Against the gallery walls of animated, flashing, Bitcoin-blasted art and imagery that make up today’s NFT space is a soft, subtly colored image with white copy overlaid: “Kylo Ren + the Divine Feminine,” a 24-part poem that updates autonomously every hour in a 24-hour cycle, by Ana Maria Caballero.
Today, she finds herself in a unique position as an artist: She’s a writer and a poet — and a well decorated one — a Latina woman, a wife, and a working mother. And her piece, “Kylo Ren + the Divine Feminine” is similarly unique, telling the story of her character’s thoughts as she moves through her day, in quiet conversation with her own internal dialogue.
Caballero’s work, this piece included, speaks to a comforting and relatable experience of being a woman. “Much of my work is about ripping the veil off of romanticized motherhood. It questions the idea that female sacrifice is a virtue.”
She continues: “A lot of my work seeks to give voice to the female of the home — her burdens, especially in the mundane, in child rearing. It’s important to give voice to that thought-train in our heads that we think isn’t important, but is. [my Async work] is a woman’s quiet, intimate thoughts, put on paper, and given value and merit. Life happens inside our heads.”
Caballero’s been writing since she can remember. She recalls scribbling on the back of her school notebooks — mostly poetry. Around 12 years old, in the 7th grade, she knew she wanted to be a writer, appreciating the “private experience” that it often is to be a literary artist. Though most of her work she kept to herself, she took a writing workshop in high school — and then slipped poems into her Harvard application, almost on a whim. She was accepted.
She explains that she never envisioned her life as an author, but was encouraged in her craft from an early age. “My mom is a working woman and daughter of the 70s [believing] a woman’s independence is financial.”
Around the age of 27, Caballero had her son, and for the first time, had the creative space to edit and curate her collection. Shortly after, her father fell ill, so she moved to Colombia and wrote her first poetry book in Spanish — and became the first woman to win the José Manuel Arango National Poetry Prize.
Caballero has always found poetry to be home: a place of solitude, self-reflection, and processing. When her son started having seizures, she started writing about the experience, turning it into an experimental nonfiction manuscript titled: A Petit Mal (“A Little Bad”), which won the Beverly International Award in the UK and set her up as a finalist for three awards in the U.S. for independent prizes.
Of her artistry, Caballero explains: “It’s purpose. It’s escape...it's solace. I usually write in the midst of a problem. It’s where I go to be honest. I also value very straightforward verse. I love the symbolic, but I love the poems that just say ‘this is it.’” She quotes Louise Glück: “‘Opacity is fear.’ When we try to cover up what we’re feeling, it’s because we’re afraid of saying it.”
“The spark of a poem is very important to capture in the moment — while it’s ‘still hot.’ The heat of inspiration doesn’t photocopy. Even if you’re just writing gibberish, that spark survives. You can’t focus on the new; you have to make room for it. Kylo Ren was inspired by my desire to question the cost of redemption--the Kylo Ren of the film is very much a Jesus figure--but presented in a reduction of scale for the privacy of a home. I like poems to be personal.”
Interestingly, she’d abandoned the piece until she saw Async’s 24-Hour Canvas template, allowing creators to leverage a framework of programmability that updates each hour in a 24-hour cycle.
“Kylo Ren was already fragmented — bouncing in time, because that's how our minds work. It follows the linearity of time, but the speaker’s mind — the framework — drifts. The story moves throughout the day, but her mind is all over. [Regarding the visual assets] I wanted the sky to change, but to be a very grey day. The visuals of having that sky depict time and an overcast sky are almost claustrophobic with the text, together they feel like a tangible, contained place.”
The 24-part poem speaks to a woman’s experience as a wife, a mother, and a creator — something we don’t see much of in NFTs in 2021. As a woman and an artist, “It’s challenging. It’s a male-dominated space; the voices of the males are louder, and I’m trying to find those female leaders, and there aren’t a lot. On social media, there might be 8 male speakers to the 1 female, for example. Leadership is happening from a male perspective. It’s a challenge to be heard as a female, especially with a strong, male-dominated collector base. My feminine energy struggles in these testosterone-fueled spaces.”
Caballero and her work, “Kylo Ren + the Divine Feminine,” push up against a multitude of barriers today, championing writers (especially poets) in NFTs, programmable art in the form of literature, and — of course — the women in this space, and otherwise, that carry weight and value, even in the quiet mundane of day-to-day living. These voices, explains Caballero, deserve to be heard, too.
Bid on “Kylo Ren + the Divine Feminine” here via Async Art.