A painting with your meds? An art gallery pops up inside a cannabis dispensary

"Green Whore of Love," a painting by Marilyn Manson, on display at the ShowGrow cannabis dispensary in downtown Los Angeles.
“Green Whore of Love,” a painting by Marilyn Manson, on display at the ShowGrow cannabis dispensary in downtown Los Angeles.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Art galleries pop up in all sorts of curious locations around Los Angeles. In Los Feliz, there is a gallery in a stairwell; in Culver City, one in a box. Countless garage galleries are in backyards all over the city. And now Los Angeles is home to a gallery in a cannabis dispensary.

Amid bags of cannabis corn chips and grow rooms with budding Snozzberry OG, the roughly year-old dispensary ShowGrow has transformed its downtown Los Angeles store into a showplace for art.

Decorating the lobby, which is open to the public, and the dispensary itself (license required), is a rotating exhibition of paintings, photographs and other works — including a portrait of Snoop Dogg by photographer Sasha Young and figure studies by French filmmaker Arghaël — all available for sale.

People think of wine and art. I feel that this falls into that category. There is an element of luxury.

— Matt Smiley, ShowGrow

Photographs on display at ShowGrow, from top: "Callie: Triple Threat" by Joyce Downing, top, and "Snoop with Canvas" by Sasha Young.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

“One of the things that we have talked about is creating a space that is open and friendly,” says Matt Smiley, ShowGrow’s events manager and curator — and a painter himself. “We do an almost monthly show.”

“People think of wine and art,” he adds. “I feel that this falls into that category. There is an element of luxury.”

Certainly many dispensaries are shedding their stoner college-dorm aesthetic in favor of something more sophisticated. The cannabis boom has resulted in a boom in shop design. In the case of ShowGrow, that includes bright, wood-paneled interiors and uncluttered, cleanly designed display cabinets featuring buds and pipes.

And, of course, there’s the art — which includes a stencil by Zachary Cole Fernandez, the artist known as Jesus Hands, who claimed responsibility for altering the Hollywood sign to read “Hollyweed” on New Year’s Day.

“It’s just fun,” says ShowGrow CEO David Barakett. “The cannabis industry — often you walk into a place and the facilities are often not agreeable to everyone. There’s the required Tupac poster . . . . We didn’t want [ShowGrow] to be just another weed store.”

A stencil by Zach Fernandez, the artist known as "Jesus Hands," on view at ShowGrow.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Since quietly launching its art program last spring, Smiley says the dispensary has sold roughly half a dozen works — without ever advertising itself as a gallery.

The downtown shop, one of the dispensary’s four locations (there are also stores in Santa Ana, Ramona and Las Vegas), draws between 150 to 200 customers per day, Smiley says. And the best part for artists: “ShowGrow doesn’t take a commission.”

On view in the lobby space is a mix of celebrity portraits, including one of Lindsay Lohan dressed up as Elizabeth Taylor for the Lifetime flick “Liz & Dick.” There is also a trio of abstract canvases by Elle Michalka, an animator who is also a painter, and a photograph by Max Barsness, who frequently shoots landscape images of Los Angeles.

Inside the dispensary are a mural and a ceiling installation by the street artist known as Punk Me Tender. One wall bears a watercolor by singer Marilyn Manson, who is also a painter — a work titled “Green Whore of Love.”

Smiley says he has known Manson for years, and the two would often have paint nights together. “There is such a beautiful mystery to what he does,” he says.

From left: Paintings by Matt Smiley and Whitman Lindstrom, and a mural by Punk Me Tender, at ShowGrow — a dispensary that also functions as gallery.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

ShowGrow is at work on adding even more space devoted to art at its L.A. shop. Customers generally exit through a small room that deposits them back in the lobby. That room is now being converted into an art installation space.

“I’m heavily invested in the art world,” says Smiley. “And this a nice place to show.”

ShowGrow’s rotating exhibition of works from its Turnt Art collection is on display through May 1. A new exhibit, “Get Lifted,” opens May 13.

The lobby at ShowGrow functions as a public gallery area, with works by Arghaël, Elle Michalka and Bryan Fox.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

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