Last summer when Artnome was featured in Oliver Roeder's excellent article in FiveThirtyEight, I briefly received a cavalcade of email inquiries. One stood out among them all. The email had the subject line "An Email From Your Next Artnome Intern" from Kaesha Freyaldenhoven. I was drawn in by her chutzpah, and I was rewarded for my instincts.
I explained to her on our first call that I had no money to pay an intern. Undeterred, she applied for a grant, and won her own funding to subsidize her support of Artnome and the Artnome database. As a third-year student at University of Chicago, Kaesha did a summer internship with Goldman Sachs as a "private wealth management global summer analyst" where she excelled. Yet she chose to follow her heart and pursue art history.
I couldn't be more proud to have her on my team. When it came time to interview my favorite "crypto" artist, Moxarra Gonzalez, who lives in Mexico City and speaks Spanish as his first language, I reached out without hesitation to Kaesha, who speaks fluent Spanish, to run the interview. This is just one of many contributions from Kaesha to date and hopefully just one of many more to come!
One last note, Moxarra works in a wide variety of materials and subject matter. In this interview, we primarily focus on his work done in the Dada.nyc platform. Be sure to check out the rest of his work by following him on Twitter @moxarra, Instagram, and Facebook. And now for the interview:
K: Hi Moxarra, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me! Jason and I have been very excited to do this interview with you!
M: Oh, thank you. And likewise.
K: We are looking forward to learning more about you, your practice, and how blockchain plays into your day-to-day as an artist. So first thing’s first -- is Moxarra your real name?
M: No, it isn’t! Moxarra (pronounced “Mo - ha - ra”) is my nickname. Mojarra is a kind of tuna fish in Spanish. My brother gave me this nickname. He is Moxarra, Sr., while I am now Moxarra, Jr. He lives in San Luis Potosí and I see him and my family when I'm on vacation. My name is Carlos González, but I really only go by Moxarra. I am 37 years old and from San Luis Potosí, but currently living in Mexico City. I studied visual arts at the UANL (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León).
K: Ah, okay, that makes much more sense. Moxarra it is! We are so grateful to Dada.nyc because through the platform, we were able to access your work! How did you first get involved with Dada.nyc?
M: Well, one day I was on Facebook and there was an ad. I never pay attention to those Facebook ads, but it was just what I was looking for! So I clicked. It was the only time I have ever made a “let’s see what this is all about” click. It was an opportunity for me to draw collaboratively and immediately! I liked the idea. I have now been on Dada for around three years. We all have to thank Bea Ramos and her crew for making the site possible. It’s a really, really cool place to draw with so many different and creative people.
K: Three years is quite a long time! Could you tell us more about what is it like to be affiliated with such a community of artists?
M: Yes. Everyone on the platform is very creative! We often congratulate each other on the works. I have not met any of the artists in person yet; however, we communicate via Hangouts, Twitter, or email quite frequently. There are many artists from South America, too. We have spoken with Bea on Hangouts calls to have discussions and give her feedback on the page. We talk about how we perceive the page and what we would change. Then, changes are made.
K: Got it. How neat.! Now, blockchain seems to be quite an important part of Dada.nyc. Is there a word for blockchain in Spanish?
M: Hahaha, nope! No word - we just say blockchain also.
K: Okay, okay. So let’s talk blockchain. How does the blockchain aspect of Dada.nyc affect you as an artist?
M: The blockchain part of Dada.nyc affects us all in a very positive way! It promotes us and helps us to understand how the crypto market is going to be hopefully the next big thing. It is great. Blockchain allows for artists to get their art out there and get an income.
K: Definitely. I feel very excited to hear that, especially considering there was not really a market for digital art from a traditional standpoint. What are your thoughts as an early innovator on the the potential of platforms like Dada.nyc to help artists like you get paid for their work?
M: Well, we all hope that blockchain continues to explode and that this market will continue to create opportunities for new artists. In New York there was a conference called RARE AF. There were very important people at this conference discussing the artistic establishment and the crypto movement. They are the innovators. While I am super hyped about this digital art market, I couldn’t call myself an innovator. I'm just a player in the game. I like this game a lot! The work of Dada.nyc is opening the public's eyes to the digital art scene and Dada must take credit! I hope that blockchain will allow the price of digital works to continue going up and up and up…
K: Oh yeah, I really couldn’t agree more! We are definitely on the same page about promoting digital art. Jason is a huge fan of your work and was excited to feature it in several of the Artnome articles. Have you had any people reach out as a result of the exposure you have received from either Dada.nyc or Artnome?
M: I think they have given me good publicity! I have seen the results in my social media followers. A lot of crypto-related people have been adding me. I think this is due to the collaboration we have had this last month.
K: How great to hear! What advice do you have for digital artists who are just starting out and would like to get their work out in front of more people?
