Dan Cretu: The Making of a Pop-Culture Kaleidoscope

By David Jenison on February 25, 2019

Dan Cretu is an artist associated with many different styles. Some know the Romanian as the photographer who creates such amazing food constructs as a camera made from limes and oranges, while others know him for merging pop culture and classic art, crafting images like the Mona Lisa in a sexy scene from Basic Instinct. More recently, Cretu emerged as one of the leading artists creating kaleidoscopes of cannabis and pop culture. These works include Tarzan perched on a sativa leaf, cannabis chopsticks, bananas grippin' a joint, a munchies-themed pizza delivery and even a giant bud meteor. PRØHBTD spoke with Cretu to learn more. 

You famously mix pop culture, fine art and historical references. What elements of modern pop culture do you see in the works of artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, Vermeer and da Vinci?

I love all of the artists you mentioned. I studied them in college, and they’re “artistic gods” to me. My work often includes a message, whether literal or hidden, and in order to communicate something on a mass level I find that it helps to include works of art that are universally known. 

You're also famous in the cannabis community for mash-ups like Marge Simpson with a cannabis-bud hairdo and President Obama surrounded by pot leaves. What was the first cannabis-themed piece you created, and what inspired you to make it?

I think it was an image of Rihanna. Her unapologetic love of cannabis always inspires me!

What were the reactions to your early cannabis-themed artwork?

I've received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, and I really appreciated it. I'm continuously surprised by the size of the cannabis community—so many people in the world enjoy cannabis. The general appetite for humor and weed-related content continues to inspire and motivate many of my pieces. Honestly, had my earlier works not been as well received, I probably would have stopped sharing it.

Your cannabis-themed art is diverse, from Rihanna's Walk of Fame leaf and “Stonedhenge” to donut smoke rings and the cannabis Apple logo. Is there a shared intent and specific message that ties all these images together?

Besides my love for cannabis, I can't say there's really a deeper connection. Some are satirical, and others are just graphic matches. 

Which 19th- or early 20th-century artist would you have loved to see create a cannabis-themed piece?  

It was a period of true avant-garde for art, but it's tough to imagine how the great artists of the time would have approached the cannabis theme. If pressed to choose one name, I think Salvador Dalí would have been the one to create something special in connection with cannabis. After all, surrealism was his forte.

You've worked in advertising in Bucharest. What are some key elements of modern branding that cannabis companies should make sure they understand in order to elevate the way they market their products?

I think companies that are serious and want to become household names will need to create a universe around their products. At some point soon, it won't be enough to simply use an appetizing picture of a big fat nug. They'll need to create a story and a strong message if they want to differentiate their products and engage a large community. 

How do you see your own cannabis-themed art evolving in the next year or two?

That's a tough question! I guess I just want to continue contributing my art and hopefully add value to the cannabis community.  

Charred cannabis seeds were found in tombs at an archaeological site near Bucharest, which suggests Romania was one of the earliest European countries to enjoy cannabis for its psychoactive effects. Was this discovery a surprise to the Romanian people, and did people generally embrace this history?  

Really? I've never heard that! I’m proud of my ancestors! Maybe my love of weed is genetic.

The U.S. investment fund PHI Group apparently plans to cultivate medical cannabis in Transylvania. How do you think Romanians would react if they tried to introduce an Impaler strain or a Dracula strain?

Honestly, I don't see it happening anytime in the near future. Cannabis is still completely taboo here in Romania. That news is strange to me as I haven't heard of anyone promoting legalization, not even for medical purposes.

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