Charlotte’s Web Holdings (CWEB.T) has commissioned an art piece from Studio Number One, the creative agency started by street-artist Shepard Fairey, with the express intention of raising consciousness about the need for improved and equal access to hemp-derived CBD products for consumers in every U.S. state.
The agency created the original work first as a mural in Brooklyn in October of 2019, and now it’s been brought to life as 76 acres in a farmer’s field. Because: reasons. Actually, money.
“This art is the visual and naturally living embodiment of Charlotte’s Web’s mission to unleash the healing powers of botanicals. And, we hope this inspires many to join us in fighting for sound federal and state regulations,” said Deanie Elsner, chief executive officer for Charlotte’s Web.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something unwholesome about a company that tries to use art as a means to influence social change during a time of severe social unrest. It’s a curious bit of misdirection that nobody’s buying. Parts of the United States are literally on fire while people are trying to uproot its history and cut out its rotten core, and all of this in the middle of a pandemic. There’s real genuinely meaningful things happening on every streetcorner, and all CWEB wants to do is point their finger at a farmer’s field and their piece of contrived corporate art, and draw attention to the injustice of being unable to sell CBD products in all 50 states.
“A farmer’s field is a place to cultivate life-changing ideas and grow a voice for those still seeking hemp-based wellness. Through this powerful artwork, we experience a coalition between earth and humanity, and our journey to create sustainable, natural wellness. In the case of hemp, revolutionary wellness,” said Jared Stanley, chief cultivation officer and a co-founder of Charlotte’s Web.
Sorry, Jared, but art is never viewed as separate from the social circumstances surrounding it, and the timing of your ‘revolutionary’ art piece isn’t good. First, we should point out that there’s nothing wrong with making money. If the company had produced this art installation, pointed at it, and said an approximation of ‘hey look at this cool shit we did. Buy our products,’ it’d be enough. But whipping out the word ‘revolutionary’ while the rest of the country burns from real, actual injustice is insulting to people fighting for an actual cause other than making this company more money.
What you’re looking at in the image is a hand holding a massive hemp stalk, which was grown and mown on 3,049,200 square feet of farmland, which is roughly the equivalent of 57 football fields. The installation hired out one farmer, who used GPS to help him mow the entire field. It’s so massive it could only be photographed from the air.
“Whether it’s a mural in Brooklyn, a poster in your home or a field in Kansas, Studio Number One understands the power of art to compel change. We worked with Charlotte’s Web to call on citizens to trust the earth,” said Fairey.
This coming from a guy who slapped a picture of Andre the Giant on a paint-by-numbers set with the word Obey underneath and then cashed in when the art world went gaga over street art.
Warhol did it better (and with more self-awareness) and before him—Duchamp. It’s another example of populist art stripped of context and repurposed to serve the systems it’s meant to challenge.
“Our team is proud that our art continues to create positive change in the world and we hope this unique field installation can start a dialogue about equal access to hemp-derived products for those who need it,” said Annie Pham, Studio Number One’s marketing director.
What positive change might that be? It didn’t even move CWEB’s needle—which remains flat, despite the garish green publicity stunt that nobody cares about.
Here’s my favourite quote of this whole debacle:
“This glorious field art celebrates everyone on Earth whose lives have been improved by hemp-derived CBD wellness products. Charlotte’s Web continues to lead the revolution and will continue to advocate,” said Elsner.
Advocate for what?
The issue they’re trying to raise awareness for is a lack of federal regulations, and that there are some states where they can’t do business selling CBD products. They’re working hard to change that, presumably. Why they wouldn’t throw money at a lobby group like everyone else is beyond me (and apparently them) and they’re hoping to “spark conversations and give citizens the chance to participate in the fight.” Mostly their words – not mine.
Let’s be clear on one thing: there’s no fight here. The Department of Homeland Security isn’t sending armed thugs to dispensaries to make sure they’re selling only government approved products, and clubbing store owners who refuse to comply. The rioting happening all over the United States isn’t over marketable hemp-derived CBD products. Donald Trump isn’t sending in ‘hundreds of law enforcement officers‘ to quell the uprising over the lack of CBD-lotions on shelves, and nobody’s storming the capitol because they can’t get their CBD-spray.
Normally, companies using revolutionary rhetoric to drum up support for their product is barely worthy of an eyeroll at the hyperbole, but given all that’s been happening in the states (and beyond) it’s downright offensive.