Three-Woman NFT Exhibition, “Garden of Venus,” Opens at Mahall’s This Friday

The show doubles as an introduction to digital art

click to enlarge "Luna lady" - Tessa LeBaron
Tessa LeBaron
"Luna lady"

“Garden of Venus,” which opens this Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. at Odyssey & Oddities at Mahall's, combines digital art and music with traditional art-making while exploring NFTs as a way for women to harvest influence in the arts and tech.

The first 50 attendees will get a free NFT without needing crypto, and physical art and prints will be for sale.

The 'phygital exhibit’ is the brainchild of three local artists: Arabella Proffer, Tessa LeBaron and Jenna Fournier, and begs to question, is women’s art more valuable in the ether or in the flesh?

The title came from LeBaron and Fournier and highlights that it’s a women’s collective with a focus on tech and Web3, in particular, and the first NFT show in the entire Midwest that feature exlusively women artists.

The three “Super Psychedelic Sisters” will also be creating a garden as part of the installation and say they did not want it to be a typical cube show — they invite gallery-goers to linger and hang out.

“Web3 is about ownership. Different iterations of the internet you had read, write, interact, and now you can have a digital certificate of authenticity,” said Proffer, who has been championing the possibilities of the NFT market for a long time. “But the main thing is royalties! Imagine you got 20% every time your work sold and changed hands? When a living artist sells work on the secondary market, they get nothing. Now, as a creator you get royalties for art, music, novels, and even movies. It’s direct and in perpetuity. Not to mention you are opening yourself up to a whole new audience. There’s a huge amount of talented artists from Western Africa who have been able to sell their art, and the same in Ukraine. These are people who would never get a gallery show, or make a decent % selling prints otherwise.”

“We see themes overlapping in our work without intention,” said Fournier, front woman for the Cleveland acts Niights and Kid Tigrrr. “So it felt natural to work together, yet we all occupy a different corner of Cleveland’s art community. Tessa has left her mark in murals all over the city, and continually hosts drawing nights, group shows and other events bringing people together, while holding down a home base for her prolific body of work at Negative Space Gallery. Arabella has carved out a space for herself in both brick and mortar galleries around the globe, as well as on the blockchain, and continues to challenge stereotypes in both worlds. As a musician and an oil painter, this show for me was a chance to share my digital art experiments while I evolve in the medium alongside two badass babes, and further represent the feminine in what is also largely a man's field: audio engineering and music production.”

While offering another way for investors to finance artists and creators, NFTs provide an easy introduction to the use of blockchain. While the blockchain and NFTs are esoteric to many, and have a lot of stigma associated with them, this exhibition aims to dispel some of the myths, open up the conversation and offer a glimpse into the evolving technology.

Women currently only make up 16% of the NFT space and part of the goal of this exhibition is to empower women to have more of a stake in these digital communities.

Resident engagement is one of the exhibitors' goals and part of the mission is to “teach the public that crypto art is approachable and here to stay.” They also hope to onboard as many women, LGBTQ, and BIPOC artists into this new art world and show that NFTs have given people with physical disabilities a new avenue to share their art.

Three of the NFTs created will be a collaboration between Proffer, Fournier and LeBaron, and will be sold with the proceeds donated to an organization for women.

“Arabella has been teaching us about NFTs. Our first step was that we created a template incorporating femininity, psychedelia and NFT digital art using a triangle to represent these three elements,” said LeBaron. “It’s a collective series and each of us is creating our own rendition based on this template.”

In addition, Proffer has put together an easy guide to NFTs in the form of a zine to inform people how to get involved as a creator at any level. She hopes it will educate people about NFTs, answer some commonly asked questions and outline some basics about how non-fungible tokens tie into the art market.

“I hope people learn NFTs are not a fad just about monkey pictures,” said Proffer. “An NFT is not the art but an agreement about the art (or whatever media). And it’s a way for creators and collectors to have more say in how work is supported. I wanted to bring more people into the space who were maybe afraid because they don’t understand it. So I created a zine to educate people in a way that speaks street. These are all things people already know how to do, it’s just different terminology. I am not a tech person at all, so if I can do it, anyone can.”
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