Since 1999, Canadian pop and mural artist Daniel Joseph Bombardier, better known by his artistic alter ego DENIAL, has been creating aerosol and stencil artworks that critique contemporary politics, capitalism, consumerism and the human condition. But one of DENIAL’s latest pieces, commissioned for and by High Times, is a more personal project. Part of a series titled “Shelf Medication,” DENIAL created a giant capsule that looks like a painted pill branded with the High Times logo. But while “Shelf Medication” wants to draw attention to the way people obsess over brands and become addicted to products, DENIAL’s High Times capsule is more about how people are starting to view and use cannabis as a medicine.
High Times caught up with Bombardier, who just wrapped up a “Part Art Part Party” at his studio, celebrating the launch of a limited edition English beer DENIAL produced some artwork for. We asked him about the role cannabis plays in his creative process, how it treats his insomnia and why he’s being sued by Mercedes-Benz.
Canadian Mural Artist DENIAL Cured His Insomnia with Cannabis Oil
DENIAL’s “Shelf Medication” piece for High Times isn’t meant to suggest that people are addicted to weed or overly obsessed with the world’s greatest weed media company. Instead, it’s an expression of Bombardier’s personal experience with cannabis and the massive social movement that’s embracing it, after years of criminalization and denial, as a safe and effective medicine.
For at least a decade, Bombardier suffered from severe insomnia. Despite trying everything from sleeping pills, special pillows, sleep meds, Ambien and drinking any and everything, nothing worked. “It’s the type of mind I have. I just won’t sleep,” he told High Times. He couldn’t fall asleep, and everything he did to make it better made him feel even more out of touch.
Bombardier had smoked weed before, of course, but the stimulating, sometimes anxiety-provoking response didn’t seem like it would help him fall asleep. But then a friend gave Bombardier some of his homemade weed oil. He tried a tablespoon before bed one night and—of course—it worked.
“I slept for nine hours for the first time in over 10 years! It was amazing so I started taking the oil every night before bed and continued to sleep properly. I began to feel younger and had 20 times more energy,” Bombardier told High Times.
For four years, Bombardier has been able to treat his insomnia using cannabis oil. Specifically, he uses oils derived from indica and hybrid strains. And when it comes to dose, it depends on the day. Usually, somewhere between 10-20mg of THC is enough to counteract the anxiety of the day and let Bombardier sleep. Sometimes, though, it takes five to 10 times that much.
“Sometimes it takes 100 mg to shut my crazy brain off.”
Cannabis “Can’t Help But Make You More Creative”
But finally getting a quality night’s sleep isn’t the only benefit Bombardier is enjoying from his bedtime dose of cannabis oil. He also says it helps his creative process.
Right before he falls asleep, Bombardier says he often gets ideas. So he writes them down. Really interesting ideas, based on other ideas. Cannabis, the artist says, helps him spin those ideas, get a new view on them, turn them into something else, connect them with something else.
But all of that is just a happy coincidence. DENIAL doesn’t consume cannabis specifically for the creative process. Instead, it’s more of a “byproduct,” he says. Cannabis “can’t help but make you more creative. It opens up creative attitudes in people’s minds.”
“It’s kind of like LSD, but not as chemically powerful. I can completely testify to the fact it changed the way I think in a positive and therapeutic way. Marijuana does that on a smaller, not so intense level,” Bombardier told High Times.
Between traveling the world, working on his ongoing Free 4 All Walls project in Ontario, and completing his own mural art works across Canada, the United States and elsewhere, DENIAL always finds himself up to something. But he and a cohort of fellow mural artists have also found themselves embroiled in a legal battle with Mercedes-Benz. It’s a case that has massive implications for artists whose work exists in public spaces.
Legal Battles With Mercedes-Benz
It all started when Mercedes-Benz published a wide-reaching advertising campaign featuring photographs taken in Detroit against a background of murals created by DENIAL and other artists. Every year, Detroit hosts a Murals in the Market mural festival, and the mural work artists have contributed to Detroit’s Eastern Market have transformed the entire area. DENIAL tells the story of a building he and other artists working with Interstate Gallery and One Time Run bought for $300,000. Five years and 150 murals later, that building is now worth $3.5 million.
But when Mercedes showed up to shoot its advertisements, it did nothing to compensate the mural artists whose public artworks graced the glossy pages of the mega-corporate ad campaign. In fact, Mercedes didn’t even acknowledge the vital work of DENIAL and other artists did to revitalize the East Market.
So DENIAL hired a lawyer and threatened to sue Mercedes unless they gave the artists some compensation for the work they used in the ads. In response, Mercedes sued them back, aiming to change the copyright laws to make it possible for them to use representations of artists’ work without paying them. And “if they win,” Bombardier told High Times, “you could produce a mural and without any permission a company could use it in a hemorrhoids ad.”
The lawsuit is currently pending in federal court in Detroit, where Bombardier wants judges to dismiss it “because it’s stupid.”
High Times asked about any upcoming projects. “I want to do Mercedes stuff,” said DENIAL. “But my lawyer is currently advising me against it.”