Art as Emotional and Scientific Process: A Look into Michael Alan Alien’s Multidisciplinary Practice

Art as Emotional and Scientific Process: A Look into Michael Alan Alien’s Multidisciplinary Practice

“UNIQUE AND BEAUTIFUL” by Michael Alan Alien, 2023. 5’’x7’’watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil, gouache, and marker on paper.

Art as Emotional and Scientific Process: A Look into Michael Alan Alien’s Multidisciplinary Practice

3 weeks ago

Michael Alan Alien in his studio, New York City. Photo by Mika Bar-On Nesher.

Michael Alan Alien is dropping his genesis on SuperRare this month, but the New York native is no stranger to the crypto art space; his first collection sold out within minutes. Long before entering the NFT space, Alan Alien already had an impressive career in both the traditional art world and the underground street art movement, gaining national attention in media outlets like The New York TImes, Vice, NBC Today, GQ, Hyperallergic, Marie Claire, Huffington Post, and others. SuperRare curator Mika Bar-On Nesher visited Michael’s studio in Soho one afternoon to learn more about the iconic artist and his plans for future drops on SuperRare.

Working closely with his partner and collaborator Jadda Cat, Michael’s art extends beyond the canvas and paper into performance art and sculpture. No matter what medium he works in, Alan Alien’s voice and line shine consistently through. An outsider that never wanted to fit into any system or society, he watches and listens to everything around him, absorbing the information like an open portal–the result is a kind of imprint of the city he grew up in, a mixture of buildings and things overhead on street corners, all mixed in an incredible motion of captured atrophy. 

“LIFE’S RIDE” by Michael Alan Alien, 2019. 11” x 14” watercolor, ink, spray pen, pencil on paper.

 

Mika Bar-On Nesher: Who are your artistic influences?

Michael Alan Alien: My first influence was Dalí. I was isolated from any knowledge of art when I was growing up in NYC. I didn’t visit museums or galleries, or know of any other fine artists, but my father had a Dalí print which I’d study every day. I was inspired by graffiti in New York City, as well as punk and metal record labels covers that my neighbors traded with me for my Star Wars figures. The Iron Maiden covers kick ass. As I got myself into a position where I could educate myself with fine art, some artists that have inspired me are Klimt, Egon Schiele, M.C. Escher, and Crumb. 

It’s very hard for anyone who grew up with nothing in a wealthy city to break into the art world. It’s been very difficult to be accepted in a culture built on classism.

MBON: Does music play an important part of your process?

MAA: I spend my time looking at life, looking into the unknown, looking at breathing, looking at movement, looking at pain, looking for positivity. The way I see life is with sound and music. When I observe my surroundings and people, I hear a soundtrack in the background. I paint to that.

I also make sound collage music here and there as part of The Living Installation theater performances. You can listen to some of the music on Bandcamp.

“TEST SUBJECT” by Michael Alan Alien, 2020. Mixed media, paint marker, stickers, metallic paint, blow pen, marker, colored pencil on black book cover.

MBON: How would you describe the transition from working in the studio to performance? Tell us about your process a little for your different forms of expression. 

MAA: I dedicate hours each day to drawing and painting, whether I work from the studio or go outside to create at different locations in the city. I have a select group of works that I work on outside, letting the streets and nature hit them. I draw from the energy of my surroundings and interactions with people as I work. This outdoor creation is performative and interactive. I often wear a QR code box on my head as a statement about where we are as a society with technology. Passersby can scan, interact and learn more about the work. I walk around the city with my cane and set up my easel to stand and work on medium to large pieces doing action work. I push myself daily to go out and create and bring disability awareness to people I meet. When I work from my studio I lay on the floor since my physical disabilities prevent me from working at a desk. I refine and reflect on the energy from the outdoor work, focused on detail work.

MBON: How do you feel the art scene in the city has changed?

MAA: In the 80’s art was built from the ground up. It was raw, revolutionary, and evolved slowly and organically. Groups of different kinds of people were discovering and sharing their scenes and interacting. It was the birth of downtown New York art. People still travel here from all around the world looking for it.

Now we have overnight success based on Tiktok numbers, quick fads, and an over saturation of art shows that seem to lack authenticity. The New York art scene now seems to be about devouring trends instead of creating a culture. That’s not to say that the direction can’t change.

“TRINITY OF ILLUSION” by Michael Alan Alien, 2021. 11’’x14’’ watercolor, ink, colored pencil on paper.

MBON: Do you have advice for emerging artists? 

