The emergence of art-as-NFTs on digital networks has certainly taken the world by storm. Perhaps most significantly symbolised by auction house Christie’s interest in artist Beeple’s work, and the subsequent million-dollar opening bid on his work, it is clear that art embodied in blockchain technology is here to stay. However, what is it like for an artist, previously used to working on physical material to cross over from one to the other?
Wa.xy is one such artist, and has documented her transition in a number of articles, under her IRL name Stacy Neale, on Voice. Not only is she therefore best placed to talk about the relationship she has with the different mediums, but she also has much to say about the relationship between the curative powers of art–what Foucault might have included in what he called ‘care of the self’–and philosophy. Having taken undergraduate and postgraduate modules in philosophy, both in the US and the UK, Wa.xy embraces an approach to philosophy embedded in her daily practice, and this shines through clearly in her artistic work.
Fascinated by the relationships expressed in her work, we caught up with Wa.xy and asked her to expand on these themes for our benefit.
1. You have recently written, in answer to the question ‘what does it mean, then, to be present?’ that ‘though it may at times seem like we are, we are not our thoughts. We are not even what we think about ourselves. We are the observers of our thoughts’. Much of the history of Western philosophy (Descartes, Kant, Hegel) would disagree with you, so could you elaborate on what you mean, and from where you are influenced?
The perspective highlighted in my article on Voice, “The Present moment is a super power!”, is more consistent with Buddhist philosophy than the quintessential Idealist philosophers you mention. That being said, how we interpret these philosophers seems to evolve and change based on contemporary context. In the context of my article, which discusses the power of being present in the moment, the message “we are not our thoughts, we are the observers of our thoughts”, is intended to incite the realization that we are more than our oft racing minds and preoccupations. Eckhart Tolle, whom I quote in the article, has an interesting take on Descartes that seems apt for this discussion. Tolle states:
“The philosopher Descartes believed he had found the most fundamental truth when he made his famous statement: ‘I think, therefore I am.’ He had, in fact, given expression to the most basic error: to equate thinking with Being and identity with thinking.”
Though Tolle’s perspective aligns more with Buddhist philosophy as well, there is still a place for Descartes in my world. The power of our thoughts to affect our lives is immense and should not be understated. What we direct our attention and intention towards, we in so many ways become. If we do not check our racing minds, we will become them.
With regard to my influences, they reach quite far and wide. Though I ascribe to many principles of Buddhism, I do not fully ascribe to any one theology or philosophy. I enjoy entertaining many schools of thought rather than having my beliefs firmly rooted in any one place; this allows for seemingly contradictory or disparate perspectives to exist harmoniously under the umbrella of an open mind! For the post I wrote, Buddhist principles supported my underlying message quite fittingly. That being said, I am highly influenced by metaphysics, energetics, sociology, philosophies ranging many eras and origins, astrophysics and cosmology, parapsychology, and the list goes on, truly.
2. You have said in previous articles that you appreciate accessible art, and it is clear from other writing that spirituality is important to you. Spirituality is often seen as quite a complex, involved look into oneself, so it is interesting that you advocate both: to what extent are these two connected to each other in your work?
Art and spirituality are absolutely linked in my world. For many, the act of creating art, whether physical, digital, or otherwise, is a meditative and sometimes transcendental experience. I experience creating art as a delightful combination of heart, spirit, body, and mind. I believe many artists channel a variety of energies when they are creating, and then their creations go on and incite further energy in their beholders. I absolutely Love that! Everything I do are energetic and spiritual acts of sorts, and creating art is no exception.
3. Does your work as a curriculum developer and educator influence your artistic practice? In what field do you teach?
There is some overlap in my teaching/curriculum building experience, and creating art. This intersection primarily involves building classroom art curriculum for students with disabilities. This includes thinking about how a child with a physical and/or cognitive disability may need different accommodations and resources in order to interact with art materials or follow a lesson plan. Such accommodations could include having wheelchair accessible desks, paraprofessionals who can help with small tasks or model, and giving students more imaginative freedom to create something, rather than having a fixed object or outcome they are to accomplish. Having built and workshopped curriculum for many subjects and grade levels, my primary focus is designing curriculum that is more accessible to and inclusive of students with a variety of differences and needs. Art is a wonderful place for this because there is so much imagination and creativity involved, which is something many feel is lacking from a lot of traditional curriculum.
4. OK, maybe I hit the ground running too quickly! Your signature says ‘Bring All into the heart and melt it into Love’. Where does this come from, and is there any significance to the capital ‘A’?
