Next Up: Five Ones to Watch in November 2022

BY Langston Thomas

November 01, 2022

In 2021, a new creator economy was born on the blockchain. Since NFTs took center stage, artists have achieved NFT superstardom, billion-dollar brands have been forged in just a few months, and many lives have been utterly transformed time and again. Yet, the most inspiring thing about the NFT space is the number of artists of all creeds and mediums who have found community and support by embracing this technology.

In keeping with our mission to empower creators, we present Next Up — our monthly franchise dedicated to showcasing rising artists. In our November edition, we’ve curated a list of five ascendant talents who have been making significant waves in 2022.

Ana María Caballero

Ana Maria Caballero is a first-generation Colombian-American poet and artist. Her work explores how biology delimits societal and cultural rites and seeks to remove the veil from romanticized motherhood while questioning notions that package female sacrifice as a virtue. She is the recipient of the Beverly International Prize, Colombia’s José Manuel Arango National Poetry Prize, and a Sevens Foundation Grant. Her work has been widely published and exhibited internationally and virtually.

We spoke with Caballero and asked a few questions about NFTs and her artistic process.

How did you first become interested/involved in NFTs?

For years, I felt the life of a published poem was too insular, too quiet, and too short, so I shared my poems as spoken-word videos on social media. When I read about Web3, it seemed like a natural jump for me as I already had digital versions of many of my poems and was inspired by how people connected with them.

I feel very deeply that poems are works of art, and grew certain that this value could finally be expressed via blockchain provenance. I decided to create a digital poetry gallery in April 2021, and a month later, I bought the domain for, where I hoped to sell my own poems as well as those of my poet friends. Meanwhile, I’ve fallen deeply in love with the crypto art ecosystem. It’s such a radiantly alive place to be.

How would you describe your art? What’s your process like?

My poetry is rooted in the deeply intimate details of my day. Our desires, regrets, and quests for purpose are inseparable from the logistics of living. We rip envelopes, answer emails, towel children, and boil eggs, all while pondering the ultimate meaning of our existence. I’m direct in my writing. When we embellish what we’re feeling, it’s because we’re afraid of feeling it. I believe that only brutally honest and personal writing can be relatable, much less universal. Language doesn’t need to adorn itself to be powerful or beautiful.

My poems are moments of observation and resistance. I like to employ rhyme which, in conversational texts, becomes a marked departure from our normal speech patterns and adds intention, play, and subversion to a text. Sometimes, I feel like a conceptual artist, drafting poems borne of ideas, rather than from feeling. Others, I feel like an impressionist painter, weaving emotion into what I see.

Do you have any drops/collections on the horizon we should keep an eye out for?

I just launched a collection called Ways to Misspell Obsidian with GAZELL.iO, the digital arm of London’s Gazelli Art House. This collection, which investigates and celebrates the storytelling potential of long-form poetry, consists of three poems and is based on a lyric essay I wrote that was a finalist for Ploughshares’ Emerging Writers Contest. These works form a triptych of shared signification, recursion, imagery, and vocabulary in which rhyme, unexpected line breaks, and spacing are used to sketch the shadows of meaning.

Ben Hopper

Ben Hopper is an artist, portraitist, and conceptual photographer. Although based in London, his art is nomadic, leading him to travel and photograph anywhere humans might be. His work centers on the human figure and has been exhibited worldwide, notably in media outlets such as HuffPost, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, ELLE, and GQ.

We spoke with Hopper and asked a few questions about NFTs and his artistic process.

How did you first become interested/involved in NFTs?

I saw that my good friend John Chan (known on Twitter as swolfchan) was playing around with NFTs and having massive success. After watching from the sidelines for a while we had a chat in May 2021. At the time, I kind of got the impression that it was now or never and that I should try to ride the wave because maybe it could set me up for financial stability as an artist. So in September 2021, I minted my first pieces which were a part of my genesis collection Dancers on Rooftops, a series that I’ve been working on since 2008. Twenty pieces that I minted sold, and that gave me the funds to continue.

How would you describe your art? What’s your process like?

My art, at the moment, is visual art — mostly using photography. I started photographing circus artists because my brother studied circus. Then from that, I went to dancers, and from that, I went to fetish clubs, burlesque, and cabaret clubs in London. This sort of triangle of circus dance, fetish clubs, and dress-up clubs inspired all of my work that came after I moved to London from Israel in 2008.

