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Pride Month makeup: What is special about the art form

It’s officially Pride Month, and celebrations have begun! Around the world, people will be participating in Pride parades, festivals, and concerts, and any other art form. They’ll be displaying the Pride flag and supporting queer-owned businesses and the LGBTQ+ through media consumption. One of the more artful ways people are celebrating is through Pride Month makeup.

These artists are creating bright, colorful looks inspired by the Pride flag. You can find their work all over social media. The beauty and skill behind these looks are astounding. Make no mistake: makeup is an art form. And the makeup we are seeing and have yet to see during Pride Month will prove this fact.

Pride Month makeup looks created by empowered artists

Makeup can be a conduit for expression, empowerment, and independence across many identities. This must be why makeup has become such a popular way to celebrate Pride. 

Is makeup oppressive or empowering?

Makeup art, particularly Pride Month makeup, seems to be an agentic expression of identity. So why do some argue that makeup is oppressive? 

Sarah Tinsley’s article on HuffPost summarizes why some people think that wearing makeup supports the patriarchy. Tinsley writes:

Make up only enhances one aspect of you. Your physical appearance. Which does nothing more than accentuate the level to which you are judged by it. Contouring does not enhance your intellect, a nice shade of eyeshadow does not highlight your practical or social skills. All it does is enhance the physical you. A tiny element of who you are as a person.

Sarah Tinsley

Tinsley, along with others, believes that wearing makeup emphasizes that one’s appearance is inherent to identity. In other words, people believe makeup only further objectifies those who wear it. I would disagree.

Makeup, Pride Month or otherwise, as an agentic art form

Tinsley was mistaken when she said that makeup cannot “highlight” one’s skills. There are plenty of people who successfully profit from their makeup artistry.

Regardless, these Pride makeup artists clearly have a light hand and creative eye. Learning how to do basic makeup, let alone these intricate Pride looks, is extremely difficult.

It took me years to perfect a simple winged eyeliner and figure out I was over-filling my brows. Makeup is an art that takes skill. Implying that makeup-wearers are falling victim to a patriarchal scheme diminishes the work these artists are doing. 

Tinsley says that makeup does nothing more than “enhance the physical you.” But as we’ve seen from these Pride makeup artists, they’re expressing their identities, supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and exhibiting artistic talent.

Their work transcends their physical appearance. Makeup can be about more than one’s physical appearance and “enhancing it.”

To say makeup is oppressive through objectification is to diminish the accomplishments and talent of makeup artists. It can be an empowering art form. It is insulting to imply that someone is too ignorant to understand that their talent is oppressive or owned by the patriarchy. Even if wearing makeup has historically been a societally imposed standard for women, why can’t makeup be reclaimed

Reclaiming makeup

In her article, Tinsley acknowledges that the oppressed can reclaim language or practices. She believes “reclaiming sexist, homophobic and racist language” and repurposing it “to spread a message is very powerful”; “It takes the words and images” that are oppressive “and marks them out as your own.” However, she’s “not sure the same can be said for wearing eyeliner.”

Why not? Clearly, these Pride makeup artists are spreading a powerful message of self-acceptance with their art form. Women and the LGBTQ+ community seem to have reclaimed sexist and homophobic societal expectations regarding makeup. 

And, even if someone only wears makeup because they feel it makes them more attractive, why try to make them feel guilty because they are participating in something “oppressive.”

Even if you feel wearing makeup solely for physical appearance supports the patriarchy, it’s counterproductive to attack the oppressed. You are indirectly critiquing them for their autonomous decisions. 

In “Makeup Is a Form of Empowerment,” Keah Brown shares her experience with makeup. Her story is a testament to how creating makeup looks can be an agentic accomplishment. She writes, 

Makeup has become a tool of expression and a piece of independence I always longed for. As a disabled, Black, and queer woman, the freedom that comes with being able to show my family and friends the thing I did on my own is unmatched.

Keah Brown

Makeup eliciting empowerment 

We support these LGBTQ+ creatives and their inspiring work.

Their art is paradigmatic of what Pride month is about—self-acceptance, empowerment, and celebrating LGBTQ+ culture. 

Richard Mosse’s ‘Displaced’ is an inviting exhibition of resolution

The ongoing exhibition of Richard Mosse’s Displaced is hosted by Fondazione MAST from May 7 to September 19 this year. Fondazione MAST is a cultural and philanthropic institution in Bologna, Italy.

“His photographs do not show the conflict, the battle, the crossing of the border, in other words the climax, but the world that follows the birth and the catastrophe.”

Urs Stahel, Curator of Displaced, Fondazione MAST.
fondazione mast
PHOTO CRED: Fondazione MAST.

Curated by Urs Stahel, Displaced is an exhibition that features a wide selection of Mosse’s works. The artist’s works explore the boundaries of documentary photography and contemporary art through the themes of migration, conflict, and climate change. Displaced is still just his first anthological exhibition.

fondazione mast
PHOTO CRED: Fondazione MAST.

In Displaced, there are 77 large-scale photographs on display. The exhibition also presents two large-scale immersive video installations: The Enclave (2013) and Incoming (2017), the 16-channels video wall Grid (Moria) (2017), and the video Quick (2010).

A perfect combination of vision and technology

“Light is visible heat. Light fades. Heat grows cold. People’s attention drifts. Media attention dwindles. Compassion is eventually exhausted. How do we find a way, as photographers and as storytellers, to continue to shed light on the refugee crisis, and to keep the heat on these urgent narratives of human displacement?”

Richard Mosse, 2017, Incoming.
richard mosse
© Richard Mosse Thousands are Sailing I, II eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012 Private collection.
Image via: Fondazione MAST.

