Summit County artist uses relief painting for cannabis creations
Longtime local artist Alyssa Serpentini has been working in Summit County for 20 years. She recently began creating relief images of marijuana plants.
Heather Jarvis / [email protected] |
The novelty of marijuana isn’t even waning, even here in Colorado. As more states continue to legalize the plant, be it for medicinal or recreational purposes, the stigma is slowly being replaced with a better understanding of its multiple uses. Alyssa Serpentini, a longtime local artist, recently started using her relief art talents on a new project based on this emerging industry.
She paints large, colorful flowers on canvases to hang in people’s homes. The flowers are cannabis, but not the kind of in-your-face structure of a marijuana plant. The subtle paintings are a mix of greens, blues, and purples that lie on top of each other so that they burst when you look at them. Those familiar with the plant will instantly recognize it for what it is, but those less familiar will usually be amazed at the beauty of the piece, like Serpentini’s mother’s 80-year-old friends who contacted it after posting pictures of the pictures online some of “my pretty green and blue flowers”.
This subtlety is exactly what Serpentini is aiming for – she hopes these images will help change the public’s negative perception of the plant.
“That’s how I want to do it – focus on making it beautiful,” she said. “People (who) don’t know, they think it’s a beautiful flower, and then it starts to change perception, one tiny step at a time. Because that’s what it’s all about. When I take away ‘weeds’, ‘marijuana’ – all those ridiculous things people think of this plant – and make a beautiful flower out of it, they just think, ‘Oh, pretty piece of art’ and then they hear it’s cannabis . “
MERGING TWO INDUSTRIES
With years of experience in the world of architectural art, Serpentini has done everything from art surfaces to bas-reliefs to upholstered walls. Her work can be found across the county, in private homes, and in local businesses such as Caamano Sweaters and The Hearthstone in Breckenridge. It transforms empty walls into three-dimensional, structured areas with raised trees, flowers and business logos – whatever customers are looking for.
After years of doing large-scale relief work on walls, local musician and artist Cody Wayne, a friend of Serpentini, suggested scaling her work down to smaller paintings. She painted two relief pictures for him and sold them both. So she decided to make a few more that also sold.
“Anything I sold in two months,” she said.
This finally led her to the cannabis relief paintings about a year ago. She was out on Steamboat with some friends who own a large pharmacy when another friend opened a store called Secret Stashh Gifts in Denver. The shop sells high quality hemp clothing and high quality pipes for thousands of dollars, so her friends in the industry suggested creating a piece for the business. She did, and it was so well received that she created a few more.
“People keep asking about them ever since, and I haven’t had much time to sit down and do them,” said Serpentini. “I have all these ideas and everyone is ordering them.”
In the blink of an eye, things began to spin forward for the artist. She has professional photos of her work taken, first to be printed on posters and postcards, to give her clients smaller, more affordable options of their work. She has two big projects in the works even though she’s still in the planning stages so she isn’t ready to share the details. With a degree in fashion, she could see her work tastefully printed on clothing or underwear in the future.
“Twenty years in Summit County as a painter and fashion designer, and it all culminated in the last week and a half,” she said.
There was a point where she was a little unsure about the idea of creating the marijuana design.
“I almost stopped, honestly,” she said. “About eight months ago I said, ‘What am I doing? ‘… But then a friend who fought cancer and used cannabis and chemo told me that she felt like they were getting up. She said, “I love to watch this – it’s so uplifting.” So I thought, ‘You know, people use this as a medicinal herb.’ “
A LIFE OF DESIGN
Serpentini grew up in the fashion world when her mother owned a women’s clothing store in Ohio and took her to all of the shows in New York and Chicago.
She moved to Summit County in 1996 after graduating with a degree in fashion merchandising and design. She moved here from Ohio with a roommate who is also a designer to create ski equipment together. During their first two years in the county, the two thrift shops combed and took apart clothes to redesign them. Her roommate eventually became the chief designer of 686 and is now a designer at Under Armor.
Serpentini eventually started painting, and because she could draw, a friend suggested that she try fine art painting to make some money on the side. Through her construction job, she landed an appearance at the old Keystone Discovery Center. This led her to another job at the Frisco Towers, a large apartment complex, which asked her and her roommate to take a bundle of metal and make it look like pine.
“You and I did this whole big apartment in the Frisco Towers in the mid-1990s. From those two jobs, things went from there, ”she said. “The economy was much better back then and there was a lot of faux finishing and that was it – I quit this construction painting job and have been walking alone since 1999. And I haven’t worked for anyone since. “
Serpentini loves to do almost everything the county has to offer – snowboarding, climbing, hiking. She now lives with her daughter in fair play and finds inspiration for her work in her everyday life.
“There’s not much that I’m not inspired by,” she said. “All experiences in life, everything I see, my daughter and all of my people, they all inspire me. That’s why I feel so happy. “
Her work with cannabis art has grown so much over the past month that she looks forward to all the possibilities in the future. She hopes her pieces will help change the negative stigma surrounding the plant, especially when cancer patients use it as a treatment or remedy.
“I hope that if I had a real dream these pieces will get someone looking at something else,” she said. “Why is that so hated? I do not understand. I’ve seen too much of it in the Ohio area I come from. Why not let people have what they want? … If I can help change that perception in any way, that’s all. “