Minimalist Cityscapes is Exactly What You Are Looking for
Some say that ever since photography became digital, it has lost a lot of its magic. When something becomes easy, it starts to slip into the mundane, it becomes repetitive and loses slowly its power as a creative tool. This revolution split photographers and created two subcategories within the medium. Even though a majority are working within this digital world, some still have the dedication to stick to the medium’s truest form and Rodolfo makes it seem effortless.
Rodolfo Diaz was born in West New York, NJ. Rodolfo has been taking photos since his older sister showed him the ropes at the age of 15. She showed Rodolfo everything from how to operate an SLR to making his work come to life in print in the darkroom. He is enamored with Fine Art photography and portraiture, which is obvious to see in his work. He continually leads the viewer into a world of fascinating portraits and amazing minimalistic city and landscapes which show a subtle mood of loneliness. His portraits aim to simplify beauty, provoke the viewer’s imagination, and express his subjects’ feelings when words fail.
Fameless Quarterly: Do you have any influences in the photography world, art world or any other world that you can tell us about?
Rodolfo Diaz: Can I just give names? I don’t want to get into detail on just one individual, because there’s so many extraordinary individuals creating impactful work that need to be mentioned. Okay, so here’s a few in no specific order: Thomas Gardiner (Photographer), Mustafah Abdulaziz (Photographer), Taryn Simon (Photographer/Interdisciplinary), Pablo Lopez Luz (Photographer), Nina Chanel Abney (Painter), Glenn Ligon (Painter/Sculptor), Barkley L. Hendricks(Painter). The list goes on, but that’s what quickly comes to mind.
FQ: Do you see your personality reflected in your work?
RD: Absolutely. And I'm going to keep this response short because the answer is real simple. I’m currently 26 years old, and I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s through that passion, where I am able to project myself in the most sincere way possible.
FQ: How do you see yourself growing as a photographer in the coming years?
RD: A friend recently told me that if you’re not growing, then you’re shrinking--hahaha--I’m going to make sure the latter never occurs. At this point in my life I can’t see myself not growing, but to pinpoint as to how I will, well I couldn’t even imagine. Luckily, I’m fortunate to have a few friends who are incredibly creative and intelligent, that inspire me to push to the envelope, and to ditch that internal conflict that deters me from being progressive.
FQ: What makes you happy and/or sad?
RD: What a question! Talk about being cosmic in size. Generally, I'm a rather happy person. There’s a plethora of things that make me happy, but a few things I can identify with that make me happy on a much grander scale, would be my solitude; being able to listen to music at home without being disturbed; decent weather that allows me to cycle great distance; the company of my family; and most importantly, that feeling of excitement I get, when I'm heading to my photo lab to pick up my film that has just been developed. What makes me sad. Well there’s many things, and I don’t like to bring them up, because the thought of them alone, kind of makes me upset. But to give you an idea as to what comes to mind, well it would have to be, distrust; the negative that occurs daily throughout the world; Cold weather, which deters me from being able to cycle comfortably; people who can’t seem to grasp the idea, that sometimes (well most the times) I just want to be alone; and the biggest bummer of all, is when I feel real keen about a roll/rolls of film I just shot, and after processing, I'm completely dissatisfied.
FQ: Any heroes?
RD: It’s going to sound like a cop-out, because so many people have said it at some point, but certainly my Pops. The thing is, I haven’t always felt that way about him, and more often than not, I have this feeling of ambivalence towards him. And the reason I say him, is because as I get older and our relationship becomes more fruitful, I'm starting to know things about him, that I would never imagine, and it’s all because he’s not very open about discussing himself. In all the qualities that I could pick that I feel make him an admirable individual, is the fact that he’s always willing to sacrifice his time, in order to provide for someone else who is in need.
Sexuality Minus the Stigma: An Interview with Zoe Ligon
Taboos are thoroughly explored in Brooklyn-based artist Zoe Ligon's collages, which seek to blur the boundaries of sexuality for the rest of society. She began creating collages four years 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 pieces and putting it back together again, completely transformed. Her ability to alter the value or meaning of an image or object by adding or subtracting 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 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, 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 toy store 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 and a 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 be living 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, caftans, 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, and many 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.
Traveling to bizarre places, getting into dangerous situations, testing boundaries, and learning lessons the hard way
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, I would literally drink water out of beer cans to seem cool so as not 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 collage 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 but I wouldn't call it my favorite ever--I'm not even sure what my favorite would be! "The Good Meat Removed" series is beautiful to me be-cause I have heard so many different interpretations of it from other people -- it could be about: censorship, the body as composite parts that are meaningless separately, exploitation of the body within pornography, and so on. Yet, it doesn'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 decided to begin collaging. I wanted attention. I was 17 or 18 and had a HUGE crush on this artsy guy. I had been a dancer my entire life, but I wanted to make visual images I could broadcast to the world via the internet to get his attention. I sucked at illustration and painting and decided to begin cutting up images that were already beautiful to make them beautiful in a different way that I could sort of call my own. Well, I never hooked up with that guy, and years later with a much more reputable CV I'm sure he still doesn't give a fuck, but I think it's a total hoot to acknowledge that I did it all for a guy's attention at the time. These days I still seek attention through my work, but I'm catering to a wider audience than one teenage boy, and my intent goes way 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 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 can pass it to other people. 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 shifts at a sex toy boutique and am involved with nightlife I run on a night-owl schedule these days.
FQ: What are you trying to communicate with your art? ZL: I'm not trying to communicate anything specifically, I just want to start an open dialogue about the subjects I choose. I mainly play off of the responses I get and it turns into more of a conversation than me out-putting a message. When I used a genderless pseudonym as my artist name in years past (Zoo Lion), people would see my art in galleries or shows and assume I was a man. Sometimes it feels as though it's not my art sending a message as much as it is the actual act of creating it that is 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, Stevie Nicks, that woman in A Clockwork Orange with all of those penis sculptures in her house, and Barbara Streisand's character in Meet The Fockers. I just asked my coworkers who are standing right next to me as I write this and they said my style is "futuristic art deco with a little Stevie Nicks" so I guess that goes with all the aforementioned icons.
