Incredibly sick, intricate and psychedelically alive, the Sacramental Vessels series created by the renowned glass artist Banjo is going on display at the Gregorio Escalante Gallery in Los Angeles. A monumental accomplishment for a “functional glass” artist, the gallery show demonstrates a new willingness on the part of the fine art world to embrace works that originated as smoking paraphernalia for an underground, outlaw subculture.
Featuring Banjo’s glass sculptures alongside other visionary works by Alex and Allyson Grey, Amanda Sage, Chris Dyer and Luke Brown, the Sacramental Vessels exhibition marks another incremental step towards normalizing and celebrating marijuana culture as part of creative life.
“A father, a teacher, and an inspirational leader throughout the functional glass community, Banjo has become known for his painstakingly intricate depictions of interdimensional biomechanical deities representing the re-emergence of sacred feminine energy within the post-modern techno-industrial matrix. His android-goddesses sit peacefully amid the Pistons and gears, the nuts and bolts of the machines they are supported by.”—Sacramental Vessels Press Release
In an exclusive interview with HIGH TIMES‘ Editor-in-Chief Dan Skye, Banjo talks about his early days as a nomadic wanderer with the Rainbow Family of Living Light, as well as how starting a family led him to commit to glassblowing as a way to make ends meet. Here’s a few excerpts:
“Jason Lee, Marcel, Clinton, Ezra, Pedro—those guys’ pipes were all on the table everywhere. There were artists around probably doing a thousand-dollar piece a week, and I believed I could probably figure out how to do that. I saw it as a way to support my child. I left college never thinking I would be an artist—I just left to go be a hippie. I really didn’t have any anticipation of doing anything but playing banjo and eating LSD and doing mushrooms, smoking pot, living in the woods. Then, suddenly, you’re having a kid; you gotta do something. I saw these guys blowing glass. That looked like an easy way to make money.”
As Banjo got deeper into creating glass, he felt inspiration take hold. But he still didn’t feel like an artist.
“I considered myself a craftsman primarily for the better part of 16 years. Many of my peers and contemporaries were beating the drum: ‘We’re artists, man! When are we gonna get accepted as artists?’ I never shared in that. I never felt that my work deserved to be in some gallery. I had three-and-a-half years of art school, so when I hit the outlaw-piper scene, I had the benefit of very deep introspection into the creative process. I’d designed in 3-D; I double-majored in photography and sculpture. I welded a lot and did a lot of woodcarving. Then I got into making banjos and guitars. All of these things really contributed to a very broad sense of spatial physics and creative problem-solving skills.”
Later, Banjo felt glassblowing had served a purpose in allowing him to meet his true calling as a father.
“I’m starting to view my glass as a way I can serve my ministry, and my ministry is organic, progressive, conscious parenting. Family is the number-one thing that’s always driven me: paying for them, providing a life for them where they can eat organic foods, not having to go to public school. That’s been the main driver for what I’ve done. Now that I’ve created it, I want to present it as a viable way to live for other people.”
Read the rest of Banjo’s intimate, revealing interview with HIGH TIMES in the December issue, on newsstands now!
Sacramental Vessels runs October 8 – November 13, 2016 at Gregorio Escalante Gallery