Sexuality Minus the Stigma

Taboos are thoroughly explored in Brooklyn-based artist Zoe Ligon’s collages, which seek to blur the boundaries of sexuality for therest of society. She began creating collages fouryears ago and today has an impressive portfolio of works which are sexual and visually challenging in content as well as aesthetically pleasing in execution.

One of the greatest things about collaging is the pleasure of shredding something into piecesand putting it back together again, completely transformed. Her ability to alter the value or meaning of an image or object by adding orsubtracting elements is thoughtful to the point of spiritual. “My creativity is like a virus that lies dormant in the body and then pops up to say hello in varying degrees of intensity, but can be coaxed out if I need it and it can [influence]other people.”

Emerging from a sexually aware generation, Zoe proposes that there’s still work to be done.”Can you imagine a nation full of leaders whoare free to express their love for their bodies and sexuality instead of enshrouding the entire subject in shame? Sex toys were illegal — ILLEGAL– in Virginia and Indiana until recently, and many more ridiculous sodomy laws still exist [in the U.S.] to this day.”

 

Fameless Quarterly: Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live.
Zoe Ligon: I call myself as a sex educator, but also as an artist. I work for an upscale women-owned sex toystore in Manhattan and also am an administrator/moderator for a popular dating website. I recently started a sexual health and education blog that has been very rewarding anda welcomed change of pace. I live in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in a beautiful townhouse with my super elderly cat. I’ve lived in the city for 4 years, and graduated from Fordham University with a psych degree. I’m a very zany high-energy person, going out every night, very animated all the time, always eating, and always going somewhere.

FQ: What do you love about  living in Bed-Stuy?
ZL: My particular corner of Bed-Stuy feels like a classic Brooklyn neighborhood. It’s a very quiet street and I know most of my immediate neighbors. I live in a townhouse and my landlords live on the first two floors and they take amazing care of me; feeding my cat, re-parking my car when I’m out of town, etc. I have lived in many different places in the city and have needed to move because of price hikes and dangerous situations, so I am beyond thrilled to beliving in my current place.

FQ: What are your passions?
ZL:
 This will probably not come as a surprise, but definitely sex and sexuality. I love actual sex acts, but it goes beyond that. I always describe my passion for sex as being similar to someone who’s really obsessed and enthused about something like robotics, or Russian literature, or football. I find it interesting as a general concept. I nerd out over the facts and information. I enjoy thinking about and discussing the psychological and physical components of sex, all the sex toys that exist, subcultures of our society pertaining to sex, etc. I’d say the last 5 five books I’ve read have been sex education books, and I read them for leisure, not just as they pertain to my work.

Besides all that, I am also very passionate about: cheese, caf-tans, psychological thrillers,tropical fish, European animation and Caribbean music. Oh yeah! And, of course, my family. I am very close with my parents.

FQ: How did you first become interested in sex education and why is it important?
ZL:
 I’m not sure there was a point that I definitively decided upon it, but my coworkers and I generally say that no one stumbles into this profession accidentally, we all really want to do what we’re doing. To me it feels like a the natural direction my life took, because I can’t think of a single other thing I could be doing with my life at this moment that would feel more rewarding. It’s important for many reasons: It’s pretty widely recognized that sex education, particularly in the USA, just totally blows. I was actually privileged enough to attend a pretty fancy liberal (relative to most schools in the US) public high school, but sexed only consisted a one week section in a mandatory health class–I’m pretty sure the entire subject of masturbation was avoided. Can you imagine a nation full of leaders who are free to express their love for their bodies and sexuality instead of enshrouding the entire subject in shame? Sex toys were illegal– ILLEGAL — in Virginia and Indiana until recently, andmany more ridiculous sodomy laws still exist to this day. Guns, however, are defended as a basic human right. To the average person, an image of a gun is probably less intimidating and unusual than an image of a sex toy or genitals. I will defend dildos until the day I die.

FQ: How or where do you channel your inner child? Or is it a place?
ZL: I am still a child in many ways, so it’s not that difficult. I was always a rule-follower when I was a teenager, Iwould literally drink water out of beer cans to seem cool so asnot to break any rules. When I moved to New York, all of my experimentation began, so I feel  like I had a late social puberty, yet simultaneously I think I really have my shit together for a 22 year old. I think that’s why I like New York night life, you can be wild and crazy while still feeling sophisticated. The spirit of childhood should span our entire lives.

FQ: Describe your artistic style and its influences or inspirations.
ZL:
 My artistic vocabulary is actually pretty limited since I’ve never received formal art training, but I’d say there’s definitely some stained glass vibes going on. I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at other collage pieces because I honestly dislike a lot of collage work(although I do have a few stand-out personal favorites in the col-lage medium, such as Cameron Flynn Jones.) The cut-out body concept (“The Good Meat Removed” series) was the first idea I explored that felt organically born from my mind, but it’s pretty hard to be a collage artist without using images or concepts that haven’t already been explored in some sense. I’ve become very aware of this recently as it pertains to legal issues since I’ve been employed to make artwork for larger corporations. The laws regarding collage art are very similar to laws regarding music sampling, but I digress. I don’t even know how I come up with the things I make, sometimes my brain just farts things out.

FQ: Is “The Good Meat Removed” series your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
ZL:
 Hmmmmm. Well I really like that concept butI wouldn’t call it my favorite ever–I’m not evensure what my favorite would be! “The GoodMeat Removed” series is beautiful to me be-cause I have heard so many different interpre-tations of it from other people — it could beabout: censorship, the body as composite partsthat are meaningless separately, exploitation ofthe body within pornography, and so on. Yet, itdoesn’t mean just one thing to me.

FQ: Can you tell us a little about how you found your way to collaging or art?
ZL:
 Oh yeah, I remember the exact moment I decidedto begin collaging. I wanted attention. I was 17or 18 and had a HUGE crush on this artsy guy. I had been a dancer my entire life, but I want-ed to make visual images I could broadcast tothe world via the internet to get his attention. I sucked at illustration and painting and decided  to begin cutting up images thatwere already beautiful to makethem beautiful in a differentway that I could sort of call myown. Well, I never hooked upwith that guy, and years laterwith a much more reputable CVI’m sure he still doesn’t give afuck, but I think it’s a total hootto acknowledge that I did it allfor a guy’s attention at the time.These days I still seek attentionthrough my work, but I’m cater-ing to a wider audience than oneteenage boy, and my intent goesway beyond pure attention.