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!......................................................................................................................................†
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 (4x5) 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 4x5 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 4x5). 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 4x5. 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.
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.
I went to see “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” last night at Cinema Arts Centre, a local Long Island theater. It was great. Considering the book had a profound impact on me in 8th grade, I had been awaiting the film version for many years, anticipating how they’d portray Sam. Luckily, Emma Watson was the prime choice for the role. She’s without a doubt one of the most attractive women in movies right now, next to Anna Paquin. She’s beautiful. But anyway, aside from the fact that the movie held up to my expectations and it took me back to an adolescent understanding of friends and sex and school, something alarming was brought to my attention in that theater. The great thing about Cinema Arts Centre is that they are dependent on public funding to help them survive. This is also the horrible thing about Cinema Arts Centre. So, they usually have somebody on the staff speak in front of the crowd before the movie begins, informing the audience of upcoming events that will be held at the theater. Considering it is a venue brought to you (as far as I’m aware), by moviegoers and people who are generous enough to donate funds, money can become an issue. And here is where the issue comes into play. A woman spoke to us before the movie began about future events and speakers and before her talk was over, she informed the audience that by mid-2013, they must raise 200,000 dollars in order to keep up with the technological advancements of the ever-growing and simultaneously ever-fading film industry. By the middle of next year, there will be no more film stock. Film stock will be obsolete. There may be some museums and archives that have film projectors and film reels, but other than that, every piece of machinery in theaters will be digital. In most cases, these projectors will be replaced by hard drives. The digital world is truly taking over. I knew it was slowly coming through, tearing apart the memories of filmgoers who have been going to movies from the birth of film up until about 10 years ago, but I didn’t expect it to come to this point so soon. The movie-going experience as we know it will be forever changed. The little black dots on the screen, the ovular yellow circle with black inside on the top right corner that periodically shows itself, the sheer organic quality of a film will be forgotten and lost in the throws of the digital era. “What does this mean?” you might ask. Better yet, “who cares?”, you might ask. What this means is that the film industry will no longer be the film industry. It will be the video business. The films of Von Sternberg, Ford, Huston, Curtiz, Hitchcock and even Woody Allen will be simply stored in film archives, never to be projected again on a film stock projector. Now, let’s not get crazy. It’s true, this kind of conversion has been going on for years and there are graduate programs, though few and far between that do offer degrees in film preservation. But, this is an industry change. It is universal. Projectionists can now officially be replaced by anybody or even robots. Directors will be forced to make decisions based on the fact that 70 millimeter prints will no longer be available for public viewing. There will no longer be people taking film stock in big circular containers back and forth from factories and studios to theaters. Millions of theaters world-wide will go out of business because they cannot afford to replace all of their mechanical equipment with digital projectors and hard drive storage units. The movies themselves will be artificial. They will never look like film. They will look fake. But worst of all, the people that once cherished and loved film for what it was are forced to face the reality that whatever the future holds will never possibly live up to their memories of going to the movies and seeing the cinematography of Sven Nykvist in the way he had intended it to be. Many of the Woody Allen films of the 1980’s will be given over to libraries and museums to be left on shelves and studied from time to time by the few nerdy Library Science students who understand the cultural significance of film. There will be no more Carlo Di Palmas or Gordon Willis's. Those guys will be in the dark (no pun intended). The lighting used to make John Cusack look distinguished in “Shadows and Fog” will no longer exist. The gritty and natural texture in “Through a Glass Darkly” will only be a memory. If we ever see these films in theaters again, they will be projected digitally; in a way they were never intended for. Digital viewing was not a thought for Bergman or even Lumet, at least not in the 1960s. Seeing these films projected on digital projectors in digital screenings was never supposed to happen. It takes away from the beauty of the films and the intention of their makers. The way we understand movies is changing. And changing good (not for better). We went from people having the job of cutting the film, to delivering the film, to projecting the film and now these jobs and the film that makes them unique and important falls by the wayside. The film industry spent many years trying to prove itself as a meaningful and cultural art form. And now, it looks like we are digitalizing our way back to the basics, back to a time when film was considered a joke, a mystical and magical joke that held no potential. Now we can have a robot cut the film, send the film and project the film. There is nothing unique about this. It is a dead industry. Welcome to the digital age. Welcome to a time when going to the movies means seeing the perfect picture. Film was never supposed to be perfect. The imperfections are in fact, the most beautiful part. They make film film. All we have left to hold on to is the films that have moved us and made us realize that there is more in life worth living for than just what we’ve experienced. Luckily if you are reading this, you are old enough to have had the opportunity to see a film projection in a movie theater. For kids born 10 years from now, they will be eternally missing out.
Color conducts emotion. We feel blue, we see red, and we turn green with envy. We're tickled pink and when we're overwhelmed by joy, some call the experience "fuzzy wuzzy," but not because it reminds us a of reddish-brown. . . Or does it remind us of The Isabella Tiger Moth that dwells in the arctic? . . It’s abundantly fuzzy progeny is appropriately called The Woolly Bear larva and it emerges from the egg in the fall. . . If fuzzy wuzzy had a temperature it would be about 26.666 degrees Celsius — not here, not now. During the arctic winters the Woolly Bear survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. . . In my mind, cold and fuzzy wuzzy could never be in the same sentence (unless of course I’m talking about how they can’t be in the same sentence). . . The Woolly Bear larva feels fuzzy wuzzy because of the cryoprotectant, not because of it's fuzz. . . In most temperate climates, caterpillars become moths within months of hatching, but in the Arctic the summer period for vegetative growth – and hence feeding – is so short that the Woolly Bear must feed for several summers, freezing again each winter before finally pupating. Some are known to live through as many as 14 winters. . . The thought of winter weather during the summer or summer weather during the winter. Fuzzy wuzzy is a feeling. . . Let’s not forget where ‘fuzzy wuzzy’ was first used. . . Before people felt all fuzzy wuzzy, or saw something that was fuzzy wuzzy. It was a plant. . . Kalanchoe tomentosa, also known by it’s common name, fuzzy wuzzy. A succulent. . . Succulent fuzzy wuzzy. . . A native of Madagascar, it is a popular houseplant on account of its small size, ease of care, and dark-red rimmed foliage. It's a pleasure to have. . . Pleasure and fuzzy wuzzy. . . Hadendoa is the name of a nomadic subdivision of the Beja people. The area inhabited by the Hadendoa which is today parts of Sudan, Egypt and Eritrea. . . "Fuzzy-Wuzzy" was used by British soldiers in the 19th century as a name for Hadendoa warriors referring to their elaborate hairstyles during the Mahdist War. . . Osman Digna was a Mahdist general who led the Hadendoa to break a British infantry square in the Battle of Tamai, although he ultimately lost the battle itself. Wonder if he felt fuzzy wuzzy then. . . The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels was the name given by Australian troops to a group of Papua New Guinean people who, during World War II, assisted and escorted injured Australian troops down the Kokoda trail. . . Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels coming to your rescue.
