Meet Emily Eizen: inspirational queer artist, model, and cannabis advocate
By Megan Lane, October 2020 Issue.
Growing up in Manhattan Beach, California, Emily Eizen felt like she didn’t fit in with her peers. Her classmates bullied her relentlessly for being an outspoken feminist who marched to the beat of her own drum. Rather than allowing their negative vibes and hateful words to consume her, she decided to eat lunch with her middle school art teacher, where she discovered her passion for the arts in the sixth grade. Eizen began using her creativity as an emotional outlet to cope with life during her younger years.
Now 23, Eizen is an inspirational queer multimedia artist, photographer, sculpture, performer, and model. After a short stint as a political science major at George Washington University in D.C., she moved back to Southern California — Eizen said her creativity was stifling and college didn’t support her free-spirited nature. This is when cannabis entered her life, providing her with the fearlessness she needed to start creating again.
But when she noticed the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry, she decided to use her abilities and platform for the greater good. Last year, she designed the PRIDE campaign for Kush Queen, where she placed gender nonconforming people of color right in the forefront.
Her ‘60s-style, psychedelic-inspired art showcases the beauty, freedom, and diversity that Eizen considers essential for establishing equity in the cannabis space and beyond. She aspires to be a beacon of creativity, which in turn, will help cannabis culture maintain its soul in a very corporate shift.
Eizen spoke with Echo, telling us a bit about her personal life — letting us in on her creative process, favorite artists, experiences with homophobia in the industry, plus so much more.
Echo: Hey Emily, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Where do you draw inspiration from when you’re working?
Emily Eizen: I draw inspiration from many different aspects of my life. As a queer woman, I always want to give credit and homage to queer culture. Also, growing up by the beach is something that I think has also influenced my taste for retro skating culture, roller skating, and the sun. The divine feminine is a constant subject in my work as well — as well as cannabis, the connection between femmes, and nature.
Who are your favorite artists from the 1960’s or ‘70s?
My favorite artists, and one of my many inspirations from that time, is Andy Warhol. We actually have the same birthday, so I feel connected to him especially (big Leo energy.) I appreciate the way he embraced more than just one medium during his career, like myself. Warhol wasn’t just an artist, he also cultivated a community at The Factory (his legendary studio), which housed and fostered many icons of that time period. His colorful use of pop culture is really inspiring to me. Also, artists like Barbara Kruger and Keith Haring inspire my work visually and conceptually. The way they both speak about social issues through their art is something I want to emulate.
What is your role in the cannabis industry, and how does it relate to your artwork?
I would say my role is not just in the cannabis industry — my goal is to bring the narrative of art and representation into the cannabis industry, two elements that are very much lacking. Whether cannabis brands want to work with me or not, I will always advocate for not only myself, but more importantly, marginalized groups through my work—flipping the narrative of the War On Drugs, showing my BIPOC friends and models enjoying life and thriving with cannabis, showing the diverse and vibrant range of cannabis users, while also speaking up about mass incarceration and inequities when it comes to cannabis profits.
Your Instagram is filled with vibrant colors and photographs of people smoking pot — your audience loves it. Why do you think there is such a fascination with this?
I think my audience resonates with my work because it is not only appealing to the eye, but it brings up feelings of nostalgia, for some, who remember or admire the early days of hippies and cannabis culture, free love, and revolution. I also think people engage with my work because although it relies on vintage aesthetics, there is a very modern aspect to it. Blending modern fashion and topics with older aesthetics is something that I like about my work. People are tired of the same old cannabis content, which traditionally objectifies women and is lacking in artistic vision.
Can you describe your process, from start to finish, when you’re in the midst of painting?
I always set up my studio before I smoke. That is very key — it makes the actual creative flow much more seamless after I smoke my joint. As a photographer and painter, something that is often overlooked is how long set up and break down actually takes, which is most of the process. So getting that out of the way before I get faded makes my life a lot easier.
