When it comes to the effortless mix of artistry and activism in Safina Monet’s work, it’s hard for her to say which came first. It’s a hen’s egg dilemma that combines her mother’s ingenuity and fortitude with her charismatic demeanor that inspired her artistic career path.
“My mom was really creative when I was growing up,” said Portland-based Monet. “Whatever we didn’t have, we made it. From a young age, I learned how to put things together with whatever salvaged materials I could get my hands on and whatever else I could find. In a way, my artwork became an opportunity for me to channel my upbringing and start a conversation about cannabis.” To continue normalizing the plant.”
It makes sense that Monet had a passion for assemblage, a technique that creates one cohesive piece of work from a collection of seemingly unrelated materials such as photographs, scraps of paper and scraps of fabric. She has found a way to continue her childhood tradition digitally by drawing inspiration from different places to create eye-catching designs. The graphic designer and self-taught artist uses her work to draw viewers into her world of edgy, weedy, and wondrous wonders—with embedded political undertones that recall the stigma that still surrounds cannabis.
“I moved to Portland just as the adult market was being legalized,” said Monet. “It was a really strange place where a little Oregon bubble was celebrating, but outside of Portland there was a huge stigma around using cannabis. It really seemed like my artwork was in demand at the time.”
antique and contemporary
At a glance, Monet’s Technicolor work is a feast for minimalists who love rich, uncomplicated art. But a closer look draws you into the details and the message. retro beauties elegantly puffed on the knuckles; Icons like Spike Lee and Eartha Kitt are there alongside cannabis fan leaves; And the bushy buds playfully replace objects that range from funky hairdos to broomsticks to weed-wielding witches. This subtlety is intentional—it’s Monet’s way of giving people a nice step toward normalizing cannabis use.
“I’m a big fan of exposure therapy, where you’re encouraged to confront the thing you’re avoiding only until you become desensitized to it,” Monet says with a smile.
Her art has an undeniable vintage vibe that also embodies a modern twist that ensures the cannabis plant is the main message—even if it’s not always front and center.
“My work is for people who are uncomfortable with weeds,” says the talented artist. “I do a good job of mixing cannabis into my work, so it may feel like it’s being hidden. Someone who might be against weed might like a certain business, and when it looks a bit more difficult, they realize there’s cannabis in it.”
She said these exact kinds of moments led to interesting conversations as she had the opportunity to educate people who weren’t so open to cannabis. She sees these interactions as fun social experiences where her art becomes a learning platform.
Relax, it’s art
Monet is widely recognized as an important part of her work in defense of cannabis. “I’ve always been an outspoken person when it comes to cannabis, but since working in the industry I’ve been inspired to learn more about our collective civic duty and to understand the law better,” Monet said.
As co-founder of the Cannabis Workers Alliance and We Are MOTA (Minorities for Opportunity, Transparency and Accountability in Hemp), Monet advocates for fair labor practices in the hemp and cannabis industries. “At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty and confusion,” she said. “Workers were afraid of getting sick or losing their jobs, so it seemed the right time to unite the voice of the labor movement on cannabis.”
Both of her organizations aim to build just and inclusive futures for people of color in the industry. It is clear that the energy that Monet puts into her activity has inspired her later creations. Because she puts so much emphasis on strategic planning and organization over her civic agenda, Monet said her work is getting cooler to balance out the high energy. Her art has always been a pleasant escape from reality, but more than ever, she uses it as a way to relax and create a space separate from her activist work.
The steady pace did not prevent Monet from adjusting her plans for the future. Since working in the cannabis industry, she has seen her workload grow tenfold with the ever-evolving relationship between society and weed. As perspectives, opinions, and access to information continue to change, she hopes to see her scope of work expand to larger projects.
“I’d love to start doing more murals and even do my own in dispensaries,” says Monet. “I really want to show more of my artistic side. You know, it’s still funny to call myself an artist — but I’m willing to explore that and take my work to another level.”
This story was originally published on printed edition of hemp now.