FQ: I believe that any creativity I have is being temporarily lent to me by some divine energy, and it travels over me like a wave. If I’m not ready to embrace the wave at that moment, it passes me and goes onto the next person that’s ready for it. Is that something you can agree with?
ZL: Everyone’s different. My creativity is likea virus that lies dormant in thebody and then pops up to sayhello in varying degrees of in-tensity, but can be coaxed out ifI need it and can pass it to otherpeople. Okay, so like imagine a GOOD virus, like an awesome virus that helps you and doesn’t hinder you. It’s like that

FQ: Are you a night-owl or an early bird?
ZL:
 I think my nature is to be a morning person,but since I work the night shiftsat a sex toy boutique and am in-volved with nightlife I run on anight-owl schedule these days.

FQ: What are you trying tocommunicate with your art?
ZL:
 I’m not trying to communicate anything specifically, I justwant to start an open dialogueabout the subjects I choose. Imainly play off of the respons-es I get and it turns into moreof a conversation than me out-putting a message. When I useda genderless pseudonym as myartist name in years past (ZooLion), people would see my artin galleries or shows and assumeI was a man. Sometimes it feelsas though it’s not my art sending a message as much as it isthe actual act of creating it thatis the message.

FQ: What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
ZL: Again, everyone’s different, but I think exposing myself to as much stimuli as possible is what gets me going. Traveling to bizarre places, getting into dangerous situations, testing boundaries, and learning lessons the hard way. I love forcing myself to watch terrifying things that make me want to cry or faint or pass out or generally feel uncomfortable.

FQ: Are there any icons whose style you admire?
ZL:
 Walter Van Beirendonck, StevieNicks, that woman in A Clockwork Orangewith all of those penis sculptures in her house,and Barbara Streisand’s character in Meet The  Fockers. I just asked my coworkers who arestanding right next to me as I write this andthey said my style is “futuristic art deco with alittle Stevie Nicks” so I guess that goes with all the aforementioned icons.

*Lightning round.*

FQ: What do you skimp on?
ZL: Psh, nothing. Makeup, maybe? I dunno. Most of my makeup is the same shit I’ve been using since I was 13. I don’t mean that like I stick with the same brand, I mean that as in I literally have the same case of eye shadow as I did in middle school.

FQ: What do you splurge on?
ZL:
 Textile art and other random things I buy on Etsy at three in the morning when I’m drunk.

FQ: Your favorite color of the moment?
ZL:
 Mint green.

FQ: What is your next “must have” purchase?
ZL:
 A matching white latex halter top and skirt from The Baroness.

FQ: What’s on your bookshelf at the moment?
ZL:
 Sex ed boooooooooks. Female Ejaculation & The G-Spot by Deborah Sundahl and The Multi-Orgasmic Couple by Chia & Abrams are my favorites. I always put those books at eye level on my shelves so people can see how frickin’ cool and educated I am. Besides that, I love The Glass Castle, There Are No Children Here, The Martian Chronicles, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles–shit like that.

FQ: What can’t you live without?
ZL:
 My Hitachi Magic Wand!

FQ: Next place you want to travel to?
ZL
: Trinidad and Tobago!

Bawdy Stitchery: An Interview with Alaina Varrone

Alaina Varrone is not your average stitcher. With her needle and hoop in hand, Varrone creates delightfully sexy embroidery with a heavy dose of humor—subverting the otherwise staid medium. We recently got to talking about her embroidery, the occult, feminism, and all things bawdy:

 

Fameless Quarterly: Where did your family emigrate from? (Ok I have to ask this for two reasons: 1) on your blog you once wrote that you wished interviewers would ask this and 2) a little bit ago you wrote a short post about your grandma’s dating life in a nursing home, signing it off, “Perry Girls still got it. femme fatales 4 life.” This caught me off guard because part of my family settled down in CT, in the very area where you are based. That part of my family has the last name Perry. We also have a running “Perry Girls are badass femmes” trope. Are we secretly related?!)
Alaina Varrone: My father’s family emigrated from Italy, and my mother’s side (the Perry’s) are from Portugal! (I’m curious as to whether we are related! I haven’t met too many of my extended family, that side had nine kids, I believe)!

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FQ: How did you begin working with embroidery?
AV: I learned the basic embroidery stitches as a child from my mother, who is also an avid needle crafter, but I didn’t think to use those skills in my fine arts education until I ran out of paper to draw on one day in class, so I drew on some scrap fabric I found. This was in my freshman year of college, in 2001. It felt really natural and meant to be—in that cheesy dramatic way—and I haven’t gotten bored of it yet.

FQ: Your work is very much centered on pleasure and the erotic. Is there a specific aspect of human sexuality you are particularly interested in? Do you think embroidery lets you explore this in a way you couldn’t otherwise?
AV: For me, the pieces are always somewhat autobiographical, so the female characters are always the center of the work, and I never realized until it was pointed out that in the erotic pieces in particular the women are always dominant. I prefer strong females, so if they’re expressing eroticism I want them to be the subject, not just another object. In this way, I find my work resonates within the feminist community, and I think the medium of embroidery definitely lends itself to that, it adds a new dimension to the work. For me, embroidery is so exciting because it’s still so steeped in tradition, for a while I was bored with art—I felt like everything’s already been done—but subverting this medium feels joyful. It’s made art fun again, and in a corny way I feel like I’m part of this long and storied sisterhood.

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FQ: Embroidery has been, and is often still thought of as, a traditionally female craft—yet you use it to delve into a topic that has been, historically, taboo for women. Do you think of your artwork as feminist work?
AV: I suppose I do think of my art as feminist work, it’s just that those ideologies are ingrained in my being, so the idea of making feminist art isn’t this deliberate, conscious decision—the pieces just are.  I was raised by bawdy vibrant women who always speak their minds—all of my female friends are like this as well—and I love these women to the bone, so naturally I make characters that reflect what I know and love. The history of embroidery is very much a history of women, in the surviving pieces we see: snapshots of everyday life, family members and friends, bits of current news and important milestones—I feel like I’m just continuing the story in my own small way. I have more freedom now in terms of subject matter of course, but I do feel like I’m just doing my part to keep this almost exclusively female tradition alive.