MAA: Be careful of a physical gallery that meets you and wants you to have a solo show in a month and doesn’t understand your work. Growth takes development. There are a lot of shifty characters in the art world that just want to make a buck. Google search a gallery to see if they’ve gone to federal prison. Be careful who you work with and don’t give away your soul. Explore, grow, create, practice, and make work that you feel deeply. Make work that you love and we will see the rest.

MBON: What pillars in your impressive career mean the most to you and why? 

MAA: I don’t really look at my art as a career. I look at my art as an emotional and scientific process. I think the most important thing I’ve done is during the pandemic, shifting my practice to creating art publicly in NYC daily, keeping the spirit of old New York going, and connecting with the world outside.

“THE GREAT AMERICAN SQUEEZE” by Michael Alan Alien, 2021. 11’’x14’’ watercolor, cut and repurposed drawings, metallic ink, paint marker, ink on paper.

37

Mika Bar On Nesher

Mika is a writer and filmmaker based in NYC. They are a Curator at SuperRare @superraremika  

Art

Tech

Curators' Choice

Art Angels: the Digital and Physical Blur

Art Angels: the Digital and Physical Blur

Fall Set Blend” by Michael Callas, 2022. From “Textures of Us: A Metaphysical Experience” curated by Art Angels.

Art Angels: the Digital and Physical Blur

2 months ago

The physical space of Art Angels Gallery in LA.

Spaces are independent galleries on SuperRare that curate, promote, and sell artworks. Anyone can submit an application. The SuperRare Spaces are varied in sizes, philosophies, and levels of experience but all centered around the same mission: to push forward decentralized curation and promote crypto artists from all over the world.

Art Angels gallery is “determined to support a greater presence of female artists and thought leaders into the NFT space.” During “Meta Spectrum”, an exhibition in collaboration with SuperRare, Art Angels bridged the gap between digital and physical art, and the gallery’s focus was, always has been, and continues to be, empowering strong artists who aren’t always in the spotlight. Now, it’s one of SuperRare’s newest Spaces. SuperRare curator Mika Bar On Nesher invites Connor Senay from Art Angels to talk about the gallery, its philosophy, and cryptoart.

 

Mika Bar On Nesher: What made you want to apply to become a SuperRare Space?

Connor Senay: As an innovative gallery intent on exploring all new frontiers of art, we quickly realized the value of being a positive contributor and community organizer in Web3. Acknowledging SuperRare as the premier marketplace for 1/1 art, most similar to our Los Angeles gallery, we wanted to become involved with the $RARE community in a way that echoed our mission of artist empowerment for as large of a community as possible. After connecting with Paloma, a wonderful business developer and curator for SuperRare, at her inaugural curation and collaboratively hosting a metaphysical exhibition in our gallery space, we knew this would be a fruitful partnership worth growing in every possible avenue.

Aesthetic bliss accompanied by a meaningful narrative is our mantra, and we wanted to bring that from 3D to Web3.

MBON: How do you see the bridge between physical and digital galleries evolving in the coming months?

CS: Since the influx of NFT frames, we’ve seen the capabilities of physical galleries to partner with digitally native ones and exhibit works on a variety of immersive displays. Our metaphysical exhibitions, “Meta Spectrum” and “Textures of Us,” are exemplary of the imminent fusion between these two worlds as we showcased a multitude of physical works that accompanied the NFTs on display. We have a 36 square-foot digital canvas installed in our exhibition space to bring a greater understanding to our collectors of how cryptoart is changing how we experience art.

Vellum LA, a gallery on Melrose Ave which specializes in NFT showcases, is one of our favorite examples of cutting-edge, breathtaking technology brought to its audience in an approachable way.

Tribute to Kobe” by Ignacio Gana, 2022. From “Textures of Us: A Metaphysical Experience” curated by Art Angels.

 MBON: What are some of the challenges of running a Space? What advice do you have for collectives or galleries that are thinking of applying in the next Space Race?  

CS: Running a Space requires having a pulse on the movement of Web3 on a consistent basis and being deliberate with your curations i.e. theme, artists chosen, etc. Make sure that every aspect of releasing a curation is done with careful intent. Marketing is also crucial on all possible fronts from all parties involved.

Engaging with colleagues or collectors in the space is highly valuable as well. This space moves incredibly quickly, and it can be difficult to find a perfect selection of artists, so it is useful to gauge what they’ve seen from your genre of choice that excites them.

MBON: What are important pillars for you when selecting artists? 

CS: When we select artists, we care deeply about their intent to create and letting their work evolve with them. We are genuinely elated to receive new works and showcase them, and we seek artists who feel that same way about creating and sharing.