Mosse applies new technology to his photographic narratives. He often also uses military-grade cameras designed for battlefield situational awareness and long-range border surveillance to create an immersive, humanist art form.

In his precise control of light and demonstration of heat in his photographs, Mosse creates a new perspective on conflict, change, and displacement. His works also emphasize the concept of visibility. The unique visuals impact still the way we are accustomed to perceiving and interpreting reality.

Contents of Richard Mosse’s exhibition

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Infra installation. PHOTO CRED: Fondazione MAST.

“When beauty, described by the artist as “the sharpest tool for making people feel something”, is successfully used to recount suffering and tragedy, “an ethical problem arises in the minds of viewers”, who find themselves confused, struck and disorientated. The invisible becomes visible, in all its conflictual nature.”

Fondazione MAST

The exhibition extends over three levels of Fondazione MAST: Gallery, Foyer and Level O.

richard mosse
© Richard Mosse Lost Fun Zone, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012
Courtesy of the artist and carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid.
Image via: Fondazione MAST.

In the early 2000s, Richard Mosse began his photographic career while completing his university studies. His earliest works feature the landscapes in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Gaza Strip, and also at the border between Mexico and the U.S.

These early works document the aftermath of war; they are the emblematic images of destruction, defeat, and the collapse of systems. The vast absence of human figures is still a noticeable characteristic.

richard mosse
© Richard Mosse Come Out (1966) XXXI (Triple Beam Dreams), eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012. Private collection SVPL.
Image via: Fondazione MAST.

Infra is the series that brought the artist fame. Images were taken during the brutal wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Although one of the most affluent areas in the African continent, the country is continuously disrupted by wars and unprecedented humanitarian disasters.

richard mosse
© Richard Mosse Platon, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012. Collection Jack Shainman.
Image via: Fondazione MAST

To capture the devastating scenes, Mosse used a Kodak Aerochrome to locate camouflaged subjects and thus reveal the invisible. The lush Congolese rainforest was also thus interpreted as a surreal landscape in striking shades of pink and red.

Foyer: Heat Map (from 2014 to 2018), Ultra (2018 – 2019), Tristes Tropiques (2020)

richard mosse
© Richard Mosse Souda Camp, Chios Island, Greece, 2017. MOCAK Collection, Krako.
Image via: Fondazione MAST.

Heat Map is a collection of images taken along the migratory routes from the Middle East and Africa towards Europe. Through the military-grade thermal imaging camera, human figures can be detected and seen day or night, up to a distance of thirty kilometers.

The images, however, lack details on closer inspection, regardless of their sharp and precise impressions at first glance.

Between 2018 and 2019, Mosse began his journey in the South American rainforest. It was also the first time he shifted his focus from human conflicts to images of nature.

In Ultra, Mosse uses the technique of UV fluorescence to capture the undergrowth, lichen, mosses, orchids, and also even carnivorous plants. The artist also frequently discusses the wealth and biodiversity that we risk losing due to climate change and human intervention in his visuals.

richard mosse
© Richard Mosse Dionaea muscipula with Mantodea, Ecuador cloud forest, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madri.
Image via: Fondazione MAST.

Mosse’s most recent series Tristes Tropiques (2020) presents the dramatic impact of deforestation in Brazil. Mosse shows environmental damage, normally hard for the human eye to capture, through sophisticated satellite photography technology.

This specific technology also allows Mosse to trace environmental crimes – excessive fire burning, intensive livestock farming, illegal mining for gold and minerals – perpetrated on a vast scale.

Level 0: The Enclave (2013), Incoming (2017), Moria (2017), Quick (2010)

fondazione mast
© Richard Mosse Kosovo/Kosova II, Podujevo, Republic of Kosovo, 2004. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Image via: Fondazione MAST.

The Enclave is a sister project of Infra. Mosse shot this six-part video installation with Aerochrome infrared film. The project reveals the contrast between the magnificent nature of the forest and still the violence of soldiers and rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Among the tall grass and lush foliage, military actions, training sessions, and fights between combatants take place.

Incoming is a three-part audiovisual installation made with infrared thermography. In the first part, the scene is shot on an aircraft carrier. It depicts the preparation for the take-off of military jets engaged in operations to control the skies over the Mediterranean.

Then, exhausted, and often injured migrants arrive on overcrowded boats. In the final part, the migrants are relocated in refugee camps. Among tents and sheds, they are stuck waiting to resume their journey to central Europe.

The 2017 video wall Grid (Moria) is made in a similar sense. Mosse traveled back to Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos over a two-year period to document the insides of the refugee camp.

richard mosse
© Richard Mosse Vintage Violence, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2011.
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Image via: Fondazione MAST.

Quick, the 2010 video that completes the video installations at Level 0, is a film shot by Richard Mosse himself. The video recreates the origin of his research and artistic practice through themes such as the circulation of Ebola virus, quarantine and isolation, conflicts and migrations, moving between Malaysia and Eastern Congo.

About Richard Mosse

richard mosse
PHOTO CRED: Richard Mosse. Image via The Times.

Originally from Kilkenny, Ireland, Mosse now lives and works in New York. As a photographer, he is still known for his highly-saturated photographs.

In his early works, Mosse focused on the effects of conflict in zones of crises such as the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

The work that makes him considerably known in the public, however, is his documentation of wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2010 and 2015; the outcomes are the Infra series and the video installation The Enclave.

As an artist and a storyteller, Richard Mosse excels at projecting ecological, multinational, and cultural conflicts in his aesthetic visuals. His images are living narratives and the power of his photographs lie in their ability to extract beauty from even pain, destruction, and death.

Art rising from the ashes? Setting art on fire for NFT rebirth

The NFT craze is going on and strong as it expands beyond crypto circles and onto mainstream pop culture.