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 over privileged 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.
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.
Lucas Condon has an appreciation for the finer things in life. As men’s fashion has become more prominent in recent years, he is helping lead the way into an burgeoning marketplace. Condon works for the Merchandising and Marketing Department at Birchbox, one of the fastest growing online companies around. Birchbox is a business that sends its monthly subscribers boxes of goodies tailored to fit their needs and habits. For women this could be makeup, skincare, hair products, or even healthy snacks. In the boxes for men they receive skin and hair products as well as accessories that are thought to suit them best. Condon’s main focus is on the Men’s division, as it has become more and more apparent that they are in need of just as many options as women. Lucas Condon has agreed to share the everyday Essentials he has discovered while working at this blossoming company.
The Big Easy is a solo project from underground North Jersey artist Stephen Berthomieux, done with the help of musicians Jesse Minikes, Zak Ali, and TJ Alamo. Previously frontman of another local band, Politics As Usual, he formed this project to bring a classic rock ‘n’ roll sound to the alternative rock he’s been playing for years. Influences for this project have been artists like The Replacements, Spoon, Pavement, The Strokes, and Elvis Costello. Having released his debut EP A Handful Of Friends, the group has been playing local shows relentlessly in support. We sat down with Stephen to talk about his music, his party-loving attitude, and his adventures on the road, all tackled by his personal motto: “women let you down. drugs let you down. rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t.”
Fameless Quarterly: What is the meaning behind your band name? Stephen Bethomieux: When I first started playing shows with these songs, I just used my name, cuz’ I’m not a fan of stage names if you’re by yourself. But using my name on stage was too long and people could never remember it, so by the second show I came up with the Big Easy.
FQ: I ask because it really seemed to fit with your sound. There’s something about A Handful Of Friends that is infectiously laid back and energetic, even on songs with more serious themes. What is the meaning behind it? SB: I guess I figured that’s what the basis of rock’n’roll is about. You can whine about a girl all you want, but at the end of the day, rock ’n’ roll is really party music. When it came to my songs, I wanted to put out that vibe, but I still wanted to convey the feeling of themes I could relate to.
The lyrics are more “stuff to get off your chest,” but the music still has that feel-good vibe.
FQ: You have been playing nearly a week since the album dropped. How many shows have you performed in the last few months? SB: I’ve done two, three shows a month. Most of these shows have been around the city, between Manhattan or Brooklyn, but we throw a few shows in Jersey as well. It’s the only way to really get out there. Even if today you can market your music through the Internet, live shows are still the only way to reach fans on a personal level, nothing really does it like that.
FQ: How have people been responding? SB: Generally good, people seem to love us.
FQ: What kind of energy do like to bring to your performances? SB: I try to bring as much energy as I can. If the band is dancing around, the crowd is going to start dancing around. If it looks like I’m genuinely having fun on stage, and I’ve been told that a lot, then people get into it as well.
FQ: How do you prepare for a show? SB: I like to drink a lot before I play (laughs). I never played a show completely sober. It’s a slippery slope -- you don’t wanna get too messed up -- but I always end up second guessing myself if I don’t loosen up a bit.
FQ: You seem to be completely in love with playing the local scene, from cramped bars to sweaty basement shows. How did this love story develop, and what is the most enjoyable aspect of it? SB: My favorite gigs are the DIY basement shows, it’s where you really get fans. I feel that’s the best way to go for any upcoming artists. The people that go there are those that are really there to listen. I play more shows with promoters in random bars and shit, but you really have to understand that they don’t really give a shit about you, and sometimes you’re more likely to bring people yourself rather than picking up new fans. Plus, DIY shows are so much more fun, and people are probably going to be drunker than they’d be at a bar. People are going to start dancing, grab your mike and start singing randomly. They’re really fun to play.
FQ: What have been some of your favorite venues to play at in NYC and the area? SB: Like I said, I really prefer the basement scene. But as far as venues go, we recently played Arlene’s Grocery, and that was pretty good. I really liked playing Cake Shop and Trash Bar in the Lower East side. Soon we’ll be playing Bowery Electric for a second time. That was a lot fun, one of the bigger venues we’ve played at.
FQ: Well, then how do you have a good time while shuffling around the challenging and chaotic music scene of New York? SB: I’m not saying playing in a bar is not fun, but its hard to capture it. I try to rock out as hard as I can. If I jump around at a basement show, I do the same gig over there. People definitely respond differently though, you’re playing to a different crowd. The connection is more distant, but that’s the goal -- to the get them riled up.
FQ: Future plans? SB: Good question. I just dropped the EP in June, but only in digital form; I’m trying to get a physical release. After that I want to take to the Northeast, and play shows around Connecticut and Boston. I want to get connected with people there, and play as many small basement shows over there as I do here. We’re going to try releasing a split album with a couple friends, like my friend Tom Warren who plays bass for the Front Bottoms and has a solo project called Big Neil. I have a whole album’s worth of material, but I’m waiting for the right time. I’m waiting to get picked up by a label.
FQ: So you wouldn’t want to remain independent? SB: If I could do without a label, I totally would. But the support provided by a label is tough to match. I’m going to start recording in a few months, get another EP out, and see if I can get more exposure.
