Anne Spalter: The Wonder of It All

March 12 - June 12, 2022

It’s not that often that a technological innovation causes as much excitement or controversy in the art world as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). An NFT is a cryptocurrency token with associated information that can include connections to art images as well as artist and collector information. Because such tokens are stored redundantly on many computers throughout the world, in databases known as blockchains, they provide a theoretically permanent and easy way to access records of ownership and sales. 

Although digital art is not new, and neither are the ideas of certificates of authenticity or online commerce, in NFTs these forces have merged into a powerful juggernaut. In addition to the technical features, NFTs are one of the only products that one can currently buy with cryptocurrency, which explains at least in part the vast sums of money flowing into the space.

As happened with early computer art, the NFT concept has sparked wildy emotional responses from artists, collectors, and the media. Whether heralded as a beneficial disintermediation of the traditional art world or denigrated as vehicles of worthless content posing as art, NFTs have inspired everything from hope and joy to unfettered greed and a surprising level of hatred. They may be the future of art, a passing moment, or something in between, but there is no question this new marketplace highlights chronic problems in the traditional art world and has offered a venue for creative expression to countless people who might otherwise not have made or collected art works. 


In The Wonder of It All, I bring my long-standing themes of travel, exploration, outer space, and the unconscious mind to the creation of NFTs. In addition to the use of this new technology for displaying, recording, and collecting, I am also engaged in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to generate novel types of compositions and motion-based sequences.

The integration of these technologies led to a particularly fun process for creating and displaying pieces. Although I began by using an AI process based on changes to sets of supplied images, for the works here I used an even newer and more entertaining method colloquially called text-to-image. For this, one literally types in a phrase and receives back a picture. It sounds magical and indeed it is. Visual narratives were guided by varying elements of the textual prompts and motion parameters in a custom AI pipeline created by Todd Dailey.

Although the essential content and themes of my work have been consistent over several decades, new technologies such as NFTs and AI are enabling me to investigate ideas in ways that would not have been possible with traditional media or even with previous digital tools.

— Anne Spalter

Digital mixed-media artist Anne Spalter is an academic pioneer who founded the original digital fine arts courses at Brown University and The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in the 1990s and authored the internationally taught textbook The Computer in the Visual Arts (Addison-Wesley, 1999). Spalter’s work is in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK), the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY), the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (Providence, RI), The Museum of CryptoArt, and others. Alongside her studio practice, Spalter continues to lecture on digital art practice and theory. 



April 28, Thursday, 7 p.m. — Spaceships and Art: A Match Made in the Imagination
May 2, Monday, 7 p.m. — Pay No Attention to the Artist Behind the Curtain: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Artificial Intelligence and NFTs
May 14, Saturday, 5 p.m. — Celebration of Spring Exhibits


Video: An Introduction to NFT Art
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