By Anthi Panagiotidis, additional reporting and photos by Kimiya Ehsan
On Wednesday, May 11th, luxury smoking accessories company House of Puff invited all lovers of art and cannabis to a new exhibition of abstract paintings by artist, author and social justice advocate Chris Wilson. The exhibit, part of Wilson’s series I Can Show You the Way Out, was hosted by Etain Health, New York’s only family-run, women-owned and operated cannabis entities. Guests entered Etain’s flagship location in Midtown Manhattan and made their way to the second floor, where Wilson’s paintings will be on public view until June 10. A percentage of any artworks sold will go to the nonprofit Solitary Watch, which investigates, documents, and disseminates information about the widespread use of solitary confinement in American prisons and jails.
Watch House of Puff's interview with artist Chris Wilson:
Chris Wilson's I Can Show You the Way Out: Prison Resilience Through Art
At age 17, Chris Wilson was charged with a crime, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. While spending time in solitary confinement, Wilson had an epiphany, and committed to a life of self-improvement and compassion through the entanglement of business and art. His collection I Can Show You the Way Out incorporates a variety of pieces inspired by his resilience in prison and the desire to do better. The centerpiece work, Positive Delusions, memorializes the process that Chris used to survive solitary confinement for 16 years.
House of Puff and Chris Wilson's Social Justice Collaboration
House of Puff, a social justice-oriented, woman and Latinx-owned brand, collaborated with Chris for a multitude of reasons. Kristina Lopez Adduci, founder and CEO, and Holly J. Hager, COO, met Chris through one of their advisors.
“I immediately downloaded Chris's book on Audible,” Hager explained. “And it was like mind candy. I mean, it was frightening mind candy, but I really feel like it is the next chapter in the saga after the New Jim Crow. Chris’s work really takes it to the next level and makes it so personal about why we need to change this, especially for cannabis audiences.” The event developed by House of Puff and Etain was designed to bring to fruition everything that the companies stand for: cannabis, art, and social reform.
“We were fans of his art right off the bat,” Adduci said. “House of Puff wants to support cannabis by licensing artwork on our rolling papers, which is like carrying a piece of art everywhere you go.” In this case a portion of that will not only go back to the artist, but to Solitary Watch.
House of Puff and Etain Health: Women-Owned Cannabis Brands Making a Difference
Companies like Etain and House of Puff seek to make a difference in the Cannabis world. Both are female-owned and oriented businesses that push both social and creative boundaries. They provide for their customers with modernity, care, and most importantly, perspective. All to tackle the mission that is to empower others as well as bring further attention to important societal issues involving cannabis. With House of Puff's emphasis on artistic expression and activism, along with Etain’s humanitarian and environmental values, the two come together to bring forth opportunities for creators like Chris to be able to share their work and story.
It’s been the ethos of both Etain and House of Puff to uplift their fellow humanitarian advocates in the cannabis space. The two companies were featured last year at The Stone Age, New York’s first fully immersive public cannabis exhibit, which included an artists’ showcase and education around cannabis-related incarceration. House of Puff has also been a longtime fixture on Etain’s shelves (the exclusive brick-and-mortar retail home for the brand in New York City), which highlight women-owned brands such as Potli, Ananda Farms, NSNT Spray, TribeTokes, Barbari, and Buy Weed From Women. One popular item, House of Puff’s Paula Flores Limited Edition Rolling Papers, donates proceeds from sales to support the innovative Latine artist.
Etain Health Hosts House of Puff and Chris Wilson's Exhibition
Etain provided a beautiful and connective space for Chris Wilson’s collection to be exhibited to the public. Attendees were directed to an upstairs area where his vibrant and eye-catching work lined the walls. Large groups gathered around in awe, conversing back and forth whilst admiring his compelling display of expression. Cannabis industry leaders were among the throng, including integrative medicine pioneer Dr. June Chin, chef and renowned advocate Kimberly Barrett, attorney and award-winning author David Feldman, and Jake Plowden, co-founder of the Cannabis Cultural Association.
In the front of the gallery, “I Can Show You the Way Out” was displayed in large writing with a summary of Chris’s life story and achievements. Alongside, two headphones were available to block out the noise amidst the bustling gallery so one could watch a video further depicting his journey. Chris Wilson and Kristina Lopez Aducci took a monumental moment to gather in the gallery and speak about their collaborative activism and mission. Downstairs, displays of House of Puff's rolling paper sets could be seen alongside Chris’s book The Master Plan. All these powerful and creative individuals worked to put together a moving and impactful experience.
Chris Wilson's I CAN SHOW YOU THE WAY OUT is currently on view at Etain's Manhattan flagship location, 242 East 58th Street, until June 10, 2022. To learn more about House of Puff, visit houseofpuff.com; for more on Etain, visit etainhealth.com. To see more of Chris Wilson's work, visit chriswilson.biz, and for more about Solitary Watch and solitary confinement reform, visit solitarywatch.org.
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Featured image: House of Puff founder/CEO Kristina Lopez Adduci and artist Chris Wilson at the opening of I CAN SHOW YOU THE WAY OUT at Etain's Manhattan flagship. (C) Kimiya Ehsan / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.