The Cent Spotlight is a series focused on highlighting the amazing creators on Cent
On this week’s Cent Spotlight, I was joined by a really special person. To me, they’re probably one of the most positive presences on Cent.
Originally they were an encaustic artist, but they’re an all-around pioneering creator and an intrepid digital explorer. It’s incredible that they only recently started dabbling in digital art. Their work is truly enrapturing. It’s intensely intricate, extremely delicate, and visually stunning.
My guest this week is @BlackBoxDotArt aka Sparrow.
We had a really amazing chat about her name, her creative philosophy, crypto art, and the broader crypto art community. I hope everyone enjoys it.
You can listen to the audio recording of our chat [here], or for those who prefer to read, I’ve also provided an edited transcript of my Spotlight chat with @BlackBoxDotArt below. Please, enjoy it.
[Note: Parts of the following conversation have been lightly edited for clarity]
I’ll start off with my question that I ask everyone, in your own words, tell everybody who @BlackBoxDotArt is.
Yeah, and I knew you’re going to ask that. And I’ve been thinking about that for days, I could go into a big long list of all of the things that I’ve done and the fact that black box is a metaphor for loads and loads of things.
It actually represents the studio that I built, which is a cube that I’ve painted black so that my studio is a black box. In systems design. Black Box is the sort of bits on schematics where input goes on one side and output goes on the other side magic happens in that little black box. It’s also the data recorder on airplanes, that records the flight information. So, it is a recorder of the world as seen from a particular perspective. I mean, the metaphor just really goes on and on and on.
A black box is the polar opposite of a white box, a traditional art gallery. And so, thinking through how I want to represent that in my work and in places like @CryptoVoxels, in all of, you know, the places that I have a presence has become more and more interesting. All of those things kind of get embodied in the metaphor of black box art.
I love how deep you are. Everything you do is so rich and thoughtful, but I knew there’s a deeper meaning to your name. I had no idea. It was that deep.
It does. It goes even deeper if you want me to keep going.
Keep going then.
So, my first response when I started thinking through this was, you know, really all that that stuff is true. Yeah, all of that stuff can be applied to the metaphor. But really the truest answer, I think, and it’s probably true for everyone, but I don’t have an answer. You know, who is @BlackBoxDotArt? I mean nobody really knows who they are. Unless they’re incredibly shallow, and I don’t think many people are that
But the key thing is because I don’t know because I don’t have that answer, that’s why I do art. I do art so I can find more answers about myself. Do you know the poem by Rilke? Live the questions. That’s me in my art. I’m living the questions. I don’t know if I have the answers. But I’m living the questions.
That’s beautiful. And questioning is the piety of thought. That’s probably one of my favorite quotes by a man who’s a bit disparaged, Heidegger. That said, the questioning is so, so important.
But getting back to your art and how that’s like questioning who you are and finding new layers to yourself, it was incredible to read that art was just a hobby to you for so long and that you only recently started to make it something much more. I was interested in your actual creative journey from when you were younger until when you found out that you had this other side of you that you enjoyed creating things. I was wondering if you could walk us through that creative journey?
Yes. So it wasn’t actually a conscious choice. It wasn’t anything that I really thought about. It was just something that I did. You know, I was always drawing things. I was always painting things. I was always creating things, making things with my hands. There is just, I think that that primal urge in pretty much everybody. And I was an only child so I had a lot of time on my hands to be able to do those kinds of things.
Back then, the world around me didn’t particularly value those things.
And so, I was always good at school, I went to university, as was expected. I did a lot of things that were expected in a sort of unexpected way. I skipped my senior year of high school and went to university when I got good enough scores on my SAT without finishing my senior year.
I thought that I wanted to be a pharmacist at that point. So, I went I was accepted into a School of Pharmacy, but after the first year I figured out that that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So, I switched majors. I ended up doing a double major in mathematics and philosophy. And I was interested enough in Shakespeare in poetry that I took enough courses to have enough credits to get a minor in English as well. I just love to find things out and learn about things.
And when did you get into encaustic art and then how did you find digital art and the crypto space?
Yeah, encaustic is absolutely my medium. It felt like coming home when I discovered it. And part of that is probably because it is so diverse. It can do so many different things. You can do sculpture, within encaustic wax you can do beautiful translucent on a stained glass looking paintings. It takes Image Transfer, you can carve it, you can layer it, you know, there are so many things that you can do with it. It felt like an endless pool that I could dive into. And it’s very organic. It’s very physical. It’s, it’s just a lovely, lovely medium to work with. I found that probably about four years ago. There were some absolutely amazing exhibitions in London that year.