FQ: I notice that while most of the work is done on a solid white background, a few pieces are embroidered on really lovely floral fabric. How do you choose the background fabric for your images?
AV: I’m an impulsive stitcher, so I use whatever fabric is available! The only rule is that it has to have a decent thread count for the type of needle I use. It can’t be too loose or too tight. If I need lots of yardage I’ll go to a fabric store with my favorite needle; I’m like Goldilocks in the aisles running that needle through every fabric that catches my eye! Some of the pieces are also done on vintage and antique handkerchiefs from my grandmother, but I only use those for special pieces.

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FQ: What inspires the particular narratives in your work?
AV: For the series I’m currently working on, I’m inspired by photos and VHS footage of spring breaks and freakniks from the 80s and 90s—both aesthetically and behaviorally. The more esoteric pieces are inspired by my own experiences with the occult (knowledge and practices that I have accrued since childhood) applied to emotional situations and people I’m dealing with during the creation of each piece. Sometimes the pieces will have actual living people from my own personal life that I’ll put into surreal situations as a thinly veiled narrative of our relationship. They’re basically elaborate diary entries.

FQ: Your work has a great sense of humor! It is really difficult to create something that is both smart and funny while engaging with the topic of sex so explicitly in an artwork. How did you arrive at your particular voice?
AV: Thank you! It’s weird, because I’ll start sketching with genuine honest emotion, and I’ll start these sad heavy pieces, but they feel so forced for me. I think because I’m a pretty ridiculous and silly person most of the time, humor is just my natural coping strategy. So I’ll have these pieces that are really quite dark in subject matter, but I’ll think it’s funny to give them pencil eraser nipples or ill-fitting jorts. I don’t know…I just can’t stay serious for too long. The story’s still there, I just can’t help lightening it up a bit.

FQ: Your work is pretty small scale. Do you plan on creating any large scale pieces?
AV:  The current series I’m working on has three extra-large pieces in it, about four feet by three feet—but yes I usually work small because of the practical space issue. I’m in the middle of moving from one apartment and renovating the next one, so working small allows me to keep working during all this chaos. Also embroidery takes a very long time. Particularly the types of stitches and detail I use; so a ten square inch piece will easily take me a month to complete.

FQ: Do you have a favorite work and/or works? In the past you have said that some pieces are too important to you that you wouldn’t consider selling them.
AV: My favorite works are a few that took over a year each to complete. When you live with a piece that long, you get attached. I’m also strangely attached to the piece of the simple nude who has her hands tied to her feet stitched on plain white linen and the piece with the two pool girls in black bikinis sticking out their tongues. Some just resonate with me more than others and I can’t really explain it.

FQ: According to some random commenters on Facebook you are Illuminati–so it must be true. Tell me your secrets!
AV: Hahahaha…yes I’m the Spiritual Chair on the regional council of 13—I’m also in charge of embroidering all of the handlers’ uniforms. But if I revealed anymore, I’d have to kill you. Kidding aside, I mean yeah I was raised with occult knowledge but I’m using that term loosely; my dad was into all sorts of weird shit and taught it to me and I grew up in a heavily haunted house—I don’t see the world the same way that a lot of other people do. And yeah, sometimes I’ll use symbolism, or spirit familiars or ghosts in my work as representations for something else, but in all seriousness I’m jack squat to the upper echelon of society—my bloodline is a mess—so relax y’all, my work is not trying to program you or anything.

FQ: Favorite superhero and/or villain?
AV: She Hulk

FQ: Favorite artist at the moment?
AV: Right now I really love the photography of Wayne Lawrence.

It Drips: An Interview with Anna Barlow

Anna Barlow creates art you want to eat—really, desperately want to eat. Barlow’s ceramic and porcelain ice cream sculptures are sweet, oozing a palatable decadence that borders on the obscene. Expertly executed and slightly disappointing for those of us hoping to chow down on the sundae of our dreams, Barlow’s work resonates deeply. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Barlow about everything ceramic, porcelain, frozen, and saccharine:

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Fameless Quarterly: What was your initial interest in sculpting ice cream?

Anna Barlow: I started out purely trying to capture ice cream in its temporary state—trying to catch that one moment at its best.

 

I was also interested in what ice cream means to us—it’s not necessarily important but it has significance in our lives as being celebrational and therefore special.

 

FQ: What is your artistic process like? How do you construct your pieces? Do you work on more than one piece at a time?

AB: I tend to produce batches of work. I combine both porcelain and earthenware clay in my pieces, which have very different firing temperatures; I start by making lots of cones, wafers, sprinkles and flakes which are made from porcelain and are fired to a very high temperature. I then use these components to construct a piece using earthenware clay that is “scooped” to make the ice cream and piped through an icing bag for whipped cream. The whole piece is then fired again, glazed and then fired three more times.

 

I usually work on around three pieces at a time.

 

FQ: You are fascinated by the rituals of food and the ephemeral nature of ice cream—how do you think the power of pleasure informs your work?

AB: It completely informs my work—I guess I am always looking for the most gorgeous, most extravagant, most fantastical treat possible! This can sometimes run alongside another theme as a contrast to a more thoughtful idea.

 

FQ: Many of your works are incredibly realistic in detail—such as the way your ‘ice cream’ melts and drips—yet they are staged in bordering-on-the-unrealistic scenes. What role do you think fantasy plays in your work?

AB: Usually I’ll work from an image which has popped into my head—it will take me some time to work out what it’s about and usually it’s actually based on life in some way. The cushion pieces seem to be inspired from when I was trying to write about my work for a show catalogue which I find quite challenging—I have a habit of working on the sofa, and one day I looked up and realized each cushion had a leftover plate or bowl on it and I thought: “Ah! That’s why I want to put food on cushions—it’s weird, but probably quite normal to a lot of people!” I made some ice creams that have been smashed across a wall which I think might be inspired by my brother and sister telling me about the time my mother threw an entire hot fruit pudding—plus the dish—at my father in pure frustration (she’ll hate me for saying this!!), but we all think it’s quite funny now….
Anna Barlow - Look It's So You (2)

FQ: Critics of your work find it obscene–what do you think lends your art to that interpretation?