Artists with a story and sentiment behind their work resonate most with us as we are keen on telling these stories to engage collectors and illustrate deeper meanings.

MBON: Do you think traditional collectors will start entering the scene? Do you find an interest from the traditional art world? 

CS: Traditional collectors will enter the scene in two ways: by genuine, independent curiosity and by education from galleries like us. It is imperative to educate people on the wonder and opportunity that lies within the cryptoart scene. Many art enthusiasts who enter our gallery to see physical works end up even more awe-struck by the Eleusis Digital Canvas gracing our exhibition space. It is an undeniable demonstration of the versatility of cryptoart, and as a gallery, we’ve found accompanying the physical artwork with a digital asset for provenance purposes resonates most with traditional collectors who are in the process of learning about the schematics of Web3.

Pink Noise” byDavid Uessem, 2022. From “Textures of Us: A Metaphysical Experience” curated by Art Angels.

Running a Space requires having a pulse on the movement of Web3 on a consistent basis and being deliberate with your curations i.e. theme, artists chosen, etc.

— Connor Senay

MBON: Who are some of your favorite artists in the space currently? 

CS: We love our entire artist roster currently featured in our Space for their love of creation, varied aesthetics and rich stories behind their works (Michael Callas, David Uessem, Flore, Ignacio Gana, Floyd Strickland, Abieyuwa, Jekein Lato-Unah, Blessing Atas, Yinkore).

Outside of who we’ve curated, our favorite artists in the space are Micah Johnson, Sinclair, Jesse Draxler, Amber Vittoria, Lethabo, Claire Salvo, Tjo, Mediolanum, nishant, Schauermann, Lindsey Price, Grant Yun, Rich Caldwell, Reuben Wu, Tishk Barzanji, mae, hemily, Bumpy, UntitledArmy, Killer Acid…the list could go on forever, but those are a selection of who we are always eager to see as they release new works. The eclecticism of that list is why we love this space.

MBON: Tell us a little about your mission as a SuperRare Space, what do you have to achieve in the far future?

CS: Our mission is to empower underappreciated artists, curate magnificently creative minds and build a community around a love of art. A multitude of our physical artists have digital origins, so it has been a pleasure to onboard them into this Space to allow their native creations to flourish in a new, unprecedented light. 

We want to become a digital sanctuary that fosters meaningful arts & technology discussions, provides insight for what’s to come, and assists artists and collectors in understanding Web3 to the fullest. Immersion is the future, and we are adamant on bringing the digital to life in unforeseen ways through this forward-thinking Space.

Heading Downtown” by Flore, 2022. From “Textures of Us: A Metaphysical Experience” curated by Art Angels.

37

Mika Bar On Nesher

Mika is a writer and filmmaker based in NYC. They are a Curator at SuperRare @superraremika  

Art

Tech

Curators' Choice

Meet Chile Con Carne: SuperRare’s Spiciest Space

Meet Chile Con Carne: SuperRare’s Spiciest Space

Envenenadas” by Donatelly, 2022. From Histeria Colectiva” curated by Epifania de Gracia.

Meet Chile Con Carne: SuperRare’s Spiciest Space

2 months ago

Spaces are independent galleries on SuperRare that curate, promote, and sell artworks. Anyone can submit an application. The SuperRare Spaces are varied in sizes, philosophies, and levels of experience but all centered around the same mission: to push forward decentralized curation and promote crypto artists from all over the world.

Meet Chile Con Carne, the SuperRare Space run by artist and curator Epifania de Gracia. As the Space states about its philosophy, “historically chili con carne was cooked to celebrate victory in battle. Aztecs prepared tomatoes and chiles, the meat was to be the flesh of the conquistadors. Our story is all about that: Flesh and Resistance!” SuperRare curator Mika Bar On Nesher sat down with Epifana to get a better understanding of the story behind this boundary pushing digital gallery and art collective that celebrates erotism, womanhood. Their mission? To fight for an equal representation of women, LGBTQIA+, disidencia, and minorities into the NFT world. This SuperRare Space has a DIY grassroots spirit dedicated to challenging the status quo, which is what Web3 is all about.

Mika Bar On Nesher: Chile Con Carne is not only a digital gallery, but also an art collective. What did you see was lacking in the NFT space when you put together your Space proposal?

