The digital characters of Sasha Katz are all about tenderness and delicacy
Currently being featured in the exhibition Liminal Territories at pal project in Paris, we talk to Sasha Katz on what it means to create digital characters that resonate with her.
- Joey Levenson
- 2 November 2021
Years ago, the extent of online 3D avatars began and ended with the popular social website IMVU. They were glamorous, yet slightly unusual, renderings of ourselves. Slightly recognisable, but still out of reach. To look at Sasha Katz’s incredibly remarkable work recalls those same feelings: familiar, but strange. Her 3D renderings look just like us, they vibrate with a human-like texture, and yet nothing seems quite ordinary.
Born in Moscow and now based in Athens, Sasha began her artistic career in illustration – facets of which we can still see in her digital art today. “In my work, I entirely turn to the subject of female characters, their brazen tenderness and physical fragility,” Sasha tells It’s Nice That. It’s these qualities that lend themselves so well to Sasha’s craft. Every female character of hers looks slightly aloof, like a 3D object that can’t be touched.
For inspiration, Sasha looks at the women around her. “I adore the variety of shapes, proportions and skin textures,” she says. “I'm inspired by real women and unconventional beauty.” Often, she also constructs her 3D characters to be like herself, “wearing red lipstick, having stretch marks, and breasts which are affected by the gravity of the earth.” It harks back to the feeling of an avatar, one that deviates from realism but still maintains qualities that reflect reality. “I love to keep the distance between reality and stylisation,” Sasha explains. “It's very important for me that currently the standards of beauty are totally deconstructed and I’m happy to take part in this process and create my own standards of beauty.”
To come up with such incredibly creative (and quietly complex) ideas is an “infinite process” for the artist. “I constantly make notes on what to do next whilst working on several things simultaneously,” Sasha tells us. “I have favourite characters: my alter ego Habiba, Ju-Ju, Mimi and a bunch of cats.” Often, these characters interact with each other across Sasha’s portfolio or pose for their own portraits. “They are my feelings, thoughts and emotions,” she says. “I’m living with Borderline Personality Disorder, and my constant work is proof that I’m real and alive.” In her moment of honesty, Sasha adds a world of context behind the digital characters, giving them even more weight and impact than before.
“Mermaid Tears is a very special project for me,” Sasha says of her recent stand-out work. “It was inspired by a folktale about a mermaid who fell in love with a ship captain and was trapped in the bottom of the sea as a punishment for a forbidden love and her tears turned into pearls.” The piece, according to Sasha, touches on “empathy, sisterhood and compassion” as it unravels and reinterprets the folktale to focus on “feeling loved and accepted.” Using digital 3D art to adapt a classic folktale is just one of the things that separate Sasha from most digital artists working today. There is always a fresh idea bubbling away in Sasha’s mind.
Now, Sasha has funnelled her energies into using her art for direct change. With Too Young to Wed (TYTW), a charity organisation whose mission is to empower girls and end child marriage globally, Sasha has minted Mermaid Tears and put it on auction on Superrare. She will donate all the sales of the NFT to support TYTW. “TYTW focuses its programming in areas where child marriage is most egregious and underreported,” Sasha explains. “Besides the main mission, they are currently working to arrange the safe evacuation of high-risk female Afghan journalists, activists and their families.” In the meantime, Sasha continues to work on her solo exhibition concepts, along with collaborating with fellow 3D artist Kaan Ulgener for an exciting new project.
Sasha Katz: Heart Murmur (Copyright © Sasha Katz, 2021)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.