Isolation is a powerful and underestimated state of being. While, on the surface, it may have a negative connotation and seem unwanted in society, Jean Rollin’s Les deux Orphelines Vampires glorifies this condition. It also allows those watching the unique perspective of two bloodthirsty sisters, fueled by the perverse and violent desires that come each night with the darkness. Delivering a powerful message while keeping to the most simplistic cinematic qualities, Les Deux Orphelines Vampires is based on Rollin’s novel of the same name. It’s a classic dedication to the avant-garde style.
Blind by day, sisters Louise and Henriette live in the care of nun at Les Glycines orphanage, unable to visually interact with the world around them. Those who care for them are held in a seemingly hypnotic state of affection for the girls, showing clear favoritism and a genuine interest in finding a home for them. “Dear Lord I beg of you, make it so that the good doctor Dennery adopts our little martyrs. They are so dear, so patient, so innocent, so gentle.” The aforementioned Dr. Dennery, an eye specialist, is convinced he can heal the girls, and after meeting and having also been entranced by their beauty and innocence, he adopts them. So begins a new chapter in the lives of the undead sisters as they are given the opportunity to leave in hopes of starting a better life.
It is only when the sun sets and the sky turns the screen into a fluorescent blue hue, that our two heroines become their true selves, taking to the streets to kill, feed, and quench their endless thirst. “The day for us is blue, the light for us is black, and other people’s sun has made us blind, but when it is hidden, our dream begins. They’ll never know the two blind orphans can see at night.” Plagued also by the memory of several past lives that have ended in violent and traumatic deaths, the girls take constant refuge in cemeteries, which provide them with the cover and solace needed for them to reminisce and recover their strength, referred to fondly as their “true homes.” Uncertain of whether they themselves are alive or dead, they seem not to care for long before their carnal nature seems to grasp strongly onto any sense of morality they may be known for by day. Still, there is a constant and ominous sense of curiosity expressed by Louise and Henriette throughout the film to try and discover their original identities. Frequent repressed memories reveal their nature as Aztec goddesses who were ritually sacrificed in the 15th century to satisfy their gods.
A simple film with simple qualities, there are no special effects here; rather it’s classic storytelling, and one with carefully chosen dialogue. They’re vampires, after all, and as such it is not difficult to determine what the premise will be, which is essentially the two travelling the streets of New York and Paris, feeding on every animal and human who is unfortunate enough to cross their paths. It is not so much the plot that makes this movie, but it’s ability to effectively deliver. It is delicate and refined, much in the same way that the two sisters are, being able to captivate both viewers and characters alike. The film would not have been the same was it not for the chemistry between Isabelle Taboul and Alexandra Pic, after all. It is rumored, in fact, that Rollin chose Isabelle Teboul, the actress who plays Henriette, specifically for her beautiful hair.
Although the scenes seem to drag on very slowly, it coincides with the films lower budget as well as the pace of other French films, especially seen in Rollin’s earlier work. The occasional dust mite or flaws in the shots also add to its authenticity as the viewer is forced to step outside the realm of what we know cinema to be today into one of raw imperfection. The soundtrack is appropriate and consistent with the mood of the film overall, having been compiled by noted composers Phillipe d’Aram de Valada and Ars Antigua.
Though alone at first, they meet several other creatures of the night throughout their journey, those who find an equivalent level of pleasure from this time of day. While some of these characters are more like themselves, such as the midnight lady, a stunning and powerful vampire who resides in the catacombs of an old church and saves them from a potential mishap, another is discovered to be a ghoul and feed on the flesh of cadavers, sympathizing with their struggle to find a home to call their own.
Unable to effectively harness their desire to kill and feed, both sisters are compelled to keep their secret hidden whilst fighting their unyielding urges. Although they receive assistance throughout their escapades from other creatures, it is unsatisfactory as their identities are constantly threatened through either carelessness or chance. What begins as a mostly quiet and somber film quickly develops into a thrilling rush of anticipation as the immortal sisters cling to their desires and identities, hoping that this life will not come to end as countless others have. Coming through on the style and delivery he is so often attributed to, Jean Brolin’s Les deux orphellines vampires is avant-guarde storytelling at it’s finest.
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.
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:
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....
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!
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)!
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.
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.
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.
Archiving the Imperceptible: An Interview with Hae Jung Lee
Toronto-based Hae Jung Lee creates intricately rendered drawings as a way to obsessively document and archive her fleeting inner thoughts. Beautifully drawn and a little bit eerie, her pieces have been striking a chord with a lot of people lately, including the folks at Booooooom! and Hi Fructose—a wonderful thing for a newly minted graduate. We recently had the opportunity to talk to her about her practice and the role of pleasure in her work:
Fameless Quarterly: When did you first begin making art? Have you always had this particular drawing style?
Hae Jung Lee: I can’t really say there was a moment when I started to make art. I’ve always felt the need to write down thoughts I’ve had ever since I can remember. At one point in time, I simultaneously was writing in two or three journals about my surroundings. They were full of notes. I think I was always sort of obsessed with trying to capture my fleeting thoughts and had a fear of losing them or letting them fade away into nothing. Somewhere along the way, I figured out a way to capture these thoughts and emotions visually. As for my drawing style—because my thoughts are always so unorganized, messy, and often complex—I’m always trying to give my drawings a lot of breathing space while capturing the chaos and complexity of different thoughts through intricate details and with the use of symbolism in my work.
FQ: Tell us about your creative process!
HJL: It’s much like when a person writes in their journal. I have a thought or a moment I feel the need to capture, and I start drawing it. I don’t like to sketch my ideas because I don't edit my journal entries.
FQ: You utilize so many small bits and pieces of ephemera in your drawings—are there specific meanings to the odds and ends you choose to incorporate into your portraits?
HJL: All the bits and pieces within my works have meaning to me. I think it is my way of conveying the complexity of the subject matter because my thoughts are never simple. It helps me capture all those messy, complex, and contradictory details in one piece.
FQ: You selectively utilize color in your newer work—can you talk a little bit about moving from primarily black and white drawings to your newer, more colorful pieces?
HJL: Color was my enemy for a long time. I lacked the proper materials, techniques, and the skills to apply color while not altering the aesthetic of the overall piece. I found that color was an extremely powerful and sensitive element in depicting mood and atmosphere in a piece of work and I’ve just recently reached a point where I see the possibility of color becoming my good friend, soon. It’s an ongoing battle.