AB: I think it’s interesting how people react to my work. They either love it, are repulsed by it, or don’t get it. I have a theory that this reflects on how they feel about food or their relationship with it.

 

FQ: Recently you have been branching out into some more collaborative projects, such as creating the piece “Anticipation of a Thousand Moments” for the Big Egg Hunt–a project wherein several artists were asked to design two-and-a-half foot high fiberglass eggs which were auctioned off for charity. How do you see your artistic practice expanding in the future?

AB: I really loved that project! I am beginning to think that it might be fun to collaborate in some way as I would love another set of ideas to work with.  We’ll see…..

 

FQ: How do you, as an artist, make working in a specific medium and within a niche subject area continually interesting?

AB: It’s funny—I never thought I’d stick with ice cream for so long; just as I feel I must be done with it, a whole set of new ideas pop up to keep me going…. at the moment I am interested in how our individual tastes affect our perceived identity. I made a piece called, “Look, it’s so you!” where pink ice creams and treats dominate a mirror’s surface so that you can only glimpse a little of your own reflection.

 

FQ: Your works are becoming more and more monumental–do you see yourself moving towards creating larger pieces in the future?

AB: Yes—now I am represented by Scream Gallery, and they prefer to take larger work.  I am really enjoying spending a lot of energy on one major piece at a time and really going for it on intricacy and extravagance—it’s a really great challenge!

 

FQ: Any new and exciting projects on the horizon?

AB: More ice creams!!

 

ABODE: Christine Facella

Christina Facella began her career as a science illustrator for the Museum of Natural History in New York. In 2007, after several years of traveling in South America and Asia, she left her position at the museum to found Beetle & Flor—an interior accessories company. The profits from Christine’s beautiful, hand-cast, porcelain, and gold objects go towards funding her real passion—providing free and low-cost design services to underserved artisan communities in order to help them bring their products to the global market. Since Christine undoubtedly knows good object design, we were excited to see how this would translate to her personal living space:

 

Fameless Quarterly: Thank you for inviting us into your home! Tell us a little about where you live. What neighborhood are you in? When did you move here?

Christine Facella: We’ve been living in this apartment for about four years. It’s on the cusp of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, on an isolated tree-lined street with row houses dating back to 1910. In the evening when working hours are over and the traffic dies down, it’s quite the tranquil spot.

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FQ: What are your favorite and least favorite parts about living where you do?

CF: We have an awesome backyard. The previous owner planted an array of berry bushes: black currants, white and red raspberries, blackberries, concord grapes and gooseberries—which attracts: squirrels, birds, opossums, raccoons. Unfortunately since we’re in a very polluted area, off Newtown Creek, we’re a little hesitant to eat much of it—which is probably what I like least about living here. To compensate we’ve built several planters in which we grow herbs and vegetables in the summer.

 

FQ: Outside of your home, what are some of your favorite places in the neighborhood?

CF: Walking to the studio I can choose two main routes: One takes me through McGolrick Park with its beautiful canopy of trees and newly planted native garden. The other route is behind our house, into a heavily industrialized, dirty area. I like them both; they are contemplative in separate ways: urban nature and people in the park and the void of nature and people in the other.

 

FQ: How do you think your neighborhood influences your work as a designer and artist?

CF: Last year I did a small collection of ‘urban wildlife’ skulls for the newly launched Brooklyn CSA+D. I based it on ‘tough’ species (domestic cats, rats, pigeons), basically animals I see on a daily basis around here. Other than that, living in such a creative community of people who make things is, in itself, influential!

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FQ: Does your past as an illustrator for the Museum of Natural History have an impact on how you arrange and decorate your personal living space?

CF: I think so. Both Warren and I used to work there, as illustrators and model makers. We’re both interested in natural history, and we both originate from geography that made us appreciative of nature: Warren grew up in Maine and I myself am from Norway. Having the outdoors be part of our living environment is a given.

 

FQ: Beetle and Flor was founded to fund your low-cost design services to underserved artisan communities in order to transform their local products for the global marketplace. Do you find you employ that re-purposing aesthetic at home? Are there any items in your apartment that you have created out of re-purposed materials?

CF: Most of our furniture is ‘hand-me-downs’ or from the street or garage sales. A few of our planters outside are made from old studs from removed walls in the apartment, and we’ve used reclaimed materials for some of our hand-made furnishings, fully stained with a concoction made of rusty metal and tea. The quilt on the bed was made from Warren’s old shirts and scraps of fabric.

As for the artisans, I’ve been working on a long term project with Work + Shelter, based in Delhi. They employ and train women in crafts such as knitting and sewing. For the past two years we’ve been working on a biodegradable stuffed toy project (mirandaredpanda.com).

 

FQ: Your porcelain and gold skulls are beautiful! They would fit perfectly on the shelf of a Wunderkammer–which is pretty fitting, given your background. Do you have any curios in your home?

CF: We collect things from travels or the outdoors, but they are all scattered throughout the house!

 

FQ: What is your favorite thing in your apartment?

CF: My mom, long ago, when living in Atlanta, made a rag-rug wall hanging, in pink, blue, and gray hues. For as long as I remember, it has been curled up in my parent’s basement—probably due to its outdated style and sheer size—and was amongst the ‘stuff’ my dad brought when we moved in, thinking I would want it.

I wasn’t thrilled, but since our house at the time was fairly empty, I ended up hanging it in the hallway. Now in the morning when I wake up, it’s the first thing I see, all lit up from sunlight streaming through the skylight and glass blocks. I’ve really come to love it, enough so that it has influenced the color choices in the bedroom.

 

FQ: In addition to your signature skull porcelain works you have also been producing planters and vases. What was the inspiration behind this shift?

CF: I thought it was perhaps a slightly unhealthy obsession to only do one thing, so I had to venture out and try new ideas! We can always go back to what we know, but growth happens when you try something different, at least according to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

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FQ: Do you garden a lot at home?

CF: Yes, it’s a weekly treat! I’m usually at war with the morning glories, trees of heaven, and those Blackberry bushes, which would like to spread all over the yard. I have a certificate in horticulture from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and am about to start an MA program in Landscape Architecture at CUNY. Plants are my second obsession!