Gone are the days of original paintings being stored under watchful eyes in climate-controlled spaces for delicate preservation. It has been announced that today from 5PM-8PM EST, decentralized film financing company, Mogul Productions will host a live-streamed event in which an original painting will be burnt to prove that the future of art, and Wall Street, is meant to be on the blockchain.

The painting, created by world-renowned Marvel and DC Comics Artist Rob Prior, will be set on fire, following a panel of distinguished speakers from both the blockchain and film industries.

The panelists, which include Dan Crothers, the Co-Founder of ECOMI (VeVe Digital Collectibles), Jon Karas, the Co-Founder and President of Akoin, and Ted Farnsworth, the Co-Founder of ZASH Global Media and Entertainment and former Chairman of Moviepass will speak of the sudden rise and popularity of NFTs in the entertainment industry.

The new way for the arts to appreciate in value

Non-fungible tokens have made their way into the entertainment and media industry for a variety of reasons. The most prominent of reasons include the fact that the creative work of artists are protected by minimizing the issues of piracy, copyright infringement, and plagiarism.

NFTs have been seen in many applications in recent months. The NBA, for instance, is selling NFT highlights. The Kings of Leon was the first band to use the technology to sell an entire album, and the singer Halsey is holding an NFT auction to sell her art.

In the film world, the Claude Lanzmann Documentary was the first Oscar nominee to be released as an NFT. The power and potential of NFTs are still being explored, and the impact is yet to be seen.

In the Mogul Productions event, Prior’s painting, which is inspired by The Wolf of Wall Street, will only live on as a digitized ERC1155 NFT after it is burned, and will be auctioned exclusively on the Mogul platform.

The Mogul platform was launched earlier this year and has already raked in nearly 50,000 users. Prior chose to burn that particular painting, to further symbolize the addition of art and Wall Street into the blockchain realm.

During the event, Prior will also unveil his next two NFT drops, including a Marvel-inspired Deadpool rendition and a Star Wars painting of Luke Skywalker.

Anyone interested in attending the Proof of Origin Livestream Event can register here via Eventbrite.

The future of NFTs in the post-pandemic world

So what does the future hold for the intersection of blockchain, NFTs, entertainment, and Wall Street? The online event will offer insights on that, but for now, it is safe to say that in this increasingly digital world, claiming ownership over the digital arts provides (at the very least) next-level bragging rights. It’s intriguing to be able to possess original ownership of pieces that have even been copied millions of times before. 

Of course, as with any other new transformative technology, there are naysayers. In this case, they believe destroying original works of art is wasteful.

However, if there is one thing that we as a cohort have collectively learned through the course of the pandemic, it is that everything is bound to change.

As such, burning original pieces in the name of art is now a further expression of art itself—and one that breaks serious bank for the original creators who have chosen to embrace NFTs.

Thanks to blockchain technology, art ownership can now take on many forms. Like the arts themselves, ownership can now be physical, digital, and abstract.

All signs are pointing to NFTs serving as the future of digital art collection, and due to the accessibility and low barriers to entry, it won’t take long for NFTs to become mainstream.

Cube Art Fair’s innovative solution to creating art space during Covid-19

The Frieze art week (May 5 to 9) in New York City this year may have already passed, but its impact lingers and continues to expand. One of the coolest events that took place during the week would be the world’s largest public art fair held by Cube Art Fair.

The pandemic has put a halt to in-person art shows or exhibitions. However, the fair took a completely innovative approach to make art, creativity, and hope visible and available to the over 10 million citizens in NYC.

cube art fair
PHOTO CRED: Cube Art Fair.

Cube Art Fair

Cube Art Fair created the #staycreative campaign to provide a platform for artists who were unable to hold their in-person shows during the pandemic. The campaign enhanced public exposure and visual impact of the artworks; it encouraged both commoners and artists to stay creative and hopeful during the pandemic.

gregoire vogelsang
Gregoire Vogelsang, Founder of Cube Art Fair. PHOTO CRED: Cube Art Fair.

“We came up with the idea of thing art and displaying it to everyone with the hope to inspire people not only to stay safe but also to #staycreative. This is why our campaign’s hashtag is #staycreative. I am thrilled to see that our artists can remain creative and can inspire others to do the same.”

Gregoire Vogelsang, Founder of Cube Art Fair, Press Release.

A gathering of talented artists around the world

The fair featured 100 artworks on over 100 billboards, kiosks, newsstands, and bus stops around NYC. Among all these locations, the most impressive spot was a giant 12,000 sq/ft billboard at the heart of Times Square.

Artists whose artworks were on display: Jonas Leriche (New York), Laura Jane Petelko (Toronto), Kenneth Willardt (NYC), Griet Van Malderen (Brussels), Tigi Van Gil (Brussels), Kelli Fischer (Memphis), and more (check out at the end of the article!)

We love the fact that Cube Art Fair gathered all these talented artists from all over the world and embedded their artworks in the everyday scene.

“Artist have not stopped creating and the public demand to see art has not stopped either. It’s up to us to be imaginative and think outside of the box to connect both together.”

Gregoire Vogelsang, Founder of Cube Art Fair, Press Release.

The form of Cube Art Fair

cube art fair
Art by Eric Ceccarini. PHOTO CRED: Cube Art Fair.

The art fair chose to show the artworks via tangible media agencies that we see in our everyday lives. In this way, it transformed the city into its exhibitionary space and offered everybody equal accessibility to arts.

However, why didn’t it present the artworks in a traditional method like an in-person gallery gathering or run the event on a more convenient platform like the online viewing room?

Gallery space is very limited; the small, confined space is not likely to provide visitors the best viewing experience. Additionally, because of the pandemic, people still have to follow the social distancing protocol to ensure individual safety.

