Suki Mehr: Pronalaženje balansa između tehnologije i umetnosti

Umetnica, biznismenka i mama, autorka je nekih od najboljih skulptura koje ste videli na Burning Manu.

Interdisciplinarna umetnica i vlasnica tehnološke kompanije, Suki Mehr neumorno stvara. Zanima je sve što ima veze sa novim tehnologijama, ali je inspiriše priroda, pa zato ni ne čudi što se njene neobične skulpture mogu videti na festivalima poput Burning Mana.

Od kada je postala mama, u stvaralaštvu je nežnija, ali još kreativnija. Pravi nakit, skulpture, uspešna je industrijska dizajnerka. Dobitnica je brojnih nagrada, edukatorka, govornica, gostujući predavač na UVA i Brown univerzitetu. U intervjuu za Harper's BAZAAR, otkriva tajnu svog uspeha. 

Suki, vi ste jaka, pametna i nezavisna žena, fokusirana na to da učite druge žene umetnosti, 3D dizajnu i inženjeringu. Ispričajte nam kako ste počeli. 

- Moja strast prema vizuelnoj umetnosti deo je mog identiteta, i tako je bilo oduvek. Nakon studija na Brown univerzitetu, a onda na postdiplomskim studijama na Rhode Island School of Design, bavila sam se raznim medijima, ali me je oduvek privlačilo 3D modelovanje. Ponekad sam osećala da fizički ne koristim ruke koliko softver i tehnologiju, ali sam zaista pronašla više slobode kroz programe za 3D modeliranje. Tokom radionice na poslovnoj školi Univerziteta Darden Virdžiniji, otkrila sam da je UVA-in program mašinskog inženjerstva gotovo u potpunosti namenjen muškarcima i postala sam znatiželjna o načinima na koji se inženjerstvo podučava. Većina uvodnih časova bavila se time kako da učenici naprave stvari poput ključeva i autodelova. U RISD-u su mi isti programi predavani na mnogo kreativniji način, podstičući umetnike da izaberu sopstveni put učenja. Osvojila sam donaciju od 25.000 dolara od Dardena i preselila se u San Franciskogde sam se fokusirala na obrazovne startape, sa fokusom na devojčice, 3-D dizajn i inženjering. U početku sam mislila da moram da odlučim između toga da imam kompaniju ili da budem umetnik. Sada radim i jedno i drugo. I trebala m,i je decenija da shvatim da mogu da budem šta god hoću. 

Opišite nam iskustvo iz San Franciska i pokretanje startapa. 

- Bilo je to 2015, i  to iskustvo doživela sam i kao nagradu i kao izazov. Išla sam na svaki pitch događaj koji postoji i mnogo puta bila odbijana od strane investitora, ali nisam odustajala. Neke od mojih najboljih prijateljica danas su žene u tehnologiji  - inspirativne osnivačice kompanija koje sam upoznala dok sam živela u San Francisku. Moja prva pauza je usledila kada je Intel Capital, investirao u moj projekat kada sam mogla da angažujem svoj tim inženjera i kad sam uposlila 80 odsto ženskog tima, sa ženskom tehničkom direktorkom, što je u to vreme bilo veoma neuobičajeno. Povećali smo našu kompaniju i pomogli deci širom zemlje da nauče programe kao što su Solidworks i Autodesk, učeći putem onlajn kurseva gde su mogli da 3D dizajniraju i štampaju 3D objekte kao što su iPhone kućišta, nakit, igračke i modni predmeti. 

Sa kojim ste kompanijama sarađivali i kako ste uspostavili te odnose?

- Pored finansiranja od obrazovnih institucija, uključujući NIU, Parsons i Univerzitet u Virdžiniji, fokusirala sam se na strateško partnerstvo sa tehnološkim kompanijama, kompanijama za 3D štampanje, kompanijama za 3D dizajn. Apple, HP i Autodesk su bili naši veliki partneri. Bili smo u Apple TV emisiji za programere aplikacija pod nazivom, Planeta aplikacija, sa Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessicom Albom i Williamom. Iskustvo snimanja emisije dovelo je naš tim u Los Anđeles i tamo smo se preselili 2018. godine.

Kada ste prešli sa digitalnog dizajna na izgradnju skulptura velikih razmera?

