When you discover your passion as an adolescent, it often becomes something that never leaves you, regardless of where life takes you. From painting and making digital art to now recently creating non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Lana Denina has yet to shake off her adoration for art.
Since she took her craft to a professional level at age 19, she has continued to find ways to bring Black representation into the space. Inspired by tribes around the globe and their features, Denina is all about showcasing their beauty in a field where for ages its mainstream art has been centered on European standards.
“When I was young, I was telling myself that I wanted to be an artist. And I wasn’t seeing like a lot of Black artists in museums and art galleries,” Denina told AfroTech. “Growing up when I was exposed to a lot of art, I was living in France and it was really mainly white male French painters. I didn’t feel like it was representative enough of what art can be. So, that’s why I want to paint a lot of people who look like me — so other people can see themselves in art as well.”
Finding Success In NFTs
Denina’s mission of representing the Black community — especially Black women — has translated into her artwork, including the Mona Lana Collection, one of her most popular to date.
As previously reported by AfroTech, the NFT collection of 500 pieces sold out within weeks. Plus, she brought in over $300,000 within 10 months solely selling NFTs, as of that writing.
Being both a newbie and a Black woman in the NFT community, Denina was shocked at how things took off. However, her garnering success early on is an example of what it looks like when artists take a chance despite initial doubts.
“I was really anxious at the beginning, but the more I was making the project the more excited I got,” she admitted. “It was kind of like a surprise to me when I saw all of Mona Lana that I created because I did the traits and I did some examples of what they could look like, but I didn’t see the results. So, I saw at the same time as everyone did.”
She continued: “It was really fun to really use tech in my art and also find ways to build the community. It was also something I had never done before because I wasn’t just dropping one piece of art. I was creating a community of people that will own a piece of mine. It was kind of stressful, but at the same time it was really super nice to do.”
Symbiosis Collection & Upcoming Work
Having a fruitful 2021 sprouted into this year after releasing her following project, Symbiosis. The impact of COVID-19 caused her to push its launch date back by two years. However, the delay actually worked out in her favor by turning the initial idea of a physical exhibition to minting her painting for an even wider outreach, as well as on her own terms.
Denina shared with AfroTech that Symbiosis was sparked by her parents’ relationship. Watching how her mother, who is from Benin, and her father, who is from France, it was one of her first experiences of seeing how they beautifully fused together in spite of their differences both appearance and personality-wise — tying into the definition of her project’s title.
“I was raised by two really amazing parents and they are my model of love. I wanted to create a whole collection to celebrate love and celebrate when you find your soulmate. Symbiosis is all kinds of couples. Two women, two men, one man, one woman and non binary. It’s really like a diversity of couples that can exist.”
What’s more, the recent drop is just the beginning of what Denina has in store for 2022. The promising young artist revealed that she currently has a new collection in the works that “will be a really immersive experience.”
Lana Denina's Advice For Black Artists Looking To Join The NFT Community:
“I would tell people to really research about blockchain, cryptocurrency, cyber security, and then about NFTs because if you don’t know everything behind NFTs, you will be really clueless. It’s a whole new technology from a whole new order of technology. It’s really important to be educated on Web3 and security as well because when I started NFTs it wasn’t as popular and it was more secure I would say. But now whenever you want to create and engage with people, you need to be really careful because it’s the Internet and it’s all decentralized.”
“You need to be educated on everything before creating anything or putting your money into anything. The more you learn about it, the more you will find ways to innovate into the space.”
Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.