Chronic Artist Cliff Maynard Creates Dope Mosaics Out of Joint Roaches
Most of us don’t think twice about throwing away a spliff that’s been smoked down to the roach. Cliff Maynard, on the other hand, has pioneered a clever solution to the question, “Dude, what are we going to do with all these doobie butts?” A former art student and tattoo artist by trade, Maynard is an entrepreneurial craftsman who transforms heaps of discarded joint butts into meticulously ornate mosaics. The endeavor is known as Chronic Art and involves patiently cutting, arranging, and gluing thousands of charred, brown resin papers into detailed patterns and portraits. Maynard’s portfolio of chronic-crafted originals includes rock stars, rappers, and bona fide stoner icons like Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, Snoop Dogg, Jim Morrison, and Bob Marley. Actor/comedian Cheech Marin praised Maynard’s art as “SMO-KIN!” Cheech’s “Up in Smoke” wingman, Tommy Chong, has also chimed in about Chronic Art, calling the industrious endeavor “a creative way to dispose of roaches,
Stoner stereotypes be damned: there’s nothing half-baked about Maynard’s Pittsburgh-based enterprise. The Chronic Art process can take over 200 hours and a commissioned original costs between $2,000 and $10,000, according to a recent profile on the popular pot blog “Toke of the Town.” In the meantime, Maynard is offering Keif boxes with mini prints for $75 dollars, as well as a limited edition run of 420 giclee prints for $80 or $125, depending on size. More information on snatching up these goodies up can be found on his website and MySpace page.
A few days after a showcase of Chronic Art blazed across the blogosphere, BroBible caught up with Maynard to discuss the method behind his weed-inspired ingenuity, plans to decorate the the walls of the NORML office with Chronic Art, and his preference for glass over joints.
BroBible: I read that the idea behind Chronic Art was sparked while you were studying mosaics in design school. How did creating mosaics out of roaches evolve into a commercial venture?
Cliff Maynard: About three years ago a guy came in to my tattoo shop promoting the new Red Tape clear blunt wraps. At the time, my friend was there working the counter and they started chatting about my mosaics. The guy from Red Tape suggested I take my work to New York City to show some of his friends at High Times. I worked on a couple new mosaics for almost another year before I took him up on his offer. When we finally made it to High Times in October 2008, they were extremely impressed with my work. Rich Cusick, the publisher of High Times, suggested I be a part of the NORML art auction in Berkeley towards the end of that month. So we jumped on a plane and headed for Cali. After that trip to Berkeley there was enough interest sparked to motivate us to try to really market my art.
About how many roaches does it take to create one mosaic portrait?
It’s hard to determine. Each roach paper is cut in to smaller pieces with an Xacto knife, mainly because a roach paper can contain many different tones of color. I might need a small dark bit for one area of the mosaic and a light colored piece for a different spot. It usually takes me about two weeks for a small mosaic, two months for an 8×10 portrait, and a year or more for larger pieces. I work on them so sporadically that it would be impossible for me to keep track of the exact number in each mosaic. I could easily say that it’s hundreds though.
Do you collect and acc*mulate the used butts yourself? Or do you receive the leftovers from customers who are commissioning you for a mosaic?
Usually it’s friends who save them for me. Honestly, I’m a fan of joints but I tend to smoke from glass. I do ask anyone commissioning a piece to start collecting for me. I think it adds more of a sentimental value when someone’s own paper collection can be incorporated in to their piece. I encourage everyone to save their papers for me.
When one of your masterpieces is finished, does it still have the skunky aroma of dank weed?
No. All the papers I collect are sorted by tones and left to sit in containers until they’re ready to use. That process tends to air them out. Each piece of paper becomes covered in an invisible layer of glue when it’s being adhered to the rag board. The glue acts as a sealer.
What’s the legal status of one of your pieces? Could police technically confiscate a piece, label it as “drug paraphernalia,” and destroy it?
I guess they could. This questions gets debated a lot among my friends and people interested in my work. The papers are used and they do have traces of resin. As I said earlier, each paper is coated in glue. With the glue mixing with the tiny amounts of resin does that now mean that it couldn’t be ingested or smoked for the purposes of getting high? I would think so. Can it be argued that way in a court of law? I’m not sure, I’m just an artist. I’m hoping that as an artist there is something out there to protect me from persecution.
In the meantime, don’t you think it’s ridiculous that this is a question that should even be open for debate? Aren’t there actual problems in the world? I create art. My art has been digitized and is now immortalized by the Internet. If one of my pieces were to be destroyed, it wouldn’t be gone forever. I would also think the value of my work would increase. Take a look at Tommy Chong. He was doing virtually nothing for years. His glass company gets raided. He goes to jail for nine months and now he’s back in the spotlight with Cheech making good money again. Although damaging, persecution ultimately revitalized his career. I like to look at what Tommy went through and see that as my worst-case scenario.
I noticed your meticulous portrait of legendary hemp historian and marijuana activist Jack Herer. Are you also involved with the push for marijuana reform and legalization initiatives?
I do what I can from an artist’s stand point. I attend local Pittsburgh NORML meetings. I’m donating some prints to help them raise money. I’ve also been asked by Keith Stroup, the founder of NORML, to create something for their offices and possible other uses. I do what I can to support the cause.
Are there any iconic celebrity tokers or future subjects in particular that you are hoping to portray in an upcoming mosaic?
Currently I’m working on a series of “activists.” I just finished a Jack Herer a few days ago. I’m also simultaneously working on a Marc and Jodie Emery mosaic as well as Ed Rosenthal, Rev. Eddy Lepp, and Richard Lee of Oaksterdam. I’ll probably add Rick Simpson to that list before it’s all said and done with also. Hopefully I can start to focus creating mosaics of some of my own designs by spring. I will also be doing a Janis Joplin mosaic when I get around to it.