Learn how Rainbow Lobster is transforming the metaverse with LGBTQ+ art

Orly Anan, an artist living in Mexico City, is joining efforts with Rainbow Lobster to create the Rainbow Collection, a collection of LGBTQ+ art that is transforming the metaverse.

Sebastián Arrechedera

After several Zoom meetings with Orly Anan, the wonderful artist who had been keeping me up at night for weeks, I decided it was time to meet her in person. I took a plane from Los Angeles to my beautiful and beloved Mexico. We agreed to meet in her studio in Mexico City to document this beautiful collaboration with Rainbow Lobster to create the Rainbow Collection—an art collection that celebrates the freedom of human beings to define and express themselves as they wish.


Arriving at Anan's studio in the heart of Mexico City was an experience in itself—entering a multicolored space filled with a vibe of tranquility, spiced with varied music. Here, in this city that is undoubtedly the headquarters of the contemporary art movement, I was welcomed by Orly Anan, a being with a huge heart, one that overflows with creativity. But she did not receive me alone; she was with a team of multidisciplinary artists of many nationalities. And that is how, after the first embrace, I decided that diversity and cooperation are the two main words that should be used to describe what happens here—along with scenic art, costumes, masks, character creation, still life, art direction, museum exhibitions, video art, sculpture, and of course, as Anan adds, "a lot of Magic" with a capital "M".


We sat down for an enlightening conversation on art, queer representation, and how it's transforming the metaverse.


Sebastián: Tell me a little bit about this collection we're making, Rainbow Collection.


Orly: With Rainbow Collection, the ultimate challenge was how to represent the community, not in the most obvious way which is: Okay, let's just take the rainbow color palette. I'm sure that's not the only way the community likes to be represented [and that would be] pigeonholing us. So, that's how we found another opportunity to transform ourselves without falling into the obvious.


I thought of the idea of creating with the masks [as creating] beings that bring a lot of beauty and celebration. I think that, in this case, there's a lot of celebration represented here and the two masks have different spirits. One is more of the feminine energy: stronger, very seductive, playful, and at the same time, a wiser woman [presented as] ageless.


The Rainbow Lobster mask has to do precisely with a lobster that comes out of its shell. To grow, it has to leave its comfort zone and be vulnerable to predators to continue growing, to move forward. Doesn't it speak to transformation? It seems to me that, at the end of the day, this is what we are doing: transforming and filling the world with color. Right in the center of the spirit of this lobster of transformation, there is a mask that grows sideways and sometimes has three heads. I also played a lot with the journey of the spiral, hypnosis, and power that a mask can have. It's not only the person who wears it who is transforming but also the people who see the mask transform, too.


My interest is that all the pieces can play with all the different headdresses. It is also very inspired by the psychedelia of the seventies, which is also an incredibly visual era, super colorful and full of sacred geometry.


Sebastián: Why did you decide to participate in the Rainbow Collection?


Orly: Because I feel it's an opportunity to open more doors. [It allows people] from the LGBTQ+ community to think that we not only are the ones who are transforming ourselves but enabling these characters to travel to other dimensions, as in this case, traveling to the metaverse, where other opportunities open up.


I decided to be part of the Rainbow Lobster team and collaborate at a visual level in the creation of the masks and headdresses because it is a great opportunity. Apart from creating new characters and new masks, I also take all this handmade work created here in the studio to a 3D plane, where the digital replica of these pieces will be explored and used by all the people who wish to do so in the metaverse.


People are going for 3D because it's more polished and perfect, but I am still very fascinated with handmade things, as that [physical quality] is priceless. I could have made this 3D fruit headdress with or without photos. I love the physicality of things. There is also a huge collection of props and textures that you would never imagine.


I belong to the community, although I don't consider myself an official activist. But, I feel that the art we make and contribute to is a form of activism. Maybe not verbal, but a lot of action, because the inspiration is just the experimentation of eliminating gender and identifying ourselves as a being that feels, not so much as an identity with a specific sexual inclination. A lot of the beings we are creating here are super extreme [on the spectrum of] femininity, [represented as] very very voluptuous, and exotic. I feel like that's my ultimate inspiration, and it dialogues perfectly with the whole community.


Sebastián: What does it mean to be queer?


Orly: I can't tell you at a dictionary level what it means, but for me, to identify as queer is to have absolute freedom of expression and constant transformation. So, it means not to be anchored to the heteronormative rules of how we're supposed to handle ourselves in this world but to [instead, expand our understanding to know] that everything is infinite. Just as characters are infinite, so are our identities. Also, [it's about] being open to these changes of being able to identify with different genders, like with sexual inclinations, although that's not the only thing that defines genesis. If we are constantly in transformation, why anchor ourselves to only one position?


Sebastián: I think it's good that we're going to reach the metaverse with this project, and we are going to represent Latin America. Because it's not the same to belong to the LGBTQ+ community in London or New York as it is to belong to the community in a Latin American city.


