From Advertising to Art with Kristin Simmons
Brand-Side
Brand-Side

Episode 28 · 3 months ago

From Advertising to Art with Kristin Simmons

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The line between fine art, branding, and the commercial world has never been the same since the Pop Art movement of the 1970’s. In this episode, we’re delving deep into how art and consumerism intersect with Kristin Simmons, a fine artist with a background in creative advertising.

Kristin embarked on her career on the agency-side while always maintaining her artist sensibility. Now she is a full-time artist and fresh off her provocative and expansive exhibit “Obsessions and Confessions” on the 7th floor of Berdof Goodman’s in New York City.

She spoke with us about society’s obsession with consumerism and how that has influenced the social satire she engages in through her work. We also discussed the NFT space, Web3’s impact on art and marketing, and Kristin’s new NFT Project.

Join us as we dive into:

  • The exciting intersection of fine art and commerce
  • Pop influence and creating art that is provocative and thoughtful
  • How the nascent NFT space is surprisingly welcoming for women

Find this interview and many more by subscribing to BRAND-SIDE on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, or on our website.

Welcome to brand side, a new podcast by Celtra where we interview marketing creative operations and design leaders to find out what life is like in house, first agency side and how big creative ideas come to life at the world's best brands. This is brand side by Sultra. Welcome back to brand side. My name is Christine and today, you know, we're always kind of talking about how, as marketers, were part artists and storytellers, or maybe we like to think of ourselves that way. But today I have an actual artist on the show, Christ and Simmons. She is an ad Gal turn artist who comments and critiques are Modern Society through social satire in her art. That is part print, it's installations, it's NFT's, it's beautiful, it's thought provoking and and most of all, it's very entertaining. So, Christen, I'm so excited to have you on the show. How are you doing today? Thank you so latch thanks for having me. It's so exciting to be here. Yeah, so the reason why I want to have you on the show is that, you know, a lot of your work intersects with brands and and and advertising, and you're really using that type of visual language and and even logos and and just brand visuality in in your work. Do you think that is because you actually got your your start in advertising? I think I definitely can't discount ount that. There's a huge influence from my early days and advertising. I very much came from a background where I thought I couldn't make a living full time as an artist. So I accidentally fell into it, but to me the closest thing to making art with a permanent or steady paycheck was advertising, kind of that intersection of business and creativity. So while I certainly think I developed more of a pop voice drowing my undergraduate studies because I was pushing the different ways I could explore my work, then I think the advertising of course definitely continue to influence it and push it in that direction.

And so you you studied art and then, but your early career wasn't advertising. What was that like? How did you get your start? Yeah, so I am I didn't go to art school. I went to I went to Liberal Arts College, which was great because it kind of allowed me to be have a more well rounded education, but I also wasn't allowed to go to art school. So that's a whole other thing. But when I first started working in advertising, believe it or not, I I was put in accounts because a lot of people could not who were in the creative department, could not necessarily write or talk to clients in a specific way, and they found that I was very good at that, at discussing creative and strategy and basically, you know, found myself continuing. I first of all, I got into like a huge depression on the first year out of college, which I think a lot of people do, because you just it's such a weird time in your life and you feel so lost and you don't know what to do, coming out of the educational system and wondering, you know, what your future looks like. But I also realized I wasn't painting or making any art for Fun and my free time, and I immediately noticed a difference once I started to create things outside of my workspace again, where I could really have my full voice to them, because as as creative as that corporate the corporate industry of advertising can be, you're always, at the end of the day, you know, molding something to what the client wants or, at the end of the day, the clients always right. So you can't be necessarily as provocative or edgy or as transparent as you'd like to be with whatever the initial creative concept is. So I push myself to begin making things during my free time, you know, after my twelve hour a day desk job, and oftentimes I would find myself taking classes to kind of really force myself to continue learning or just to have that time block, whether it was an online graphic design course or a screen printing class. I'm in New York City, so there are a lot of great facilities to do that. So for...

