This week Astrolight focuses its Artist Spotlight on #dataisbeautiful artist Petek, interviewing her on her circuitous route from home-base Cape Town, South Africa to Miami, Florida for the Bitcoin 2021 Conference where she will be appearing for the unveiling of her Stock-to-Flow “S2F” series.
International artist Petek decided reaching is not enough. She paints with the moon, and with meteorites, and precious metals, to illustrate a world of possibilities.
A world of cryptocurrency.
A world where #DataIsBeautiful.
And a world that might not be visible to her fans, had it not been for a boutique hotel breakfast room wall in Cape Town, South Africa.
That’s where Petek worked as an art consultant, sourcing artists to create the right holiday mood at a series of hotels. One day she noted an empty space and asked, “You haven’t given me a brief on that wall. What do you want?”
On a whim, the hotel staff member said, “Can’t you just paint it?” For the first time since she was 18, Petek picked up a paintbrush, facing a blank space and a looming deadline.
Petek says, “I’m an energy practitioner, so I thought, I’m going to ask, ‘Hey Canvas, what would you like to become?’ And ‘Hey Wall, what would you like to receive?’” She listened and painted, and it worked. It was the end of Petek’s art consultant career and the beginning of her artistry.
She painted abstract aerials—finding beauty in lines. Then one day, her landscapes shifted dramatically. It was all due to PlanB.
The cryptocurrency-literate know Petek’s PlanB refers not to a backup plan, but to @PlanB@100trillionUSD, who created the Bitcoin Stock-to-Flow (S2F) model, which quantifies Bitcoin value.
Petek says she was already interested in Bitcoin when she learned of the model and could not get it out of her head. She says, “I could not sleep for three days. I was like, ‘I have to paint this.’” She sent a direct Twitter message to PlanB, saying she wanted to paint the model for PlanB to buy for his boardroom.
She waited, wondering what she had just done. It was unexpected. Unusual. But—when you look at Petek’s life, perhaps not unprecedented.
“There’s a Backstory to It.”
When Petek was young, she was interested in art.
She was not interested in economics. That was her mother’s area: the stay-at-home mom was a hobby stockbroker fascinated by charts and graphs.
Petek says, “She was good at it. She would wake up in the middle of the night and wake up my dad and go, ‘Darling, we’ve got to sell this stock. We’ve got to sell it. I’ve got a feeling.’” The instinct paid off so often Petek says the local bank manager started following her mom’s stock tips.
Eventually, even Petek started to listen. She says, “My mother would always waffle my ears off about her passion with stocks and trading and macroeconomics. I was always wondering, ‘Why am I listening to this?’”
When Petek started researching Bitcoin, she realized she loved the data just as much as her mother had. She saw the potential for profits and much more.
She explains, “The flow chart really is financial history. It’s a piece of financial historic data which will be in textbooks, it will be taught in economic classes in the future. Absolutely.”
Petek had a vision.
And it was about to come to life.
“I Had Basically Found My Language.”
Petek saw the Stock-to-Flow model as clearly as if she could touch it, even though in a way no one else had before.
She says, “I was just imagining I was flying over it in aerial view and what could the background become. And then, I saw the dots, you know, the data dots, and I thought, “Wow, they kind of all talk about going to the moon. Let’s make the background the moon, and let’s make the data, the points, craters.”
PlanB shared the vision, and commissioned Genesis in September 2019. For the next nine months, Petek worked on making art of a flowchart, hoping it would help people see how to get out what she considers an antiquated money system and envision cryptocurrency’s boundary-breaking possibilities. It required boundary-breaking materials.
Petek says, “It was actually PlanB who said, ‘Why not put real moon rock in the paint?’” She thought it was an impossible idea, until PlanB introduced her to a geologist who sources meteorites that hit the moon at just the right angle, hit the Earth in just the right place, and are recovered by geologists interested in selling the debris to an economic model-depicting artist. Petek says she was shaking the first time she painted with the rock, layering it with acrylics and precious metals and minerals from Earth.
The result appeals to people who love Bitcoin and S2F, and Petek says, to those who may just be drawn to the images.
She says, “That’s exactly the mission. The mission is: get curious. What’s the difference between government issued money and Bitcoin? I believe by doing that on a bigger scale, culture will change.”
“Is This What It Felt Like to Let Go of Your Creation?”
Petek says PlanB’s Genesis was truly a beginning. She is three paintings into a twelve-painting Stock-to-Flow series which reflects emerging data and evolving style. One of the people who commissioned a painting in the series asked, “Bitcoin is open source. What if we do this in the spirit of open source creative process?”
In other words, crowd-sourced artistic decisions. Petek says she took a few days to consider what that would mean. She gave it a try, and Twitter followers voted for the name of the painting: Dawn of Freedom. It felt right. The next Twitter decision did not.
Petek (@RadarRayne) asked the twitter-verse which colors she should use for the painting. They picked the blue and orangish/yellow combination she liked the least. Yet she trusted the crowd, and says, “I figured it out somehow. And actually—it was the right choice.”
Since then, she has generated polls for more artistic decisions, and loves the process. In a way, she says trusting the open source is like Bitcoin believers trusting they can create an option better than what is already known.
“I’ve Had Two Love Letters for Genesis.”
Petek shakes her head as she says this—she has received actual love letters written to the painting. She says, “I’m just floored. It does feel like I’ve created something sort of from beyond me.”
She says this speaking on a Zoom call from her hotel room in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—a layover on a pandemic-complicated trip from Cape Town to a cryptocurrency conference in Miami. It is a zig-zagging trip, yet the only one that makes sense since all of the other routes are still closed. You wonder what the route would look like painted through Petek’s lens; she sees it as one more data point along a larger journey explored with an online crowd.
She says, “I’m just overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude to this amazing community. I can’t tell you how amazing Bitcoiners are as people. They’ve all got this entrepreneurial spirit and they’re very happy to lead where no one else has gone before.”
Petek believes they will create a better world, and she plans to be right there when they do, documenting the next draft of cryptocurrency history on a canvas for all to see.