FQ: Your work features the literal unraveling of young women--who is the subject of your work? Are they self-portraits? If so, do you plan on expanding the repertoire of people in your work?
HJL: All my works are self-portraits. It has never crossed my mind to work with a different individual’s portrait because I only have my own perspective in life to document. I feel that it’s almost imposing or even offensive to depict my thoughts with a different individual’s portrait because I am in no position to illustrate another person’s perspective in life. Everybody has thoughts and struggles of their own; they should have the right to depict them in their own creative ways.
FQ: There is something decadent and tactile in your work—I am thinking specifically of your piece Binge. What role does pleasure, in all of its many iterations, factor into your art-making?
HJL: I think pleasure has a lot to do with my drawings. Because I have the liberty to embed any possible narrative and feelings into my drawings, many works often have notions of basic human desires and pleasures that may be considered unacceptable in our society. I find it unfortunate sometimes that we often define ourselves only with these names and characteristics that are constantly judged, crushed, molded, and remolded by modern society. I find pleasure in relating my experiences back to myself as a human being with basic instincts, drives, and desires that are not filtered through social influences.
FQ: You recently mentioned that your work has taken a more narrative direction. Can you speak a little bit about this?
HJL: When I was just starting out with visual documentation, I was initially more focused on developing a visual aesthetic that harmonized with the subject matter I was trying to depict. Now that I am more content with the consistency in which my works are being produced, I am able to focus more intensely on adding more narratives and symbolic complexities, which I wasn’t able to focus on before.
FQ: For fans of your work—do you plan on producing prints anytime soon?
HJL: I’ve had conflicting thoughts about making prints of my originals for a while now... it won't happen anytime soon, anyway.
FQ: What are you conflicted about?
HJL: At the moment, I feel that repetition just dilutes the potency of anything. Also, I am still growing and solidifying as an artist and I don't think I'm able to fully comprehend the benefits and possible consequences of taking that next step. Maybe I'm overthinking this as I always do, that's where I feel conflicted.
FQ: In past interviews you have stated that you have faced a degree of racism where you currently live as a result of having immigrated to Toronto from South Korea. How does this inform your work?
HJL: That particular past experience is, I would say, the very foundation of my artistic practice and the way I think today. The constant isolation throughout my childhood made me believe that I wasn’t like anybody else. It also eventually led me to develop an intense curiosity for individuality and what makes a person unique. I’m so grateful for that experience now that I look back on it because it made me such a strong individual and it helped me to find my passion in life.
(I was living in a small, very rural city, an hour away from Toronto and that’s where I experienced racism. Toronto was already a very ethnically diverse city when I moved to Canada and I’ve never personally experienced racism here.)
FQ: You graduated with a BFA from York University last year. What have you been up to since graduating?
HJL: I’ve been drawing a lot more, mostly. As much as I want to work closely in the fine art field, I am just working hard to rid myself of the massive student debt that I have over my shoulders for the moment.
FQ: We hear you! So many of us have graduated with these massive education debts, forcing us to work full-time to make ends meet while pursuing our real passions outside of work. What is your day job?
HJL: I am a barista at a local cafe. I've got a great routine going for me these days, actually. Nothing better than a double shot of espresso at the end of my night shift to get my drawing session started.
FQ: Who are some of your biggest influences, artistically?
HJL: I was very much influenced by Eva Hesse during my university studies. I found her philosophy in art-making to be admirable, given her circumstances at the time. I was also very mesmerized by her choice of materials. The fragile and impermanent qualities in her works are so attractive to me, even to this day.
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.
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 waytoo 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?
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.
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!
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.
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?
Nell Stone, the ingenious young anthropologist at the center of Lily King’s Euphoria, explains to her colleague, Andrew Bankson, that the Tam people of New Guinea believe love grows in the belly: “‘You are in my stomach’ was their most intimate expression of love.” The notion of being in one’s stomach implies a love that grows like a child, and a love that is consumed like food. This seemingly contradictory conception of love and human relationships permeates the book, consistently returning to the question: is the pleasure of love in possessing or in growing?
Euphoria is loosely based on the biographical details of Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and Reo Fortune, who embarked on a joint exploration of what was called the Territory of New Guinea in the 1930s. At its most basic, the book describes a love triangle between three anthropologists—Nell Stone, her husband Schuyler Fenwick, and their acquaintance Andrew Bankson, who narrates much of the book. While a conventional love triangle deals with the desires of each of the three individuals to possess one of the other two, Euphoria presents each of the three as needing the others in order to fulfill some aspect of love, either possessive or enlightening. Nell, specifically, is acutely aware of her desire to love without possessing. In a telling conversation, she asks Bankson, “Do you think it’s natural, the desire to possess another person?” before quoting from the Amy Lowell poem “Decade” about wine and bread: “wine is sort of thrilling and sensual, and bread is familiar and essential.” As they talk, she mentions that “people are always wine to me, never bread” to which he responds, “maybe that’s why you don’t want to possess them.” Nell wants a relationship that will send her into the elation of drunkenness, not a relationship that she can consume to sustain herself at the expense of the other person. Her husband, Fen, takes a different style, which becomes clear in their approaches to their research.
The anthropologists’ interactions with the indigenous people function as stand-ins for their search for human connection. Riding in a boat down the Sepik river, Nell laments passing indigenous villages, worried that she will miss the one perfectly compatible group with whom she will be able to forge a genuine connection, “a people whose genius she would unlock, and who would unlock hers, a people who had a way of life that made sense to her.” In pursuing her research, Nell longs for this mutual elevation of ‘genius unlocked.’ Fen, on the other hand, seeks a different kind of satisfaction, which he reveals when discussing a ceremonial flute shown to him by the Mumbanyo people; “We could sell it to the museum for a right heap of cash. And then there are books to be written about it. Books that would blow past Children of the Kirakira [Nell’s extremely successful book]. It would fix us up for life, Bankson.” In studying the indigenous population, Fen wants to appropriate their culture. Financial gain is the easiest marker of possession (selling an object implies ownership of it), but more than that, Fen desires respect. He explicitly links his pursuit of the ceremonial object to being more successful than his wife. In contrast to Nell’s desire for mutual elevation, Fen conceives of a relationship as a struggle for the upper hand—he wants to make bread (pun intended) out of his anthropological studies as well as his wife.