...me, just blocking that time and having it kind of made me accountable, even on the days when I was so tired from my desk job, to just get get out and make something and push it forward. So that's a little bit. It was very much a slow dip. It wasn't this like a Jerry McGuire moment where I, like you know, was like I'm quitting, I hate this industry. It was it was very kind of slow ease into doing it full time. Did you have a moment? You know, you did gradually transition into being a full time artist, but did you have a moment or you know you sold a piece of work or you secured an exhibition. That was really that well moment where you actually realize that you could do this full time. You know, I I've a funny answer. I still don't know if you can do it full time. I still don't honestly think of myself as an artist because in a way you're always for me, you know, you're always reaching for that next thing, and I still sometimes don't believe it now or it or takes a minute or two, but I think of yes, of course, when I sold my first piece to like a total stranger, it wasn't a friend or anything. That obviously felt good, but I didn't necessarily consider myself, you know, a full time artist or that I could make a full living out of it. I just thought, well, this would be a great side business to continue building. In some ways I say, you know, I say that we're always a student. So yes, I'm you know, I I. I do consider myself an artist now, but there's also that anxiety of not knowing what is going to be next. And for me, you know even which idea to work on next or what the right thing is to do. So you know, in a weird you have to be a little crazy obviously to be an artist, Roun entrepreneur, but in a way that the anxiety that comes with that craziness also helps push you forward in so many ways. Yeah, absolutely, and I think part of it is also that classic Imposter Syndrome in the totally creative world. I mean you just had an exhibition at Burkedore, of goodness. So you know, if you can't call you an artists, I don't...

...know who you can call what you can call that. I'm really curious because in your work there's obviously a lot of nods to brands, like from using AMEX card designs or cigarette packs or barbies. There's a lot of the you know, the brand world that we know and and love and recognize intersects with your art. So talk to me a little bit about why those brands play such a central element in your art. Sure, I am. I'm really interested in consumption in general, and I think that's why, after learning, after being trained more classically as an artist doing figure drawing and landscape, I was drawn to pop, because pop deal so much with consumption and modern DIFM run imagery were used to looking at and artists like Rosen quizzed Lichtenstein warhol obviously a big inspiration to me and but I saw kind of growing up as a growing up in New York City and even being a teenager in New York and now in my s in New York. I feel like we're part of this generation that increasingly is looking at consumption or consumer goods and in almost a religious way and kind of understanding how much of our personality or happiness is really based on either acquiring or having those things, versus the subliminal messaging we receive as children where we're told we want to acquire certain things either via television or reading. It kind of teasing that apart, and I'm not saying I had the answer by any means. My work is just kind of an exploration of that teasing. A part that whole pain pleasure pair adox is is of interest to me. Where I, where you know you think about? People do things for one of two reasons, to move closer to pleasure or further away from pain. And where does that ven diagram overlap, where we no longer know what you know? Am I? Am I drinking this coffee to move to move away from the pain of having a caffy and headache? Or does it...

...actually give me pleasure to have more energy? You know, you could apply everything to that kind of principle and that that thought process interest me. And do you think also because you know your art, in addition to having this you know, it seems very lighthearted at first glance, but when you actually you know and then you like read through because you really play with both the visual and then you have copy laid on top of prints or different elements and they're really snarky or playful and they have this almost quality of this I don't know if this is even is a thing, but internet voice. That's the best way, like the female internet voice, that really shines through and they're at least for me as a millennial woman, I really connected with that. I'm wondering if a part of also like you're the momentum that you're having, is that you really are, your art is really in that side. Guys, do you think that happened by accident, or is it also part of like, because you are yourself a woman in this, in this girl is sure system. And now it's a great question. You know, I always say the harder you work, the luckier you get, and I've always loved, loved the work I do. Of course I'm in a privileged position to do what I love for work. It doesn't mean that there aren't hard days or you know, before any show, especially the Burg birth show, I don't think I've slept for like three months. It was just a massive amount of work to make. But I feel also, but I do feel, going back to your kind of autosite guys, that I'm lucky in the sense of I'm interested in things that I think the Zite guist of our culture is very interested in now. So I'm I might not be able to sell my work or have made a living full time doing this if culture wasn't always also interested right now and this idea of brand interaction, consumption, consumerism, gender identity and politics. So it's a bit of both, I would say both the both luck and and work, for sure. So, but I very much I'm grateful for that, because I couldn't. You can't choose what you're interested in or what your personality is. You're just born being interested in certain...