My paintings don’t follow a plan. I usually have no idea what I’m doing until it’s done. I usually de-focus my eyes, so I’m in this sort of meditative trance where I only see some lines and blocks of color. It is a stream of consciousness. It’s not until the piece is mostly finished when I step back and say, “Oh, shit. So that’s what’s on my mind.” It’s very therapeutic. My art professors in school would give me shit for not picking a limited color palette from the start, but somehow my paintings always end up looking cohesive.
Did you start off working with one medium, and if so, which did you have your first foray with?
It’s crazy, even when I look at my artwork from when I was very young, even as a child, there were always elements of collage and mixed media. I would print out “My Scene” and “Bratz” and put them in my “dream room” or something of that nature, always cutting and pasting. But I started painting and drawing lessons before I got into photography. When I started learning darkroom photography at 14, I began drawing on my pictures, and that’s when I really started incorporating those two aspects of my work in a meaningful and serious way.
When did you realize that art is an integral part of your life?
When I moved to Washington D.C. to learn the ins and outs of political science in college, that’s when I realized that I would be happier, and more impactful, using my art as a way to create change — as opposed to the traditional law degree and Capitol Hill intern path. That direction was simply lacking in art and creativity, and I recognized that I had abandoned my passion for the arts — I credit cannabis for that realization.
Have you experienced sexism or homophobia in the cannabis industry, and if so, how did you handle that?
Of course I have, especially as a conventionally attractive woman. Lots of men in the industry are sexist. I experienced this a lot when I was a budtender in a lot of different dispensaries, pre-recreational. There are still a lot of men who don’t want to believe that I’m gay based on how I look. I no longer put up with that type of treatment, but it can be really hard to stand up for yourself sometimes when you’re just getting started. This is why I try to mostly surround myself with womxn, and people who know how to treat other people. Now that I know my worth, I will walk off of a set if I am being mistreated or undervalued in any way.
For anyone struggling with anxiety or low self-esteem, what advice would you give them? I ask this because you seem so fearless, outspoken, and courageous.
E.E: I battle anxiety on a daily basis. I also deal with depression. For me, I find that meditation, breathwork, medications that help my anxiety, and remembering that I have so much to be grateful for is huge help. Being courageous also means being vulnerable and treating yourself with kindness and compassion. I have always been outspoken, it’s just in my nature to want to speak out. Watching speeches by other fearless leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and learning how to emulate how they speak is a good tool if you don’t know how to start.
What are your favorite cannabis products?
I love me some flower, all kinds really. Smoking is my favorite method of consumption. I draw inspiration from smoke patterns in the air. There is also something so elegant about how smoke looks in photos. One brand I really enjoy is Stone Road, an organic sun grown, queer-owned brand. Viola cannabis is also super great quality, as well as Black-owned. For CBD, Kush Queen is the best brand in my opinion. Their CBD gummies are insane and put me to sleep instantly. They also have amazing CBD bath bombs and most importantly, they are very socially conscious and inclusive.
Before the coronavirus swept in like a tornado, how did you spend your days?
Well, the things I used to do that I miss, which are now not safe for me are the following: photoshoots with many people on set, getting together with my creative circle and friend group and sharing weed, going out to restaurants with my girlfriend April, skating by the beach, splashing in the waves, going to the movies, and attending cannabis events.
I actually was in the midst of planning my debut art show which was going to be epic. I planned on incorporating cannabis brands, art installations, and pop-ups of my friends businesses. I am mourning that, but I can’t wait until it’s safe again, and it will be for the better because during the pandemic, I have grown as a person and an artist.
Skincare products you can’t live without? P.S.: your skin is flawless!
I want to address this honestly because this is something I struggle with constantly. As much as I want to be an outspoken advocate on so many things, my skin has always been one of my deepest insecurities I struggle with to this day — it’s not flawless. I actually have acne and scarring, but I’m working on that within myself, and hopefully one day soon I will have the bravery to show my skin without makeup. I can’t wait till Fenty Skin (an extension of Rihanna’s product line) drops and hopefully that will get my life together!
You can find Emily Eizen’s latest artwork and career happenings at emilyeizen.com and @emilyeizen on Instagram.