Almost Censored by Olive Allen - video courtesy of Olive Allen
Beyond the buzzwords, trends, and headlines sits crypto art trailblazer Olive Allen, forward-thinking digital artist, painter, and introspect. Allen’s work combines observational humor with introspection while touching on the very fabric that holds societies together. Her drops feature critical choices that must be made by collectors, moving experiences, and important social commentary people often overlook or are afraid to confront.
Olive’s Early Years
Art was a central part of Allen’s childhood. Allen challenged conventionality from a very early age. From challenging why she should listen to authority, be it her family saying it was time to sleep or eat, to staying away from the news her grandmother would always watch, she never followed suit. She did, however, follow a somewhat traditional route with a keen interest in math, history, and literature, although she wouldn’t finish the books she enjoyed reading.
From being an only child, Allen naturally grew up independent and observed the events and circumstances around her. Because both of her parents were working, she rarely saw them and enjoyed creating art. Growing up, she was always artistic, although she never saw herself as such. Allen remembers her natural inclination to create visual works, including postcards for her family around the holidays. Her natural gravitation toward art at such a young age extended to pure admiration as well. Allen would often look up and enjoy consuming impressionist paintings on the internet and even had impressionist screensavers, such as artwork resembling Claude Monet, on her computer as a child in Russia.
Allen has transformed her cynicism for the news into a newfound, healthy skepticism that shows through in her artwork. She went from being the only child who ignored watching the news while her grandmother never missed the evening news into an observant and deeply introspective crypto art movement pioneer actively changing the digital art game daily.
At eighteen years old, Allen made the courageous move from Russia to New York City. As a result, Allen’s upbringing and interests uniquely positioned her to help lead the digital art movement.
Allen’s contributions to the crypto art movement stand on their own merits. Her experimentation and implementation of novel drop mechanics actively redefine and thrust the crypto art movement forward. Furthermore, all of Allen’s art is either observational or forces collectors to interact with and make choices based on observations Allen has made in the world.
She keeps it real. Allen’s art is packed with subtle yet bold statements, meaningful critiques of societal norms and trends, and layered depths of symbolism. Like all great artists, her work is, in part, defined by her interests and biases. Infused in Allen’s work is her appreciation for wildlife, childhood memories and interests, and self-identification. From her paintings to digital art, her work takes on a unique style that many have come to know and love.
We’re fortunate to have had the opportunity to sit down with Olive to learn more about her art, life beyond art, and future. So let’s jump right in and look at the series that put Allen on our radar, The UnBearables.
The UnBearables – an observational take on the COVID-19 pandemic
The UnBearables series, which dropped at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, features cute bears and koalas in physically and psychologically dangerous situations brought to light by the pandemic. The series features 7 different animals in compromising situations on the New York City subway.
One such animal is the Media Bear, a purple bear consuming radioactive materials to the point of becoming radioactive itself. Media Bear was implemented to represent the consumption of misinformation spread through the mainstream media throughout the pandemic. From government officials to private organizations, it quickly became clear that the information spread about the COVID-19 virus was often skewed or entirely false. People, seeing things on television, believe what they see as fact and spread misinformation like wildfire. This, in turn, created a hazardous, radioactive situation.
Joining Media Bear is the Modern Bear, a cute Koala in gloves and a COVID-19 mask. Modern Bear, with its naturally cute self and saddened eyes, shows the innocence that had been taken away from so many due to COVID-19. Children, workers, business owners, elderly, frontline medical workers, and everyone in between were forced to change their schedules, alter their coveted lifestyles, forego socializing, and find new ways to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. Many people lost everything while few were left unscathed. Modern Bear uniquely represents the psychological turmoil many have faced.
Then, there’s Oily Bear, a white bear with dripping oily eyes, sitting sadly in a puddle of bubbling oil with a dead starfish, which effortlessly raises awareness about the human species’ skewed priorities. Oily Bear speaks volumes about our capitalistic tendencies, even if they come at the expense of the very environment in which we live and expect to thrive. We often look to make quick money and, at times, destroy all in our paths. Oily Bear represents taking a step back, analyzing our behaviors and actions, and serves as a warning for greater catastrophic events that could take place – in addition to recent oil spills – if we, as a collective, don’t make better decisions and care for our environment.
In addition to Media Bear, Modern Bear, and Oily Bear, The UnBearables features Essential Bear, Hungry Bear, Market Bear, and BEARNIE Bear. Both individually and collectively, the series silently speaks volumes about the current state of the world, both economically and psychologically, artfully capturing the experiences of the masses. Each bear is relatable and individually contributes to the subway scene. With only three complete sets possible due to the scarcity of the BEARNIE Bear, this series provides a unique commentary on a serious state of the world that will likely only be remembered through art and skewed textbook chapters decades down the line.
Hallowcracy – an observational take on the state of governmental affairs during the election
Hallowcracy is Allen’s first piece of programmable artwork. A madman’s carnival, this piece captures the insanity surrounding the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. From President Donald Trump speaking without knowledge, continuously spewing baseless claims above a carousel of skeletons going round and round without hope of stopping to the deranged clown roller coaster, this piece touches on just how ludicrous this point in history was to so many people.