- Dok sam živela u San Francisku, otišla sam na festival Burning Man i bila veoma inspirisana umetničim delima koja sam tamo videla. Sa velikom ekipom ljudi učila sam o tome šta je sve potrebno da se napravi velika instalacija u takvom okruženju, u pustinji.  Ljudi najčešće razmišljaju o Burning Manu kao o velikoj zabavi, ali mnogi umetnici odlaze tamo samo da bi izgradili neko umetničko delo i to u zajednici. Godine 2018. izgubila sam sve svoje stvari u požarima u Kaliforniji i to iskustvo inspirisalo me je da napravim čeličnog LED feniksa, 80 stopa širokog i nazovem ga Wing Portal. Bilo je potrebno stotine volontera za izgradnju, a skulptura je kulminirala izvođenjem Žar ptice od Stravinskog sa orkestrom od 100 članova i baletom koji su nastupali oko skulpture. Bilo je to iskustvo koje nikada neću zaboraviti.

Na kojim umetničkim delima danas radite i kako ste bili uključeni u uspon NFT umetničkih dela i blockchain tehnologije?

- Od kada sam počela da studiram 3D dizajn na RISD, stvorila sam strast prema digitalnoj umetnosti. Tek nedavno, sa blokčejn tehnologijom, došlo je do talasa zamaha ka finansijskoj podršci 3D umetnicima. Pored izgradnje velikih fizičkih skulptura, radila sam na NFT umetničkim delima i sarađivala sa drugim umetnicima na NFT projektima. Neke instalacije uključuju AI i 3D štampanje, a druge fotografije i slikanje. Tema moje umetnosti je fokusirana na trenutak postajanja, odbacivanja identiteta i transformacije, tako da mi je i mešanje medija izvor inspiracije.

Šta biste savetovali drugim osnivačima i umetnicima koji tek počinju?

Pronađite zajednicu! Bilo da se radi o umetnosti ili tehnologiji, ključno je pronaći zajednicu za podršku i inspiraciju. Pronašla sam i umetničke i tehnološke zajednice u San Francisku i pronašla duboku i živahnu umetničku zajednicu dok sam živela u Los Anđelesu. Preseljenje u Portoriko tokom pandemije i nepoznavanje španskog zahtevalo je prilagođavanje, ali postoji rastuća DeFi i kripto zajednica u Portoriku i na Bahamima. Za samo nekoliko meseci, postaviću svoje skulpture javno u blizini našeg doma u Portoriku i na Bahamima. Jedva čekam da ih vidim izvan metaverzuma i u stvarnom svetu. 

Kako mislite da će blockchain tehnologija uticati na obrazovanje i umetnost u narednoj deceniji?

- Obrazovanje će biti još dostupnije svima. Sve više studenata studiraće online, a univerziteti i studenti će biti akreditovani na blokčejnu. Demokratizacija u načinu i pristupu svemu, ono je što me je oduvek fasciniralo kod kripto i sličnih projekata. Verujem da u narednoj deceniji neće više biti prestižne institucije, već edukatori, sadržaj koji se predaje. I oblasti studiranja postaće fluidnije, sa studentima koji će plivati između raznih medija, bez pristiska da moraju da se ograniče na neki kurs i slično. 

Osim NFT umetničkih dela, kako ste uključeni u Veb3 i blockchain tehnologiju?

- Moj muž, Aleks Mehr, i ja, osnovali smo Mehr Capital. Mi kupujemo, investiramo i gradimo blockchain. Upoznala sam Aleksa u San Francisku 2015. godine, zahvaljujući svom startapu, i tada me je prvi put uveo u projekte koji se zasnivaju na kriptovalutama, sa ICO i blokčejn tehnologijom. Trenutno ulažemo u mnogo stvari, od metaversa do DeFi projekata i blokčejn edukacije. U slobodno vreme Aleks predaje pro bono na poslovnoj školi u Portoriku, gde drži kurs o kriptovalutama i blokčejnu. Ved3 i DeFi su projekti koji promovišu novi pristup osnovnim ljudskim pravima širom sveta. Ved3.com će omogućiti parovima da ostvaruju pametne ugovore. Zajedno sa Mehr Capitalovim inženjerom pametnih ugovora gradimo Estait.com: veći projekat koji obuhvata lak pristup fondovima, testamentima i imanjima za sledeću generaciju.

Ove godine ste se venčali. Kako ste izabrali Sent Bart za lokaciju i koja je bila tema venčanja?

