myself in the field of medical cannabis therapy, as I am convinced that both have incredible potential together.
INTERVIEW: Philipp Hlatky
This is an article from THE GRASSHOPPER Magazine summer 01/2020.