Petra Cortright, born 1986, is an American artist whose practice revolves around creating and manipulating digital files. From a series of self-portrait videos on Youtube to mesmerizing digital paintings, she explores what art can do in the post-internet age. Cortright’s work has been widely exhibited including Société, 1301PE, Carl Kostyál, Whitechapel Gallery, Frieze London, the 12th Biennale de Lyon, the Venice Biennale, New Museum and her work appears in the collections of MoMA, LACMA, Hammer Museum, Moderna Museet, Stedelijk Museum and MOCA and others.
Cortright recently created her first solo NFT work, minted on March 8 in exclusive partnership with Verisart and SuperRare as part of 10×10: 10 inaugural NFTs by 10 major contemporary artists over 10 weeks.
Since 2010, Cortright has developed a method for painting digitally in Photoshop where each brushstroke is on its own layer. Her NFT for 10 x 10, PC_Flower_Vase 001, originates from Seven on Seven, a 2018 project for Rhizome and the New Museum for which she collaborated with Carl Tashian, an engineer and entrepreneur.
The inspiration for the project stemmed from a visit Tashian made to Cortright’s studio. Petra explained, “Any time I do a studio visit with someone, I always walk them through the build of the file…I’m a big believer in not keeping art a mysterious thing that people are not supposed to understand. I can make my work accessible by revealing the process.” Her NFT does just that.
Influenced by Cortright’s process, Tashian wrote a Photoshop script which cycles through the many layers of the painting, toggling their visibility on and off and revealing the framework of brushstrokes. Cortright describes it as “a sped-up version of what the process of painting looks like in my brain”.
‘Born to make NFTs’
When asked to comment on her first NFT drop, Cortright said “I was born to make NFTs”. Her statement captures an important truth: for digital-native artists, NFTs simply provide a new format for their work. The artist has welcomed the increasing acceptance of the digital workflow and creating an NFT felt like an extension of her practice. She explains: “My workflow is almost set up as an NFT anyway”.
“I love making physical things but the core of the work has always been purely digital. I’ve been for years trying to figure out how to translate the work physically so the way that I work just completely slots in effortlessly and naturally into the [NFT] format”.
Petra Cortright’s inaugural NFT is certified by Verisart, an award-winning blockchain certification platform. Designed to empower artists to tell the story of their work, the digital certificates include additional images, videos and documents. Cortright’s certificate includes an exclusive collector reward, accessible only to the owner of the certificate. For collectors, Verisart’s patent-pending Certificates of Authenticity (COA) form an integral part of collecting NFTs. They provide confidence in the identity of the artist and the verified history of the artwork.
A Digital Brain
Creating work that feels natural is important to the artist who believes in doing “what feels effortless and natural.” Working digitally suits Cortright who explains, “I have a digital brain. If I make a mistake, I need to be able to, with a flick of my wrist, delete it. If I do something good, I want to save every version of it for the rest of eternity in a thousand different formats…I want to be able to endlessly copy it, use it again and know how I do it… Working this way you can change your direction and the course of what the piece looks like so quickly, you can change the background, the color palette, everything is just endlessly flexible.”
Cortright plays with this endless flexibility of working digitally. “One of my favorite ways of using any software is in the way that it should not be used, it’s the most interesting way to deal with tech and social media,” she shares, “I’m very tongue-in-cheek in the way that I use technology and the way that I interact with it”. Her technique of painting in hundreds of superimposed layers in Photoshop is certainly a departure from what might typically be expected from a photo-editing software.
Digital meets Classical
Cortright’s practice centers around landscapes, portraits and still lifes. “I’m working with contemporary tools but very classical, simple ideas about the subject matter and I’m fine with that”, she says. Cortright wants to create work that is accessible and sincere. “I think it is very honorable just to pursue beauty,” she states, “I’m concerned with having a practice that is long-term and I would like to make timeless works rather than topical works.”
Bidding on SuperRare for Petra Cortright’s inaugural NFT, PC_Flower_Vase 001 closes at 1pm EST on March 11. Check out the artwork listing here.
About the Artist
PETRA CORTRIGHT (b. 1986, Santa Barbara, CA) is a contemporary artist whose practice stems from creating and manipulating digital files. Cortright’s work exists in many forms — printed physically onto substrates, projected onto existing architecture or remaining in the digital realm. A notable member of the ‘Post Internet’ movement of the mid-to-late-2000s with YouTube videos and online exhibitions, Cortright later began to laboriously paint digitally by creating layer upon layer of manipulated images in Photoshop. Cortright has been producing work natively online since 2002. Her work is in permanent collections at MoMA (New York), Pérez Museum (Miami), LACMA, Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Moderna Museet (Stockholm), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), MCA Chicago, Kadist Foundation (San Francisco), BAMPFA (Berkeley), San Jose Museum of Art (San Jose), Rhizome’s Net Art Anthology, and MOCA (Los Angeles).