 

FQ: You must travel a lot! Do you bring anything with you on your trips to remind you of home?

CF: Usually when I go somewhere, I’m ready to get out of here and the last thing on my packing list would be a token of home! I travel light: a small backpack. Pictures of Warren and the cats on my phone is all I need.

 

FQ: What is the biggest luxury in your home? Are you saving up for anything at the moment?

CF: We’re going solar! A huge expense, but with the tax breaks and loans, the monthly cost comes out to about what we pay Con Edison now. We are super excited!

 

FQ: If you could change something about your apartment what would it be?

CF: Who wouldn’t wish for an additional bedroom?

METHOD: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is reclaiming public space with defiant portraits plastered on buildings across the U.S. Part of an ongoing series, “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” these portraits are derived from interviews Fazlalizadah has conducted with women from all over the nation on their personal experiences with gender-based street harassment.  Powerful statements accompany each drawing, culled from the stories that the interviewees have shared with Fazlalizadah—some read, “my name is not baby, shorty, sexy, sweetie, honey, pretty, boo sweetheart, ma,” “women are not seeking your validation,” “critiques on my body are not welcome” and “my masculinity is not a threat to yours.”  “Stop Telling Women to Smile” has elicited a strong national response—spurring conversations on gender, race, autonomy and misogyny—since its 2012 inception in Brooklyn.  Fazlalizadeh traffics in the dialectics of power with her work, highlighting that catcalling is not about pleasure but, rather, control. We recently sat down with the now very-much-in-demand artist (her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, the Huffington Post and Beautiful Decay Magazine as well as on CNN and The Melissa Harris-Perry Show) to talk with her about her daily routine:

 

Fameless Quarterly: How do you begin your day? Do you have any morning rituals that are particularly important for preparing you to engage with the sometimes-difficult subject material you work with day-in and day-out?
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh: I’m working on making a better morning routine. I’ve never been a morning person but I think I’d be more productive and have more successful days if I had a better and earlier morning routine. I usually wake up, drink some water, open my laptop, and start tackling emails. Some days I wake up early and go to the gym, come home and begin painting.

FQ:  Walk me through the rest of your day. Your project has received a good deal of media attention and you are expanding “Stop Telling Women to Smile” to be more participatory–spread over various locations in the U.S. You must be busy!
TF: The rest of my day sort of depends. If I’m working from home for the day I’ll possibly be doing one of a few things: working on back-end, administrative stuff, or painting. I prefer to paint during the morning and day, so sometimes I’ll wait to handle work that’s done on my computer until the evening. Some days I have phone or in-person meetings, some days I work in a local coffee shop, some days I’m out on my bike running errands. Being a freelance artist gives me the freedom to have days that widely differ from each other.

FQ: So much of your work deals with the basic ability of women to have autonomy of movement, free from harassment. Prior to this project in what ways did street harassment affect how you proceeded with your daily routine? Has that changed since you began “Stop Telling Women to Smile”?
TF: The thought of street harassment doesn’t really affect my daily routine. While some days I do take a moment before leaving the house because I know my outfit might elicit some unwanted attention, I still leave my house and go about my day. The act of street harassment is what affects me once it happens. It can affect my mood but it still doesn’t interfere with my routine. Since STWTS, I’ve become more assertive in responding back to men who harass me. Responding gives me a feeling of empowerment.

FQ: On average how much time do you spend interviewing, photographing, and drawing your subjects before replicating and wheat-pasting their images? Do you dedicate specific days just to interviewing and photographing and days to wheat-pasting or do you only work with one subject at a time?
TF: Right now, I’m doing more pasting than interviewing. This year I’ve spent a lot of time in other cities meeting many women, interviewing and photographing them. I still have a lot of potential portrait subjects from all of these cities that I’m working through. I’ve accumulated a lot of content, and now the more important part is getting that work out to the public. I don’t dedicate certain days to pasting, as long as I’m going out and doing it consistently.

FQ: Your preferred medium, and what you have always worked in prior to this project, is oil painting. Do you still have time during your day to work on painting or has your focus completely shifted to the “Stop Telling Women to Smile” project?
TF: I’m a freelance illustrator so I’m always painting. STWTS requires a lot of administrative work that takes up some of my day, but I’m still very much painting.

FQ: You have made a conscious effort to include representations of women of color in your images. You have stated in the past that this is a result of your experiences as well as a way to include women of color in a feminist conversation–especially since, historically, they have been left out of these discourses. As you have continued to work on this project and have conversations with women about street harassment what more have you learned about the intersection of race and street harassment as well as race and feminism? Has this changed the way you approach your project?
TF: I’ve learned that not everyone is harassed in the same way and that there isn’t a standard definition of what harassment is. What a young black woman who lives in a black neighborhood experiences will be different from what a white woman who moves into that neighborhood experiences—or, the experiences may be similar but the perspective on harassment is very different. That’s why when it comes to race and feminism, it’s important for all voices to be heard and listened to. It’s the reason why I’m now trying to curate the subjects in the project even more. Street harassment may happen to everyone but the way that is occurs will differ if you’re a 16 year-old Latina from Brooklyn, versus a 23 year-old queer Santa Monica student, versus a 50 year-old black woman from South LA.

FQ: During your day do you often encounter men who are interacting with your art? If you do, what are their reactions to the project like?
TF: No. I never see men interacting with the art. I spread these pieces out so I’m not often walking past them unless I’ve put them in my neighborhood. These, I don’t see people interacting with them—but I do see how they evolve over time. Sometimes pieces of the work get ripped away; people write on them; street artists add slaps to them, etc. But I don’t usually see anyone stopping, looking, and reacting—though I know that does happen.

FQ: Some of the pieces you have pasted around the city have been defaced. Do you replace those pieces with new work or do you leave the defaced pieces so that people can see the misogynist statements written on them?
TF: I don’t replace them. I let them live there as long as they can. I might revisit the same spot months later after the first piece has gone but, I don’t replace them simply because they’ve been defaced. They are consistently defaced and that’s not something I can really prevent from happening. I do think it’s important for people to see the defacement because it usually highlights the point of the work—that women’s bodies are abused in public spaces.