There’s symbolism in Hallowcracy through-and-through. For instance, “VOTE” is written on what appears to be the admission tickets into the ‘circus,’ aptly representing the people’s duty within the current political climate. There’s a carousel, which, ironically, keeps going round-and-round, not getting anyone, nor anything, anywhere. Absolutely no progress is being made, and it’s ludicrous.
Adding to both the timely and timeliness nature of this piece, Donald Trump wears a COVID-19 mask as he continues to shout into the void, something he’s become known for by many. Relentlessly, the show continues, although it’s a nightmarish ghost town.
HYPEBIRDS and A Piece of Something – an observational take on priorities
HYPEBIRDS combines Allen’s love of Furbies, those cute birds from back in the day, with a subtle social commentary on modern values. Sporting hyped-up overpriced brands, dressing for the occasion, and not taking no for an answer, this series easily unearths modern values. To make things interesting, Allen mixed the HYPEBIRDS drop with the drop of A Piece of Something, a fractionalized work of art that was divided into 196 unique pieces.
The collector who won the auction for the 196th piece was given a choice: receive the 196th piece or receive a gold HYPEBIRD, the rarest of them all. If the collector chose the gold HYPEBIRD, the 196th piece of A Piece of Something would be destroyed forever, leaving a permanent void in the larger artwork. As Allen originally thought, modern values are skewed, and the collector chose the gold HYPEBIRD, the shiny object. Now, A Piece of Something has a permanent black square where the 196th piece would have gone.
Modern values are almost entirely centered around instant gratification. The idea of completing a larger picture, A Piece of Something, was overlooked for the quick and shiny gold HYPEBIRD. Many factors come into play, but one explanation is social media and the internet as a whole. We live in an age where we can, at any time, provide ourselves with instant gratification with little to no reliance on others.
Sheeple – an observational take on social media and social-oriented applications
Allen’s Sheeple series touches on the inner-being we all have but don’t care to admit. We all tend to follow others in some way and do things that hold us back. We don’t care because caring is such an inconvenience for us. According to Allen, she, along with everyone else, has a little Sheeple in them. The series blends human behavior with human values, as twisted as they might be.
One Sheeple, the Clubhouse Star, takes NFTs to the next level. This dynamic 1:1 piece changes with each successful 0.5 ETH or greater bid. Clubhouse, the popular invitation-only social media application, enables anyone to claim they’re experts and spread information, even if it’s not exactly accurate. The pizza guy suddenly becomes a successful venture capitalist, and people believe it because, apparently, all it takes is a bit of conviction to fool the masses. The danger with Clubhouse comes from the lack of control over the spread of misinformation, and these people, along with some legitimately successful people, spend more and more time daily to build their ‘brands.’ Clubhouse has become a full-time job for many, and those who simply observe fuel the flames.
Learn more about Sheeple Punk.
The Clubhouse Star Sheeple captures the essence of the Clubhouse influencer. Successful or otherwise, Clubhouse influencers generally do what they can to attract eardrums (it’s not like we’re living in a visual world or anything), even if it means putting on a show. Sure, some outliers are objectively successful, but they’re often ordinary people with average lives focused on gaining the biggest following possible. Authenticity becomes irrelevant, and the cycle of following others, becoming a Sheeple, to please others begins. This goes back to not caring due to it being such an inconvenience. As disturbing as caring is an inconvenience might be, it makes sense. To care is to be self-aware, something most people simply are not. Allen, on the other hand, has proven her self-awareness.
3D Portraits – intimate looks inside
While she’s not primarily a 3D artist, Allen does tend to dabble in self-portraits using simple computer software. Her 3D portraits do not extend beyond those of herself because, according to Allen, self-portraits are intimate works of art, and to create a meaningful portrait, you really need to know the subject. Creating self-portraits requires a level of self-awareness many simply cannot engage in for one reason or another.
You must become the observer while being observed. You must take a critical and accepting eye toward one’s faults, imperfections, impurities, and desires. You must objectively view yourself and put that into a tangible, yet intangible, form. Creating a self-portrait of oneself means you must become both the censor and the censored. You need to be honest with yourself, which is hard. You must be comfortable with what could become an uncomfortable level of intimacy.
VR Time by Olive Allen - video courtesy of Olive Allen
The Future – exclusive 1:1 drops and the Metaverse
There’s no doubt that Allen’s contributions to digital art have helped transform and set the standard for meaningful drops. Although she drops a few series annually, there’s a lot of work she completes and forgets to mint. Her works have generally been in the context of a series, but she sees herself eventually moving into more exclusive 1:1 drops. Moreover, she envisions a Metaverse where she can engage those who appreciate her work with a digital gallery in a digital world. This may seem lofty for some, but not for Allen. Previously in Silicon Valley and working on her startup, Decadent, which bridged the gap between virtual and real worlds, this is just a natural progression for her art.
One thing’s for sure, no matter what she does, Allen will continue to push the boundaries of digital art.