"There is no one motivation that leads you to become an artist. Just like when you fall in love… I loved art as a child because I could see it coming out and entering me. We are like channels. And there is nothing we can do about it.”
“I carry on a “branching” and open style. The fact that I am not closed… gives me the opportunity to evolve quickly by being able to experiment on the various branches with other techniques or choice of subjects.”
It was no easy task selecting the artist that we would feature on our first Meet The Insiders interview series. Like all things new, the NFT space is misunderstood by most and the projects that have protagonized in the media are more akin to collectibles like baseball and Pokémon cards than art, but as the dust begins to settle, a burgeoning art movement can be seen. Artists driven by the expressive possibilities of today’s technology and the greater safety, liquidity, and access that NFTs afford collectors, have attracted some of the most talented creators into the space.
Like in all the great art movements, artists are driven by ideas and a means of expression. It’s easy to look back today and see initially criticized works like Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras,” Georges Méliès “A Trip to the Moon,” or even Andy Warhol’s “Campell’s Soup Can” series as great works of art, but we cannot overlook that they were created by great artists inspired by a new form of expression that was made possible by technology.
We finally settled on the artist Michelle Petrelli to debut our interview series because he’s a great example of a crossover artist. In his work, he exemplifies the fact that art is art and the seamless transition between the old and the new. His acrylic and digital paintings are equal parts beautiful and haunting. As he puts it “these techniques overlap and interpenetrate in different layers.” We love the eerie play of shadow and light that moves through much of Petrelli’s work as he explores construction and deconstruction, peeling the artificial layers away from his subjects, and revealing their true spirit. They exist in a state that is both eclectic and visionary. We do not doubt that it is this very spirit he captures that has cemented the wonderful success that he has had in the NFT space.
Art NSDRS: Tell us a bit about yourself and what led you to become an artist.
Michelle Petrelli: There is no one motivation that leads you to become an artist. There doesn’t have to be. It’s like when you fall in love, it just happens. We chose each other. I loved art as a child because I could see it coming out and entering me. We are like channels. And there is nothing we can do about it.
Art NSDRS: Do you remember an early experience when a piece of art really affected you? Does any of that experience influence you today?
Michelle Petrelli: I was maybe five years old. My father, a professor of literature, showed me photographs of paintings in some Art History texts. The ones that struck me the most were Botticelli’s Venus and paintings inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, specifically the scene set in Giudecca with Lucifer and the damned. The more I showed interest, the more my father showed me other beautiful pictures. In those years when the child’s mind is fervent, all these paintings probably began to work within me. A few years later I started first grade. On the first day of school, I drew Botticelli’s Venus emerging from the waters completely from memory. They told me I had gotten “the gift” but I knew it was thanks to my father.
Art NSDRS: What in your personal history has influenced your work the most?
Michelle Petrelli: Over the years my work has been influenced by many things. I’ve been very interested in Flemish masters like Rembrandt and Van Dyck and have been seduced by the work of Klimt and Schiele. I should also mention that I have been influenced by American and Japanese comics and a lot of scenes that come from cinema.
Art NSDRS: How did you come up with your specific style?
Michelle Petrelli: I carry on a “branching” and open style. The fact that I am not closed to one style gives me the opportunity to evolve quickly by being able to experiment on the various branches with other techniques or choice of subjects. The main trunk is undoubtedly influenced by the result of the experiments I do on the various branches.
Art NSDRS: How has technology changed how you create?
Michelle Petrelli: Digital painting has influenced the way I paint and vice versa. I was born in 1973 and saw the dawn of the digital age. I was one of the first to paint with a graphics tablet. It was a slow process and the files had to be tiny. As a fresh graduate in the 1990s, I did not have the ability to capture images as easily as I do today. I had to do a lot of rehearsals before I got to the optimal result I wanted. A subject had to pose for many hours and developing a good analog photograph took even longer. We are now in the best moment in history.
Art NSDRS: Why did you first start experimenting with NFTs and what was the experience like for you?
I started with NFTs in early 2021. It was a good time. A friend of mine had to insist a lot with me because I was suspicious. I thought opening an online wallet was an operation that only engineers did. I did, however, and entered the KnownOrigin family very early and then journeyed through World of V, Hic Et Nunc, Objkt, Opensea, and finally arrived on SuperRare.
Art NSDRS: What do you think are the greatest benefits of NFT technology?
Michelle Petrelli: The advantages of NFTs are evidently a more rapid diffusion of the art. So I think I’m not the only one who thinks that NFT can be a good way to disseminate your digital or traditional art, making money for both those who create it and those who buy it. In the future, I hope the security systems will increase.
Art NSDRS: What do you think makes your work unique? How intentional are these choices when you’re creating?
Michelle Petrelli: My work is unique because my life is unique. When I create there are few times that I am aware of what I am doing. Often I understand the meaning after a long time. I think it is a prerogative of surreal and symbolic art.
If you’d like to see more of Michele Petrelli’s work or collect his NFT’s visit his websites:
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Interview edited for length and clarity.