Highsnobiety’s Honors Week is a celebration of the women — particularly the trans and BIPOC women — who have pushed our culture forward. This Women’s History Month, we’ve tapped five guest curators to go deep on the issues they care about and to spotlight their favorite women and nonbinary creators. Today, model/ LGBTQ+ and disability advocate Aaron Philip speaks to her long-time friend, digital artist Amari Ferguson.
Amari Ferguson (aka @neptuneprince) is a black nonbinary digital artist who uses she/her, they/them pronouns. She also happens to be one of my closest friends. I’ve known Ferguson for several years and have been lucky to witness her exponential growth as an artist and woman.
At just 22 years old, Ferguson has pushed the boundaries of femininity with her futuristic films and 3D renderings. For several years I’ve watched her examine complex ideas of femininity stylistically through the lens of technology and related visual aesthetics. Ferguson (a Taurus sun, Scorpio moon) loves creating and destroying. She comes from a small, 3,000-inhabitants town in Georgia, but has big plans for the road ahead. “I have a lot of loud dreams about my future and the places I want to go and I’m only now capable of speaking about them with depth and fervor,” she tells me.
Her singular style has garnered a loyal following and an ever-growing audience on social media as her 3D digital avatars have become more technically and emotionally complex. Ultimately, her digital art practice is a celebration of women and the expansiveness of what it is to be a woman in a way that does not conform to or replicate other ideas and notions of what that means.
For Highsnobiety’s Honors Week, I spoke to Ferguson about what inspires her, how she’s grown as an artist, and what she’s looking forward to in the future.
Aaron Philip: When did you start making art?
Amari Ferguson: I started creating with purpose at the beginning of 2015. I was in a place where I realized that art was something that I was meant to create, no matter the medium. My main inspiration was Jesse Kanda’s work in Arca’s music video for “Thievery.”
AP: What normally serves as a muse for your art?
AF: At this point, I’ve been creating consistently for six years now. During the formative years of my artistic career, I definitely pulled inspiration from icons such as FKA twigs, Charli XCX, SOPHIE, Arca, Kelela, and SHYGIRL, to port this potent and duly underestimated femininity into my art. Fast forward to 2021 and you’ll see the main inspiration I have for my art is actually myself and other black trans women who face damaging realities daily.
AP: What medium do you work in? What are some things you love about it?
AF: My medium is best described as digital, but 3D art is a subset of digital art. It’s not a new process; for example, Toy Story was released in 1996. But the way it has graduated into one of the preferred mediums by queer youth to show things that were once impossible to conceive makes it feel bracingly new.
I love 3D art because anything is possible. In a painting, you can only give context from one perspective; in 3D, you can control multiple perspectives, simulate hair movement, water, fire, wind, gravity... It’s all at your fingertips. It almost feels like a very intricate video game.
AP: How have you seen your style grow as an artist? Do you notice any continuations of earlier styles and techniques?
AF: I’ve certainly seen my style adapt. In the beginning, I would give my virtual avatars more juvenile subject matter, like a skirt and tank top combo with tame hair. As time progressed, however, my art has reached the deepest trench that I’ve ever discovered, into darkness and pain. My art has become a vessel for all of my emotions, from the best to the worst.
I’m consistently pulling from outside sources to cross-reference my own work, wondering if I’m developing properly. As far as consistency goes, I’m STILL really bad at realistic hair dynamics; usually, you’ll see some clipping, but at this point, I think I’m okay with a few errors.
AP: Tell us about your favorite color palette.
AF: Definitely skin + metallics. You’ll see an entire section of my Instagram dedicated to the steel + flesh look!
AP: Given that you take commissions, what is your dream art booking/collaboration?
AF: My dream art booking is one that’ll never truly end. Something with a drawn contract, something that involves me forever with no caveats. Longevity is one of my goals as an artist. Something semi-permanent would satisfy my urge to transform and escape for quite some time.
If I had to put a specific name on it, though, definitely SHYGIRL.
AP: As an artist who has shared much of your work on social media platforms including but not limited to Twitter and Instagram, which works do you think have been particularly acclaimed by people?
AF: The hotdog video, of course! I think a lot of my one-off pieces that I didn’t have much faith in really took off on Twitter, which has been a lesson to always post, no matter how you feel about a piece personally. You deserve to be seen, regardless of how you criticize yourself internally.
AP: What are some of your favorite works you’ve done so far?
AF: Definitely the world-building of Kikiyon. You’ll scroll through my media and find that I’ve named quite a few of my models “Kiki,” “Kikiyon,” or “Kiyonic.”
This nomenclature points to a concept of mine that femininity is a shared experience and that everyone who participates in it is capable of receiving even more energy than they extended in the first place. Each Kiyonic model is canonically using the same hivemind to actuate the purpose of the divine feminine. Even though they’re androids, they still want to play.
AP: What are you looking forward to?
AF: Opening myself up for change and prosperity without being too concerned about the process. I’m looking forward to being extremely happy in the next coming months.