Epifania de Gracia: When I began to mint, I felt a bit lonely as a woman creating erotic cryptoart, I figured that corporeality was absent from the market, was misrepresented, avatarized, infantilized. There was no room for flesh, for stretch marks, overweight girls, onanism or rebellion! As a digital painter and Bella Artes lover, I wasn’t satisfied, I was seeking for more stimulation, more speech, so I began to look for peers, other subversive / unconventional artists who I could relate to. I started to encourage and help my friends to create their own wallets and adventure into the cryptoart world. From nothing I became in charge of a small group of motivated creators, and when I heard about the first Space Race I immediately saw the logic to create a Space where sensuality, identities and desires could be observed from another angle, far from taboos and merchandising. A virtual refuge for outcasts was needed so I ran 3 times, spent weeks without sleeping and reached a bunch of $RARE holders to present my project. It was the closest to a political campaign I had ever done, I held vote by vote until I won the third Space race!

Censored” by Epifania de Gracia, 2022. From Histeria Colectiva” curated by Epifania de Gracia.

To inaugurate Chile Con Carne Space I curated an exhibition named “Histeria Colectiva”, to immediately make a statement: re-appropriation of hysteria is a central concept of (sex positive) feminism, a protolanguage serving simultaneously as an index of forms of gender oppression and a space to stage resistance to it. I consider myself a sex positivist feminist activist, my art reflects it in so many aspects, I refuse to be a victim, the weaker sex, the piece of meat. I own my body, I’m proud of it, of all its imperfections – journey to acceptance wasn’t easy, Art was fundamental to achieve it, that’s where Epiphany and Grace comes! I own my pleasure and it comes first, I’m empowered enough to choose violence, pornography or even sado-masochism as paths for freedom if I wanted to. I repudiate censorship, my call is to liberate not to cancel, I advocate for inclusiveness, for tolerance. Because the Hysteria is collective as the struggles I was obsessed with by inviting as many talents as possible, to spotlight women creators, to bring new artists to the ecosystem. Artists who create unique and rare artworks.

“Collective Hysteria” could also be easily understood as a criticism of our convulsive epoch, taken as an invitation to calm down, to reflect further, to make love and not war! From Magnetismo and Cristina Vela‘s innocence to Oona and Iris Kauf‘s insolence, you meet Michelle Thompson with whom we built one of the first bridges between Spaces, her work as well as Margaret Murphy‘s one is a profound reflexion about identity, on how women are related with their image, on how they are perceived and perceive themselves inside the mold of our traditional western cultures.

Two Faced” by Michelle Thompson, 2022. From Histeria Colectiva” curated by Epifania de Gracia.

Esra Eslen brings us to eastern frontiers of consciousness, reminds us how fantasies and fantasy are inextricably linked, how dreams are an integral part of our existences and why Poetry is vital. Poetry, a common thread of “Histeria Colectiva”, traversing the work of Donatelly, who transforms a simple kiss into a symbol of life, death, sin and mutation. Vanessa del Rey, a Marvel and DC Comic artist gives us her first crypto artistic work, an exclusive and NSFW woman (and her shadow) laying down offered and empowered. In a similar position but this time offered to herself, to her awakening, “Despertar”, of La Saló is one of the masterpieces shown in this exhibition, a radical animation made with a very classic Latin American line stroke. The first and last nod to sex positivism is found in the work of BER who, in addition to being a visionary artist, is a Neo-Reichian therapist. I know It’s a long list, can make you feel a bit dizzy, could even give you some Florence syndrome but I really want to use this tribune to call out collectors and the audience in general to explore, to risk themselves, to raise the stakes. A proper collection must include emergent artists, you have to bet on the future!

MBON: In your experience as an artist and a leader in the space, how is the Cryptoart movement disrupting the traditional art market?

EdG: I never bought into the showy vernissage mood. I believe if you don’t come from art school you will never feel really at ease visiting a traditional art gallery. Cryptoart on the other hand, doesn’t require a dress code or having to do small talk. Allows you to focus on the artwork, lets you spend whatever time you need to observe and understand it.

Discovering cryptoart, being a digital artist was a personal revolution. Before it, I couldn’t find a way out to commercialize my work, I was thinking of abandoning art forever and dedicate myself to a conventional 9 to 5 job. Instead I can now focus on creation, dialogue with collectors all over the world and I even have the chance to curate some of the artists I have always admired. I believe cryptoart will reach or overtake the volume of the traditional art market, a market more than contaminated by counterfeits, by administrative and physical limitations as transport and storage. Ease of use and transfer, transparency, legitimacy will bring massive adoption with millions of screens broadcasting art everywhere!

MBON: What is the story behind the name Chile Con Carne?

