Illustration by James the Stanton

Stash Box: Karla Fuller-Palmer Paints With Pot

For her latest work, the Tacoma artist uses marijuana as more than a muse.

Karla Fuller-Palmer got her start at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. There she worked in sculpture and videography, but since setting up shop in Tacoma, the multimedia artist has been dabbling in some new media. She is teaching herself photography, for instance, and painting with cannabis. Literally.

Her creative process adheres to a strict regimen. “I always smoke a large, fresh bowl of indica kush before I begin painting,” Palmer asserts. “If I’m doing something out in the field, it’s usually consumed after the hard or dangerous work—like lugging camera gear or dealing with fire—is complete.”

Fuller-Palmer’s latest project is in keeping with her previous work, which is deeply influenced by her nomadic military childhood, her struggle with “a fierce death anxiety,” and a profound reverence for the Washington landscape. But for her Ash Painting series, she has taken the role of pot in her painting from muse to material. Her latest work features stark black-and-white Cascadian-influenced landscapesand they are painted on recycled plastic with a paint Palmer creates out of cannabis ashes and pigment.

“When I make my paint, it’s pretty ritualized,” Palmer explains, revealing a bit of her technique. “It’s processed under the full moon and ground by hand.” She pauses. “It is a meditative process. It’s a dream come true, as cheesy as it sounds.”

The paintings solely utilize recycled materials, an intentional decision on Palmer’s part. “I am creating visual escapes into the wild … with respect and wonder, while being aware of my footprint.” Exploring personal myth, the symbolism goes even further: “The use of ashes speaks to all life’s eventual status: death. The mountains will carry on without us.”

Cannabis sat very comfortably with this therapeutic approach. “I struggle with extreme anxiety, so I tend to smoke indica or indica-dominant strains. Indica strains slow my hyperactive, paranoid mind so I can relax or focus on projects. Bubba’s Gift is a current favorite.”

For Palmer, combining her art and cannabis was a natural move. “Weed has, for years, helped inspire mental connections for me and facilitate the development of imagery,” she explains. “I use it for many reasons, one of those being a creative tool. It’s no different than having a favorite brand of paint.”

Palmer archives much of her transient life through her art forms as a means of dissecting and cataloguing her experiences. As a youth, artistic expression bloomed from a gut feeling as a buffer between herself and the world. A personal breakthrough came when curator Laurie Kearney gave Palmer her first show at Ghost Gallery in Seattle. Where Palmer had originally been making art for her personal edification and refuge, she realized she was connecting to people around her, breaking the spell of reclusiveness. “Isolation is a poison,” she intones, “and connection is the antidote.”

Whether she’s working or not, Palmer says her favorite form of imbibing is still smoking a bowl. “It’s the classic way to go, but every so often I’ll bust out a batch of medicated cookies or brownies. Cooking at home is a very relaxing activity.” MEAGAN ANGUS

stashbox@seattleweekly.com

See Palmer’s series at karlafullerpalmer.com.

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