Online viewing event can be a convenient method indeed. However, human participations in art viewing and discussion in the event will become hard to perceive and measure. Moreover, within the digital space, the textures and emotions of the arts can be greatly diluted by the screen.

Recreating human interaction

adeline jadot
Art by Adeline Jadot. PHOTO CRED: Cube Art Fair.

Through presenting the artworks at the most iconic spot – Times Square – in the world, the event recreated an open art space that was gigantic, safe, accessible, and welcoming.

This open space allowed many people to gather in the same spot safely at the same time. Within this space, people were given the freedom and full access to appreciate the art.

People stopped, took photos, engaged, and initiated conversations with other people. In a way, the event also engendered human interactions that have been interrupted by the pandemic.

Other billboard locations that also featured the artworks were: 66th and Columbus St, 67th and Broadway St, 57th and 5th Avenue, Madison Ave, Grand and Mott St, Broadway and 13th St, Union Square, Herald Square, and Central Park South.

Cube Art Fair at the heart of Times Square

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Art by Tigi Van Gil. PHOTO CRED: Cube Art Fair.

What the art fair did was groundbreaking.

At this most iconic spot in the world, the fair did not air advertisements, but a collection of amazing artworks instead.

It created a moment that was so unique and meaningful – like the single calmness in an ocean of hungry commercials. The #staycreative campaign delivered culture feeds to people’s minds and hoped every person who saw the artworks would be benefited from their experiences.

Art for New York City

jonas leriche
Art by Jonas Leriche. PHOTO CRED: Cube Art Fair.

New Yorkers reflected in their conversations with the founder of Cube Art Fair, “we have never seen art like this at Times Square. It’s usually just advertisement here.” They also agreed that seeing art in such a public space was already a big achievement and they are curious to see what’s next.

As the space was open to everybody, it also became a non-prejudiced space. It welcomed everybody to participate in the art world as well as NYC culture. No judgement, no pretension, more authenticity, it was all about the good vibes.

We are excited to see what great artworks and changes Cube Art Fair will bring to the public next!

More artists from the event to check out

Rubem Robierb (Miami), Paul Emile Rioux (Montreal), Nikki Vismara (San Francisco), Christophe de Fierlant (Brussels), Lisa Ledson (San Francisco), Daniela Moellenhoff (Hamburg), Cécile plaisance (Paris), Olivia de Posson (Brussels), Tigran Tsitoghdzyan (New York), Didier Engels (Brussels)

For the artists’ complete information, check out Cube Art Fair here.

Digital artist Elise Swopes shares how to navigate the world of NFTs

Elise Swopes, digital artist and entrepreneur, is the newest name around NFT town.

The Chicago native has been making waves on Instagram for years now with her surrealist urban landscapes. Since 2010, Swopes has been taking and editing photos on her phone that imbue cities from Copenhagen to New York with elements of magical realism.

In some images, waterfalls rush over the middle of a Manhattan skyline. In others, giraffes lean over tall stairwells and drink from puddles like a watering hole. Trains pass through skyscraper forests. Buildings turn to mirages. 

Digital artwork from Elise Swopes (via @swopes)

Following her success on Instagram and many high-profile collaborations with brands like Adobe and Apple, Swopes is on to the next thing.

In 2019, Swopes delivered an inspiring TED talk on her renewed commitment to mental health and growing up on the internet. She has developed apps, started a podcast, and created content as a resource for a community of creatives looking to get their own brands underway.

Most notably, she’s begun working in the NFT world, which she’s met with great success. We caught up with Elise on how she’s navigating the NFT world, and continuing to evolve as an artist. 

Elise Swopes’ introduction into the NFT world

Kulture Hub: When did you first hear about the NFT space, and what was your first reaction? Did it seem like something you could see yourself getting involved in?

Elise Swopes: I first heard about the NFT space through my manager, Eddie. He told me about some friends he had involved, and we didn’t take it too seriously at first.

A few months flew by before we leaped to apply for Nifty and SuperRare [tokenized digital art collectives]. I noticed an old Instagram friend of mine, JNSilva, making waves on Nifty, so I figured we’d need to step it up and make it a priority.

Once I got accepted into SuperRare, I made sure to pace myself. I learned a lot about marketing through Instagram influencer projects during the last decade, and one thing I’ve realized is you want to think long-term. Skill is essential, but consistency and the ability to go with the changing flow (authentically, of course) are crucial.

My first reaction was, “this is for me.” I knew it immediately. I’ve been creating digitally for years, and trying to figure out how to make my art come to “life” in traditional galleries has been difficult until now.

People are open to seeing it in VR. People are open to spending a lot of money on it because they see my value and worth. And they’re right. I’m here, forever.

Is the NFT world sustainable?

KH: Do you think the NFT world is a sustainable way for artists to garner visibility and earn a living?

ES: Yes and no. I think people need to be careful with anything putting all their eggs in one basket. It would help if you had your hand in many things at once because things happen.

One day you’re on the top, and the next, you’re not. It’s just the way it is. So find what brings you peace and let everything else be a challenge to test your strength. 

Elise Swopes for Kulture Hub

KH: You juggle many projects at one – from Urban Jungle App to your podcast ‘Swopes So Dope,’ to NFTs. How do you do it all, and keep yourself sane?

ES: It’s crazy because it doesn’t feel like that much to me. I’m incredibly organized and particular about how I spend my time.

This hasn’t always been the case. I wasn’t always on top of things or the most professional, but the more I allowed myself to learn through different projects and ideas, the better I failed at almost everything to know what to do and how it felt doing it wrong.

Nothing teaches you more than embarrassment and experience. I also write everything down! Ideas, to-do’s, goals, etc. The Time Paradox was one of the best books ever. 

