The captivating story of beating cancer with web3 art is the happy ending to what started as the most horrific news anyone can receive. The diagnosis was immediate, sharp, and shocking: cancer—malignant and spreading fast. Mechell Lord’s life would now be irreversibly altered. To survive what lingered in her body (and what awaited in the operating room) would require the fortitude of a warrior. In life-or-death battles, fear is a luxury.
Although Mechell had achieved fame as a professional photographer, her disease unqualifiedly dragged her into social isolation. She did not know how to talk about cervical cancer, who to confide in, or where to find emotional support. She was carrying around a box of “cancer stuff” that no one could help her unpack.
Not wanting to burden those close to her, she stayed quiet, enduring her tears alone. Starved for social outlets where she could vocalize her pain, she began to define herself by her disease. Not only had “The Big C” assaulted her cellular structure, but it had also confiscated her identity.
“I couldn’t put it down,” she reveals. “I just carried it every day through treatments and recovery, and then into depression—waiting quietly for the next ordeal of chemotherapy, which would be succeeded by a tortuous wait for results.”
In the year that followed her initial diagnosis, Mechell endured an endless array of radiation, morphine, surgeries, blood work, and waiting, always wondering what was next, unable to speak openly about her disease. Nonetheless, no matter what each day delivered in terms of impairment and anxiety, she remained hopeful. Pessimists rarely win battles.
Cancer might wound the corporeal, but it can never bury talent. Mechell Lord had a fight left in her—something more to show the world. She began to conduct daily photo shoots on the shores of Pinellas County Florida, exploring the stories of Madiera Beach through the lens of her camera. Amid her trials, the roots of creativity had gained strength and secured a foundation for a higher level of artistry.
A few months after reigniting the flames of her craft, Mechell expanded the scope of her photoshoots. She was restless to create a new art genre, to construct a novel world built on images of everyday objects that were long-neglected or frequently overlooked. Divine inspiration would ultimately come to her in the form of mannequins.
The inertia and imperturbability of mannequins melded perfectly with Mechell’s style of picture-taking and muzzy post-production techniques. She began to cultivate a wacky kinship with these majestic dummies who were fated to toil endlessly in silence. They were gracefully parading themselves on the stage of the world, being used as a utility and yet they commanded no voice. Their circumstances mirrored her own.
Ms. Lord had discovered her muse. She started taking actual mannequins out with her on her daily walks, handing them over to strangers to solicit reactions (which she then used as inspiration in her photo editing efforts) and to stage dynamic scenes which produced radically quirky photos. What was it that they felt when they were holding onto a mannequin? Capturing their feelings added rapture to the creative process.
Each mannequin PFP represents an emotion or feeling that Mechell has been processing as part of her recovery.
“Shooting mannequin faces is creating a door to recovery that I hadn’t realized was there. Taking the mannequin out of the shop through editing, so they can be more widely seen, has sparked my creativity and joy like nothing else in the last twenty years.”
Mannequins as NFTs
Mechell’s latest mannequin creations have been minted as NFTs on Foundation and can be collected at prices that are far below fair market value, given the excellence of the web3 art and the gravity of her celebrity.
“Shooting mannequins is the opportunity to bring back smiles and hope, and to be fully grounded in this world while feeling connected to those I love,” she tells us. “They walked the path of recovery with me, pulling me out of my box and giving me the courage to get out into the world again.”
Earlier this year, her mannequins caught the eye of legendary photographer Gabriel DeSante, who has created a VR gallery dedicated to her recent web3 art.
“He shot me inside a beautiful gallery space with my mannequins. Creating for me, and anyone who desires to visit, a virtual gallery space for NFTs, accessible from the phone, computer, or even a VR headset,” Mechell elaborates.
Mechell and Gabriel have created a safe space, helping both victims and their loved ones process their experiences through exploring and sharing.
In her VR gallery, Mechell narrates her battle with cancer–not only through a prolific assortment of mannequin photos but via actual spoken word. Each of her photos is paired with a voiceover where she shares her story and strengths, as she dishes details about her photography and her rocky road to recovery.
She reminds us through her art, and her voice, that sharing our journey creates an opportunity for healing others–and we all have a story to tell. “Everyone is going through something,” she reminds us. “Be a warrior, be out-loud, and share your stories. There’s healing on the other side.”
The next NFT went to the International Space Station with the Artemis Space Network.