EdG: The Carne part is the most important, it’s our statement, it means meat, flesh, resistance! It refers to the Bodies, speaking about corporeality is a constant in Latam artistic expression. Explanation lies in centuries of abuse, from colonization to liberalism, bodies have been massacred. In Chile and all over the continent, bodies are missing, were kidnaped, tortured, raped, destroyed. Inhumane workloads crush them daily, prehistoric cults make them bend down, blame them, forbid them. Imposed standards elaborated in London, Paris or NY shame them because they don’t meet them and never will. They are crowded into unlivable housing, into transportations where all traits of intimacy and comfort are erased. Ill by food and chemicals long forbidden in the northern hemisphere. Humiliated by infinite debts and a forever guilt. Per contra into the flesh, into the carnality, there is also a findable escape to this fatality, an attainable enlightenment. When rid of the notion of sin, freed from marketing, carnality becomes resilient, capable of all kinds of mutations and connections. Blood pulsed by the seek of pleasure and liberation, genetically invaded by the need to survive, the flesh is the catalyst of all our desires and sensations, the unique proof of our humanity, made to dance, to caress, to feel, to desire. Sacrificed bodies become sanctified, they protect, embrace, perpetuate, they create and resist. 

The Carne part is the most important, it’s our statement, it means meat, flesh, resistance! It refers to the Bodies, speaking about corporeality is a constant in Latam artistic expression.

— Epifania de Gracia

MBON: How do you select your artists? Are they all a part of your direct community or do you seek out like-minded creators? What advice do you have for artists who want to be represented by your Space?

EdG: Have you seen the TV show “Mozart in the Jungle”? Like Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal), I curate with blood! I think the job consists of picking sincere artworks, pieces with strong speech and aesthetic statements. No matter the medium, I try to offer an off-the-beaten-track and sensual selection, away from trends, from hashtags. I consider that almost everything can become beautiful and attractive, it depends how you look at it, the flow with which you represent it. I love to seek for another kind of beauty, less common, more distorted, far from the traditional canons. What I really love about curation is that it connects me with universes I couldn’t reach alone as an artist, and takes me out of my comfort zone. I could give you the example of my friend Maritei, she made me discover the codes of Kawaii Art, you cannot imagine how baroque and pink are hiding a message of rebelliousness and insubmission. Yes Kawaii is feminist!

I’ve met all the artists first through the internet, less Donatelly, she is a Latam night icon with her drag character Catarsis and I met her on a dancefloor. Everyday I spotlight artists on Chile Con Carne Twitter & Instagram accounts “ ” means that your Art is hot and that I want to work with you!

MBON: Tell us about any exciting upcoming drops or events we can look out for? Unlike some other SuperRare Spaces, you run and fund everything yourself. Who is helping you operate the space? Tell us more about what role the community plays in your Space?

EdG: Like many others I have more ideas than resources, for example, after talking to you Mika, I was left with the bug of opening a physical space, I’m now trying to find the funds to transform my apartment into a gallery! This year I’ve dedicated myself almost 100% to Chile Con Carne, I finance everything with the earnings from the sale of my paintings, sometimes I had to front alone delays or lack of compromise, not everyone understand yet cryptoart’s potentials, but despite the difficulty, Chile Con Carne is my baby, I project its space as I would with a IRL gallery, I want to constantly offer new temporary exhibitions, You should expect to see a lot of nipples, a lot of flesh, I want to get the most out of it from Web3 censorship resistance! Right now and because celebrations are coming I’m preparing something special with Luluxxx, her art makes you want to dance and drink champagne. What better way to begin 2023 than with her glamor and sensuality ? 

It’s really important for me to finish this interview shouting out to my fellow Playboy x Sevens grantee, Oona. She has been present since the beginning, she understood before everyone the Chile Con Carne concept and has been on the front line to defend it. She is actually presenting “Milk to Mint” in Art Basel Miami, a performance you cannot miss! 

I want to send the biggest thanks to who is behind the curtains, my friends Elisabet Montenegro and Jacqueline Herrera, they two are an unfailing source of inspiration and guidance, I couldn’t have done it without their wise advice and their beautiful writings.

Tropical Room” by BER, 2022. From Histeria Colectiva” curated by Epifania de Gracia.