FQ: Speaking of place and autonomy of movement–do you have any favorite spaces in the city?
TF: I’m kind of an outdoors girl, even though most of my time is spent indoors. I like being in the park or at the beach—I love Prospect Park and visiting different beaches. I work in coffee shops often and have a few favorites that I go to. I also love riding my bike around Brooklyn and discovering different neighborhoods.

INVENTORY: Cecilia Doan

During a lunch break last year, Cecilia Doan’s co-worker mentioned she was coveting a pair of shoes she had seen a favorite blogger wearing in a photograph online. Cecilia blurted out the phrase “shit bloggers wear!” and an idea was born. Doan started creating black and white drawings of sartorial items that seemingly “appeared” at the same time on all of the major fashion blogs—thanks to brand endorsements—and uploaded her drawings to her newly minted website, “Shit Bloggers Wear.” The sense of humor inherent in Doan’s skillfully executed minimalist drawings quickly garnered “Shit Bloggers Wear” attention; since the blog’s inception Doan has been asked to collaborate with Topshop, The Coveteur, Fashionista, Complex Media, Grandlife Hotels, Fashion Magazine, and Of A Kind. When we meet someone like Doan it is easy to get caught up in all of their accomplishments and makes us wonder—what tools are in this person’s arsenal? So we asked Doan to sit down and document what her essentials are, the objects that get her through the day—and we aren’t talking about those Balenciaga boots.  

IMG_0181

Cecilia sent us the following collection of essentials (clockwise from top, left corner):

Trader Joe’s Mangoes: I always need snacks because I’m constantly hungry, or at least craving to munch on something throughout the day. So a bag of dried fruit like this will be finished in just a day or two. I actually bought the wrong mangoes this time, because they ran out of the “Just Mangoes” which has no added ingredients and tastes like the mangoes I grew up eating.  

Headphones: I’m at my computer for about 10-12 hours a day. I’m constantly on SoundCloud during that time, because I’m trying to learn more about music, new music that’s out by up-and-coming artists—artists of my generation. I grew up with a very narrow scope of music and I’m trying to catch up.

Toki Doki for Smashbox Skin Tint: This has been mine for what, about 4 years? It sounds kind of gross because I don’t think you’re supposed to keep cosmetics for that long. Anyway, my natural lip color is pretty nude and I am horrible, absolutely horrible, at wearing lipstick so I opt for ‘all-in-ones’ or tinted lip balm. It requires less precision, and won’t get in the way of my snack habit.

Japanese Shortbread: Asian snacks are some of my favorite, especially things that are green tea flavored.

iPhone Charging Cable: I’m notoriously known among my friends to always have the lowest charge on my iPhone at any given point. I don’t know why, because I constantly close my apps when I’m not actively using them. This is a much needed utility, so I can continue to waste hours on Tumblr.

Sticky Notes & Instax Fujifilm: Some people use Moleskins or Field Notes, I just use sticky notes. I’m a perfectionist, or a control freak, or OCD … whatever you want to see it as. And if I used journals I would constantly be tearing out pages because I didn’t like the way I wrote a certain sentence. I stick the sticky notes everywhere and they’re really effective because they’re constantly in my face and remind me to make things happen. As far as the Instax Fujifilm … it’s a fun camera (not pictured) that I reserve for moments with friends and family. This photograph is with my niece who actually reminds me way too much of myself as a child.

Polka Dot Pouch: This is the only “purse” I carry with me. I purchased it from the Japanese Delfonics gift shop inside the Louvre in Paris. It is PVC, super cheap, and really cute. I have several in various patterns like this. They’re very “CDG” (Comme Des Garçons).  

Pens: Ballpoint pens make me cringe. I write and illustrate with ink pens only. Brand, type and point size doesn’t really matter as long as the ink continues to flow heavy. The other pen is a Pentel Japanese brush pen for calligraphy. I use it to fill in areas in some of my illustrations. I couldn’t possibly shade so thoroughly with the ink pen alone.

Car Keys: I love my Mini Cooper and I’m actually pretty proud to have this round disk for a key. I’ve wanted a Mini since I was in high school. I finally got it two years ago and it was a huge ‘adult’ moment for me, except it drives like a go-kart and makes me feel so badass.

iPhone 5: Everyone feels really sorry for my phone, which is cracked and dented to near smithereens. I dropped it in Hong Kong, after losing it and finding it again in Japan. I think it doesn’t want to live any more … but I’m making it hang on for dear life—it could be months or forever until the next iPhone comes out.

Leather Notebook: Sometimes, I do take notes in these things. I bring them to meetings (along with my sticky notes) so people will take me more seriously. Mostly, I write lists in them.

Hand Shit Hand Cream: Why do your hands feel so dry and gross after you wash them? I’m not devoted to this brand or product, it was just funny and I’m a sucker for anything corny.

Japanese Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kat: Did I mention I liked to snack? Asian snacks?

 

MOMENT: On the Move

Haven’t we been here before?

in this exact same situation.

I chase you; Streets. Tunnel vision.

You resist because

it helps your ego.

I feel as though I had a soul mate

and I forgot them.

Whoever it is, I miss our

fun times;

adventures,

projects,

enthusiasms,

unexpected visits,

a sense of possibility in every moment,

as though we could cross oceans.

“Have a ride if you like

on my scooter”

With one foot

placed firm on

the scooter

the other

pushed away

the hard ground.

Saying yes was always her.

That was her thing.

And I used to laugh

because it was so

pleasing.

Because I liked it.

I didn’t need an answer

but I asked her why

once.

She said she didn’t know.

It was just something

she did.

That scooter

and I have something

in common.

We travel too fast.

Too fast to fall in love.

The head over

heels type love.

Except with her.

Get the Queen What She Wants!

Jackie and her children, Orlando, Florida ©Lauren Greenfield 2011/INSTITUTE

Jackie and her children, Orlando, Florida
©Lauren Greenfield 2011/INSTITUTE

Schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. One can’t seem to escape this feeling about the Siegel family when watching the documentary The Queen of Versailles. The film was supposed to be about conspicuous consumption, and what it’s like to be able to build the palace of your dreams, but instead the film began as a portrait of a timeshare billionaire, his ditzy wife, and their grotesque quest to build the largest house in the United States of America; The 90,000 square foot “Versailles” imitation — “kitsch” is perhaps the best descriptor. It ended as perhaps the single best film on what happens when those pleasures are taken away from you in an instant.

