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Two Exhibits in Colorado Feature Art Inspired by Mushrooms, Cannabis


Two new exhibits recently opened up in Denver, Colorado exploring themes surrounding magic mushrooms and cannabis.

The first exhibit is “Mycolandia,” which opened at the Dateline Gallery in Denver, Colorado on June 7 and will remain open through June 23. “MYCOLANDIA celebrates Mycology in general exploring the evolution of edible fungi and its symbiotic relationship with humanity. In otherwords, It’s a show about mushrooms. 🤓✌🏼🍄,” the gallery said on social media.

The show features works from 13 different artists, such as Noah Travis Phillips. According to an interview with Westword, Phillips explained his thought process behind the theme. “I definitely thought of the diverse array of mushrooms,” Phillips said. “All the ways fungus and mushrooms exist in the world, the different ways that humans interface with them—whether as food, or an intoxicating substance, or all of the bio remediation people are doing with mushrooms.”

Art by Noah Travis Phillips at Dateline Gallery. Via Dateline Gallery

Attendees can view Phillips’ unique Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) AI images that he developed to represent mushrooms’ inherent psychedelic properties. “It’s much more colorful. They’re all rainbowy. They’re kind of melting. They’re kind of bulbous,” said Phillips. “I think they suggest interesting things about mushroom root networks—those mycorrhizae. Some of them look like they have spores drifting from them.”

He added that he’s been an artist for 25 years, and has spent about six years working with GAN. “My relationship to the GANs is like a poetic visual synthesizer for producing improvisatory material to collage with,” he explains. “I’m engaging in a dialogue with that kind of cutting edge of technology and seeing what its creative potential is.”

Phillips also cut out 45 images which are situated close to the floor, which forces viewers to look downward. “To me, setting them up that way makes it more reminiscent of mushroom foraging, or mushroom hunting, where people have to get low to go find them,” Phillips explained.

The second exhibit is inspired by the “Science-Informed Art Model,” called “Grow Up,” also debuted on June 7 and will stay open through July 7. The art show “empowers young student classes from various Denver institutions to explore the effects of high-concentration cannabis through their own creative lens,” according to a press release. Teachers were chosen from four middle and high schools in Colorado, who then attended workshops presented by scientists and researchers at the University of Colorado School of Public Health. Then those teachers developed workshops for their students who created their own art inspired by “high-concentration cannabis.”

The result is a varied selection of abstract art where students transformed scientific data into their own concepts. “The beautiful part about bringing science and art together is [figuring out] how we interpret information and communicate it with a community in ways that are much more relatable or understandable, or challenge people to question what they’re observing,” said PlatteForum Program Director Alejandra Calvo.

Shaunie Berry, the curator for “Grow Up,” explained that this exhibit was an opportunity to promote healthy decision making. We really created a space in which they could be open and vulnerable,” said Berry. “We were just giving them a lot of information about the mental health aspect of it because they are young and their brains aren’t fully formed yet; their decision-making skills aren’t completely formed yet.”

Both Calvo and Berry worked together to help students better comprehend cannabis and its effects from an artistic point of view. “I think kids just are naturally more creative,” said Berry. “The older you get, it becomes a little more stifled. And you have to pull more strings to get them to do it.”

Meanwhile the state’s cannabis industry is making new discoveries about its products. A recent study released in March shows that 70% of THC potency levels on cannabis products in Colorado are at least 15% higher than lab tests show. “Among the 23 flower samples analyzed, 18 displayed lower THC levels than reported—with 16 falling below 15% of the stated value, 13 falling below 30% of the reported THC and three samples falling below half of the reported THC,” said a report written by University of Colorado Boulder professor Anna Schwabe. “THC levels averaged 9.75% back in 2009, based on testing of DEA-seized cannabis flower. Today, levels reportedly surpass 35%, though they’re not as common as consumers have been led to believe,” Schwabe continued.

The Colorado cannabis industry is saturated with cannabis products and has seen a steady decline in sales recently. According to a report from Politico, Colorado cannabis sales reached a peak of $2.2 billion in 2020. Since legalization began in 2014, the state has generated more than $15 billion in total sales as well. However, data from 2022 shows that the state’s cannabis revenue decreased significantly ($1.7 billion), which also continued into 2023 ($1.5 billion).

Recent legislation in Colorado has targeted positive praise of drugs on social media. While the Senate approved the bill in April, SB24-158 was sent to the House in May and has not received any further discussion. If passed, it would prevent language on social media that pertains to any black market or illicit drugs, although cannabis would technically be a safe topic if mentioned in a legal capacity.

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