37

Mika Bar On Nesher

Mika is a writer and filmmaker based in NYC. They are a Curator at SuperRare @superraremika  

Art

Tech

Curators' Choice

Post-Photography and the Poetics of AI: How Blake Wood’s Uncanny Photographs Capture Intimacy Without a Camera

Post-Photography and the Poetics of AI: How Blake Wood’s Uncanny Photographs Capture Intimacy Without a Camera

“Pink I” by Blake Wood, 2022

Post-Photography and the Poetics of AI: How Blake Wood’s Uncanny Photographs Capture Intimacy Without a Camera

2 months ago

Blake Wood, photography by Jesse Jenkins

When first encountering Blake Wood’s AI photographs, an untrained eye might register them as film or digital photographs depicting intimate images of queer relationships; whether of friends or lovers, the emotiontal relationship between the artist and subject shines through every frame. But these evocative photographs are created without a camera or a human subject.

An accomplished photographer, Wood uses AI prompting to generate these photographs, His years of experience shooting informs his instruction process down to the lighting and composition. The resulting AI-generated photographs are hyper-realistic and charged with emotion. If previous art movements were concerned with the erasure of the artist’s hand, Wood’s photographs conceal the machine’s touch. 

When photography was first introduced into the art world it created waves of antagonism; its ultimate acceptance took time as it propelled new art movements that led to a cultural and intellectual shift in the democratization and perceptions of what art can be. Historically the introduction of new technologies always forces viewers, collectors, and artists out of their comfort zone. Art movements are revolutions of perceptions, and the boundaries of our society can be seen in what we define as art. Exploring the collaboration between humankind and machines, AI artists like Wood are challenging the seemingly innate relationship between art and humanism and our very perception of what is real.

Wood’s work has been featured in international media outlets, including Vogue, The New York Times, The Guardian, i-D, Vice UK, and Dazed.

“Fields II” by Blake Wood, 2022

Mika Bar On Nesher: How would you describe Post-Photography?

Blake Wood: Post-Photography is a style of art in which digital images are created through AI and machine learning. It coincides with the emergence of early AI collaborative tools like ArtBreeder, that works by remixing existing images uploaded by the artist and more recent tools like DALL•E 2 and Stable Diffusion, that convert text to pixels using deep learning and artists’ written prompts. Post-photography is post-camera. It can bypass the camera apparatus all together, learning and pulling from billions of images of humanity’s photographic history and then instantly composing an image from the artists’ desired prompt. 

MBON: How do you think the photographic process changes when there is no physical subject? 

BW: I think my photographic process changes in that my portraits can start with broader concepts i.e. memories, experiences, future events, but I’m still able to create a sense of closeness to the subject. When working with AI, I choose my location, tools and subjects. The true freedom I have to create anything can be daunting, because the possibilities are endless, but that ability alone opens you up to explore so many ideas that you would’ve never been able to otherwise. 

MBON: How do you view the role of curation in the cryptoart space? 

BW: Curation is extremely important in cryptoart. It helps identify artworks’ cultural value, quality of the work, its connection to art history and art movements, also displaying and arranging of the work itself, as well as educating a wider audience to new concepts within cryptoart in an intelligible way. Curation can also bring traditional art institutions, collectors and liquidity to the space, which strengths the ecosystem overall. 

MBON: Who are some photographers working in post-photography you appreciate?

BW: The first photographer I came across that was exploring post-photography was GANBrood, aka, Bas Uterwijk. He was working with ArtBreeder in 2020, creating imagined portraits of people by remixing two or more image inputs. His portraits of historical figures before cameras existed really stand out to me. Another artist I appreciate is Claudia Pawlak, who creates botanicals with AI and prints these images as cyanotypes by hand. Prompt-based AI tools have reached the level in which outputs can be indistinguishable from traditional photographs. Artists are now exploring more and the post-photography movement is really growing.

MBON: When creating this new body work, do you find that the AI can express emotion, or, rather, are you instructing it to do that through specific prompting? Do you think machines have the capacity to feel?

BW:  I’m fascinated by creating emotional depth in the portraits that I make when working with AI. There’s a common understanding that what makes us sentient beings primarily is the ability to empathize and express emotion, which AI lacks. I find that DALL•E 2, for example, understands emotional concepts to an extent. There’s a softness and a feeling of intimacy when using certain words. I gravitate towards creating images that reflect those human experiences and emotional connections. As we create more with AI, the greater its understanding of human emotions will be. 

I’m fascinated by creating emotional depth in the portraits that I make when working with AI… I find that DALL•E 2, for example, understands emotional concepts to an extent. There’s a softness and a feeling of intimacy when using certain words.

— Blake Wood

MBON: When did you start getting into crypto? What sparked your interest in NFTs?

