Sasha Katz in conversation with Karmacowboy: Hyperreal Heroines
KC: Hi Sasha, thank you for taking the time for this chat, I’ve been looking forward to it!
I asked Lucas Aguirre, the first artist I interviewed here, to point out an artist he would like to learn more about, and he selected you. I’m very happy that he did because I have been mesmerized and strangely attracted by your work since I first discovered it.
Let’s dive right in!
What’s up with these powerful, expressive, sensual women that permeate a lot of your work?
SK: These heroines are the light of my life. They draw inspiration from the remarkable women I have encountered, both in person and in the digital realm. They symbolize my diverse and unconventional beauty standards. In total, I have conceived seven since 2020, a pivotal year when my creative attention shifted toward the human being.
Each possesses her unique appellation and stands as a mirror of my own identity and voice. The process of their creation is one of profound affection, and it is this love that breathes life into their being. Without that love, they wouldn’t exist.
KC: When I look at these women, they seem, in a way, realer than real. Hyperreal. It feels like their quirky and intense characters have manifested in their bodies, faces, and gestures. Francis Bacon said something like: “If you are able to bring over the intensity of somebody’s appearance, you very often drift on the edge of caricature”. That’s how I feel about your works, they are balancing on that very fine edge and they do it to great effect, they’re uniquely yours.
Tell me more about your aesthetic choices?
SK: Thank you so much for mentioning hyperrealism, it’s a great observation! I’m a big admirer of grotesque and Mannerism. I adore excessiveness, the allure of colors and textures, the conscious juxtaposition of elegance against naturalism, and the refinement of form. I admire how the artists of ‘École de Fontainebleau’ explored Mannerism: when a piece of art essentially exclaims “This is not reality, this is not life, this has been conceived, this is art!”.
When creating my characters, I concentrate on distinctive facial and bodily attributes: prominent noses, small eyes, large cheekbones, developed muscles, and substantial hips. Subsequently, I proceed to exaggerate these features. And then I exaggerate them again.
KC: How would you describe your artistic practice? Is it a search for something? Is it a compulsion? Or is it something else?
SK: I have a strong psychological dependence on my work. If I’m not doing anything for some time, I start feeling unwell. I would call it a combination of seeking and compulsion – when I find what I need, I begin to pull it out obsessively to the point of losing consciousness😊 I can have issues with sleeping and eating. And then I stop, because the piece is ready.
KC: What’s your favorite piece of yours at the moment? What makes it special? How does it reflect your artistic vision? And what’s the origin story of this piece?
SK: I am very proud of my recent Yakamoz series. The term ‘Yakamoz’ originates from Turkish, embodying the exquisite shimmer of moonlight delicately reflecting upon the water’s surface during the night hours.
Initially, I was creating dryads in the forest for my ‘Mavka’ series. During that process, I decided to explore the underwater perspective. The theme of water has an irresistible allure for me. I can put on a snorkeling mask and effortlessly immerse myself among the aquatic denizens and seaweed, dedicating an entire day to the sea’s embrace. The refracted light and the gentle movement are so pleasing to observe that I experience complete aesthetic satisfaction.
I started working on this series at the beginning of the summer, and I’m still completely obsessed with it. My favorite piece from the series is this one; I’m considering either minting it alone or as part of a series in the autumn.
KC: Looking back, what has shaped you as an artist?
SK: If we look at the very early period, my grandmother used to collect magazine compilations about art, bind them, and show them to me. I lived in a house filled with my grandfather’s paintings, mainly portraits and landscapes; he was very good in both genres. There were also art galleries that I was taken to regularly.
In my later years, it was mainly movies and photography. I am a huge cinema enthusiast, and I am convinced that had circumstances not led me down the path of becoming an artist, I might have found myself crafting films instead.
Certain episodes from movies have had a profound impact on me, kindling the depths of my emotions: Giulietta Masina’s face at the end of the ‘Nights of Cabiria,’. The knife stab from the ‘Battle In Heaven’. Denis Lavant’s sprint to Bowie’s song in ‘Bad Blood’. The blowjob scene from ‘The Wayward Cloud’, and many such moments that transformed me on a sensual plane and gave me an unforgettable sensation, as if a 12-piece dinner set shatters within you due to an excess of beauty.
KC: So, what or who inspires you today?
SK: Currently, I’m obsessed with the sixth generation of Chinese cinema, watching everything I can find. I smoke weed after the sunset and watch films by Wáng Xiăoshuài and Zhāng Yuán. In these moments, I am the happiest and most complete human on Earth.
I’m also subscribed to a vast number of channels dedicated to photography from various eras and genres, constantly nourishing myself with their content.
I create at the intersection of the 3D genre, and I love to believe that I’m expressing myself in the language of photography using the tools of 3D.
KC: What does your creative process look like?
SK: I start my work by creating a new character or choosing a previously created character to work with. There are currently seven of them, seven women whom I’ve imagined out of nothing. They remind me of my friends, people I’ve seen somewhere, or even those who appeared in my dreams.
I have a vast list of ideas that I would like to bring to life. When it comes to the creative process, I have a sort of logical sequence that has developed over years of work, and I stick to it.