I’m really interested [in working] with people and the human body. My process is mostly improvisation and very inspired by performance in dance. So I find an artist or a model that I really want to work with, and we find a location, and then I tell them, ‘ok, you have from this spot to this spot to move.’ During that, I’m trying to get into some sort of state of flow and just completely let go and not think. I take anything between 500 to 3,000 photos in a session. Then I go through the photos in Adobe Lightroom and just kind of select and narrow them down to the best ones.

After a few years, I zoom out and see what I created over time, and all of a sudden, I can identify all these different themes that recur in my work so I can gather them and group them together into projects. That’s often how my projects may materialize. I don’t always think of the projects first.

Do you have any drops/collections on the horizon we should keep an eye out for?

I just released a really interesting, cute collection with a Norwegian artist called Haavard. He’s a generative artist, and he took my dancers on rooftops and put them in videos that go for 15 minutes. They slowly morph into something else — these kind of pixels that mesh around. Other than that, my work is all divided or grouped into projects. So in a way, they’re all ready to become NFT collections. I’m not sure if I’m going to mint all of my projects as collections, but most of my work will likely turn into NFT collections sooner or later.

There’s another one that I’m really excited about, that’s a series of collaborations between myself and graphic artists from all over the world that take my photography and add their own art to my photos. That collection I’m hoping to launch soon. It’s a work in progress, and there will be new works added. It’s going to be a nice opportunity to connect with some of the graphic artists in the NFT space that I find really interesting.

Sasha Stiles

Sasha Stiles is a first-generation Kalmyk-American poet, artist, and AI researcher creating at the intersection of text and technology. A pioneer of generative literature, she is the recipient of a Future Art Award and a nominee for the Forward Prize, Pushcart Prize, and Best of the Net. Having received numerous other accolades in the Web3 and NFT spheres, her work has been widely exhibited virtually and in IRL worldwide.

We spoke with Stiles and asked a few questions about NFTs and her artistic process.

How did you first become interested/involved in NFTs?

I’ve been writing poems and making media-rich language art my entire life with an emphasis on hybrid poetics, experimental literature, and the poetics of technologies like generative text and AI-powered language models. In 2019, after ‘publishing’ my digital poetry on Instagram for years, I began submitting to art venues like CADAF in addition to the usual literary magazines, and curators started to take notice in a way that many poetry editors had not.

My first IRL solo show opened in 2020. In the same month, the fashion brand Rag & Bone used my AI poetry on the runway at New York Fashion Week. Later that year, the curator Jess Conatser commissioned me to write a poem for Virtual New Year’s Eve, a metaverse experience organized by One Times Square/Times Square Arts. That show opened up a world of possibilities and introduced me to a slew of new media and crypto artists. I realized that NFTs could be game-changing for my practice, and I dove right in.

How would you describe your art? What’s your process like?

I think of myself as a meta-poet probing what it means to be human in a nearly posthuman era. How are technologies like neural implants, artificial wombs, cryogenics, and digital immortality changing the very nature of the human condition? Or themes like birth, death, faith, and imagination, which poets have been writing about for time immemorial. My hybrid work spans from the traditional (my book Technelegy, for example, is a physical object), to the conceptual, to the sculptural, to the natural, to the digital, and to the virtual, all inspired by the belief that poetry is one of the most profound and durable technologies we humans have ever invented.

In fact, I believe that poetry is the original blockchain: a data storage system developed before the advent of written language to preserve our most important information via poetic devices like meter, rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and repetition. I also serve as a poetry mentor to BINA48 (created by Hanson Robotics and the Terasem Foundation) and help in shaping the literary mind file of one of the world’s most advanced humanoid AI robots. In one way or another, all my research and experimentation are about exploring new modes of human-machine collaboration and challenging my own understanding of cognition and creativity.

Do you have any drops/collections on the horizon we should keep an eye out for?