BW: I was initially interested in Bitcoin in 2011 and even created a wallet on a thumb drive but couldn’t figure out the rest. The idea of using digital currency seemed like an obvious next step for the world. I got more involved in 2017 and, by 2020, I fully committed to learning crypto trading and DeFi. The first I heard of NFTs was in the summer of 2020, when CryptoPunks were being discussed by accounts that I followed on Twitter. Then in autumn 2020, I discovered NFT platforms and fell in love with the concept of art on-chain. The idea that NFT technology gave artists the ability to show provenance of their work and earn royalties in perpetuity was extremely empowering. 

MBON: Tell us about how you started getting into photography? What environment shaped your artistic identity? 

BW: Being a pensive, curious and creative child, photography was an easy way for me to make sense of things.  When I was 11, my mother enrolled me in a summer course in photography. I borrowed my father’s Canon 35mm film camera from the ‘80’s to learn photography. I remember discovering the excitement of being able to create glimpses of the world as I saw it and how I wanted to remember it. Growing up in a small New England town, I was surrounded by enchanted forests, the magic of nature, and interesting characters. I had always felt different and, at 17, I moved to New York City to pursue my dreams and find like-minded souls. I went on to publish a monograph with TASCHEN of the portraits I created of my dear friend Amy Winehouse and had the honor of my work being acquired by the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.

MBON: There is a lot of AI hate out there. People are scared the human hand will be completely replaced. Do you view your work with AI as collaborative? Where does your will start and the machine’s end? 

BW: Humans have been working together with technology of some sort since the beginning of time. The hate for any new technology is part of the process of it being widely adopted. The work that I create with AI is completely collaborative. It’s my words, my structuring, my ideas and my feelings. I am very present in the art I make with it. AI allows you to collaborate and iterate in ways we’ve only dreamed of. Certain things are replaced by technology to make our lives more efficient, but art will always be something humans are driven to make regardless of what type of technology exists. 

MBON: How does your training as a film photographer inform your work with AI? Tell us more about the process of prompting for you? 

BW: The understanding of photography and all my techniques helps replicate what I do traditionally with film when working with AI. My life experiences and knowledge of art history, art theory, camera and technical skill, go into my AI work. I think that’s the beauty with prompting, you can really fine tune outputs. I start with composition and end with stylistic descriptors and tweak them until I get something that speaks to me. Every artist works with prompting differently. Exploring is a huge part of the fun of it.

Check out Wood’s AI photography available on SuperRare.

37

Mika Bar On Nesher

Mika is a writer and filmmaker based in NYC. They are a Curator at SuperRare @superraremika  

Art

Tech

Curators' Choice

Digital Architecture and Imagined Worlds: Q&A with SuperRare artist Jarvinart

Digital Architecture and Imagined Worlds: Q&A with SuperRare artist Jarvinart

“One Way Ticket”. Jarvinart, 2021.

Digital Architecture and Imagined Worlds: Q&A with SuperRare artist Jarvinart

7 months ago

I wanted to build massive cities with lots and lots of buildings that feel alive and reachable somehow, rather than clutters of little concrete blocks.

— Idil Dursun a.k.a. Jarvinart

SuperRare artist Idil Dursun (a.k.a. Jarvinart), is an architect and CG artist based in Ankara, Turkey. She was interested in art from an early age and used to paint with acrylics on canvas. During her architectural studies, she developed an interest in concept art. She is mostly known for her dystopian cyberpunk scenes and huge cityscapes, as well as for building her own universe as a vision of future worlds.

Some of her works have been featured in US based science fiction magazine Dark Matter Magazine, displayed in US based The Crypt Gallery and Pellas Gallery, Italy based Dart Museum – Permanente di Milano and exhibited on “FUTR World Abu Dhabi 2021”. She is one of the TIMEPieces artists who contributed to the “Slices of TIME” collection in 2022. Most recently, her works have been displayed on Times Square billboards during NFT.NYC 2022.

Jarvinart’s piece “One Way Ticket” was displayed in the SuperRare NYC PopUp gallery’s debut show, “Visions From Remembered Futures”. This exhibition centered on themes of futurism, featuring works that reflected on the human condition and its ever-expanding relation to machinery.  SuperRare curator Mika Bar-On Nesher sat down with Jarvinart to learn more about the artist’s journey as a NFT artist and the evolution of her fantastical cyberpunk style.

“Memoirs of the Past: Eden, Before the Lost Age”. Jarvinart, 2021.

“Down The Abyss”. Jarvinart, 2021.

Q&A with Jarvinart:

MBON: How long have you been making art? What got you into the NFT space?

