Artist Mieke Marple is committed to donating 25% of the proceeds from the Medusa Collection to fund alternative curriculums.
The Medusa Collection
, which was released today, isn’t Mieke Marple’s first NFT drop, but it is a drop with a higher cause -- to put aside what we know of the world’s most famous gorgon and re-examine the story of the woman behind the snakes. It is also an effort to raise money for TeachRock, an organization dedicated to providing alternative curriculums for use by educators that includes music and pop culture references meant to be more engaging and relatable for children.
TeachRock was founded by luminaries of music and show business including Stevie “Little Steven” Van Zandt, Bono, Jackson Browne, Martin Scorsese, and Bruce Springsteen. Marple is carrying over the same “rock n’ roll” energy of challenging assumptions in this drop. By making the donation through Endaoment, the first on-chain 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, they are able to make the donation tax-exempt -- though I do not believe that’s the case for purchasers of the NFTs. Endaoment states on its website
that it has already facilitated $10,797,101 in donations at the time of writing.
TeachRock is a free and open-source curriculum extension endorsed by the National Councils for Social Studies, Geographic Education, and Music Education, and is an official component of the New Jersey School Boards Association’s STEAM education program. It provides more than 300 educational resources and works directly to over 100 schools across five states.
"TeachRock works tirelessly to keep the arts in the DNA of the public school system,” said TeachRock founder Stevie Van Zandt. “Now we're using the arts to raise the money to pay for that work too. This NFT project encourages us to rethink the true story of a myth we all grew up with and funds a new curriculum that will share that story freely with teachers and students worldwide."
The Medusa Collection consists of 2,500 generative art NFTs based on Marple’s paintings of canonical Italian sculptures of Medusa, circa 1545 to 1805. The collection was inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which tells the story of Medusa having been raped by the god Poseidon and then turned into a monster by his wife, Athena, as punishment for being assaulted. The myth is often taught in schools without really examining who, by the standards of modern society, is really the monster in the story.
Maple took the time to give us some insights concerning her work as an artist, the message behind the art, and the experience of doing the NFT drop.
When did the project start?
“I started working on the Medusa NFT Collection at the end of August 2021. However, I started making IRL Medusa paintings—based on canonical Italian sculptures of Medusa—in the summer of 2019. These paintings were exhibited in my “Bad Feminist” solo show at Ever Gold Projects SF in November 2019,” Marple said.
Tell me about your journey -- how did you get involved with this TeachRock? When did you start working in NFTs?
“I made my first NFTs in February 2019. They were 1:1 digital twins of my IRL tarot paintings. They sold right away to an amazing collector, Jehan Chu, who is a partner at Kenetic Capital and a crypto advisor to Christie’s. Jehan invited me to participate in an eight-artist benefit NFT auction with Beeple, Refik Anadol, and other amazing artists for Open Earth this past March, just two weeks after Beeple’s $69M sale at Christie’s. So I’ve had a very charmed NFT journey, you could say.
I met Bill Carbone, the director at TeachRock, at a panel about Social Impact Organizations and NFTs. I told him about my 2019 Medusa paintings, which I made after learning that Medusa was actually a rape victim: she was raped by the god Poseidon and turned into a monster by his wife, the God Athena.
Bill told me that updating problematic school curricula (a.k.a. restorative history) and using the arts to increase engagement was at the heart of what TeachRock did. The Medusa Collection, which aims to reframe the Medusa myth on a global scale, was born from this conversation,” Marple said.
What have NFTs meant for you as an artist?
“Before I was a traditional artist, I was a traditional art dealer. I was co-owner of a successful contemporary art gallery called Night Gallery in LA. In other words, I came of age in the hoity-toity world of high-end art. For me, getting into NFTs means shattering all that the traditional art world indoctrinated within me. It means connecting directly with the buyers of my work, who are not just the 1% of the 1%, but are a diverse range of people from all over the world,” Marple said.
What can NFTs allow you to do that you couldn't do before?
“Scale. Scale. Scale. I could never make 2500 unique Medusa paintings IRL—and then somehow coordinate the shipping of those. Can you imagine? It would require a team of 100 people! Which is something only a mega-artist like Jeff Koon has. NFTs allow me to do something really ambitious with a relatively small heart-driven team. I can engage way more people, in way more places, than I ever could via an IRL gallery exhibition,” Marple said.
What is the scarcity structure of this project?
“There are ten different variables for each Medusa head, including head type, skin color, background, etc—some variable options appear 40% of the time, others 0.5% of the time. Fourteen of the 2500 are also hand-designed by me (i.e. not created by the algorithm). Four of those 14 have a very special Medusa head (based on a sculpture of Medusa from 1850 by an American woman) that does not appear anywhere else in the collection. There are also inverted Medusas and Medusas coupled with rare symbolic objects—roses, apples, pomegranates, etc.—inspired by Dutch still lifes,” Marple said.
Are there any utility tokens/other incentives/tokenomics?
“Yes! I am going to release a follow-up 2500 NFT generative project (that may or may not involve Pegasus) that all Medusa holders will get for free. Basically, you will have to own a Medusa to get my next generative NFT. I’m also doing giveaways of my IRL Medusa prints and paintings to random holders as we reach certain sales milestones. TeachRock is also giving away a signed Stevie Van Zandt guitar to a random holder when we sell out.
I’m also setting up a Shopify for people to buy Medusa NFTs via credit card. They will still need to set up a Metamask wallet. But I will do the minting for them and then transfer the Medusa NFT to their wallet. This is to help reduce some of the barriers to entry that discourage many women and marginalized groups from participating in NFTs,” Marple said.
What is the message to your community?
“I want to inspire in my community the same thing that they have inspired in me. Honestly, I cry when I think about it sometimes. But it is 100% my Medusa team and community that has helped me get through a lot of self-doubt and fear. They inspire me to put myself out there, be generous, take risks, and talk about difficult subjects. They help me believe in myself and I want to do the same for them. I want the Medusa Collection to help others harness their creative superpowers as well as the power of their own hearts,” Marple said.
What are your next steps after the drop?
“Keep doing fun, heartfelt events and contests with the community and start making the work for my next generative project! I’m also working on a body of IRL paintings for an exhibition with Ever Gold [Projects] in March 2022 on the David Zwirner backed Platform,” Marple said.
We need more drops like this in the NFT space -- it has vision and substance. As art, it has a message and a sense of intent that makes the work riveting, and it has a purpose, to raise money for an established non-profit. If other art NFT projects follow the creative model of this project, we can look forward to more interesting and engaging projects entering the space.
The Medusa project already has an ongoing life planned after launch -- TeachRock has committed to supporting the research and development of a Medusa Reconsidered unit within their World Mythology curriculum.
Cover art: Detail from Medusa from the Medusa Collection