justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog

interview with justin aversano on ‘Smoke and Mirrors’

 

In ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, Los Angeles-based photographer and artist Justin Aversano creates his own version of the tarot deck through a mixed-media approach that bridges the digital and analog worlds. Since 2018, Aversano has photographed 78 sets of artists, astrologers, psychics, and other forms of mystics from all around the world, each representing a unique tarot card in his polaroid deck. ‘It’s people that were in my life, who I connected to, who I looked up to, who I wanted to connect to – this project allowed me to make those connections through art,’ he tells designboom.

 

After capturing each person’s black-and-white portrait, Aversano converts the photograph into a silkscreen printed on papyrus paper sourced from Egypt, which he then photographs anew and turns into an NFT. ‘I call them tarot scrolls because they’re silkscreens on papyrus, and it’s a way to bridge the ancient paper with contemporary printing processes and then put it on the blockchain,’ he explains. ‘It works with the past, the present, and the future, and it plays with time in how it is conceived and executed.’ 

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
all images © Justin Aversano

 

 

confronting death through art

 

As in earlier projects, Justin Aversano’s ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ addresses a theme that is equally universal and personal to the artist: death. ‘All of my projects have this element of death,’ he says during our interview. ‘If you look at the birthday project, it’s in honor of my mom while she was still alive and going through chemo, and how to celebrate life and cherish every day and everyone in it. ‘Cognition’ started after my mom passed away, shortly after the birthday project, and it was to pick up the pieces of myself that were fragmented – collage is the best way to do that. And then I started Twin Flames two years after, and that was more to honor my twin who passed away before we were born. Smoke and Mirrors is for my father, and it’s about confronting death before it happens and its inevitability. He’s still alive, but he tells me every day that he’s going to die soon. I want to confront that feeling and not have to heal from it after and actually confront it with him, together.’

 

For Aversano, what ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ comes out of is the storyline, the journey, and where death brings you or allows you to relive a whole new life. Through this project, he has been able to talk about death more, understand it and not be afraid of it. His father’s photograph, the Death card, depicts him standing at the grave of Aversano’s mother, next to a tombstone that bears his own last name too.‘The most important thing is love and the time you spend with a person. That is the real gift of death before it happens. Once you feel like it’s going to happen, all you can do is spend time with them. There’s no other way, it’s going to happen to all of us. A lot of people connect with me through my art. Parents passing, or someone in their life passing. Death connects us all because we all experience it.’

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
the Death card

 

 

FROM POLAROIDS TO SILKSCREENS anD NFTS

 

For each of the 78 portrait photographs, Aversano makes a black and white version and then prints it as a silkscreen. ‘Silkscreening feels like what it feels like to be inside of a camera,’ he explains. ‘When you are exposing the paper it’s like you’re exposing the film, and when you’re pushing the squeegee it’s like pushing the shutter. I like to talk about how silk screening actually feels like a photographic process, where the screen is the mirror and the light is the ink.’ Each of the silkscreens is printed in paper sourced from Egypt. ‘It’s really activated by the ancestors, and I like to say that this project is for the ancestors, for our parents. That’s really what this project is for, how do you show your life to your family. And for me it’s through my art, through the lens and how I see the world and how I want to connect with people. Art is the best excuse to create and connect with other people.’

 

Aversano also draws a parallel between the project and Egyptian hieroglyphs. ‘In a way, we are creating new hieroglyphs, or neoglyphs,’ he notes. ‘In ancient times, they painted glyphs of everyday life things, and I wondered what would hieroglyphs look like now? For me, photography is the best way to communicate that because it is imagery of reality. The papyrus also lends itself so well to the idea of the tarot concept and to how ancient the stories are, and humanity itself. I want to connect our ancient selves and work with the blockchain, connect those two worlds, the old and the new, the analog and the digital. Not only with the final NFTs, but in the process as well.’

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
King of Coins

 

 

‘SMOKE AND MIRRORS’ EXHIBITED IN LOS ANGELES AND BERLIN

 

After four years in the making, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ will be exhibited from March 25 to April 8, 2023, at Gabba Gallery in Los Angeles, and then from April 25 to May 14 at EXPANDED.ART in Berlin. The project’s 78 pieces will be on view, alongside a book that comes with a tarot deck of polaroids. ‘It’s my own version of tarot, so the book features all the photos in it and refers to the cards they represent,’ Aversano says. ‘So when you do readings, the book shows you what the cards mean.’

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
black and white version of King of Coins

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
Nine of Swords

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
Nine of Staffs

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
Silkscreen print of Nine of Staffs

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
Ten of Cups

justin-aversano-interview-smoke-and-mirrors-photography-nft-tarot-designboom-large

Knight of Cups

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
Seven of Staffs

justin aversano on 'smoke and mirrors', his silkscreen tarot series bridging digital and analog
King of Swords

justin-aversano-interview-smoke-and-mirrors-photography-nft-tarot-designboom-large2

Queen of Staffs

 

1/4
Page of Staffs
Page of Staffs
Three of Swords
Three of Swords
Six of Staffs
Six of Staffs
Four of Coins
Four of Coins

project info:

 

name: Smoke and Mirrors

artist: Justin Aversano

 

SMOKE & MIRRORS exhibition

dates: March 25 – April 8, 2023

location: Gabba Gallery, Los Angeles

 

RAUCH UND SPIEGEL exhibition

dates: April 25 – May 14, 2023

location: EXPANDED.ART, Berlin

 

Los Angeles-based Justin Aversano is the co-founder and CEO of Quantum Art, a platform focused on curating digital culture through NFTs. He is also the co-founder and creative director of SaveArtSpace, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing community art to public spaces. A humanist and social entrepreneur, Aversano connects his art with the world around him by capturing moments, faces, and communities that surround him and bringing them together through the lens of his camera. In February 2023, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) accepted one of Justin Aversano’s Twin Flames NFTs to their permanent collection as part of Cozomo de’ Medici’s donation to the museum.

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