...things versus not, and so I feel lucky that what I'm interested in seems to resonate with with an audience absolutely and then again, it's funny because you know we're on a podcast and people are going to listen to it and we're you know, we're talking about something that's like very visual. So for all of your listeners in the here, you have this on your ear your pods right now. I would go to see Chris's art me maybe on her instagram. Will link everything in the episode notes, but maybe I'll try to explain a little bit. I've got some of the pieces of your work in front of me, so you know the work that you do. Like what I mentioned before, you're combining different elements. For example, you have this series of using stock certificates. So before all digital trading, people used to get these physical certificates as a proof of you own in certain stock in a company. And there's one that I'm like, I absolutely love. There's this woman printed on top of the certificate. She's looking at herself in the mirror and then you have this stigroo on top that says beyond excited to announce that I'm giving up. I'm so grateful for this opportunity and can't wait to see where this decision takes me. And I don't know, I read it and I just just resonated with it so much. So glad. I'm so glad. Yeah, that's been I that was a kind of a pivotal theory is to actually getting me started as an artist, believe it or not. Yeah, yeah, I can see why, because there's so many layers to the the you know, the capitalism, layered with the expectations that we have today, with this sort of like almost like tongue in cheek, very sarcastic, but still like fun way of commenting these things. And and yeah, go ahead. And then I was going to say they're they're kind of like, you know, sometimes you don't realize why you're doing things until later in life. It's kind of like when you're building up a Jig saw puzzle and you don't see the full picture when you're doing it, but then once you step away...

...or a few years later, you kind of realize why you were doing that. And now, at least my interpretation is those I start. Those are the first things I started doing, and advertising in my free time, because I was looking for things to paint and screen print on. Everything I do, by the way, it's hand one or screen print and nothing comes out of a digital printer. So I'm very purest when it comes to the process of making things. But but I was thinking about things I could screen print and paint on other than a white paper or white canvas, and I came across these stocks. They actually were in like up my one of my parents was moving their offices and my parents are in finance and I said, Oh, you know, are these old stock certificates? They're so interesting I feel like they shouldn't be thrown out because they're it's almost like finding someone's old passport. They're very textured and rich and interesting and they're technically not worth anything unless you collect them for as a hobby. But they kind of take on this momentum wor aspect where these companies at one time thought they were going to be these great, you know, legends and monoliths, and then combining them with these madmen characters, you know, and these millennial ask you know, modern day quotes, creates this interesting kind of layer time mash up, as you said. So those, you know, those are always near and dear to me and the four and that's actually one of the first things I've sold where I had that proud moment of Oh, someone likes this, who knows nothing about me, but this spoke to them in some way and maybe I can continue leveraging has. I think this is a great grade for into also talking about the different forms that your art takes. Coincidentally, so I tried going to your Burgdorf exhibition and I was two days late, very true to form, but I did then after end up booking a haircut at a new salon. It's called Aaron Larn here in in Manhattan, and I had no idea that their space is essentially like an exhibition for your work, everything from like preaps, even this claw machine that you can use by like Swiping your credit...