Elise Swopes in NYC (via @swopes / Amanda How)

Finding solace as a creative of color, online and anywhere

KH: In your TEDx Talk, you mention turning to the Internet to find a space for yourself in a world that seemed to alienate you at every turn, particularly as a mixed-race kid growing up in Chicago. Do you still take refuge online, or do you think the attitude towards creatives of color has changed since then?

ES: I still take refuge online, for sure. It’s my haven, and I’ve learned to navigate it thoughtfully.

Like I said, this has only come from failure. Lol, I learned valuable lessons through each interaction throughout these years. What makes me feel good, what takes up my time? What gives me anxiety? Self-reflection is a crucial component of how I interact these days.

Elise Swopes for Kulture Hub
Elise Swopes self-reflecting in Chicago (via @swopes)

But creatives of color are still in a tough place. Colorism is still a challenging topic for some, and I’ve grown to understand I’m not a victim, as much as I’m just a bystander to what society has shaped people to think.

All I can do is be who I am as a person and understand what people think and say has nothing to do with me. I see color because color matters. But color shouldn’t depict who is blacker than another.

Though, darker individuals are affected tremendously by more systemic violence. So, I know my privilege. It would be ignorant to say otherwise. And I think that’s where the issue lies. The system is the problem.

Mindfulness in entrepreneurship

KH: Have your experiences with mindfulness of mental health and recovery from addiction influenced you as an artist and a businesswoman?

ES: Mindfulness is everything. It’s like this superconscious operating system that I didn’t even know I had until the last five years. There are upgrades and all types of good stuff, lol!

I like to tell my mentees; there’s no going back once you “upgrade” or learn something. 

Elise Swopes for Kulture Hub

KH: You’ve spoken about getting your start selling digital art in the form of myspace templates from a young age. Did you know that you could be an entrepreneurial artist at that point?

ES: I had no idea. I was just a kid, I was just addicted to designing and making a few dollars here and there. I loved the exposure I could gain from creating popular girls’ MySpace pages or how I could get someone to bring me McDonald’s for lunch. It was an early idea of leveraging, I suppose, more than anything. 

Navigating through the online and NFT worlds

KH: How did you come up with the 3-Week Online Presence Challenge?

ES: Many people were losing their jobs and feeling so much defeat at the beginning of the COVID shutdowns. One thing I’ve always loved about the Internet is the possibilities it offers anyone to do anything they love because if I can do it, I know anyone else can.

To lift spirits, I thought I would design some tips and tricks where people paced themselves and focused on what they wanted to do. Once the three weeks were over, they [would have] an outstanding online presence to build the brand they wanted and needed.

KH: What advice do you have for young people trying to find their own as artists right now, as life becomes even more virtual?

ES: Virtual only works if reality is taken care of properly. Practice self-care and continue to educate yourself, whether you’re reading a book or asking for help. It’s challenging to navigate [any] space if you aren’t sure about who you are.

KH: Is anything specific inspiring you these days?

ES: I love living in a new city. I miss Chicago every day, but New York is unbelievable and offers me a new perspective.

For more on Elise Swopes, tap in below

Jacob & Co. makes their mark by launching the first NFT luxury watch

Jacob & Co. will release their Epic SF24 Tourbillion World Time in Rose Gold one-of-one watch as an NFT on April 4 via ArtGrails. 

Click here to get it when it drops.

Jacob & Co. is for the luxury item dream chaser and tends to err on the side of difference-making. Their game-changing, jewelry-making endeavors have led them to become the first of many to enter the NFT space.

NFT luxury watch
SF 24 – NFT Tour (Jacob & Co.)

The highly coveted piece will usher in a new change and function as a flap system with 10 cryptocurrencies on display at all times. Here are the 10 complete digital tokens to be displayed: NFT, Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Fantom (FTM), Tether (USDT), Cardano (ADA), Stellar (XLM), Binance Coin (BNB), Polkadot (DOT), Ripple (XRP).

This product targets the digital luxury and high-end consumer, and a starting bid clocking in at $1000. It directly markets toward the customer who follows business developments, tracks the trends, and knows when to make a lucrative investment.

We had the opportunity to get some insight into how Jacob & Co. CEO Benjamin Arabov and ArtGrails founder Avery Andon came together to drop the first NFT luxury watch.

How do you think people will react to the first-ever NFT luxury watch?

Benjamin Arabov said, “NFT is an unexplored territory for most people, let alone the conventional horology industry. Jacob & Co. is a trailblazer in discovering this brand-new arena for all the high-end jewelry and watch brands.”

He continued,

“Our goal is to prove that there is a market for (HELDAs) High End Luxury Digital Assets and we want to be the first ones to break into this industry.”

And launch is exactly what they shall do in a few days to embark upon uncharted crypto territory.

Recently, we have seen artists embed Swarovski crystals into their foreheads and now there will be a digital piece of timekeeping machinery sold as an NFT.

The Jacob & Co. NFT will launch in an auction format. The auction starts on April 4 and will last for five days. Only one winner of the auction who submits the highest bid will be chosen.

“In the luxury industry, there is this constant battle between accepting new technologies and ways of doing things versus keeping things antiquated the way they were done centuries ago. There will be a point where old technologies phase out and new ones come in.”

Avery Andon, ArtGrails

This product trend is the end result of the crypto community continuing to grow. As more companies continue to provide relevant goods and services within the NFT space it becomes more solidified.

The eligibility to back the blockchain with tangible items opens all kinds of decentralization and distribution opportunities.

At the heart of the company is the passion, drive, and creative force of Mr. Arabo. His respect for traditional craftsmanship and artistry gives him the ability to envision and realize exquisite jewelry and unique timepieces.

Avery Andon as the Founder of ArtGrails, what do you think of this collaboration with Jacob & Co.?

