Loie Hollowell Mint #0

Loie Hollowell: Contractions

An AMA Featuring Loie Hollowell, Cao Yin, Sun Bohan, and Audrey Ou

Published Tuesday, Nov 8, 2022

Coinciding with the launch of her first-ever NFT project, titled Contractions, artist Loie Hollowell spoke with Digital Renaissance Foundation managing director Cao Yin, BCA Network co-founder Sun Bohan, and TRLab co-founder & CEO Audrey Ou in a Twitter Spaces AMA hosted by TRLab.
The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Audrey Ou: I have a few questions about the conception of your physical work: something that's really, really important about it is the way that the way that they're conceived is the energy with the creation. And I would love to hear a bit more about how you feel like this energy was brought into the NFT space.

Loie Hollowell: One of the main contents in my work, aside from it being about my body and a person in a female body, is the use of light in my painting practice. By that, I mean illusory light and real light because my paintings are actually physical—they're built up on the surface of the painting so light will hit the edges of the structured physical objects and create a glowing light on different parts of the painting. It was really important that specific colors and elements of light and dark were present to create an ethereal space in the NFT, as it wasn't a three-dimensional object like the paintings. Some of the generated NFTs will show a shadow coming off of the orbs of these two, as they were originally three-dimensional. I was also really interested in bringing in the bodily color palette that I use in my paintings into that empty space, as well as creating that sense of pulsating, emanating light in the central spine that goes through the middle of the painting, as well as the rings that surround these two orbs. I'm really interested in how that can speak to the emotional and physical intensity of giving birth, particularly with the series.

AO: That's amazing. When I have seen your physical paintings, I've always felt like there's a kind of energy that is pulsating through it and I'm really excited to see that that has been brought into contraction as well. I was watching the video on YouTube about Art Blocks presenting the contract with energy series. And I noticed that there was a comment you made about color, in particular, where it's noted that doing this NFT project has allowed you to experiment and experience color in a whole different way. And so we'd love to hear a bit more about that, on top of what you just shared with the central spine of the Rings.

Contractions #6 by Loie Hollowell

Loie Hollowell, Contractions #6, NFT, 2022 © Loie Hollowell

LH: I was really scared of doing this NFT at first, because it's not a physical object. But then I thought about how I make color studies using a digital pencil with my iPad, and I accepted that I could possibly move into this space in a creative way if I just opened myself up to the RBG spectrum. At first, I was really constraining the creators of this generative program. I really wanted them to stay in a narrow range of  muted, fleshy, deep reds and magentas and purples. But over time, we saw how far we could push the colors. Some of the works go into this neon color space that I would never be able to paint with oil. What came out of it is a muted, almost monochrome set of NFTs whose color is to be computer-generated. I would be so nervous about putting onto a painting like a neon green, or like a super bright orange—colors that I would be hesitant to put into paint. Yet, this large range of color really speaks to the emotional state that I'm trying to depict as the process of giving birth.

Cao Yin: It’s not hard to see the tension between your physical creation in the digital creation, and I also do see the creativity within this kind of occasion.

LH: Yeah, and I think because I allowed myself to be open and allowed the programmers to push me and despite that they weren't pushy. They weren't rude at all about it—they just said, “how about we just try this, let's just try it. If you don't like it, we won't go with it.” And so I let them try it. And all of a sudden I realized that they were getting at something that I hadn't even thought of, and now I'm able to bring those elements that were created through this generative process into my painting practice and allow myself to be much more inclusive of different kinds of color spectrums that I would normally have felt comfortable with.

CY: This is a very common procedure or step for physical artists firstly established through the digital domain or within the NFT especially within the NFT software. But another somehow interesting question I would like to raise is about the tension between your previous physical creations and now the digital NFT creation. I am quite curious as your practice revolves around tantric methodologies or tantric painting traditions in physical, full-scale works—how can you convert this spiritual, emotional into this kind of digital, non-human artificial synthetic works?

LH: That’s a really good question. And I have to be honest, I'm not sure if it does, I'm not sure because for me the practice of painting is so much about being present with the paint and the texture of the paint. So one element that you'll find in my split orb contraction paintings is a sponge technique. I use a sponge, like a dish sponge to clean dishes, I use the scouring side, the green side, that's super prickly to apply paint. So, for example, in the NFTs, I tried to have varying amounts of stippled, fuzzy texture that pulsates out from the orbs. I really wanted those elements of pulsating light throughout my paintings to be present in the NFTs.  In the end, I think I have to leave it up to the viewer to judge how the new space works for me. But you know, it's so new, and I don't know how to speak to that. I am the generation right at the cusp of getting computers. So I don't have that intrinsic relationship with the screen—and their presence still feels foreign to me. So for me, it's still very scary to see something that I can put my name on that's living on the screen. And I haven't associated it with that tantric experience of being in the presence of a painting. I haven't experienced that yet with the digital art space. But let's hope that my NFT gets there a little bit because it is coming from a conceptual and physical painting. It is a creation that does have that tantric element to it. Thank you.

LH: When I first learned about NFTs, I came late to the game. Around a year ago, I reached out to Pace and asked them, would it be fun if I put out some of  my digital drawings as NFTs. And I showed them some of my digital drawings. And on my iPad, I'll draw a lot of really explicit, figurative paintings with women giving birth and milk, milk going everywhere. like a bloody, very visceral scene of birth. And the guy was like, well, let's just wait a little bit and see how the NFT space plays out. And I'm really glad that I waited. Because I think that there is something really nice about having this generative process, and to work with people who help me understand what an NFT is. Its potential just totally blew my mind—not only with color, but also the potential of abstraction in digital space.