I select or create a new character, devise a storyline, and work for hours until there’s a sense of alignment between what I see on the screen and what I had envisioned in my mind before starting. Sometimes, I set out with one idea, but during the process, something else emerges that I end up liking much more. I treasure these moments that inject vitality into my process. When I’m nearing completion, I always end up with several options. Then I torture my close friend, whose vision I trust as my own, by asking her to pick a version.
I’m constantly thinking about the work, whether I’m actively engaged in it, out jogging in the park, or lying down to sleep. Once everything is ready, I let go of these thoughts and allow the work to live on its own, giving it over to the audience. It’s very important to me that when the viewer feels something personal, something I didn’t intentionally embed in the work, that’s when I know that I did a good job.
KC: What was life like before you made the jump into crypto art?
SK: I used to do the same things as I do now – create artworks, participate in exhibitions, and work for clients. Though I used to have more client projects, and some of them weren’t really that interesting. Thanks to the crypto space, I got rid of that and can fully focus my art.
KC: What was the first NFT you sold, and to whom?
SK: My first mint on SuperRare was bought by the wonderful artist Luluxxx. Then I got fainthearted and decided to make my SuperRare account less erotic. We made an agreement to burn the artwork and mint it anew on KnownOrigin instead.
So in a way, I would suggest considering ‘In the heat simmers the cat snores deeply’ as my first sale. This was a very important moment for me; it was the first and only male character I had created.
I had previously designed him for a specific purpose – I conceived of him as a ghost 3D artist who takes on boring commissions for me, ensuring that my name wouldn’t be associated with mediocrity.
Just as female writers hid their names behind male aliases to succeed in the male-dominated industry, I did the opposite – I concealed my identity behind a fake male name to avoid being linked to projects created solely for monetary gain.
I created a piece featuring him and symbolically sold it, in a way, no longer wanting to accept subpar jobs. This sale was a metaphor for freedom for me. The piece was collected by Noradio.
KC: Oh, that’s cool, it reminds me of the Unsigned collection by Operator, which deals with the same dynamic. On that first mint story, I’m surprised you doubted yourself for a moment. How come?
SK: The story is that I did it as a charity drop for my favorite charity organization, ‘Too Young to Wed’. On second thought, I felt a bit uncomfortable linking such a strongly erotic piece with this charity, so I decided to mint it on KnownOrigin instead and Luluxxx agreed.
KC: What have been other memorable highlights and lowlights along the way for you?
SK: As for highlights, all the serendipitous sales that have graced my artistic journey and all the exhibitions I’ve participated in. I am very grateful for it all. I took great pride when ‘Pandafech’e and ‘Karabasan’ were in Venice in parallel with the Venice Biennale. I remember the happiness I felt when I arrived in Venice at this beautiful mansion and saw my works there, it was sheer delight.
In terms of ‘lowlights’, there have been a few occasions where I’ve reached agreement with collectors to sell a piece, and then they suddenly disengaged without any explanation or further contact. These situations leave me with a strange vacuous feeling.
KC: Yeah, that must feel like going out for a third date and being ghosted out of nowhere.
You’ve minted on SuperRare, Foundation and KnownOrigin, and you’ve mostly minted 1/1s, but also some editions. How do you decide on platform and edition size?
SK: I started minting 1/1 on SuperRare as soon as I entered the space, and my most expensive pieces are on SuperRare. I minted less expensive pieces on Foundation to expand my collector base. Additionally, it was possible to create series there, which I did. I created a KnowOrigin account specifically for erotic artworks and offered editions of my early works there; the edition sizes were somewhat random, actually. I’m not sure if I will mint anything on KnownOrigin soon, as my early works are finished and promoting erotic artworks on Twitter can be quite challenging. I’m really happy with how my recent Limited Edition drop (Under the Ylang-Ylang Tree) went on Foundation and will be releasing more editions soon there.
KC: How do you feel about the crypto art ecosystem today? And how would you like it to develop going forward?
SK: I’d say that the Wild West atmosphere is slightly less wild now. I’d love to see a stronger educational and curatorial presence in this space, and of course, I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing traditional institutions enter the space and add value.
KC: What are you working on now, what’s next?
SK: I’m currently working on three parallel series:
– The ‘Whispers’ series features dragon tattoos inspired by Ukiyo-e woodblock prints from the late Edo period. These tattoos depict dragons that communicate with their owners.
– The ‘Yakamoz’ series showcases women underwater.
– The ‘Mavka’ series is dedicated to the heroines of Ukrainian folklore. These heroines are drowned maidens known for luring humans into the waters and tickling them to death.
In addition, I have a huge unfinished Motion Blur series, which includes the ‘Radio Silence’ and ‘Hotel Rooms’ sub-series. I have numerous ideas for how to further develop these series.”
KC: Thank you so much for your time Sasha, it’s been such a pleasure chatting with you. I can’t wait to see your work evolve further in the coming years, and I wish you all the best along the way!
I’d like to ask you to pass the baton to the next artist you would like me to interview, and tell me why them?
SK: I would suggest Mariah Vestica. She is inimitable, and everything she does—her voice, her optics — completely captivates me.
KC: Awesome, looking forward to dive into her art and getting to know her. Thanks again Sasha!