Nell is thus mainly another possession for him, and even as she pursues her own desires, she recognizes how restricted she is by the possessive conception of love. She writes that “it is freedom I search for in my work… to find a group of people who give each other the room to be.” She is searching for a group of people who are able to establish a community without becoming oppressive. Certainly her position in relation to her culture is not one that allows her this “room to be.” In marrying Fen, Nell is forced to abandon a relationship with a female colleague, something she describes as “the conventional choice, the easy way for my work, my reputation, and of course for a child.” But in her longing for a love free of possession, Nell objects to being forced to choose.
Fen gives voice to these feelings, and accuses Nell of supporting polygamy. “It’s what her set calls free love… multiple partners. You go in for that too, Bankson?” Since Fen’s idea of love is based exclusively in possession, the idea of “free love” is incomprehensible and threatening. The question directed to Bankson expresses these feelings in equal measure—Fen seeks Bankson’s agreement, while simultaneously seeking assurance that Bankson is not a threat to Fen’s ownership of Nell.
This question posed to Bankson is in many ways crucial, for he is the one caught between the two conceptions of love. He desires to possess Nell but knows that she is married, that he cannot have a monogamous relationship with her. While he would like nothing more than for Nell to leave her husband, he discovers the mutual elevation that does not require exclusivity: “I felt in some ways we’d had some sort of sex, sex of the mind, sex of ideas, sex of words, hundreds and thousands of words.” When all three collaborate on an anthropological breakthrough, Bankson describes the connection he feels to her: “I wasn’t sure if I was having my own thoughts or hers.” This type of kinship is the opposite of ownership, as the connection to Nell is so intimate that he is no longer in complete possession of even his own thoughts.
Bankson’s kinship with Nell allows him to experience a human relationship that is a meeting of minds as opposed to a pursuit. In a sense, this connection of minds goes beyond Western logic; Fen even references it in regards to a Tam ceremony: “if you just let go of your brain you find another brain, the group brain, the collective brain, and that it is an exhilarating form of human connection that we have lost in our embrace of the individual except when we go to war.” Bankson, who has lost an older brother in World War I, knows how destructive such collectives are when based on domination of someone else. The question is whether such a unity of minds can be achieved without the object being domination.
Bankson experiences this unity briefly when he is working alongside Nell, contributing to a scientific understanding of the world that is infinitely bigger than both of them. The titular word appears only three times in the book, always to describe a breakthrough of understanding about the indigenous people. As Nell puts it: “it’s a delusion… and it’s followed by the complete despair of ever understanding anything. But at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It’s the briefest, purest euphoria.” This is the conundrum faced by the characters of Lily King’s Euphoria, especially Nell and Bankson—the capacity to understand another person, to feel who they are as if from inside is the only way they can ever be truly, “entirely yours.” However, there is always the terrifying knowledge that this understanding might just be a projection. But this is another way to understand “you are in my stomach”—a confirmation that one has understood well, that one has gotten under the skin and permeated one’s lover. With this reciprocated recognition, mutual understanding becomes the essence of fulfilled love, something much deeper than a feeling of ownership based on a misplaced projection.
At approximately 3,326 meters high, Cathedral Peak in California’s Yosemite National Park is an outstanding pinnacle just off of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It derives its name from its square shape, having resisted erosion above the glaciers for centuries. It is also the setting of the spectacular video below.\n
The whole scenario seemed crazy ... I was over a mile away from my subject, who was walking a tightrope with certain death consequences if he fell. I was running through the woods with $20,000 worth of camera gear, making the most unique photo of my career. I'm still a bit amazed that I managed to stick the shot.
Moonwalk by Bryan Smith is part of a National Geographic Channel series called The Man Who Can Fly. This particular scene features Dean Potter walking on a highline between two enormous rocks. Potter is a record-breaking climber who lives in Yosemite and for over a year, he's insisted that the moon would provide a stunning backdrop for the stunt. He finally convinced photographer Mikey Schaefer to capture the shot. Schaefer used a Canon 5D Mark II and an 800mm, f/5.6 lens with a 2X doubler as well as an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris The app helped Schaefer find the exact point where the moon would rise. He set himself up on an adjacent ridge almost 2 km from Cathedral Peak at 7:30 PM, allowing him the perfect balance of exposure between Potter and the moon.
I bet, just like me, there's been countless times where you've wanted to share what's going on NYC's subway and haven't simply beauce you don't want to be 'that creep' taking photos on the subway. Video journalist Rebecca Davis, did just that. Davis’s video Commuters 2012 is a glimpse of life in New York’s subway. The video is a simple idea that you just can't take your eyes off, just like real-life situations in the subway. The video is a collection of hundreds of snapshots of regular people living their lives underground, selected from more than 3,000 photos she took last year.
Davis began documenting commuters while she herself was traversing the five boroughs for different stories, often spending more than two hours per day on trains working as a video journalist for the New York Daily News. Explaining the project, she says:
"I became interested in the way in which the dynamics of the train cars changed from line to line, neighborhood to neighborhood, and throughout the seasons. … I was also interested in the very private moments I would often see playing out before me between two people and often with individuals caught in moments deep in their own thoughts--all the while surrounded by strangers."
She cites Walker Evans’s and Bruce Davidson’s photography of unsuspecting train passengers as inspirations for the project, but updated for the iPhone age.
"So often on the train we bury ourselves in something we’re reading or music we’re listening to and forget to look around and take in some great human drama that is constantly being played out in New York," Davis says. The best moments in her video are of children and of couples--kissing, laughing, or just sitting there. "I hope it makes people stop and look more deeply into all the different faces and human moments we encounter each day in a city like New York where privacy is hard to come by."
While Davis’s hidden camera isn’t exactly making it easier to locate privacy, instead, it reflects images familiar to anyone who’s ever passed through New York--in all of its diverse richness. (Perhaps you’ll even find yourself in the video. People looked eerily familiar to me.)
