The Fort Worth Sunflower Man uses any means he can to display his art to the public.
The artist, real name Matthew Miller, is a 33-year-old fashion illustrator and recent Cowtown transplant. He moved to Fort Worth four years ago.
But like many other artists today, he uses everything from social media to folk art to NFT to clothing to make a name for himself in a highly competitive media landscape where alternative entertainment streams are just a click away.
Miller’s new public art work, “Fashion World,” is a multimedia exhibit on display in front of the former H&M store at 3rd and Commercial streets. “Fashion World” combines the artist’s interest in fashion and technology with a unique Fort Worth style. It also combines the old with the new – physical art with digital art.
On the second story of the front of the building, Miller used LED lights in vinyl to make winged longhorns dance in the windows, while the faux-neon lights flashed to evoke the illusion of movement.
At ground level, the backdrop in the store window glows like an eternal sunset. Watercolor paintings hang side by side, each depicting two floating figures reaching for each other. A denim jacket, hand-painted by the artist and marked “Fashion World” hangs on display.
A screen next to the physical pictures It connects viewers to the artist’s digital storefront, where one can purchase the exhibit’s art with non-perishable tokens (NFTs).
NFTs are proof that someone owns a digital, unique image or video. NFTs are bought, sold, and used. A more in-depth explanation of the NFT phenomenon can be found here.
Like any other asset, NFTs carry a value, which can go up or down based on the market. So, why do such a project right nowwhen the NFTs and cryptocurrency market is in free fall?
“It’s a terrible answer [but] Why not now?” Miller said.
“We have a big risk, but the technology has affected the majority of society. I think so. . . crypto and NFTs. . . It is crazy that they do not affect our lives. So not trying to understand seems like a poor plan. We are still in the public awareness of what blockchain technologies can do for us.
Like cryptocurrencies, NFTs have been criticized for the amount of power they require. Ethereum, the most popular cryptocurrency/blockchain for NFTs, is notorious for the high amount of energy it takes to complete a transaction.
Miller wanted to address that concern with a line of NFTs.
“The fear of excessive use of power affects everything in society, and the exacerbation of blockchain technologies is a serious concern.” “That’s why I’m moving away from Ethereum.”
NFTs for “Fashion World” run on the Tezos blockchain, which “by some estimates uses 99.9 percent less energy to run the programs,” Miller said.
Many artists see NFTs as an easy money grab and another way for their work to accumulate value for the uber-rich.
“It’s not unlike the real world of art today, where artists set up galleries that buy their work at inflated prices to increase the value of their work.
“It’s similar to the real world system we have now. It is now available on the internet and done with new money instead of old money.
As much as I despise some practices in the modern art world, I still love art. I still make it and try to make my own living. There is value in art beyond the obnoxious accumulated value that people try to use their own wealth and taxes.
Miller’s true passion for art shows in all of his projects. He used his art to promote wearing masks during the pandemic. His mask-positive artwork was posted around Sundance Square.
He paints photo-realistic portraits commissioned by watch enthusiasts around the world. He has a strong Instagram presence, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the art process.
Miller is launching the Sunflowerman line of coffee beans for anyone with a deep appreciation for fine coffee. (His collection is intricately designed (Espresso cups from his travels around the world live in his studio in downtown Fort Worth.)
Keeping up with new technologies helps artists to pierce the public consciousness. While that has always been true, it can be a big challenge today. And not every artist should do this.
“Keeping abreast of developing technologies and cultural trends gives any artist the chance to have a long career, but the opportunities in art are vast,” said the artist following the interview, “there’s no way to do it.”
Ultimately, Miller is undaunted by the challenges facing today’s artists. He knows what is most important: art itself.
“First of all, I want it to be beautiful. The concept is for me.”