Orly: Of course, [we acknowledge] that Latin America is a very macho and homophobic region in general, unfortunately. We cannot generalize, but it is a very serious situation [of violence in this country], both toward women with femicides and toward the [gay and] trans community, which is a very vulnerable community.


For those who are homophobic, it is the perfect target to attack. And also, the smaller communities are always the most vulnerable. So, I find it incredible to be part of this project, not only for the experience of absolute freedom to create and work with art, but also to know that this is going to transcend and will ultimately help [these communities].


Sebastián: Tell me a little about this magic you do.


Orly: I feel that, basically, this is a space of absolute experimentation without limitation and with a lot of freedom of expression. I feel this is what most characterizes this space. There is a generic idea and I give the guidelines, but in general, the way the project develops and takes shape is just the magic that happens with the union of many different heads and skills. As the work is so intense (we're here sometimes 12 hours a day) every day, Friday to Sunday, the nice thing is to find balance and bring a lot of personal journey in all that.


Sebastián: Let's talk a little bit more about that journey, how did you start and where are you going?


Orly: Where is it going to end? No idea, but obviously, [I have ambitions and a] visualization of where the ideal would be. I would say it started when I was very little since I was making doll houses and exploring that whole journey of the scales, right? Because when you are a child you can create a city in your house, so it's like not losing that curiosity. As you become more adult, you have other responsibilities and other priorities, so I feel that a big part of the constant exercise is learning how to return to that inner child; to continue with that curiosity to explore new materials, textures, new color combinations; and to understand that the most fascinating thing is that [creating art] is infinite, that is to say, it never ends.


Sebastián: Tell me a little bit about your life—why Mexico? Today, for example, I was listening to music from all over the region.


Orly: First of all, here, there is never silence. There is always music and all kinds of music. It depends on what we are doing, on how I wake up. It can be classical music, reggaeton, salsa, psychedelic music, or rock. Here, it sounds like everything—super experimental music, mantras, Yoruba chants. I think that influences a lot of the final product, in what comes out. When I was 13 years old, I moved from Colombia to Israel, and I was always curious to return to Latin America. It is a great inspiration for me in general; it is my language. It was, in a way, going back to my roots. It could be Mexico, Colombia, or the Caribbean in general, but I always had a special passion for Mexico. I feel that being here gives me a lot of freedom to keep exploring and all of that also influences my art.


Sebastián: As Rainbow Lobster, we define ourselves as free thinkers, and we believe that each of the things we do has to reach and contain a message. What message would you like to live with this celebratory Rainbow Collection?


Orly: In Latin America, we are living an incredible moment at an artistic level—at a musical, visual and cinematographic level. Many doors of visibility have been opened. And the fact is that, here, we are a mixture of everything: indigenous Africans, whites, Spaniards. So, obviously, in that fusion, the most wonderful things are also made. With this collection, I want people to feel proud that such wonderful projects are coming out of our continent. And I also want to show how we can expand—that things of great quality are being done and not only physical quality but also intellectual and with a lot of messages.


Sebastián: What would you like someone to feel when they wear your wearables in a world like the metaverse?


Orly: I would love for them to feel that the Rainbow Collection gives you a green light to bring out everything inside you. Avoiding the labels of "I'm a man, I'm a woman, I'm this age, I belong to this culture," but rather, what you get out of this human experience.


Sebastián: I love all the handmade craftsmanship of you guys. That's what invades the 3D and not the other way around, isn't it?


Orly: Exactly, exactly, exactly. So, it's also an opportunity for the 3D people. I feel it's also a challenge for them, to see how to create the blurring that we know we can do with a real brush, with real paint. How are they going to do it so you have the feeling it's handmade? I think it's nice they also engrave the textures in general, which is the most beautiful thing about working by hand, and it's a much slower process, as well.


Sebastian: We were also talking about how Latin America is a place where it's good to be part of something so avant-garde, right?


Orly: Totally. I feel that many Latin artists are already experimenting more in the metaverse, but they are more digital artists. In this world, there has been much more reflection on digital art, so the question we wanted to answer is just how to find ourselves on the path between the artisanal and the digital.


Sebastian: One last question: What do you think about Mastercard sponsoring this kind of project?


Orly: It seems to me the best investment they have made and will make in their life (laughs). No seriously, I think that Mastercard's investment in Latin American artists is not only to support artists, but to create an infrastructure under my name, you know? It's the fact that it's not only giving work and opportunities to many more people, but it's also incredible to invest in art, in the importance that art has in humanity in general. That is, not to think it's a secondary thing, but that art portrays our times constantly since the beginning of humanity. It can guide us [so we] understand the phase of humanity we're seeing through the art being made at that time.


And so ends a beautifully colorful Sunday of transformation. I leave happy, knowing that we're part of the 3.0 revolution taking place in a much more diverse, compassionate, decentralized, and eager-for-a-change world. Thanks, Orly, for the Magic.