...card and trying your lucky if you can grab one of those lip shaped purses that I believe have scratch cards in them. Is that? Yeah, they're least fashion and fortune scratch off cards that I all kind of I came up with all the fortunes and all them and they're all different. So even if you know, even if you don't get the winning fortune then allows you to win a free piece of art. For me, still get something that's kind of handmade in fun and kitch to walk away with. MM. So what are some of the different forms of that your art takes in addition to the princes and the vending machines. Sure so, oil painting, acrylic painting, Screen Printing, mixed media, sculpture or recently, more furniture, recently too, which Burgworth pushed me into, which I'm really, really grateful for, because that's I've found like a whole new love of thinking about objects, in the way we use things in different ways. And then, of course, beginning. You know, I just launched my nft project, which has been, I'm a huge warning curve for me. So as of now, that's that's where the the span of everything is, but it definitely open to incorporating other mediums as I move forward it. For me, it really is about what's the best way to tell the story about this or to show this, and that kind of dictates the medium that I then want to use. HMM and and yeah, actually, the you know, the NFTS is another area that I really want to talk about. So what is your and I've seen your nft project and I told you already that's one of the pieces that I want on my sense on frame here in my living room. But talk to me a little bit about the NFT project. What is it about? How does it connect to the community? I know that you have this element of bringing together the virtual collectibles with also your physical pieces of work. So, yeah, would love, love for you to share a little bit more about that as sure. So the series is called on feeling Cray, like a CRAWANC are Ay, and so much of my work is about taking elements or...

...iconography from our childhood and then kind of perverting them, probably isn't the right word, but you know, reinterpreting them in a more adult way where those lines are blurred between childhood and adulthood. And I love talking about or you know addressing subjects that are uncomfortable topics, whether it's, you know, drugs, politics, money, etc. Kind of those hot topics. I got us all on bothered and interested sometimes, and I have yet, I had yet, before I did this nft series, to really talk about sex and gender in my work, in a direct way at least, and I had the idea of making these crans and instead of, you know, the typical colored names you would have on the crams you'd received as a kid, like, you know, orange, you jealous, or current green or something, having them all be different names of sex positions or poses, ranging from more g rated things like vanilla sex to, you know, our rated things like Dandelin de secration or something, and so I thought that was a great way to bring sex into the vocabulary of the art world because it's it's something that people don't talk about. It is a huge you know, it's a huge component of mental illness and a lot of the issues we see today and I think just to get people talking about those things makes it a less scary thing or and a more approachable topic in order to have healthier conversations around it. So back to the NFT and how that actually works. That is, when you buy one of my nft's, you essentially get one of the crams. There were two hundred and forty different colors with and their addition to ten each with six unique ones, so a little over twenty four hundred NPTs. But when you buy one of them, what I what I really liked about it is is the game off cation process. So when you buy one, and if you buy one right now, it's a Christensenons nftcom, you get a...

...coin that says feeling gray and there's almost like a coin you get at a casino so everyone buys in at the same price and you don't know what you're going to get until we reveal the Cryans, which will actually be a little later this week. So it's good timing that we're talking about this now. So this idea of you know, again kind of like that claw machine or being at a carnival and getting a ticket or a raffle and not knowing if you're going to get something that's super rare or you know what's going to be at the other end of it. Delighting that childlike wonder excited me and even as an artist, I mean it's like I had to buy. I had to buy the NFT to so to for me, you know, the people keep saying on so excited to see a Cran I get and I keep writing back me too, because I don't know crant I'm going again totally completely randomized, like through through the cont through the smart contract and everything. So it's been just an interesting it's an interesting learning curve for me and a way to figure out how can I make something that's authentic to me but also exciting and different in this space that wouldn't necessarily be doable in a physical format. So for you having this whole learning process of bringing your art into nft form? Did you find the process harder than expected or easier than expected? Like, do you think the barrier to entry still high for like whoever wants to enter it, to that that space? It's such a hard question. I think the barrier to entry is high. Well, it you know, it depends on what your fortas are. For me it's you know, I personally don't love looking at screens and I don't anything that has to do with technology. I'm like a Hindy two years old inside. So it always takes me a little longer, even for three are you can never know. I'm gonna like log in that half an hour early for this like podcast called because God forbid, there's some tech issue that I can't like figure out, and so I just I technology does not come second nature to me, unlike ideas for art or drawing, painting, etc. I think for people that who would and younger generations, for shore Gen zy and on word, who are more in depth to technology, it will come easier to them, and so I think...