- Sent Bart je bio savršena lokacija za nas jer se nalazi blizu našeg novog doma u Portoriku. Sent Bart je jedno od naših omiljenih mesta za odmor i slavlja sa prijateljima i porodicom. Na temu Dieuk de la Mer, tri večeri zaredom imali smo žurke širom francuskog ostrva. Vikend je počeo našom ceremonijom venčanja u anglikanskoj crkvi Vartolomeja, nakon čega je usledila bela zabava, Bienvenue en Blanc u Petit Plageu. Sledeće noći imali smo ružičastu večeru na plaži, a vikend smo zatvorili žurkom u džungli Tamarina ispunjenom cvetovima i plesom.

Nedavno ste postali majka, recite nam o tom procesu i kako ste postali majka i nastavili da radite i stvarate umetnost?

- Biti majka je najveći kreativni čin! Probudila sam neverovatnu kreativnu energiju dok sam bila trudna, posebno u trećem trimestru. Nakon što se Ema rodila, pauzirala sam sve poslove prvih šest meseci, jer je majčinstvo zahtevalo sav moj fokus i ljubav. Nedavno sam počela da sarađujem sa drugim umetnicima na stvaranju NFT-a i umetničkih dela velikih razmera. Moja najnovija instalacija je unutrašnje osvetljena čelična skulptura pod nazivom Talasa ili na grčkom Thalassa što znači more. 

Suki, opišite sebe u tri reči.

- Nadahnuta. Velikodušna. Eterična.

Kako ste definisali svoj osećaj za stil kao umetnica i poslovna žena?

- Radeći sa svojom neverovatnom stilistkinjom Whitney Olschwanger, počela sam da uviđam da je moda zapravo umetnost. Kroz odeću nastavljam da izražavam svoj jedinstven osećaj za stil, koji trenutno postaje malo moderniji, a uvek tragam za smelim bojama, teksturama i oblicima odeće i aksesoara. Dopada mi se da razmišljam o uklapanju ključnih komada u svakodnevno odevanje kad sam kod kuće na Karibima ili dok putujem po Evropi i Americi.  Uz komade koje mogu da nosim u različitim klimatskim uslovima i u svim sezonama, učim kako da se bavim modom na održiv način. Dugačak šareni Chanel džemper može biti divno stilizovan uz crni jednodelni kupaći kostim u Sent Bartu ili uz pantalone i gornji deo korseta za radni sastanak u Dalasu. Whitney i ja se toliko zabavljamo dok putujemo zajedno i pronalazimo lokalne brendove u svakom gradu u kojem se nalazimo. Kao umetnica, znam koliko je važno podržavati manje brendove. Obožavam da mešam lokalne brendove i klasične dizajnerske komade, tako razvijam svoj stil.

Da li se drugačije oblačite sada kao mama?

- Sada više razmišljam o održivosti, privlače me komadi koji su bezvremenski i lepo izrađeni – komadi za koje znam da ću jednog dana pokloniti svojoj ćerki. Volim da vidim njenu reakciju kada me vidi u novim komadima, posebno u neverovatnim komadima dizajnerke Victorije Grant, koji su umetnička dela po meri. Nikada neću zaboraviti da je Ema sa strahopoštovanjem gledala u mene, kroz veo sa svarovski kristalima koji je Victorija napravila za moju prvu svadbenu noć. Sve moje deveruše nosile su njene kreacije i to je na neki način postavilo ceo umetnički ton večeri. Susret sa drugim dizajnerima i stilistima me inspiriše kao umetnicu, a eksternalizacija mog kreativnog duha kroz modu hrani dušu.

Skulptura Talassa Suki Mehr na Bahamima

U kojim modnim komadima trenutno uživate?

- Trenutno nosim La Pointe tirkiznu midi kožnu suknju, uz odgovarajucu  tirkiznu dolčevitu i skraćeni crni Saint Laurent blejzer, koji ima neverovatan oblik sa zaobljenim rubovima i detaljima u obliku srca od hroma. To su komadi u kojima sam ja zaista ja.

Tim: 

Fotograf: Kamelija Menard

Stilista: Vhitnei Olschvanger

PR: Mariia Borovenska 

Haljine: RTV i couture haljine britanske modne kuće Ralph and Russo (kupio REV 2020.)

English here: 

Interdisciplinary artist and tech founder, Suki Mehr creates tirelessly. She is interested in everything related to new technologies, and also find inspiration in nature, so it is not surprising that her unusual, organic sculptures can be seen at festivals like Burning Man.