On the heels of sold-out poetry releases at Quantum, fxhash, and the Herbert W. Franke Tribute, this month, I’m releasing new work with Vertical Crypto Art for VCA Invites London. I’m also launching a generative, interactive poetry project called COMPOSE, created with Nathaniel Stern and playrecordmint via Kunsthalle Zurich, as well as curating a poetry experience at CADAF NYC with theVERSEverse.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a new fxhash collab with gen artist and letterpress printing pro Sarah Ridgley, in which we will use the blockchain as a bespoke printing press, and am preparing for a very exciting sale coming up in December that I still can’t quite believe is happening. And, of course, I’m preparing a really special curation of poems and programming by theVERSEverse in collaboration with nft now for The Gateway during Miami Art Basel.

Tyler Boswell

Tyler Boswell is a generative artist who comes from a computer science background with six years of experience in web development. Although he’s always wanted to find a creative outlet that fits his unique skillset, he says he was never good at the traditional arts, like drawing and painting, and eventually became interested in generative art. Outside of generative art, he spends his time hiking and dabbling in photography, drawing much of his art inspiration from colors and shapes found in nature. Boswell is garnering acclaim for his latest fxhash collection “September,” which is second only to Zancan’s blue-chip “Gardens, Monolith” in total sales volume on the platform over the past month.

We spoke with Boswell and asked a few questions about NFTs and his artistic process.

How did you first become interested/involved in NFTs?

I got into generative art in late 2021 and was quickly introduced to the world of NFTs through Twitter. I wasn’t a crypto enthusiast, so I was a bit skeptical about getting involved, but after seeing the incredible art being produced in places like ArtBlocks and fxhash, I was convinced. The community of artists and collectors is incredibly inviting, which made it easy to get involved and meet new people.

How would you describe your art? What’s your process like?

My art is relatively simple, technically speaking, but I like to combine simple ideas and techniques to form more natural, organic, and complex outputs. I usually start by trying to replicate something in nature or with an idea I like from another piece of art, and then modify it and layer more ideas on top to eventually make it my own. My goal is to mask the technical details of how I make something. I want my art to look natural, not [like] the result of an algorithm (even though it is).

Do you have any drops/collections on the horizon we should keep an eye out for?

I have a piece releasing on November 2. I am exhibiting a limited edition generative work, Catalyst, at a VerticalCrypto event in London. I have one more long-form generative work scheduled for the end of the year, but can’t say anything quite yet.

Violetta Zironi

Violetta Zironi is an Italian-born singer-songwriter and actress who first found commercial success at age 18 when she was selected as a finalist on X Factor Italy. After two years of being signed to a major label and trying to escape the creative box she was put in, Zironi sought to regain her independence through digital album releases, live performances, and writing songs for movies and commercials, eventually finding herself in Web3.

We spoke with Zironi and asked a few questions about NFTs and her artistic process.

How did you first become interested/involved in NFTs?

I got involved in NFTs in January 2022. After two brutal years of struggling through the pandemic as an independent musician and being terribly frustrated and drained by the impenetrable Web 2.0 music industry, I had given myself one more year to try everything I could to save my music career.

Around Christmas in 2021, my mother told me about NFTs — specifically music NFTs. I immediately saw it as an opportunity I couldn’t miss out on. I didn’t know anything about crypto or NFTs, but I dove in as deep as I could and quickly learned how to navigate the space. I fell in love with the community and felt the fire and passion in me reignited. It has since been my full-time job.

How would you describe your art? What’s your process like?

My biggest passion is melody. It satisfies me when there is a melody that would be able to survive and live on its own without any arrangement around it. So when I write songs, I always start with the melody and then move on to the lyrics. I collaborate with multi-platinum songwriter Michael Ochs, and together we thrive.

My goal is for my songs to impact the listener (and myself as I play them) as if they were watching a movie, but only with the song. A musical story, from start to finish, that takes you back to a place that feels familiar, yet surprising. I take a lot of inspiration from old jazz standards, traditional Italian songs, and classical music. When it comes to pairing art with my songs, I always want the art to be inspired by the music. I love when the artwork enhances the music instead of taking away from it.

Do you have any drops/collections on the horizon we should keep an eye out for?

My second music NFT album, Gypsy Heart, will start minting at the end of January, but we will begin pre-selling a limited batch of mint passes for a discount in the second week of November. This collection will be a PFP project, with 5,000 hand-drawn characters paired with five brand new songs, recorded fully analog with original 1950s gear. I want to bring art in its most human and organic form to one of the most innovative pieces of technology we have in order to enhance the craft and allow it to live forever.

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