...it depends how oversed you are in that space. I got very lucky with mine because Matt's Maglilia, my my boyfriend you had on the show a few weeks back. I believe he is very involved in the text space and knows a lot of people who basically said we can help you launch this and walk you through it. So I didn't feel like a total, you know, idiot when creating it, but I but I was asking, I felt like I was asking a lot of idiotic questions and I think, unfortunately, that's a barrier too, because if people feel like they're going to be asking stupid questions about something or that they should know, quote unquote, certain things, it makes it unapproachable and really, as I say, you know, I'm always a student. Were always the learning and they're very few spaces so far that have made it a little more transparent and learnable, but I think will definitely be seeing more of them. Yeah, yeah, for sure, even for for me as a marketer, I I'm very enthusiastic about all things web three, but at the same time I'm a complete novice. So, like I'm trying to just have conversations and understand and perhaps even just launch my own and FT projects just to know what the steps are from start to finish. They had like and like what Matt said on the on the show. I thought it was such a good inside he he said that as long as people and brands and marketers are, you know, playing in that sand box and trying out things, there's no right or wrong. We just need to explore it and see where it takes us, because it's in such it's such early stage for all of these things. But then one of the things that I do think that might be happening is that with web three and especially with nmpts, that are really like pushing this idea of digital art forward and the idea of like owning something that's intangible, that is just art, and appreciate it for what it is, versus like having a utility value as you might have for physical objects. I mean, obviously for physical art it's a it's a...

...different thing, but I'm wondering what you think about now, with NFTEAS and web three, do you think the commercial world and brands and the art world are coming closer together and merging? Definitely, I think that space is allowing that for that to happen much faster, just because of the nature of the media and and I think you could almost always argue that they're you know, they're not mutually exclusive, but we're seeing that, you know, those kind of two things edge closer and closer and I think there are a lot of ways brands can apply, you know, the NFT space to things they're doing, whether it's launching exclusive events or, you know, reaching out to their customers in a more direct way with kind of a membership to her or whatever. So I think the discovery aspect of it is really will be really illuminating, hmmm for sure. And so then maybe for some naysayers or people who are slower to understand the value of and ift, especially in art, it's, you know, you could say it's almost like this emperor's new cloth saying, where, you know, we're giving value to something that doesn't really exist. How would you reply to that as an artist? I think maybe redefining how we view ownership of items beyond the physical it's kind of like that. When, you know, with modern art, there was that whole conversation between if you splash paints on a white canvas, is that art or is that not art? That can that be valued in the same way as the sixteen chapel? Right, and so now we're almost like having those same conversations again. I'm curious to know what do you think as an artist? Yeah, I am listen, I think you know, like so many things, artist, art and taste and value is you know, there's that Latin phrase and I don't know the Latin translation, but nothing is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Yeah, and so you know, I can't necessarily if there it's someone's a. They say are I can't say. Well,...

...you shouldn't be any say or and you shouldn't be an NPTEAS. If you're an assayer and you don't find value there, don't worry about it. It's not for you, then that's that's totally fine. Or if if you are trying to get into it and really can't get into it, like, don't worry about it. There are too many other things in this world that are interesting or view other visual interest or hobbies. You know, I think get into it for the right reasons, because something about it makes you excited, and I think we're seeing, as we see more people coming to that space, will see more different ideas and applications where it's more encompassing as opposed to maybe just like a static JPEG on on a screen, which is very much what it started as. Yeah, yeah, and also, like you know, we're very much in the early high phase of NFTS. I believe there's only maybe around five hundred thou people in the world who own and if t's today. So it's still very much in like early stages, but it's the same thing as I'm actually I'm going to have Mackenzie Green on the show in a couple weeks time. She' is a VP of social ad what we're and she's a returning guests and very much into the NFT space. And and she said something really interesting where that, you know, in the early stages of email we had morning show hosts debating live on TV saying who's going to want to send an electronic mail when we have the physical one? So I feel like we're in that same realm. We're right now. It's all about these early adopters and the hype, but we're going to move into a space where blockchain technology these every day might be what it is, it might not be what it is today, but it's definitely going to be something completely yeah, I know it's going to continue to evolve. I think and I mean to listen, at the beginning of the s with the Internet bubble, you know, obviously there were people who didn't believe in it or people who overinvested in it. And yes, there was a tech crash, as we saw, but does that mean the Internet went away? No. So it's just it's it'll be interesting just to see the different evolution that it takes. M Yeah, and obviously, like right now, there's a lot of room for...