Since she became a mother, she is increasingly gentle in her work and even more creative. From intricate  jewelry design to large scale sculptures, she is a passionate and profilic industrial designer. She is the winner of numerous awards, educator, speaker, guest lecturer at UVA and Brown University. In an interview with Harper's BAZAAR, he reveals the secret of her success.

Suki, you are a strong, smart, and independent woman, focused on teaching women about art, 3D design and engineering, tell us how you got started.

My passion for visual art has always been a part of my identity. After studying at Brown University and then in graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design, I practiced many mediums but was always drawn to 3D modeling as my favorite. Sometimes I felt that I wasn’t physically using my hands as much as software and technology, but I found more freedom through 3D modeling programs. During an incubator at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School, I discovered that UVA’s mechanical engineering program was almost completely men, and I became curious about the ways engineering was typically taught. Most of the intro classes taught students how to make things like wrenches and autoparts. At RISD, the same programs had been taught to me from a much more creative perspective, encouraging artists to choose their own path in learning. I won a $25,000 grant from Darden and moved to San Francisco to focus on my education startup teaching kids, with a focus on girls, on 3D design and engineering.  At first I thought I had to decide between having a company or being an artist. Now I am working in both tech and as an artist. It took me a decade to see that I could do both. I can be whoever I want to be. 

What was your experience like in San Francisco and being a solo female founder?

Having a startup in San Francisco in 2015 was both rewarding and challenging. I went to every pitch event I could, and got many rejections from investors but didn’t give up. Some of my best friends today, are women in tech and inspiring female founders that I met while living in San Francisco. My first break came when Intel Capital led my seed round, and then I could hire my team of engineers, an 80% female team, with a female CTO, which at the time was very uncommon. We grew our company and helped kids all over the country learn programs like Solidworks and Autodesk programs, learning through online courses where they could 3D design and 3D print objects like iPhone cases, jewelry, toys and fashion. 

What companies did you work with and how did you form those relationships?

In addition to funding from educational institutions including NYU, Parsons and the University of Virginia, I focused on strategic partnerships with tech companies, 3D printing companies, 3D design companies. Apple, HP, and Autodesk were our big partners and opportunities. We were on an Apple TV show for app developers called, Planet of the Apps, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and will.i.am. The experience of filming the show brought our team to Los Angeles, and I moved there in 2018.  

When did you move from digital design to building large scale sculptures? 

While living in San Francisco, I went to Burning Man and was very inspired by the artwork. Each time I attended, I helped with build crews and learned the process of what it takes to create a large installation in a difficult environment like the desert. People sometimes think about Burning Man as a big party but many artists go there only to build and experience the artwork of the community. In 2018 I lost all of my belongings in the California wildfires and the experience inspired me to build an 80 foot wide steel and LED phoenix, Wing Portal. It took hundreds of volunteers to build and the sculpture culminated in a performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird with a 100 piece orchestra and ballet performing around the sculpture. It was an experience that I’ll never forget.

What artwork are you working on today and how have you been involved with the rise of NFT artwork and blockchain technology? 

Since first studying 3D design at RISD, I’ve always been passionate about digital art. But only recently with blockchain technology, has there been a wave of momentum towards supporting 3D artists financially. In addition to building large physical sculptures, I’ve been working on NFT artwork and collaborating with other artists on NFT projects. Some installations involve AI and 3D printing, and others photography and painting. The subject of my art is focused on the moment of becoming, shedding identity and transformation, so often mixing mediums is a source of inspiration to me.

What would be your advice to other founders and artists out there just getting started?

Find community! Whether it’s in art or tech, finding a community for support and inspiration is key. I found both art and tech communities in San Francisco, and found a deep and vibrant art community while living in Los Angeles. Moving to Puerto Rico during the pandemic and not speaking Spanish was an adjustment, but there is a growing DeFi and crypto community in Puerto Rico and Bahamas. In just a few months, I’ll be install my sculptures publicly near our home Puerto Rico and the Albany in the Bahamas. I can’t wait to see them outside of the metaverse and IRL. 

How do you think blockchain technology will affect education and art over the next decade?

Education has and will continue to become more easily accessible online. I think traditional education will be affected by technology, with more and more students studying online and universities and students being accredited on the blockchain.  The ethos of democratizing access has always been what’s fascinated me about crypto and other DeFi projects. Within the next decade I believe the prestige will be less about the institution itself, and the focus will be more on the proven quality of educators, influencers and content taught. Fields of study will be more fluid with students being trained in a multitude of mediums and technologies, not feeling that they must be confined to a narrow course of study.

