Art + Design

Art of the Month: Social Art

By Nicholas Williams

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Walk into any waiting room, bus stop, or subway car and you will see many of the same gestures — people looking into their palms scrolling with pointed index fingers through bright touch screens, consuming images from social media outlets like Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Snapchat. The amount of images we see each day is constantly growing, and the ubiquity of the camera phone has democratized who is able to take pictures and post work. According to Instagram, on average 70 million photos are uploaded each day by its 300 million active users. From there, 2.5 billion likes are exchanged; 70% of this activity occurs outside the U.S. The way we are interacting with images today is different than ever before — no longer are people making images primarily as documents, rather we make images to correspond with each other in real time on the web. A photo is posted on Snapchat and exists for ten seconds and then it is gone, an ephemeral treat delivered amongst friends. As our social habits change, so too do artistic practices. Time Lightbox recently ran an article about how Magnum photographer Alec Soth plans to use Snapchat as a platform to distribute his work; those who want to see it can pay $100 dollars to receive Soth’s snapchats. Art has found commodity within social media. With this in mind, Not Mad caught up with four up and coming artists who are creating work within the context of the smartphone and social media on platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine.


Nick Tilma, 22, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is an industrial designer currently working on his senior thesis at the Penny Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. On his Instagram account, @nicktilma, he refers to himself as an object enthusiast and has been engaged in photographing banal objects as research for his thesis in which he is making lamps inspired by the forms he searches for. He is focused on man made things, anything from the shadow of a railing cast on stairs, to anything sticking out of the ground. His feed is a constant flow of these images mixed with images of his process in making the lamps inspired by these urban still lifes. Since he began posting these images, Tilma explained to me how he’s found a community of like-minded individuals on Instagram who are noticing similar phenomena and documenting it. Through his work, Tilma says he ultimately hopes to encourage his followers to notice these objects and in doing so realize what they pass by on the street everyday.

His work can be found on Instagram, and



Nick Perr, 20, from Los Angeles , is an artist studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. Perr works through Snapchat to make multimedia works that originate in found imagery, over which he draws with Snapchat, prints the images out on canvas and finally paints into the image with gouache, crayon and flashe. Rooted in abstraction, his practice deals with the material culture he grew up in attending Crossroads High School in Santa Monica. Lately, Perr has been inspired to comment on his peers’ constant streaming on social media of what they are doing, often “flexing to one another who can hit the most bougie places” as if to say “I am here I bet you wish you were.” Since this type of dialogue is taking place on social media, especially Snapchat, Perr thought it was only natural to create the work with the same tools.

Currently he is publishing his work on online zines and Not Mad is the first to publish this new work below.



Chris Ford, 21, from Detroit, Michigan, is a performer and graphic designer who is also working on his thesis at the Stamps School of Art and Design. Ford uses Vine to comment on pop culture and social media trends and his feed is a hilarious blend of commentary and unique movement. One of his most popular series of vines is called “Ratchet Rangers” in which he dons a Power Ranger suit and parodies hip hop dances. He told me that his inspiration for his vines comes out of humor, specifically real life experiences that he comes across and wants to recreate. Ford began originally began making Vines when he was bored and had downtime outside of his serious creative work, as a lighter form of expression. When he began to accrue a large following (currently about 126,000) he would create new content as often as he could to entertain his audience. Currently, Ford explained that he is on hiatus from social media as he finishes his thesis project, chrischristv, a TV network of around 20 channels, including news, a soap opera, weather, and a talk show, in which he is the sole performer.

His work can be found on Vine, as well as



Man Kaun Lei, 21, from Macau, is also a student at the University of Michigan studying both photography and pre-med. Lei’s practice is documentary photography, and through her travels she’s made portraits of people from all walks of life. Until recently her Instagram, @mankuanlei, was a different outlet, in which she focused on herself. When Lei photographs with her DSLR she is concerned with those around her, as opposed to when using her phone, she often turned the lens on herself, exploring her day to day life as well as her personal history through images. As Lei told me, for her, the phone is lighter, her images are for herself and her friends and document moments such as when Lei shaved her head before going traveling to India alone, and when she came across a traditional Maoist uniform at a Chinese museum. Recently she has hidden the images on Instagram and it is unclear if they will surface on the platform anytime soon.

Her work can be found on Instagram, and

Nicholas Williams is the NOT MAD Art Director and a photographer/visual artist from Detroit. He is currently a student at the Penny Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan, where he’s involved in a myriad of projects and kills shit on a daily basis.

For submissions, questions or comments, email Nicholas Williams at