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Form Follows Function in These Pipe Dreams

Mr. Gray. In the Garden of Weed(en).
Photography by Scott Southern @boro.vision, Collection of Greyspace.

Banjo. Optimus Prime, 2013. Photography by Alex Reyna @areysocal.

Some folks smoke joints or vape on street corners and be done with it; but not all cannabis connoisseurs are nearly so informal. There are a self-selecting group of smokers who prefer the accoutrements the herb calls for, finding pleasure in hand crafted glass pipes that are as complex and compelling as the drug itself. Both an object unto itself and a vessel to the promised land, pipes have evolved into highly intricate designs by artists who live the life.

This is a Pipe: The Evolution of the Glass Pipe and its Artists (Nicholas Fahey & Brad Melshenker/INSTITUTE) chronicles the history the underground scene that began 40 years ago with the Godfather, Bob Snodgrass and follows the evolution of an art that takes Louis Sullivan’s maxim of “form follows function” to a new high.

The book features a series of chapters with 50 key artists, all of whom share a portfolio of works accompanied by brief biographies that create meaningful context for their aesthetic philosophy and artistic practice. As Stressless (Kevin Nail) explains, “It’s all about your mind, not the glass.”

These artists work in their own scene, outside the art world. Their creativity is propelled by the possibilities of the medium, taking glass blowing into a new realm where there designs are not only captivating but an integral part of the experience, perfecting the art of paraphernalia over and over again.

“Glass is so old, it’s infinitely complex, like a fractal,” observes Clinton Roman, who treats each work as a quest for knowledge. This calling echoes throughout the book, as each of the artist’s journey reminds us that there are many paths to the same place. Each of the designs featured here gives us a glimpse into the sensation of THC gently coursing through our bloodstream.

The infinite variety of shape and form, color and pattern, combined with the use it proffers suggests something of the ways in which cannabis acts upon the mind. Channeling an array of energies from curious to quixotic, stunning with a sense of the surreal, each of the pipes offers a visual interpretation of how being high feels: the grandeur and the glamour, the humorous foolishness, the elegance of the awkward – a panoply of pipes revealing themselves as increasingly intricate as you gaze upon their form.

“It’s about the unknown. You wan to make the unknown known. Hone those formulas to comply to a deeper composition,” Quave explains. This integrity roots itself in the exquisite execution of these works, which are infinitely fragile and constantly subject to loss. Many works never make it beyond the studio, due to mishaps in the kiln or cuing process – or the destruction of pipes under the U.S. government’s 2003 Operation Pipe Dreams, which targeted businesses selling pipes and bongs, costing taxpayers $12 million.

Collections were seized and many artists and collectors went underground and had to start again. One of the great things about the community is the fact that it is exactly that.

“Functional glass art is one of the few contemporary mediums of art that embraces collaboration among the artists. Nowhere else in the fine art world do you see artists so freely sharing techniques, ideas, and even collectors,” Nicholas Fahey writes in an essay in the book.

“Imagine a contemporary painter or sculptor saying to another artist, ‘Let me show you how I make my work and then let’s go sell it to one of my clients and split the profits.’ This hallmark of the functional glass industry is one of its defining characteristics and of the artists themselves. The custom of sharing new and common knowledge with friends built the foundation for glass art’s collaborative culture.”

This culture is an extension of cannabis, in as much as the drug has the ability to nourish a creative community of artists driven to push the boundaries of the form while channeling the limitless potential of the human spirit.

Zach P. Reggie, Boombox Friends, 2015.
Photography by Jeff DiMarco, @iamjeffdimarco.

Cowboy. Sherlock. Photography by Jeff DiMarco, @iamjeffdimarco.

Mr. Gray. Pipeapple Rig.
Photography by Scott Southern @boro.vision, Collection of Greyspace.

 

Buck. Reti-yellow Fish, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Zach P. Amondo, 2015. Photography by Jeff DiMarco, @iamjeffdimarco.

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