You can find everything on Instagram these days—Balenciaga rip-offs, blowjobs and 3D artist Bryant Nichols. But with his surrealist mix of nature and the human body, the Cincinnati-based artist stands out from the endless scroll. Using graphic design, film techniques and 3D manipulation, Nichols crafts high-tech renderings of the human experience, fusing reality with sci-fi elements to create his own Insta-friendly world. In his latest series, the artist explores the ways in which technology and apathy have clouded our existence. Whether it’s because we’re constantly buried face-deep in our cell phones, or because we’ve given up on a Trump-run world, Outgrown forces us to refocus on the present. Through layered stacks of crystals and coral, Nichols highlights the beauty in masses of details — not unlike his profile jumping out from all the rest. Is it kind of ironic for a digital artist to comment on the danger of social media? Maybe. But it’s also real. And it looks really cool.
BULLETT caught up with the artist to talk internet art, Instagram and changing perspectives. Read our interview and view Outgrown exclusively, below.
Tell me about Outgrown.
These images came from a technique I started doing, where I experiment with layering different materials on a form. This one sprouted off a series I’d done with rocks, but I really wanted to push this into the human form and explore the possibilities of showing how corruption would look on a human being, and how the growth of going through life—gaining different things, and people, and having them latch on to you, whether they’re good or bad impressions. That’s what I was going for—the human experience and how we change are different points in our lives.
What role has the internet played in shaping what you do?
The internet is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to artists like me. It’s really interesting where I’m at now, because I never thought I was going to be an artist. When I was growing up, I thought this stuff was stupid—I hated painting and I was so bad at it. But I was always a big computer person. So, finding a niche for my type of creativity that’s based in the culture I grew up around, like video games—I’m completely in debt to the internet.
If you hated art, how’d you get into it, then?
I was always into drawing, I guess—or I was always big into the doodling so I didn’t have to pay attention. But once I hit high school, I discovered I was super into graphic design—something about the organization of shapes and composition, and the emotions behind how you design a logo.
What do you get out of this medium that you don’t get out of others?
I think the power of this medium is, it has the ability to get a lot of different iterations on one particular piece. I mean, the amount of times I change the colors or change just the objects that are scattered all around the pieces I sent you—that would’ve taken months to do with any traditional medium. I can’t imagine trying to go back and change the colors of a painting after you’ve done everything and realize, ‘Oh man, I don’t like this at all.’ That’s the freedom of 3D—it lets you change your mind and really experiment with your process.
What themes do you explore in your work?
I don’t really inject too much of my personal life into my work—each piece isn’t some strong message I really need the world to understand. And since I do this every day, a lot of them are just aesthetic experiments for me. But I really like the viewer to be able to connect with my work in whatever way it resonates with them. For me, it’ll mean one thing, for you, another, and for someone else, something else entirely—I find that fascinating. It’s the best thing about art.
But I’ve noticed a lot of recurring imagery, like plant life and the human form. What draws you to those visuals?
A huge part of my work is about combining different perspectives—if there’s one underlying element, it’s just looking at things from different viewpoints and capturing beauty in things that most people might not even bother to look at. It’s been frustrating seeing how dissatisfied and apathetic the world has become. It might sound stupid, but everything really is so beautiful when you take a couple steps back and analyze things. I get caught up looking at really small details all the time. So that’s what I’m trying to do with my work—to make people not just look at things differently, but to look at the things they never would’ve noticed, in a million different ways.
So many artists are sharing their worst on Instagram now—I mean, that’s how I find you. Do you think Instagram is a good place for art?
Instagram has been hugely influential for artists, especially for artists that work on computers, like me. But it can also be dangerous in the wrong hands. I think there’s a real disconnect between people’s assumptions about how difficult this stuff is. Just because I take so much pleasure in doing it, doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. And just because it’s on Instagram doesn’t mean it’s not art.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
I just like putting the stuff out there, and whatever responses people give back to me, that’s cool. I mean, if you can inspire someone with your work, I guess that’s a pretty big deal. But I’m kind of just a make-a-whole-bunch-of-stuff-because-I-want-to dude. I really couldn’t care less if people hate it.