Palliative medicine and illegal drugs

Artist Nash Hyon explores the question, “What is a Poison? What is a Remedy?” in her series on plants (some illegal) that can be used in medicine. Explore the questions she raises about the use of plants and plant derived drugs in palliative medicine here.

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What is a Poison? What is a Remedy? © 1998 by Nash Hyon
Marijuana, Poppy, Tobacco (independent paintings in triptych form here)

ADDICTION BLOG: Hi Nash. In this series, you represent plants with a dual nature: the marijuana, poppy, and tobacco plant. Can you tell us a little bit about WHY you chose the plants, and specifically, their effects, as the subject of your work?

NASH HYON: My main interests are nature,the sciences, history, the elemental and transformation. The plants were chosen for their dual natures-beneficial in the form of medicine, pain killers, harmful in being either poisonous or addicting. Also in our modern times many people have forgotten that the origins of most medicines are from the natural world.

ADDICTION BLOG: The first thing that impresses me, the viewer, about these works is their size. The paintings are six feet by four feet, if I’m correct. What was your intention in increasing the scale of representation of the tobacco, poppy and marijuana plants?

NASH HYON: The scale of the paintings relates directly to the scale of the human body.

ADDICTION BLOG: How did you choose the palate of color that you would use for this series? Is the choice of color intuitive one or a totally conscious decision? It seems to me that the color scheme represents the “grayness” of the debate around the use and misuse of each of these plants. Is this accurate?

NASH HYON: Part intuitive but I also wanted the paintings to have the feel of being pages torn out of a 17th or 18th century botanical. And yes, this also fits in with the “grayness” of the debate.

ADDICTION BLOG: I’m a big fan of collage and the multidimensional fusion of ideas, image, and feeling on canvas. It seems that you’ve mastered this form. Can you tell us a little bit about your process? For example, do you conceptualize first, or work as you go? How was the form of the plant principle to each piece? And how do you know when a piece is completed?

NASH HYON: Once my concept was firm I did research on each plant, gathered imagery, did loose layouts and then began painting. The process of painting and seeing what is happening will point me in certain directions. When is a painting done? Sometimes I feel I have said what I wanted to say in the painting and the formal aspects are working together so it is done, sometimes it is just when a painting is sold. Sometimes I get stuck and the painting may take several years before it is done.

ADDICTION BLOG: Can you tell us about some of the forms that seem consistent throughout the three paintings. For example, what’s going on with the snake forms? And the footprints? Is there a hint of the “Garden of Eden” throughout the series? If so, what was your idea in referencing it? Primeval paradise? An objective place where the good/evil is reconciled?

NASH HYON: Yes, there is a hint of the Garden of Eden and good/evil. The overall title of this series is “What is a Poison? What is a Remedy?”-in part it depends on ones point of reference and I use some of the same and some different imagery in each piece. I am also creating a timeline by using imagery from various periods. The snake, for instance, is often a symbol of renewal, and two intertwining snakes form the caduseus. At the same time most people fear snakes and many are poisonous to us.

ADDICTION BLOG: I must admit that I am both curious about the ideas behind your paintings but wary of my position as a former addict in condoning the use of each plant. In short, it seems that you’re really provoking the user to personally explore each plant for themselves. Is this true? Do you think that it is possible for most people to use tobacco, marijuana and poppies responsibly? Or how can we ideally view the plants?

NASH HYON: The only thing I am condoning is the use of certain plant derived drugs for palliative care with patients where pain relief should be the deciding factor-not that they might become addicted. Today, especially with the information we have, I do not feel anyone should smoke. Cigarettes in the past were given free to soldiers as it calmed them and helped to steady their nerves. This was thought of as beneficial, this is why tobacco was included.

ADDICTION BLOG: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

NASH HYON: I am not a doctor, a chemist or a scientist but an artist who has been personally affected by these issues who is hoping for more dialogue, information and education concerning all of these complicated issues.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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