In addition to cutting together footage for Vimeo, Davis maintains a fuller photo archive of the project on her Tumblr
Inspired by a popular child's song "The Wheels on the Bus," these photos captured a moment in time not to be repeated of people on the bus around the world, the subjects the most pure forms of humanity.
In terms of independent films, Soft In The Head scores low on this critics list of must-sees. When you first get a look at the title, a few ideas about the structure of the plot come to mind. Namely, things that ultimately would have contributed to a much more compelling plot, such as a young woman’s struggle for consolement in dealing with someone close, such as a lover or family member, who is mentally handicapped or autistic. Interestingly enough, the five-minute opening scene, uncomfortable as it is, almost makes it seem like this is exactly what’s going on, only to immediately pull the rug out from under you.
Nathan Silver took a relatively small budget from a Kickstarter campaign and delivered what he believed to be the essence of film in its purity.
“Movies should not be made from paper, but from people. What I mean to say is that I don’t trust scripts, even though I went to NYU to learn how to write them. I trust people, or at least the ones I’m working with,” Nathan wrote on one of his Kickstarter project updates.
Soft In The Head is a work of improvised fiction shot in the style of a documentary. Though there are a few ways that this ultimately could’ve been an almost-unique choice of style, the plot falls flat, and the arc of the story is so disjointed and difficult to follow that it lends almost no entertainment value. Worst of all, it’s difficult to hone in on who the actual main character is.
On one hand, Silver defines the main character to be Maury, a sensitive, almost creepy, and criminally caring individual based on a character from the 19th century Russian novel “Идио́т” (Idiot) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
However, the subject being examined largely remains the unremarkable character Natalia, a 25-year-old woman living in New York City who may or may not struggle with alcoholism. It’s implied that she may have issues with drug or alcohol abuse, but we rarely get a good glimpse of what’s actually eating her. So, we have to assume that she’s just a hot mess because that’s her character. No context means no depth and no human interest or relation.
Maury’s character is severely underdeveloped as the story progresses, and therefore wouldn’t be justifiable to call him the main protagonist. By the end, the film attempts to salvage whatever plot there was by having Maury’s character die of, from what we can tell, a broken heart.
The reason the movie is so difficult to follow is because Silver, in effect, told his cast to come up with a quirky character and then portray that character when the cameras were rolling. With minimal directorial influence, the film simply follows the lives the cast has created, which sounds much more interesting than it is. With very little on-screen chemistry and awkward exchanges in dialogue, the scenes often feel more forced than fun.
Essentially, Nathan Silver went to the extreme of a David O. Russell style shooting, where many of the scenes are improvised for the effect of natural realism. Had Silver taken the time to hash out and develop the characters his cast had created on paper, he could’ve still shot the film as a fictionalized documentary examining colorful individuals in New York City, and gotten away with it.
A more seasoned filmmaker, with a track record and actors more experienced with these types of films, may have been able to take a similar concept on and do much better. Unfortunately, Soft In The Head just falls short of entertaining. It almost begins to look like post-production received a lot footage that didn’t fit together well and had to attempt to make it work anyway.
Silver’s production, while at it’s heart had great intentions and big expectations of its cast, doesn’t accomplish much more than borderline mediocrity. Still, a hat tip should be gestured for going there; wherever there happens to be.
When I tell people how excited I am about the new world of popular jewelry websites and how I think it can lead to a whole new way for people to express themselves creatively, they normally think I'm either biased or crazy. But the truth is, some of the simplest do it yourself jewelry websites, websites that allow you to choose from various designs and materials to create your own individual piece, may be heralding the arrival of a new era for creative design.
A New Era for Creative Arts
In the old days, the artist, designer or jeweler would work in isolation in his workshop or studio and the adoring, or not so adoring public would get its chance to voice its opinion once the work of creation was done. A normal person with no background in the creative arts could never be a part of any serious creative process, at least that's the way we were taught to think and something we have all gotten used to.
But what if the new trends in internet marketing, such as the ones we've just discussed above, trends that allow users to choose ,mix and match various designs and materials point in a new direction?
Eliminating the Boundaries between High and Low Art
Let's imagine an art website that allows users to be an active part of the creative process. The first thing you would choose is the size of the painting. Next you will be able top specify the dominant colors, taking into consideration your favorite color schemes and the environment in which you would like to place the painting. What about style? Do you prefer abstract or surrealist, realistic or impressionist? If we take this a further step, you can also choose the theme of the painting or the characters. If this is done for you by an expert artist, will the final outcome be high or low art? Isn't this a lot like the paintings of old that were commissioned by patrons?
A New Creative Democracy
Some of you may consider this as sacrilege, but why not allow everybody to get involved with any creative process, especially if they're paying for it? Artists have been complaining for years that the public does not care enough about art, isn't this an opportunity to change things? Current creative websites, such as my own do it yourself jewelry sites are a very humble beginning, but I do believe that this may change in the not so distant future and may eventually completely reshape how we create, consume and experience art.
Graffiti goes back centuries, but in more recent times renegade street artists like Blek le Rat - and later Banksy - have been daubing iconoclastic and satirical art onto walls and in public places in order to make bold artistic or political statements. But what about the simple desire to make something prettier or aesthetically pleasing. Maybe it is time Banksy and his cohorts checked out the little known folk art of truck painting.
Graffiti on vehicles is entirely different to the kind of art produced by Banksy and Blek le Rat. You could probably trace it back further, but during WWII servicemen, pilots and gunners would spend hours in the airfields painting various ephemera on the fuselage of their planes to combat the monotony and kill time between missions. They would paint things such as devils, cherubs, pin-up girls and even political slogans like better dead than red. Spending so much time in their vehicles; working in them, sleeping and eating in them, perhaps even perishing in them, might have given them a sense of ownership; one that dictated their desire to "tag" them. The same could surely be applied to truck drivers.
This isn't an endorsement or a recommendation to paint your trucks; And I am sure Eddie Stobart would not be happy if someone defaced one of his lovely green and red wagons. But we have all seen those trucks where a more understated protest of ownership has been displayed in the form of a sticker, a flag or a discarded teddy-bear strapped unceremoniously to the grille. In Pakistan they are slightly more flamboyant, and their indigenous art form of truck painting is a truly remarkable thing.