There was a Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective at the Tate and I’ve always loved her as an artist. And then there was an abstract expressionism show at the Royal Academy and that’s all always sort of been my favorite art movement.
I think it was the combination of those shows and my reaction to them and standing in a room that was just filled on every wall with Mark Rothko’s, absorbing all of that and going, “Art really is important. It really can make you be in touch with yourself.”
I realized I needed more of that in my life, so it was at that point really that I made the choice to take my art more seriously. And it wasn’t long after that, that I fell in love with that. Did that for a year or so I guess very intensely and then needed to try and figure out my own visual language. And one of the ways to figure out your own visual language is through regular practice. You need daily practice.
Doing encaustic is probably not the best medium to do a daily practice with, because there are lots of setting up and tearing down. I’d love to have the time to do that, but digital was probably the easiest and most accessible way to just incorporate a daily creative practice into my life.
So I started doing projects on @creary which I’ve written about on Cent as well. And it really was that daily practice that that made things clearer for me. I did a Make 100 project using encaustic wax and made 100 crows tied to the blockchain. That’s how I found out what was happening in the blockchain space, which then led to crypto art. I was just looking back and, you know, it was only like six weeks ago that I made my first real NFT
That shocked me too. This whole space seems to be moving at the speed of light. It’s crazy.
So that’s the really nice thing about this space. Something interesting for me to talk about is this whole AI thing and the idea of latent space.
And, you know, the latent space out there in the crypto art world, there are so many possibilities and it is just up to individuals to choose which representation of that latent space they want.
I wanted to ask you about a running theme in a lot of your writing. I love how you always touch on the promise of crypto — what sort of possibilities it could unlock and so on. I’m wondering if you can expound on that. Or at least talk about what crypto means to you or what sort of promise you think is it contains?
@MaxOsiris’ LA show really embodies a lot of that because he’s so generous. It wasn’t just about him. It was about all the artists that were involved. And it was about all the artists doing what they do, doing what they want to do. And that’s when the magic happens. Right?
That’s when a community can be themselves without any intermediaries. Brekkie said it in his Tweet, you know, it was the first community artist-led, artist-organized without sponsorship without a conference or any gallery, or curator organizing it or moderating it. It really was just us. And there is that very strong feeling of us.
I think that that kind of community, that feeling of belonging to an “us” is what needs to happen in the world. More people need to find their place, and that their group really gets them. And in talking to a lot of the other artists in the crypto space, that’s what they felt. And that’s why they’re here. It’s every artist’s dream, to make something and put it out there and have people really get it.
I’m sure you’re doing like a million other things that no one knows about. But I’m curious, how do you actually prioritize and organize everything that that you’re involved in? And I’m wondering if you could give us a taste of what you’re cooking up or focusing on next?
How do I prioritize things? I hate deadlines. I work to deadlines at work because they pay me to do that. But I work best by following where my energy goes. And so, whatever it is that’s grabbed my attention, whatever it is that I’m I can feel excited about I can. I should be doing that. Because I’m just so much more effective when I’m doing this stuff that I want
That sounds Rather selfish, but it ultimately means that I end up being able to do everything that needs to be done. And I manage my own energy by following my energy. So, the whole CryptoVoxels thing was amazing. I mean, I just am still speechless about how much we accomplished and what we got done and what the response to what we got done was.
We’ve only just started that and we’ve got more and more people saying, well, I want to join, can you feature my gallery and everything else?
I made a post on Cent. And the next morning somebody had picked up on one of the things that I mentioned in that post and it just happened. That’s the magic that is the magic of a community that aligns.
It’s, it’s such a beautiful thing. I am so happy to just have like a small hand in all of this and to be able to have a bird’s eye view of everything that’s going on. And now it’s flowering and it’s also beautiful.
You can’t manufacture that though, you know, you can’t kind of set community up and make it happen. There are all sorts of different variables
100% it’s not something you can engineer. It’s something that you need to make sure that the product or whatever is engineered in such a way that you enable the possibility of things happening organically. Too often, I think people try to over-engineer and they snuff out the flame of anything potentially interesting.
I’m curious, for Cent in particular, is there anything that we can do or anything that we can change to make it better for you and what you do?
Oh, I’m really looking forward to #TheNewCent. I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys think needs to change because being a software engineer myself, I find that is interesting to me. So I’m curious to see what the team wants it to be.
I think I found the same on Cent. As you say, there are a few tools, but you can use them however you want to use them. The only limit is your imagination. So I like that ethos if you will.
And my last question, I’m super curious to hear who you personally would like to see spotlighted next.
@Skeenee is someone I’d love to find out more since he is an amazing artist.