In 2008, the Siegel family was at the top of the heap with the wealthy and politically influential David Siegel running the successful Westgate Resorts timeshare business. The documentarians wanted to see what kind of people would build such an unnecessarily large house so they embedded themselves into the Siegel family. That’s when things took a turn for the unthinkable (at that time); the financial crisis hit, credit dried up, Siegel’s business began to flounder, Versailles fell into disrepair and the family began to crack. “This is almost like a riches-to-rags story,” Siegel tells the camera. For this overprivileged family, accepting that situation proved a dispiriting struggle even as their unfinished dream home became a monument of their superficial values.

As in any good documentary, the players do all the heavy satirical lifting, in this case Jackie redefines white trash and the much older David clarifies the role men play who indulge their wives as long as they are hot and attentive. “Foolish old man” is an apt cliché for a decent guy who was smart enough to make billions, but not smart enough to avoid an indulgent wife. As the documentary glides to its conclusion, we are left with the impression of a decent man who couldn’t control his appetites and an optimistic wife who couldn’t control her spending.

An exterior view of construction of the Versailles mansion being built by Westgate Resorts founder & CEO David Siegel and his wife Jackie Siegel, photographed during an exclusive Orlando Sentinel interview Monday, August 26, 2013. The Siegels starred in the 2012 documentary 'Queen of Versailles,' The famous Versailles mansion they are building, when completed, will be the largest house in America at 90,000 square feet. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) B583090129Z.1

An exterior view of construction of the Versailles mansion being built by Westgate Resorts founder & CEO David Siegel and his wife Jackie Siegel, photographed during an exclusive Orlando Sentinel interview Monday, August 26, 2013. The Siegels starred in the 2012 documentary ‘Queen of Versailles,’ The famous Versailles mansion they are building, when completed, will be the largest house in America at 90,000 square feet. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

Other than the Michael Moore type of documentaries which have a stated agenda, filmmakers are thought to be neutral arbiters. One of the best qualities of this film is how non-judgmental it is. They film the action, interview the subjects, and edit it in a way fair to all the players. However, no matter how one edits the footage, the Siegels are going to come off looking like some horrible people. It is in the best documentary tradition: truth will out. David is 30 years Jackie’s senior and now that their funds are rapidly dwindling away, he is starting to get tired of his third wife. He hides in his office (a couch in front of a flat screen surrounded by papers and food scraps) to enjoy being away from the chaos which his house has become. It shows its characters being both thoughtless and thoughtful and it gives them a chance to represent themselves to the camera; it’s a movie that has no interest in being a hatchet job. At the same time, it juxtaposes their problems with those of one of their nanny’s, whose situation is far sadder; it also has no interest in being a whitewash.

These folks are poster children for the worst extremes of our materialistic, narcissistic culture. Their values are money, ostentation, self-aggrandizement, acquisition and mindless hedonism. They are venomous leeches on society. Yet, I felt pity for them as well, particularly Jackie. She’s something of an enigma. She boasts about getting an engineering degree so she wouldn’t have to work as someone’s assistant, yet she mostly devotes herself to keeping herself young-looking and voluptuous (those breasts of hers deserve some sort of special effects award) so she can snag and keep a rich hubby. As her world starts to fall apart around her, she begins to have some insights about what life is really about (hint: not building the world’s biggest house), yet still can’t abandon her out-of-control shopping sprees or tortuous visits to the beauty clinic. The children, seem to be far more aware than their parents of the emptiness and ridiculousness of their lifestyle.

The Siegels aren’t an object of envy and even though they still have more money than you do, you would never switch places with them. The film shows laughable yet slightly shocking scenes of people who equate things with happiness and excess with success. “Versailles” is never finished (the house plays a bit part in the movie) but the home they live in is ridiculous in its own way: It’s luxurious, but also filthy.

There’s no good news in this film, it ends before the recession does. “The Queen of Versailles” is unremittingly gloomy probably because a part of us all is hidden amongst that greed. Everyone is susceptible to covetousness and an inflated sense of self. This film shows what happens when that proceeds unchecked and fueled by obscene wealth. Jobs come and go, physical beauty fades, markets rise and fall. Even close relationships can end, but true happiness lasts a lifetime.

In The Middle Of Nowhere, Good Times Are Happening

Oakland, NJ- “The first couple of bands haven’t shown up yet, so Victor is going to play a couple of songs on his guitar.” Not the most promising of beginnings for any concert or festival, but in the case of ‘Lawndry Fest,’ it’s almost a consecration of this obscure gathering’s care-free atmosphere.

“Fest” seems a bit strong to describe the event — backyard summer show is more fitting. The best outdoor furniture was reserved for the occasion. A few rows of lawn chairs give their back to a small trail of scattered woods, where a few people are in the distance. On a table in the corner, a box is placed selling a few cassettes made by some of the bands, and in the center, an improvised stage protected by a picnic gazebo showcases the artistic expression of young souls stuck in the boondock’s of New Jersey.

“It was so much bigger last year,” you hear a few people say, “they had to use that whole lot across the street, and it was packed with people.” Funds apparently ran short this year, because it ended up finding a venue behind someone’s house.

Among the crowd are mostly local college students at home for the summer. Looks and glances abound, as people examine their former classmates in a sort of early high school reunion. But there’s no adolescent drama resurging; everyone seems to be with friends here. And so, as the the first group take to the stage, Lawndry Fest kicks off sending the vibes of a day dedicated to music, summer, and taking it easy.

Perhaps a bit too easy. “The first couple of bands aren’t as strong, they just play for fun. We have bands later on that actually do shows and record,” says one of the event’s organizers and performers.

As the first band takes to the stage, a pleasantly nostalgic fit of indulgence takes over of memories of those awkward high school days. The elements are all there to send the audience spiraling down memory lane, from the carefully selected, department store clearance attire to the nervous stares at the ground– and of course, the material selected. A Nirvana cover? Sure, why not two? And why not follow it with some Hendrix? Ah, to be young. Not exactly the kind of set that lands a record deal.