M: My advice to all emerging artists is to draw, draw, draw and never lose faith in what you do. The Dada.nyc platform is a great way to start showing the world what you can and love to do.
K: You hear that, artists? Continue drawing! Speaking on behalf of Artnome, we hope that artists will read these articles and feel inspired by your story. Do you have any predictions on where the digital art market is going?
M: My predictions are aligned with the rest. We hope that the market goes up and finds its stability, as any other market. I hope that it continues to become more mainstream. But ultimately it is the collectors who are the "holy cows" of the art market. They will dictate what is valuable and what is not. So, let’s just wait and see!
K: Hint, hint, art collectors! If you were to describe the new aesthetic around “CryptoArt" or “digital art” in a few words, what words would you use?
M: About the aesthetic of cryptoart… I think it’s a new aesthetic that will have an impact in a lot of art circles… Images are flat and direct with non-gradient colors. It is a very in-your-face type of art. I think the most exciting aspect is that the works are connected to memes. I would have never expected that there would be art around memes! And I had no idea that I would ever be a part of that! Memes are used daily, in all of the chats. Now that the consumer market exists, we are thrilled. I think the whole world is hoping for this!
K: Could you tell me a little bit about how you first became exposed to the arts?
M: Sure. Growing up, I always spent my free time drawing. My mom was always drawing and painting. She also had a huge collection of art books, encyclopedias, and biographies at home. I knew very early that I wanted to pursue the arts in higher education, so I studied at UANL to get a broad understanding of visual arts. This was when I really began to love painting with oil and acrylic. Now, my techniques vary. In my physical works, I use whatever I want to throw in: oil, acrylic, pencil, pen, markers, watercolor, textures, even coffee on paper, wood, canvas… or sometimes just doodles in my notebook. Paper and pencil will always be the easiest; however, I have also become more interested in digital drawing. Sometimes I also create things physically, take pictures, and integrate these works with digital media. I am really new to digital art - I was introduced to digital techniques in 2007 or 2008 while working as an illustrator with a newspaper in San Luis. Now I have a career as a freelance designer.
K: From pencil and paper to digital media, you have really kept up with the trends within the art world! And with bitcoin and Dada.nyc, your projects are cutting edge. Jason and I have perused your online portfolio. We are really interested in your artistic practice. How do you go about first starting a piece?
M: Ah, I don’t know. About the conceptualization of my figures… I don’t think about them much. They just come off my head to my hand as if they were my doodles. If I am making a portrait or a realistic scene, well, sometimes I use a photo as a reference and then add or subtract elements in the background. I just play a little bit with the forms until I am happy with the outcome! My goal is always aesthetic.
K: How interesting. We have noticed that your colors are very bright. Where do these color choices come from?
M: The palette is centered around a few key themes. I love using vibrant colors. Sometimes I will create using the previous palette to follow the exquisite corpse technique, which is how we create images on Dada.nyc.
K: I don’t know much about this technique. What is it?
M: The exquisite corpse is a way to build on the works of other artists. This technique can be used when one artist draws a picture and then the next artist continues, passing on the picture to another artist. This leads to a string of creation. Sometimes I will take the palette from another artist and continue in that fashion. I also studied prints in Mexico. Then I had to work with the CMYK color model. These primary colors resonated with me.
K: What a neat technique. I just did a quick Google search and I’m seeing that quite a few Surrealist artists used this technique. In addition to the Surrealist practices, do you feel as though other art movements have strongly influenced CryptoArt or your art particularly?
M: Well, I like all the Renaissance artists, but especially Leonardo da Vinci. Also, Joel Peter Witkin, Marcel Duchamp, Velázquez, Matthew Barney, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Warhol, Basquiat, Lichtenstein, Sylvia Ji, Natalia Fabia... I really loved the combo of Aiana Udesen, Matt Furie, and Albert Reyes…. I like figurative artists as well as more modern artists. Warhol once mentioned that he could create a screen print each day. So at one point, I decided I would make my own oil paint daily! But now… I don’t think so. That was exhausting!
I think that my time working for the newspaper in Mexico strongly influenced the dark imagery in my work. With the newspaper, I was exposed to a lot of violent crime, robberies, and murders. Daily news stories were quite gruesome. Organized crime also has a very strong presence in our country. Hearing about these things impacted my work. Have you seen Breaking Bad?
K: No, I haven’t!
M: Okay. Well, it is kind of like Breaking Bad, but not that intense. I do not want to color your perception so that you view Mexico negatively… Of course, not all of Mexico is like this. But interesting stories definitely happen, as in any other country.
The culture of the dead is also very important here in Mexico. From candy skulls to colors, I really like this theme, so I integrate it into my art.
K: Oh, just like Dia de los Muertos?
K: I went to a dual-immersion English/Spanish school where we celebrated Día de los Muertos every year. I thought I recognized those themes in your work!
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to share your stories and experiences with us. We greatly appreciate your time.
M: Thanks to you, too.