...a lot of different text startups like coming in and and trying out different value propositions and maybe even getting good funding for it. I know it's slowing down a little bit, but ultimately we're going to see who has that staying power and what types of applications are actually here to here to stay here for good. Absolutely, and in you know, with your work in NFT's is there an element off bringing your physical art or community into the into the project as well? Yes, absolutely. So. This isn't this isn't in plane text on the website or anything, but I'm very much considering and probably will end up sending a when people get their crans, once we've sold the whole collection or, you know, at a certain amount. I want to send people a cram, you know, the crow that they get, whatever Cran is randomized that they get. I want to actually have that Cran made and cast it in a resin block, so you kind of have a little piece of art that represents that. You know, you were part of building this project in this and FT experience for me and I think I loved of course, I'd love to have it also be a be a token to access, you know, the Ip premieres for either galleries or institutions I'm working with. You know first firsthand. You know knowledge of the new launchers or new projects I'm working on. So I've been brainstorming how to continue leveraging that, because it is more about creating a community than just making a piece and selling it. HMM, speaking of community, the NFT space can feel a little intimidating for women, as like you know most of all of the projects and the NFT influencers. It's all mail and for you as a as a woman in the NFT space, how have you felt that? Does the space feel welcome into you, like? How would you and what would be your advice to other women who are looking to get started in that space too? Yeah, you know, I'd say, definitely get started. It is a welcoming space,...

...which is one of the great things about it, unlike a lot of other, you know, I think, huge trends we've seen over the past two or three decades, like with some like social media, feels like it should be a space it's welcoming, but it tends not to be. And nft space feels like a space that should not be welcoming, but it actually is. So I would encourage people to to, you know, put yourself out there, get get involved if you're interested in learning more about it too. Great really kind of women based organizations that I would recommend. You know that also talk about females and NFTS and crypto investing our wealth and Unicorn dowdall spelled Daoh. So those are kind of two big ones right now that are easy to begin following. But if not, you can just do the exploration on your own. Gone to OPENC and type in, you know, women and FT's or you or whatever search terms you're looking for if you are interested in seeing what women are creating in the NFT space. It's very much a new frontier and so there there's also something very exciting and adventurous about that? Yeah, I'm what I'm also seeing is that a lot of the the NFT space is very active on twitter. So there's, you know, a lot of great women you can follow following that space as well. And then are you active on discord? Is that a place where you connect with the nft community or you know, I'm not yet. I'm I just it's funny. I had to act. I had a twitter account that I started years ago when I was in college, and then I kind of took a hiatus and then, of course, a lot of social media, I just couldn't I didn't have time to keep up with it because I was so busy with, you know, with shows or whatever, and now I'm kind of just getting back into catching up on that and connecting with people through there, because now that it is being used for more or you see, you know, for every one piece of feedback you get that's just like horrible and makes you feel like a shitty person, you get a hundred pieces of would be back and so...

...to me that's a winning ratio. So I haven't gotten involved directly and discord yet, but I avery much see that on the horizon over me. HMM, this has been such a refreshing conversation. I love bringing in different perspectives on the show and getting to discuss your art has been an absolute treat. We will be linking your instagram and your website on the show notes. So if you want to follow Christon you can always click there. But if people want to connect with you, where can they find you? Absolutely so, yeah, either my website, Christen Simmons artcom, or email, infote, Christen Simmons Arcom, Instagram Christen Simmons Art, and my twitter is Kristen's underscore art, so and Christen Simmons en oft for the end oft. But yeah, happy to answer any questions if I can, and so appreciate being being on the show today and absolute pleasure to talk further with you and thank you all for listening. If you like what you heard, we always appreciate those five stars. Maybe leave even a review and until next time. You have been listening to brand side. You've been listening to brand side. If you like what you heard, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about creative production automation, is IT SULTRACOM? Thanks for listening. Until next time,.

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