Avery said, “ArtGrails prides itself as a curated platform, with a focus on higher end, exclusive offerings. This one-of-one Jacob & Co. NFT Watch is the ultimate grail and will be a historic addition to any serious collection.”

He continued, “I have been an avid watch lover and collector my entire adult life. Starting with the Rolex Air-King my father passed down to me after I graduated school to the oversized, iced out Jacob & Co. Five Time Zone watch I (irresponsibly) blew all my first big paycheck on!”

“Watches have always been a major part of my life, so it’s an honor that Jacob & Co has entrusted ArtGrails with this important release.”


The ArtGrails founder told us more about his vision. He said, “My vision is to convince the traditional haute horology industry that we need to continue pushing towards digital, even if it’s launching a digital product.”

Any hopes for ArtGrails’ leap into the digital market?

Avery said, “Our hope is that through successfully launching the Jacob & Co. NFT, a new category will be born and other luxury watch brands will start launching groundbreaking new products and collections through NFT.”

Certainly, there is a groundbreaking currency shift taking place on this second bubble swell for the likes of Bitcoin. The first time, it crashed due to mostly a lack of investors.

Regardless, the blockchain continues to garner more support and consumers are beginning to show intrigue for digital assets.

Jacob & Co. just wants to make sure they are historically correct and set the bar high for all competitors in the NFT jewelry and high end luxury digital asset space.

Emmanuel Whajah

Navigating the creative industry from the perspective of Black freelancer Emmanuel Whajah

Emmanuel Whajah — creative director, videographer, photographer — is making quite a name for himself and is effectively navigating the creative industry as a black freelancer.

At 27, the German-born visionary has worked his way up the ladder capturing iconic moments for celebrities like Keke Palmer, Rita Ora, Les Twins, Eric Bellinger, and more.

Check out more of his work here.

A proud Ghanaian, Whajah sticks to his roots and finds enjoyment in the moment.

“What I enjoy the most about photography, filming artists is the moment itself, which is timeless…”

– Emmanuel Whajah, Creative Director

Navigating the creative industry from overseas

Whajah’s biggest inspiration growing up was Michael Jackson. For him, it was Jackson’s dedication to his creative craft. His ecstatic performances, the out of this world visuals, and influence on the culture.

“Just becoming a role model, a black creative who can inspire the younger generation… It’s the love of creating and sending a message to the world that brought me into the creative industries.”

– Emmanuel Whajah, Creative Director

In emulating Jackson, at the young age of 5, Emmanuel started dancing but would begin to ponder, “How can I tell a story and touch people emotionally?”

In picking up a camera, Whajah was able to use the instrument of creativity to not only tell his story but tell the stories of other gifted individuals who deserved documentation.

Meeting Eric Bellinger

Fresh off of a tour with artist Kid Ink, a picture Whajah took of the artist would catch the attention of Bellinger and from there he would find his next opportunity.

From a comment to a conversation with Bellinger over Instagram DM, the German-born freelancer would be recruited to join the R&B artist on his tour to capture video and photographic content.

And on this tour, Whajah would find not only more opportunities but also a friend in celebrity Keke Palmer.

It takes courage to leave a legacy in the creative industry

Whajah knows his worth but as a black creative navigating the creative industry has proven itself, time and time again. difficult.

“Knowing you have a different skin color, we have different skin colors, languages, music, and history is a big message that I, personally, try to reflect in my work.”

– Emmanuel Whajah, Creative Director

Still, the black freelancer has proven himself as well. Going beyond social media, Whajah has created a content footprint that has solidified his brand name.

“It’s the experience and the years you have in that area which will calculate how much you’re worth. You need to know how to promote your brand because it’s not only being creative and letting your work speak for itself but how you can manage and let the world see your work,” said Whajah.

Additionally, the black freelancer keeps the passion alive through a new series he’s been working on – Divine Beauty.


See the full series here.

Divine Beauty is a video series collection that represents the beauty and uniqueness of women with different cultural backgrounds in a tasteful, classic, and cinematic way.

What is creative responsibility? Yelda Ali tells us in her new book Outlet

Women’s History Month has officially ended. But we didn’t want to see it go without talking about Yelda Ali and her responsibility as a creative. A creator of all sorts and now a writer too, Yelda published her new book, Outlet, a space that covers human experiences in a unique way. 

Being creative bears a lot of responsibility. Not only are creatives able to inspire, but they move masses; connecting reality to a much bearable story.

But, perhaps most powerful, it’s their ability to create shared human experiences. Thus, Outlet bridges the gap between cultures by depicting what it means to be human in the 21st century. 

The book is dedicated to “to those who believed, those who didn’t. To those who survived, and those who didn’t.” Thus, it touches matters of mental health and reminds us of values of community, empathy, and compassion. Yet, most importantly, it reminds us that human struggle is real, is painful, and it is shared.

Behind Outlet and creative responsibility

Now more than ever, conversations about mental health are happening. And, although depression, anxiety, and stress are far away from losing their prejudices, at least they are being taken seriously.

Still, there is much work to do in the mental health awareness department, and perhaps Outlet is a great place to start. Yelda Ali has brought to light all these struggles, yet this time from various different perspectives.

“Everyone talks about depression. Yet, the conversation is often drawn from the perspectives of a white person or scientific studies. But, have you ever wonder what does depression means to an Arab woman in the middle east? Or a Black person in America?”

Yelda Ali, 2021

Our problems are deeper than the names they are given. More than that, they are valid.

“My father would always say, ‘these are the stories that stay behind the curtains and do not make it to the centerstage.’ And indeed, this is the shadow no one wants to talk about.

Yelda Ali, 2021

Yet, these are the stories that make the world real. And now that we are on a collective process of understanding and healing, it is important that we make the collective effort to create spaces to listen non -judgementally. It is essential that as creatives, we understand our responsibilities.