Beyond NFT artwork, how are you involved in Web3 and blockchain technology? 

My husband, Alex Mehr and I founded Mehr Capital. We buy, invest and build on the blockchain. I met Alex in San Francisco back in 2015 through the startup ecosystem and that’s when I first learned about cryptocurrency projects, ICOs and blockchain technology. Currently we are investing in many verticals ranging from metaverse, DeFi projects, and blockchain education. In his spare time my husband, Alex Mehr, teaches pro bono at the Business School of Puerto Rico, teaching their first course on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies. The Web3 and DeFi projects I’m most excited about are ones that I’m personally working on, utilizing blockchain technology to promote access to basic human rights across the world. Wed3. com will allow couples to create smart contract unions, defined by the couple themselves rather than a government or sovereign nation. Together with Mehr Capital’s smart contract engineer, Matt Duffin, we’re building Estayt.com: a larger project encompassing easy access to trusts, wills and estates for the next generation. 

Congratulations on your wedding this year! How did you choose St. Barth’s as the location and what was the theme of the wedding?

St. Barth was the perfect location for us because it’s so close to our new home in Puerto Rico. We’ve been between The Albany in Bahamas and PR during the pandemic and discovered St. Barth as one of our favorite places to vacation and celebrate with friends and family. Themed ‘Dieux de la Mer’, we had three nights of parties across the French island. The weekend began with our wedding ceremony at Bartholomew’s Anglican Church followed by a white party, ‘Bienvenue en Blanc’ at Petit Plage. The following night we had a rose-tinted dinner on the beach at Gypsea and we closed the weekend with a party in the jungles of Tamarin filled with bioluminescent florals and dancing.

You recently became a mother, tell us about that process and how you’ve transitioned into being a mother and continue to work and make art?

Being a mother is the greatest creative act! I found incredible creative energy while I was pregnant, especially in the third trimester. After Emma was born I paused on art for the first six months, as being a new mother required all of my focus and love. Recently I’ve begun collaborating with other artists to create NFTs and large scale artwork. My newest steel installation is an internally illuminated steel sculpture titled  ‘Thalassa’ Greek: Θάλασσα, "sea” was the general word for 'sea' and for its divine female personification in Greek mythology. 

Suki describe yourself in 3 words.

Inspired. Generous. Ethereal.

How have you defined your sense of style as an artist and a business woman?

Working with my amazing stylist Whitney Olschwanger I have begun to see how fashion is as much a work of art as any other medium. Expressing my sense of style uniquely is something I’m continuing to cultivate. Currently my style’s transitioning into a more modern look, while always continuing to seek bold color, texture and shapes for both clothing and accessories. I’ve been finding how to style key items when I’m at home in the Caribbean or traveling in places like Europe, Aspen, or NYC. In adding to finding pieces that can transition to different climates and seasonalities, I’ve also been learning how to wear items sustainably. A long colorful Chanel sweater can be styled with a black one piece swim suit in St. Barth or with trousers and a corset top for a work meeting in Dallas. Me and my stylist Whitney have so much fun traveling together and constantly sourcing from local brands in whatever city we are in. As an artist I know how important it is to support smaller brands, and my looks evolve as we mix new local designers in with classic pieces. Being a mom now and thinking about sustainability, I find myself drawn to investment pieces that are timeless and beautifully crafted - pieces I know someday I’ll give to my daughter. I love to see her reaction when she sees me in new pieces, especially Victoria Grant’s incredible head pieces that are bespoke works of art. I’ll never forget Emma staring at me in awe, through a swarovski studded champagne length veil that Victoria made for my wedding night. All of my bridesmaids wore her creations and it set a tone of artistic expression throughout the weekend. Meeting other designers and stylists like Victoria and Whitney inspires me as an artist and externalizing my creative spirit through fashion feeds my soul. My current go-to looks are my La Pointe teal midi leather skirt and matching teal turtleneck and my Saint Laurent cropped black blazer - it has this amazing shape with scalloped edge work and chrome heart detailing. Pieces that truly feel me. 

Team: 

Photographer: Camellia Menard

Stylist: Whitney Olschwanger

PR: Mariia Borovenska 

Dresses: RTW and couture gowns by British fashion house Ralph and Russo (acquired by REV in 2020)

 

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