ID: I’ve made art since forever basically, since I was 4 years old or so. My parents sent me to art courses (only for a few months until I got bored of the classes lol) because I loved painting so much. After that, I continued trying out new techniques and mediums on my own and continued educating myself with some tutorials on acrylic painting. When I was in high school, I realized I was fascinated by environmental concepts that I saw while playing video games. In my 2nd-3rd year in college I was studying architecture,but I decided to be a concept artist and started working on my own environment concepts. 

My NFT journey started very soon after my graduation.  In March 2021, I was working as a CGI artist and one of my friends convinced me to give my personal works a shot. Of course I had no idea what it was all about back then. I can easily say it has been a life changing experience for me ever since.

MBON: You have an incredibly distinctive style, can you tell us a little bit about your development as an artist?

ID: I was always into the cyberpunk culture. There’s something about those enormous cityscapes with no visible beginning or end, and imagining what it would be like to live in one of those dystopian cities. I remember how mind-blown I was when I first came across Annibale Siconolfi’s and Dangiuz’s works, or when watching “Blade Runner”. After a point, being only an observer of this genre wasn’t enough for me. That was when my decision to be a CG artist happened. Since then I have spent lots of time on Artstation, following my favorite artists and trying to find my own unique style in this genre. I wanted to build massive cities with lots and lots of buildings that feel alive and reachable somehow, rather than clutters of little concrete blocks. My background as an architecture student helped me to develop a world builder’s vision while creating.

MBON: Do you work mostly at night or during the day?

ID:  I can’t possibly work during the day, at all! It’s a terrible habit I’ve had since my days as a student. I am only able to work during the night which f*cks up my sleep schedule. I hope to train myself otherwise in time, but it’s feeling hopeless at this point.

MBON: What advice do you have for young artists trying to break into the space?

ID: I think they should realize NFTs are not about making a quick buck. We all know there is an incredible hype since last year but all of my friends who have ‘made it’ dedicate an immense amount of time in order to interact with the community and appreciate the culture. This is one of the best parts of this space IMHO, if not the best. I got to meet some incredible artists and friends throughout, and it’s like meeting my own idols that I looked up to for many years.

The key is to genuinely be part of the community, and to not lose motivation when your sales lag from time to time. Simply enjoy your time here, meet with people, and keep creating, like we always did before NFTs. The community support motivates me even on my most desperate days, and I believe that’s the case for many people here.

MBON: Who are some of your favorite artists on SuperRare?

ID: There are so many! Annibale Siconolfi, Thomas Dubois, Paul Chadeisson, Madmaraca, Dangiuz, DeeKay, Reuben Wu, Raphael Lacoste, Donglu, NessGraphics and so many more. Can’t really choose between them.

MBON: Do you draw inspiration from books and movies? What are some of your favorites?

ID: I definitely do. Movies and TV shows like “Blade Runner”, “Dune” and “Arcane” inspire me a lot. I also look through concept art and shots from  movies I haven’t seen before for composition and color palette ideas. Additionally, one of the most inspirational works I’ve seen recently was an episode of LD+R “Jibaro” by Alberto Mielgo. A true masterpiece.

MBON: There is a dreamy element to your work, do you ever find yourself solving creative processes in dreams?

ID: I take this as a great compliment; thank you! It actually happens A LOT. Not necessarily during sleep, but after a long work day my brain doesn’t stop working. When I’m in bed and about to sleep – that’s when I figure out many ideas for the pieces of artwork I am working on. I usually make a quick note of them on my phone so I don’t forget when I wake up!

MBON: Do you work in any other artistic mediums?

ID: I do! I got an iPad last year to keep myself warmed up in my drawing; mostly female character concepts. I haven’t been able to work with acrylic paints for a long time but I plan to soon since it’s very soothing. Changing your medium from time to time is actually very refreshing and inspirational so I try to do it as much as I can!

MBON: Are there any exciting projects you’re working on now you’d like to share with us?

ID: Lately I’ve mostly been working on my upcoming Times Square billboard display! I’m very satisfied with the result and can’t wait to share it with everyone. I am planning to mint it on SuperRare which is super exciting because I couldn’t work on 1/1 artworks for quite some time. I want to make my return back to the platform with a piece of artwork that is special to me. There are some other exciting projects to come this year as well!! 

You can find Jarvinart’s collection of minted pieces on SuperRare here.

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Mika Bar On Nesher and Arianne Lapidus

Mika is a writer and filmmaker based in NYC. They are a Curator at SuperRare @superraremika  

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