From the crowd’s response however, no one seems to care because at Lawndry Fest, if you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re missing the point. Every band steps down with applause, every song is a reason to dance, skank around in a circle, and enjoy the splendor of the summer together with people you’ve known for years. Frisbees are thrown, group pictures are taken, people continuously greet and embrace someone they haven’t seen in a while.

As later groups step up with a much more impressive set, no one seems to be focused on rating this or that band, and the bands least of all. Even the most experienced band gets to the stage with the same laid-back attitude, goofing around before plowing into frenetic performances.

At Lawndry Fest, there’s no room for critics or elitists. Even though quality musicianship is not lacking, it is not a prerogative, and those who possess it are only concerned with using it to have fun with others. Somewhere between one band finishing up and the next one going through a quick soundcheck, music ceases to be a business, an unnecessarily complex effort to impress or a way to convey self-righteous messages, but instead reverts to one of its deepest and most primal states– the soundtrack to a good time.

*

We Might Call It Reality

Almost all of us, at some point in our lives, are filled with a longing desire to discover, learn, and live in the moment. This wild and innate urge is often referred to as wanderlust, our best attempt as humans at trying to encapsulate this force that pulls at us. However appreciated, this cannot sum up or explain the call. In her photography, Sydney Krantz attempts to further capture and explain this phenomenon, in hopes of providing us with a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to find your gratifying place in the universe, even if only for a moment. While many suppress and try to distract themselves from the call until the lust has quieted, Sydney boldly answers, and rather than silence her desire to explore life, she faces it head on, and shares some of her experiences with us here.

Fameless Quarterly : When did you first realize that photography was something you were passionate about?
SK: It wasn’t until Junior year of high school. It was more of a hobby for my dad and his brother, so it was always around, but I never really became interested in it until I got a camera for Hanukkah or some holiday and started messing around with it. I ended up taking some photo classes in high school and learned about the history, the process, the dark room… it really just took off from there.

So it’s safe to say that while photography seems to run in your family, you took it a step further in making it something more than just a hobby?
I definitely took it a step further. They kept it as an interest, but I was the first person in my family that wanted to go to school for and pursue that as a career. To be honest, they weren’t very supportive in the beginning; a lot of “What kind of job can you get with photography?” and all that, but I think now they’re just a little jealous that I’m still doing it [and loving every minute].

You’re showin’ ‘em how it’s done! It’s not uncommon for loved ones to be apprehensive about pursuing the life of a creative. Of course it’s always in our best interest, wanting something that’s more secure and structured. Fortunately, we live in a time where more than ever, artists have the opportunity to not only make a name for themselves, but do so quite comfortably. You seem to be doing very well, all in all. Way to break the mold!
Thanks!

What is the intended message that you hope to convey in your work, and do you feel you’re able to do that successfully?
If I get any type of reaction, whether it’s positive or not, it’s a good thing. I don’t have any preconceived intentions for how I want others to feel about it; I just have an idea of how I want a photo to look, and work hard at making sure the shot comes out how I imagine it. Of course sometimes it can be a surprise too, because it’s all on film and I can never be certain about the outcome. I mean, the whole idea is to have that moment mean something important to each person, whether they question reality or feel a certain type of way. In the end, the goal is just to have the viewer tap into their imaginations and look at things from alternative perspectives. I try to focus on things that are constants in everyday life. Color is a big part of that in my work; it allows me to take that constant and make it into something more surreal.

Your work can definitely be described as dreamlike. It seems to play on that border between what is real and what is just beyond. Your play on the colors, exposures, lighting, and your use of multiple exposures certainly adds to that effect. What is pleasure to you? Do you feel your work represents that theme? 
Pleasure is broad; it can mean being at home for a few days or eating a good meal, but at the same time, it goes much deeper. Pleasure isn’t always so easily connected under the surface as it is above it .With my work now especially, I try to replicate moments that I find to be blissful. It’s about the little unexpected moments; anything that would be ignored and giving it a second look. Looking from a different set of eyes can change everything.

What advice would you give to other aspiring photographers?
Read a lot, especially photo books; do a lot of research online and get familiar with the work of other artists. Talking about my work is one of my most difficult and daunting tasks, so it helps to keep up with interviews and hearing how other artists talk about their work. Also, listen to your instincts. If you see something you want to take a photograph of, do it. Regardless of what teachers or friends or fellow artists might say, listen to your gut, and don’t lose sight of why you started.

Would you be able to recommend a book or some photography books?
Robert Adams – Why People Photograph

Stephen Shore – The Nature of Photographs 

Is there anyone you’ve met or worked with that has influenced you or that you hold especially significant in your journey as photographer thus far?
David Hilliard, one of my professors in college. My style was very unconventional compared to my peers, and he was very supportive of my work and my vision throughout my last semester. I certainly could not have come as far as I have if it were not for his encouragement. Also the work of Brian Graf and James Welling was definitely a game changer for me, and it wasn’t until I saw their work that I challenged my then, very traditional and uncertain style.

What kind of film do you shoot, and why have you chosen that format?
I loved film from the very beginning and then I received my first DSLR. I certainly used both, but shooting with film simply satisfied me more. It took a lot more thought and concentration and it seemed more of an art form/craft than my digital camera. In my first photography class in college, we learned how to shoot with large format (4×5) cameras and how to develop our own film (b&w). It was extremely challenging, but as soon as I got the hang of it, I was hooked. Bought my own camera and everything. I moved onto color 4×5 which is unfortunate because I love it so much, but it’s getting more and more expensive to buy and develop it. I then decided to buy a Mamiya 67 (medium format) because I enjoyed being able to work a little bit faster (medium format has 10 shots as opposed to shooting one at a time with the 4×5). It was also a better option for my wallet because it allowed me to experiment without worrying so much about ruining shots. Film will always be my first love, but as an artist, I have to adapt to the current technologies which led me to investing in the Sony A7r, (a mirror-less digital camera) Such an impressive little camera, I never thought I’d be this excited about digital!

In your experience, what has been your favorite camera to shoot with?
Definitely my 4×5. I’m using it less and less these days, but each time I whip it out, it’s as magical and fulfilling as the next.

Sydney Krantz is based in the NJ/NY area