If you’ve been living with an unvaccinated toddler in the chilly northern climes during the pandemic, as I have, you probably haven’t had tropical drinks at a bar with friends in a while. Never fear, you can always escape to the metaverse and live the (meta)reality of your dreams!
The NFT artwork Escapism — Friends, 2021, by Istanbul-born, London-based digital artist Bella aka Piano and the Fox, depicts three bubbly, bouncing bears sitting around a table together, sipping from cups through straws. Eyes half closed, they look happy, relaxed, drunk. Tropical plants wave lazily behind them, and a cat bartender dances in a circle as a beachball rolls back and forth on the bar. The whole scene appears to be constructed from inflatable pool toys or candy-coated marshmallows — all in bold, au currant tertiary hues.
It’s a fantasy of what we hope for tomorrow (and how we remember yesterday) — people gathering in public without fear of getting sick. “With or without the pandemic, friends are very important for our mental health and well-being,” Bella tells The Study. “Partners and families are important, too, but the place of friends is always different.”
If the piece looks Pixar-grade impeccable, it’s not surprising. Although she minted her first NFT only one year ago, Bella has created animations professionally for a roster of big-name advertising clients. “I pretty much use the same skill set for my commercial work as I do in my art,” she says. “So, I guess that is why my work could feel a bit polished.”
Escapism — Friends is one of a trio of animated NFTs that the artist has produced for 1stDibs. The group also includes Escapism — Gym, showing a chubby yellow bear shakily lifting weights, and Escapism — Work, in which a cigar-chomping raccoon kicks back while “working” on a super-fun production line. The last two pieces, she explains, “are related to my other ways of coping. Exercising at the gym is a great way to release those happy hormones. And my job is another way for me to cope with stress.”
Escapism — Friends, on the other hand, was created as a kind of public service artwork. “After a certain age, getting new friends gets more challenging,” says Bella, who is 32. “I am not gonna lie. I suffer from this a lot and am trying to work on it. I realized I am not the only person struggling with this, so the piece gave me something to do about it, because lots of people are living the same problem.”