CY: Yeah, talking about the term “generative.” That somehow resembles your works—because you do give birth to your works.

LH: That's, that's what I meant to say. The generative process is basically giving birth to these images. I'm going to make 280 babies.

CY: Yes. And you create not just those works, you create a domain where all of these works or characters exist—like mandalas. This is a very cool thing.

LH: Right? Yeah. And I hadn't, you know, if I had just made pieces, like, let me be, you know, like, I'm going to just make my own NFT and put on these really random drawings that I had made, I wouldn't have ever gotten to really understand the whole potential of the kind of generative practice that a lot of you know that the Art Blocks community is providing.

CY: Yeah. So this may answer the previous question asked by me, this is how you convert your physical works into those beautiful works.

LH: I think it was really hard. I mean, from the beginning, I was almost ready to pull out because I was like, oh, but this isn't painting. This isn't my painting. I'm just, it's just a flat image. But I didn't realize the potential the way a programmer could. So each step of the way, I got more and more invested in the project. And as soon as they started bringing in, the really intense elements of light and texture and glow—they just have so many different possible variations. I know once you see them all together, they're all going to look the same. But for me, each one of them has its own sense of energy pulsating within it. And I didn't realize that would have been possible and I never could have made 280 drawings—that would have taken me, you know, 10 years.

CY: Yeah, exactly. There are some similarities between physical work and digital work. Some can control their work, but for most of the time, it is harder to control the works within the NFT domain. You could only choose the algorithm, which would give birth to the work itself.

LH: Yes, that's a really good point. I just had to let go. The problem in the beginning was that I was wanting too much control. And I didn't understand the medium, it was not my medium. This is this tech coding. And as soon as I let go of the control, everything expanded—

CY: Blossomed, like a flower.

LH: Yeah, yeah, exactly.


Loie Hollowell, Contractions #12, NFT, 2022 © Loie Hollowell

CY: You will never know when a flower actually blossoms into yellow.

LH: Right. Yeah, that's a good metaphor.

AU: I've just been listening in and taking in everything that's being said. It made me think of something that you said within the video where you were talking about the mental space, and maybe I'm misquoting you, but the mental space within the artwork is not just a physical space that comes from within your brain, but also the physical space that comes from your belly? I think that when I look at the amazing work that you've also done for contractions, I do feel like it has been an extension of your work in a way into the digital space that has been very unexpected, but in a way where the sensation and the energy of the works have been retained. I just thought of a question—what do you think would be the best way for people to view your digital artworks? Because I know that in terms of your physical works, the scale is definitely a big thing.

LH: Yeah, I know. And it's really funny seeing them as small seeing the NFT's that we, you know, practice generating, when they're seen as the little small thumbnails, you don't actually get the sense of how grainy the images are. So I mentioned the first set of mint zeros. I have my computer desktop here—an 18 inch computer. And that feels like it's just starting to show the grainy texture. It has a much stronger presence the larger it is. And I think just because you lose all the little textures that are there when it's just as a JPEG, or sorry, as a little like, thumbnail.

AO: I do think it's curious the difference in quality that the scale can bring, and also the difference in the screen that you can use. I was just on our blog site, and it says that Contractions will be presented at the Pace galleries booth at West Bund Fun Art and Design in Shanghai from November 10 and 13th. So for any of our friends who may be in Shanghai right now, that would be a very exciting thing to check out because I assume that it may either be on a smaller screen or a bigger screen. Either way. I'm excited for the presentation for how it would be experienced.

LH: Yeah, I think I think for this fair, they're actually going to put the screen behind the wall and actually frame it. So it looks like it's just like a painting sitting on a wall. But don't quote me on that. I think that'll be really exciting. As their ratio would be 9:12, they would fit on a phone screen perfectly. But the NFT itself, the actual object itself expands much greater than that. So the radiating orbs actually fall off into the distance, which is a really interesting aspect that I've never addressed in my paintings—the way the rings expand into a square rather than a rectangular space.  

AO: I think what's so exciting about it is how art and technology is really combined in a whole new way where they're challenging and inspiring one another. For instance, the total number of NFT's within this series is the average number of days of a full-term pregnancy, and the way you are experimenting with color and as an extension of your physical work. I'm really excited, and I will definitely be trying to bid one before they sell out.

LH: Nice. Yeah, I'm also really excited. Pace and I have been working together for a while, so my paintings are at a price point that I wouldn't be able to afford anymore. My friend Tara Donovan just meant to just do a project with Art Blocks, and we bought some of her pieces, and it's really exciting to be able to collect work of artists that I wouldn't otherwise be able to have their work. One of the things that really drew me to the NFT platform, and especially Art Blocks, was the inherent nature of the donation aspect. So a portion of all the proceeds that I make from this NFT sale are going to go to female reproductive rights access organizations in the US. And I really love that that was like just part of their programming from the beginning, as well as the royalty platform. With galleries, sometimes we make collectors sign a five year non sale, non resale agreement, but it's actually not legally binding here in the US. But with the NFT community, the blockchain keeps track of whoever's buying the work. And so there's an inherent royalty structure within that. And we really need something like that in the fine arts—it's way overdue that artists are not able to reap any royalties from the resale of their work when it goes up at auction.

  • Essays — Loie Hollowell in Conversation, Nov 8, 2022