I am glad you asked! “Bring All into the heart and melt it into Love” is a mantra that came to me years ago whilst I was meditating. It felt heart-centered, Loving, and powerful. I started using it as a tagline on several platforms, and from there it has grown into something quite Lovely. Not too long ago, Alex and Allyson Grey included my mantra on several of their websites (see here), including their Entheon page, and Alex Grey’s Facebook page. I visited Alex and Allyson’s home last year (see here) and was delighted to see they featured my mantra on some of their forms as well. The mantra has since grown far and wide, and I think that is the intention of the message. The “All” is capitalized to signify that any and everything is welcome to be transmuted into Love via energetic alchemy. You may also notice the “Love” in the mantra is capitalized as well. I always capitalize the “L” in “Love” because I find Love (Love for self, for another, for nature, for community, family, life, etc.) to be one of the most powerful vibrations/states in existence.
5. You have outlined some of the advantages of NFTs over material artworks: the artist does not have to ‘deal with the time and resources of physically creating, packaging, and shipping it’. However the materiality of art—its substance, texture, weight, presence, placed location is often an intrinsic and celebrated aspect of a work of art itself. Is there something to be lost or gained in turning your artwork into NFTs?
The digital art movement is currently hyper accessible in such a way that essentially anyone can be an artist. This not only results in an influx of content of various quality, but also the ability for individuals from all walks of life to come to the table and expand upon society’s threshold for what is considered art and what is considered valuable.
With digital art, such as with NFTs, the artist is given an opportunity to be successful via engagement with the community. Intrinsic in storing value in a digital asset is that the artist can get near real-time feedback about their art based on value and transferring. Before, you used to have a school certify you to be a good artist or not. With NFTs, direct value can be based on community engagement.
Digitizing my art has resulted in an expansion of not only my practice but also opportunities to create and connect with others (see my NFTs on Atomic Hub here). One of the biggest benefits to digital art for me has been using it to engage with supporters. I created my first NFTs as gifts to patrons who supported a drawing I held to win a painting. I saw an opportunity to share both my artwork and my enthusiasm for blockchain tech. Since creating my NFTs, I’ve collaborated with a blockchain game group, music event producer, and DAC (Decentralized Autonomous Community) architects to create NFTs as rewards for engagement. Utilizing digital art to work and connect with others has been an uplifting experience that I hope to continue. I wrote an article on Voice about my experience turning my artwork into NFTs, which you can view here.
With regard to the materiality of art, I wholeheartedly agree that the characteristics you mention, “–its substance, texture, weight, presence, placed location”–are all things to be celebrated. I celebrate them deeply, myself, and that is why I will continue to create and collect material art. For me, personally, there is no replacement for the physical act of painting. There is, however, room for both physical and digital art making in my world. I hope to connect the two mediums whenever possible, as well as explore each as its own avenue.
6. As you continue to create both physical and digital art, do you find the different mediums suit different forms of expression? Are you tempted to continue in two directions with the divergent mediums?
I enjoy creating digital art when I want to engage further with my supporters. I also find many of the programs out there that create digital art (I primarily use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, but there are loads more), to be works of art, themselves!
I am indeed tempted to continue utilizing both mediums because the result is, among other things, my art is more accessible by way of its multimodality. When I want to manifest from the archetypal world into the 3D manifest, and do that special dance, I create a material piece.
7. Where do you see you and your work in five years time? Are there any directions in particular in which you would like to go?
I hope to be working with other creators and doers to build a better world. The potential of blockchain technology to create and grow value within communities is inspiring, and I hope to be involved in this process in whatever ways I can be useful.
I hope to continue to create content on Voice and other platforms that help people realize their awesome potential and actualize the existence they dare to dream.
I hope to be creating art of various kinds at every opportunity. This could be personally, with students, or collaboratively. I see the times we are in currently as nebulaic and, for those who answer the call, galvanizing.
Many lives are changing in unprecedented ways and in five years we will hopefully be seeing the product of what we dream, architect, and build now.
8. Tell us about your community-informed, health support dapp? What do you intend it to do, and in what stage of production is it?
It is an attempt to build a decentralized autonomous community (DAC) whereby valued community input not only has the potential to support someone else’s personal, mental, and/or spiritual health, but also is rewarded via a tokenomics model. Right now, we’re still working on the whitepaper and getting feedback on it, but a version of the whitepaper as it currently stands can be viewed here.
It would probably run on the WAX blockchain due to the negligible transaction fees and easy user onboarding.
With modern blockchain technologies, such as WAX and EOSIO, there are a lot of opportunities for engagement to provide direct value within communities. With this application, users will be able to get more immediate value for their interactions through their participation in helping others. It is people helping people, and people helping themselves!