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Colborn Bell

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Date Minted:  April 10, 2021

Artist Description: Portraits drawn in my signature "one line" style to express the idea that we are all connected. If you would like to commission a portrait, please reach out to me via Twitter DMs.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

For me, the strangest thing is that, yes, these portraits actually look like the people they claim to portray! This is coming from someone with no artistic talent whatsoever, who looks at any kind of portrait and marvels at the fact that human beings are able to capture with paint or digital effects or pencils the kinds of subtle curves and contours that make every face individual and distinct. It requires such a deft observational ability, let alone the requisite artistic talent to actually, you know, understand how to capture the wide breadth of different cheeks or nose bridges or foreheads or teeth. Artist Sinclair’s work goes even further than that, robbing the human face of even its cohesion, of its edges, of any details which can’t be captured with an unbroken black line upon a white background. The premise seems more like a challenge than an entire artistic style, and yet there is enough room in this technique for Sinclair to have settled down and made an expansive home there. Plenty of his pieces display his aptitude for the style he has committed himself to, but Colborn Bell, named after the Museum of Crypto Art’s founder, strikes me as interesting because of how delicately it straddles the line between resemblance and universality. Knowing Colborn, one certainly sees his face in this piece. There is his beard, there is his long hair. But unlike, say, Sinclair’s unmistakable portrait of Jay-Z, Colborn Bell has a much more overt everyman potential. In reality, Colborn is a pretty singular-looking guy, so then that happy accident of ubiquity must be the consequence of Sinclair himself, his specific style, his specific eye, and his apparent ability to capture two images at once. 

It’s all one line, beginning at the shoulders, rising up and beginning to mimic the face. The line enters at the chin and twirls around, creating a mouth. Elsewhere, it bisects the skull, mimicking the indentation on the upper lip, then travels upward, loops, and suddenly, there’s an ear. It is a rather ingenious design that places pupils inside eyes, that creates a hairline, that manages to do all of this while outlining the suggestion of a skull (even if it lacks edges at points, implying that any brain matter could just up and float away). Still, what’s striking is comparing a piece like Colborn Bell to the other pieces Sinclair has created. Because, doing so, you can fully appreciate the amount of thought and specificity that goes into each portrait. How Colborn’s portrait dips down in jagged lines to create a beard where others come to smoothly-pointed chins; every portrait simplifies the human face down into its most minute elements, geometry and line. All the specificity of your chin is really just a line curved at a certain point. Your dear beautiful eyes can be recreated by the swirling size of a little loop. Your hairline is reducible, and so is your nose, so are your cheeks and ears and hairdo. What Sinclair engages in is a process of deconstruction. It is extremely impressive, yes, but it is also very very humbling.

If you’re like me, you’re weak and attached to your appearance as the most crucial signifier of your identity. Sinclair’s work naturally forces you to observe and question that notion, taking the concept of appearance and reducing it to a level of such simplicity that it seems silly in hindsight to place any import in it. Because these hyper-specific markers of our selves are really just a series of lines positioned this way in that, curved in places, looped in others, and jagged where we might have a beard. All that separates us in this category from those around us are the positions of these lines, their height and girth, how long they remain unbroken as they stretch from ear to ear.

But Sinclair mentions in his Opensea bio that these pieces in his “signature ‘one line’ style…express the idea that we are all connected.” We are, after all, only a few simple extensions of a line away from being another person, at least outwardly, at least according to Sinclair. To remain cognizantly separated from all the other humans in existence is to place immense but unwarranted importance in the arbitrary and easily-manipulable aspects of our appearance. The separations are entirely artificial, like examining the imperfections of gummy bears or counting irregular stitching on a baseball.

It’s a high-minded ideal to try and communicate with just these single line portraits. In truth, I think the idea would be better communicated if there weren’t just a handful of these portraits, but hundreds, even thousands. Imagine an entire Metaverse made out of such images; they don’t even have to be of actual people! They could be imagined or associative, and we could wade through this great glut of faces slowly, seeing ourselves here —and there and there— afloat in this sea, but lost, eventually, are these facsimiles, swallowed up by the throng. And we will realize that we ourselves are there in every portrait. Because we too are made of lines. Just a few slight alterations, and poof, there we appear in every face we pass. 

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