To talk of some uncomfortable realities that are very relatable for women and men, black or white, Christian or Muslim.

Outlet blurs away the lines of identity to connect its readers through a single human experience. When stripping away the identities, or any given context, the reader is able to naturally connect with the story, without any bias or stereotype. Judging just by their feelings.

About the Author, Yelda Ali

Borned to Afghan parents, Yelda always felt connected with her cultures. She was born in Germany and grew up in Canada, yet her parents had instill her about all Afghan traditions and rituals since a young age. Thus, she was raised in as a child of the world but sedimented with Afghan values.

“Traditions are all about coming together. In my family, we ate together, we heard music together, there was this huge sense of connection, not only to the culture but between each other.”

Yelda Ali, March 2021

But, what inspired Yelda Ali the most was storytelling. “Storytelling runs deep in the family,” she told us. Particularly, they valued stories about change in the world. She confessed that instead of Britney Spears posters, she had Martin Luther King hanged on her wall.

And, after countless hours of re-watching MLK speeches, she acknowledged that using your voice helps. Since child Yelda had realized an essential tool for creative people; storytelling and the power it bears.

Yelda Ali grew up to do exactly that; use her voice to help others. Thus, creating different spaces for people to do the same. She is the founder of Camel Assembly, an international women-only collective of creative leaders. A community focused on using voices to create deep connections.

“It is almost like a ritual, everyone gets the chance to speak and share their stories. And with that, I have discovered not only that people are willing to listen, but also to form deeper connections. They come together based on who they really are, and not because of their titles or accomplishments”

Yelda Ali, 2021

Through it, she not only realized two important lessons that would change the world. One, vulnerability is contagious. Two, when people have an outlet, they let out.

Is Microsoft the new wave for women to body the NFT space?

Microsoft is opening up the NFT lane for women. After what seemed like an eternity of divisiveness, unity within communities is starting to take shape in our country.

With that, companies are beginning to implement their plans for inclusiveness and take steps to create equal opportunities for all people.

Microsoft’s Early Impact in NFT Space

Microsoft is an early player within the NFT space. They first teamed up with Enjin to create blockchain-powered badge rewards in 2019. This time Microsoft and Enjin are both teaming up with Minecraft to create more opportunities for women in the NFT crypto arena. 

The new world looks sleek, crisp and multicolored

During the Minecraft quest, users will participate via an open-source plugin to acquire non-fungible tokens. The quest and sequel quest mission see the user encounter multiple women scientists and tokenized certificates along the way.

Did you know? The USAID estimates that if the same number of women worked as men did, global GDP would grow by $12 trillion by 2025.

Microsoft Incorporates Hybrid Model

This gaming initiative is just one of many endeavors that Microsoft has begun to put into motion. Since the pandemic, Microsoft has made it a priority to redefine the workspace. This recalibration of the nation allowed Microsoft to adopt a true hybrid work model.

women hybrid workplace
Two women have a pow-wow about updated means of media

“With our hybrid workplace model, we will provide employees an exceptional place to work, create greater collaboration and community for over 160,000 people who work at Microsoft, and showcase an example of the modern workplace that is both flexible and hybrid.”

(Microsoft Executive VP Kurt DelBene)
hybrid workplace
Microsoft’s Stages of the Hybrid Workplace

With all of the evolving technology, shifting paradigms, and demand for equal representation, Microsoft has risen to the occasion. 

“The modern workplace requires companies to meet new employee expectations, connect a more distributed workforce, and provide tools to create, innovate and work together to solve business problems.”


Some other ventures that Microsoft has instituted within its realm deal with Global Diversity, Inclusion and modest gains within the workplace.

They have programs catered to women such as DigiGirlz and TEALS where young people can compete to create the best enterprise software and deep tech solutions.

micorsoft women
Woman shows her son new technology advances

It is clear that Microsoft is making an effort to engage the ecosystem and create a pathway that bridges the gender gap in technology. Ways that they are doing this is by expressing empathy, amplifying voices within the space and developing a commitment to action plan. 

Microsoft goes beyond what meets the expectation

Recently, their Clear Vision Impact Fund generated $25M for minority-owned businesses. They continue to work with HBCU’s to advance minority interest in engineering.

Since there is severe underrepresentation in the technology sphere, Microsoft is doing its best to increase the gateway by which people can become professionals.

women technology
Women are beginning to inhabit more technological roles

As a company, they are fulfilling technological curiosity through skills support and capacity-building programs like I.C. Stars. There are many interpretations toward a broader society which is why they came up with the Allyship initiative

Altogether, Microsoft is a strategic catalyst for true cultural transformation, especially for women. Through insights, conversations, failures, and learning this company does an honorable job iterating for the new world and representing the people who live in it. 

Black femininity is captured in its elegance by these photographers

Black women and their innate femininity have been photographed over years of ubiquitous hardship and struggle. However, recently, photographers have shifted the focus to their resilience and beauty.

Hence, Black women have shown their “strength” and have perpetrated culture in ways that have become a staple of Black femininity.

But often, Black women are burdened with the masculine, atrophy, and contradiction to the soft and delicate. Masculine associations with Black women hinder the feminine factor that exists.

Yet, the image of Black women is often skewed through a modern context. Thus, reflecting ideas of macho-ism and laddish behavior.

Black Femininity through the lens

Consequently, Millennial and Generation Z photographers have taken to the image of Black women and have accentuated their existence.

Photographers like Renell M., Mark C., Micaiah C, Tyler Mitchell, Daniel Obasi, Joshua Kissi, Deana Lawson, and Dario Calmese, have all given their lens to Black femininity. 

