Photo of Pixvana employees with Sofia the Gorilla painting

Who will be the Sofia Coppola of VR cinema?


At Pixvana HQ, we often ask who will be the first breakthrough director of VR filmmaking. Our office walls are lined with historic film stills from cinematic masters – Georges Méliès, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, Alfred Hitchcock. Each day, they remind us that we are developing tools for a fresh generation of diverse VR creators who will launch the next era of storytelling.


king kong


The 1933 classic film King Kong is a masterpiece of early cinema that richly illustrates Pixvana’s adventure into the unknown. Our mission is to realize the potential of XR storytelling by building a software platform that enables cinematic virtual, mixed, and augmented experiences.


Image of Pixvana's mission, vision, and values


You’ll find King Kong featured in our company mission poster as well as our growing office art collection. Our CEO Forest Key recently commissioned a painting by local visual artist Jesse Link that introduces this bold gorilla to XR storytelling. Jesse is known for his fine art paintings that depict animals and wildlife in open-ended narrative scenes that use traditional acrylic painting techniques combined with urban stylizing and expressionism.

Jesse’s latest painting transforms King Kong into a female gorilla who is armed with a shovel, headset, and 360-degree camera. We’ve fondly named her “Sofia” after Sofia Coppola. To learn more about this artwork, we sat down with Jesse and asked him a few questions.


Image of Sofia the gorilla - the mascot of Pixvana. Gorilla in a grass field holding a video camera



Tell us the story of Sofia the gorilla – who is she, what is she doing, and where is she going?

When creating the Sofia piece I wanted to focus on four things: technology as an extension of nature, humanity progression through technology, technology as shaman magic, and pioneer vibes since you are essentially VR pioneers. Thankfully, Forest gave me the freedom to do my thing and I’m really grateful for that. That is isn’t always the case with commissions.


Have you experienced VR? If so, what did you experience and how did you feel?

I haven’t experienced VR other than an early Oculus rift beta program. The graphics were extremely simple but it was easy to see how amazing a VR experience could be. I’m really excited for the future of VR.


What inspired you to focus on animals, wildlife, and open ended narrative scenes in your artistic practice?

It’s my goal to have the viewer create meaning for my work based on their own relationship to the world. Instead of painting a piece that conveys a particular message or illustrating a narrative I strive to make my work have a feeling that is combined with elements that can give meaning based on the viewers willingness to use free association and assign meaning to the different elements and then consider the relationships between those elements to derive a meaning from the painting that is unique to that viewer.

I like my work to be a bit mysterious and right now I prefer to see animals in it. I am a mostly self taught painter. I went to school for industrial design and spent most of my time there sculpting and molding. After finishing school I worked making music videos in Miami for a year before moving on to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom and then I moved to New Orleans to help in the reconstruction effort after Hurricane Katrina. While in New Orleans I came across the arts district’s “Art Walk” during the annual “Whitney White linen night.” I was hooked. Until this point I had loved art but never considered art itself as a career and now knowing that being a living artist was something that people did, I was determined to earn a living creating art for the sake of art.

In 2007 I moved to Seattle and began working on my craft. In 2010 I made the jump to full-time artist. For six years, I’ve been able to make works for the specific purpose of giving a viewer something to experience.


What’s next for you? Any upcoming exhibitions or events?

I usually create a large solo exhibition every year but this spring I’m going to dedicate my time to either creating some bronze sculptures or writing and illustrating a book, possibly about dreams. These are two things I’ve been wanting to do for a while but have been unable to make time for. I haven’t decided which yet. Hopefully both.


Where can we find your work?

This December 10th I’ll be set up at the South Park Art Under 100 show at the Seattle Design Center in Georgetown. Other than that you can find my work on my website.

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