cat russell x otherworlds
an interview with the artist (contains mint price and date)
Well, we are here. Your boy made it. I’m a real interviewer now. My reaction to this news:
I had the privilege to speak with Ohio-based collage artist Cat Russell over the past few weeks. He’s the artist behind the new project Otherworlds, which will be featured at South by Southwest this month and at NFT NYC in June.
As much as I wanted this to be like a GQ cover story writer, our interview was mostly done over video chat and sadly, was not done in Beverly Hills on some company’s dime in a plush hotel lobby.
No, you’ll be shocked to discover this was like most of my endeavors in the NFT world thus far - quite amateurish. For that reason, I naturally came to the interview with some reticence. Not only am I not an artist myself, but I’ve quite literally never interviewed anyone before. What do artists want to talk about and what questions do you ask one when you have no idea how the art world works? Art has been and continues to be scary to me.
You see, that’s because I’m a PFP person. I got into NFTs for the collecting and not so much for art. Hobbies like collecting basketball cards have always made sense to me. I did it when I was a kid and I am still doing it now (let’s be clear, Top Shot stinks though). But art? I never could wrap my head around it.
I like my current PFP of a Cool Cat because it has some nice lederhosen and a fun hat on. The depth of my knowledge of Clon’s (Cool Cat’s illustrator) art doesn’t go much beyond that, to be honest. I know what resonates with me loosely, but I’m not alone in this. You can tell how little NFT Twitter knows about art because every cute PFP project pumps on the mint day. People say the art is important, but we just say that to make ourselves feel better about spending 5 figures on a cartoon JPG.
What others and I cannot deny, however, is that art and NFTs are inextricably tied together. NFT’s first use case was art “minting” and when we talk about the dawn of NFTs in history books (fingers crossed), artists will certainly be mentioned alongside them. For that reason, I wanted to learn how to evaluate art better, and I hoped Cat could help with that.
As I got chatting, I realized that Cat was willing to teach me, thank god. He was comfortable with the fact that my knowledge of NFTs didn't go beyond cute cat profile pictures and the fact that I know who fvckrender is.
That’s because Cat is a man of many hats.
Before this project, he’d worked in the grueling worlds of public health and law. By his own admission, he’s seen some horrible, soul-sucking stuff. It’s what I’m sure makes him the artist he is now. He isn’t afraid to flirt with the darkness a little.
Yet he also is a crypto-early adopter and PFP apologist. He understands the need and power of these projects to move the space forward and that sometimes you just want to look at a cute cat cartoon and smile.
“When I chat with other artists in the space I often hear many sound rather jaded. ‘A dog with a silly hat can sell for 10ETH but a piece of art I worked on for two weeks goes for .1ETH.’ People often forget that there are really two different worlds co-existing in the NFT space: The Art and the Casino.”
You see, there are two distinct worlds right now in NFTs. There are 1/1 creators and then there are PFP projects. Both are concerned with the community, but not in the same way.
Cat described the art community to me as a collaborative space where artists could discuss the technicals that went into their work…what programs they used, what brush they used on this piece, what they meant by that element there…
Now on the other side? The Discords and Twitter of my PFP projects make me think that the community is solely tied to the floor prices and what the devs were doing. The “story” doesn’t go much beyond these talking points. Rarely will I have an argument or discussion about anything substantial - god forbid I ever talk about how the art looked and how it makes me feel. The community as it turned out is actually quite shallow once you start peeling back the layers.
Cat’s project Otherworlds hopes to fix this issue and bridge a gap slightly. Ideally, it hopes to unite the PFP world with the 1/1 world.
Over the last five months, he has created 100 unique, handmade collage pieces by using old reference books (think old Nat Geo magazines), he has constructed a true art project with PFPs in mind. The pieces can stand alone, but can also be used to represent your digital identity on Twitter, as all 100 have a cohesive theme tying them together.
But while that’s one use-case of Otherworlds, the art itself is what can be used to open people’s minds to the “otherworld” of art 1/1’s.
Even people like me who are only interested in the price floors of certain projects will be able to look at his work and feel something. Cat hopes that this feeling will translate to me thinking more critically about what I’m seeing.
“I don't believe anyone needs to be an ‘expert’ to view and appreciate art. What is important is the very act of simply doing so. The very act of contemplating whether you ‘like’ something or not, and why you do or don’t, often allows people to challenge themselves with questions that are often not easily asked with words.”
Buying real art not only provides you with an opportunity to make money but also allows you to participate in a dialogue that doesn’t come with your average PFP these days. It allows you to live a life more examined and to find a little more meaning in what you’re investing in.
We always talk about the value of “community” on NFT Twitter. But we don’t want a true community because we don’t want to be challenged in any sort of way. Criticism (valid or not) is “FUD” and not examined with any merit on NFT Twitter.
“When creating Otherworlds, I wanted to build something that captures all of thrill of collectibles projects (blind minting, property traits, ‘community’, etc) while giving the collector a truly unique one-of-one art experience. By giving it every part of the collectible world, I invite people to feel comfortable participating with it as such, but hope afterwards that they can find dialogs through this collection that feel a bit more substantive.”
Culture as you know is fleeting and ever-changing. Good luck keeping up with it or predicting what will still be a relevant brand 1 year from now. What Cat opened my eyes to was the world of art that transcends that short time frame.
True artists working on their craft will do so over the course of their lifetime. The blockchain serves as a way to prove that (the proof of work in proof of stake, if you will). Someone might make a PFP project that hits, but will they continue to put in the work over the course of the next decade even after they’ve made a ton of ETH? The blockchain will answer that for us.
Art’s price comes down to commitment and true artists will continue to make art - for 5 years, 10 years, 50 years.
Unfortunately, what the NFT community has right now is a lot of rent-seekers. The PFP projects mostly have people behind them who will not be around for that long. The artists, however, (well, if they are serious about their craft like Cat) they’ll be around long after a lot of these PFP projects go to 0.
That’s what’s promising to me, one of the world’s greatest overtraders. Over the last few months, it’s fair to say that I’ve missed out on thousands of dollars (a lot of ETH roughly) just not being patient. It’s forced me to reevaluate my plan. And when I’m looking to invest in things for the long-term, projects like Cat’s and others 1/1’s make more and more sense.
For me, I see an opportunity in expanding my mind a little. I want to learn what art really is, how I can evaluate it more critically, and have conversations with real artists like Cat. In turn, I imagine that it’ll provide me the opportunity to invest in artists who will be committed to this life once the NFT craze dies down (which it certainly will) and I’ll be better off for it. Maybe I won’t be so paper-handed investing in PFP that I don’t actually believe in the long-term.
We as an NFT community are so obsessed with prices, projects, games, and utility. Sometimes, we forget that the artists behind all of these NFTs are part of the reason we’re here in the first place.
Cat Russell’s upcoming Otherworlds collection is certainly worth a look for that very reason.
Otherworlds will mint for 0.15ETH on Weds, 3/23 (allow list) and Thurs, 3/24 (public sale).