Rihanna photographed by Deana Lawson for Garage Magazine.
Rihanna photographed by Deana Lawson for Garage Magazine.

The struggles and the positioning of Black people in society are artfully crafted in a single image. Image-makers like Lawson play an important role. 

In fact, Lawson does us a visual service with her portraits, highlighting the love a Black woman receives. The context lives in the unseen of the life inside a Black house-hold. Lawson retrospectively captures the love Black women have for themselves and their black femininity.

Thus, icons like Serena Williams, Beyonce, and Grace Jones have weathered the storm of critique on their black femininity. 

Serena Williams

For example, there is tennis star Serena Williams. She got scrutinized for doing what any man would do in an athletic environment.

Williams, on the contrary, has dictated by her work-ethic for the sport and her athleticism. She has worked to maintain a physique that some argue is not feminine [-enough].

Yet, she stands alone on a pedestal as arguably the greatest-athlete – among all athletes, including men – of all time.

Her winning mentality lent to the non-feminine association when she got into a heated discourse with an umpire at a tennis match. Thoughts of her angered over a call subsided as she gave birth to a child amid her illustrious career.


On the other hand, Beyoncé suffered a critique in a similar setting after performing at Super Bowl 50. After the game, degrading comments were made following the rumored reasons for the power outages toward her.

Likewise, Mrs. Knowles-Carter became a political threat to society and an internet meme for having a transformative gender aesthetic within her performance. Not to mention, they claimed she “attacked” the police.

Thus, a still shot of her performance captured her muscle-tone in a way that some viewers saw as masculine. And sadly, deafening the femininity of her song.

Beyonce at the 50th Super Bowl halftime show, Levei's Stadium, Santa Clara, California, 2016.
Beyonce at the 50th Super Bowl halftime show, Levei’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California, 2016.

Tyler Mitchell

However, Tyler Mitchell may have remedied that association later. His 2016 Vogue cover mirror what black femininity is really about.

The editorial captures Beyonce in a sun-drenched expanse of a yard, surrounded by soft-colored and floral patterned bedsheets on a clothes-line. Thus, Beyonce wears floral headdresses and dresses in a variety of styles, giving her a motherly, ‘homemaker’ aesthetic.

This traditional scope of femininity was a coming of age for the soon-to-be mother of 3.

Tyler Mitchell photographed Beyoncé for the September issue.
Tyler Mitchell photographed Beyoncé for the September issue.

Grace Jones

In a similar way, Grace Jones famously took on the masculinity perceived among Black women and made it her calling-card. In turn, she took Black femininity to an ambiguous state and brought it all home with the fashion that she dawned, fit for her future-fem persona. 

Photographed by Jean-Paul Goude, Grace Jones’ iconic photo showing her in a yoga-esque pose holding a mic.

This moment was perhaps the femininity she sought while displaying a strength unique to her. Subliminally, giving a voice to the group.

black femininity
Grace Jones, Photographed by Jean-Paul Goude

Black femininity in contrast

Words and anger from the public on these figures have contrasted femininity and have been unfair. The struggle for Black women is the notion that they are non-feminine. Depicted through a narrow and stereotypical lens.

Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis made this claim in her interview with Vanity Fair title “My Whole Life has Been a Protest.”

In the interview, Davis lays out the very nuanced and racist approach Black women within the art context and their public image.

black femininity
Gown by Armani Privé; earrings by MOUNSER; cuff by Giles & Brother.PHOTOGRAPHS BY DARIO CALMESE; STYLED BY ELIZABETH STEWART.

“Who’s telling a dark-skinned girl that she’s pretty? Nobody says it. I’m telling you, Sonia, nobody says it. The dark-skinned Black woman’s voice is so steeped in slavery and our history. If we did speak up, it would cost us our lives. Somewhere in my cellular memory was still that feeling—that I do not have the right to speak up about how I’m being treated, that somehow I deserve it.” 

Viola Davis, Vanity Fair

Davis goes on to say, “I did not find my worth on my own.” Possibly referring to femininity granted to white women (or women who are not Black).

This way, ideas of the non-feminine Black women, or the emasculating Black women, are long-toothed at this point.

Black women’s bodies have been subject to the will of white men throughout the pain and history. Not to mention, early medicine. In a deeper context, this involved slavery practices, surgical studies, biological testing, and sexual pleasure.

In a way, this forced procreation of Black people to further the slave trade.

It comes from the past

Dr. Samuel Cartwright published “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race” in 1851. The article claims that bearers of Black skin were “partial insensibility.” As a result, this led to a snowfall of ideas and concepts that Black people were forced to confront.

Dr. J. Marion Sims was known as “the father of gynecology” during the 19th century. This was due to his white privilege over Black women’s bodies and their wombs. Sadly, he did as he pleased to many Black women without any political, societal, moral, or principal deterrence.

Furthermore, in the early 1800s, Saartje [Sarah] Baartman was subjected to European objectification for her full figure and Black skin as a staged circus act. Baartman wasn’t considered feminine. In fact, she was viewed as a physical anomaly, remote from any human connotation. 

The South African woman ironically was headlined to the masses as “Hottentot Venus.” “Hottentot” is the name that represents her African origins of the nomadic Khoi people.

The irony comes in the “Venus” name as it directly refers to the Roman goddess of love and fertility. Traits granted to women of other ethnicity or race. An innate feminine role. 

Yet, the image of Black women today contradicts the “strong Black woman” is an “angry Black woman.” She is a woman.

American women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth may have questioned her existence with her “Ain’t I A Women?” speech. 

The overall treatment of Black women was disputed in her words and later adopted by white women’s societal groups. Truth undoubtedly re-affirmed who she already knew to be a Black woman.

Giving way for generations of women who feel femininity is a struggle rather than a unique advantage of being a woman.

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.