Again it comes down to a sense of ownership, as these artistic creations are the endeavours of their owners sometimes self-painted, sometimes just designed and taken to specialists. Some might say they are gaudy and meretricious, others would say beautiful, vibrant, kaleidoscopic works of art that hark back to the 1960s. They are also highly personal; some even with poetry and various other verses in Sanskrit.
Designs are typically internal as well as external, and fascinatingly each city in Pakistan has a truck design unique to it. Some even incorporate additional metalwork or timberwork into the designs to make them structurally different and more attention-grabbing. This may sound strange to the outsider, but in a country where Truck Art is a national institution one imagines such competition is necessary.
There is no question that the presence, growth, and enduring popularity of the internet has changed the face of the music industry forever. The question that everyone is asking, and hotly debating, however, is whether it has changed it for the better or for worse.
We looked at a number of changes that the internet has brought to the industry, and aimed to come up with a definitive answer in conclusion.
File Sharing is not the problem it once was now that services such as Napster have become paid services, and the streaming industry has in general become heavily regulated.
In terms of lost payments and royalties, it will be impossible to ever put a true price on the impact that illegal downloading and file sharing had throughout the 1990s and 2000s. However, what early file sharing ‘services’ did perhaps do was shape the way in which we now access music online today, which it is generally agreed is nothing but a good thing
While Justin Bieber was famously discovered via YouTube, it would be unfair to say that the site is only responsible for discovering people that polarize opinion around the world.
Regardless of what you think of the people who have used YouTube as a platform for global success, it is obvious the impact the site has had in terms of providing an arena for aspiring musicians to put their product ‘out there’ for people to judge.
The wider influence of social media in general has also helped musicians to get their voice heard and in many cases be given an opportunity to become a global superstar.
While learning to play a musical instrument in the traditional manner is still hugely popular, the internet has allowed a generation of self-taught musicians to emerge and become competent at playing their favorite instruments. The range of resources available online is immense, and it is so easy to take advantage of them.
Say you are looking to learn the guitar. There are forums where you can discuss what you are doing and look for advice, websites featuring video tutorials from famous musicians that can help you to learn some great riffs, and many more information guides and pointers that will help you to develop your skills whether you are a beginner or advanced player.
Expand this across all instruments, and you have a huge opportunity for finding and using resources online.
In the past, if you wanted to put a band together, you either needed to be friends with people who played instruments, or put an advert in your local newspaper or music magazine. Now, thanks to many of the resources we have discussed already, such as social media, it couldn't be easier to do it. What's more, you can ask people to send videos of themselves playing an instrument or singing rather than see everyone physically, giving you a much greater chance of finding the final piece in your jigsaw.
The internet has brought some negatives to the music world, especially in terms of leaked news and the reduced number of surprises we enjoy. However, there is no question that, overall, the internet has been a good thing for the music industry.
Randall "Hoot" Smith, owner of the Randsburg Art Gallery, announces his rogue vision of promoting world class artists. "I know this is hard to believe from an art gallery owner but I think that artists deserve 100 percent of the value of their art! Yes, that's right, 100 percent," says Smith.
Smith asks: "If you're a world class artist, does it really matter if you show in New York City, Paris or Los Angeles? Well, yes and no. Yes, big name galleries have big name client lists and expensive showrooms in beautiful art centers. They also charge the artist considerable commission fees for their services. And no - if you're a famous artist, your clients need only to know where to find your art."
Now all that being said, here's the deal. The Randsburg Art Gallery is located just two and half hours from Los Angeles in the historic Rand Mining District and old gold mining town of Randsburg. The gallery occupies more than two thousand square feet of museum quality viewing space in what was originally the First Bank of Randsburg (circa 1920).
The gallery is adorned with fifteen foot walls and wonderful, original tin panel ceilings. Smith adds, "Any and all world class artists can show and sell their art at absolutely no cost; and I mean no commissions or fees."
"Why and how is the gallery able to do this?" asks Smith. "It's easy. Why? I want Randsburg to become an art center destination. How? The gallery is self-sufficient and, honestly, I want to turn the commercial art world on its head. As an artist myself, I've had it with posh, snooty galleries dictating terms and conditions."
He concludes, "I want artists to thrive and prosper, to enjoy the true value of their art in a friendly, receptive atmosphere. They can find that here in the Randsburg Art Gallery."
Johnny Depp has been a heartthrob for decades, first rising to fame and capturing the hearts of teens everywhere with his role in 21 Jump Street. Since then, he has proved that he is more than just devilish good looks, and has demanded respect for his acting by playing the lead in Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and The Pirates of the Caribbean. Depp has pulled off many personas and roles in addition to the ones listed above, transforming himself into a vampire, an eccentric candy man, and a delusional mad hatter. Depp's most recent role as America's Native American hero has actually garnered him some negative feedback.
The Lone Ranger is a popular American franchise, starting as a radio show in 1933 and evolving into a television series running between 1949 and 1957. Considering America's past with racism and treatment of minorities, especially the treatment of Native Americans, and combined with the fact that the Lone Ranger was popular long before the advent of the civil rights movements in the '60s, it is understandable, but not forgivable, that the Native American character, Tonto, was never represented well. According to Salon, as The Lone Ranger franchise developed, Tonto was first portrayed as a bloodthirsty savage, then as a slightly competent character in accordance with the Reorganization Act, and finally as a character independent from a tribe, and loyal to the Lone Ranger. His characterization has always been to affirm a stereotype or "prove" that their various laws regarding Native Americans were working; in other words, whatever the American nation has needed.
In the present age, a day where racism has supposedly been abolished and the American government has apologized to Native Americans for past treatment, what new direction can Tonto's character take? According to Adrienne Keene, a Harvard graduate, Depp's Tonto is comprised of all the stereotypes typical of Hollywood, and he totally misrepresented the already underrepresented Native American culture. His costume was based on a painting by Kirby Sattler, a non-Native who has admitted that he does not paint his subjects with historical or ethnical accuracy in mind.
Depp has conferred with Native groups, donated money to Native charities, and has been adopted as an honorary member by the Comanche Nation. Depp's main goal was to create a role model for Native Americans to look up to. According to Keene, that would have been more successful if he had played Tonto as a character that did not use being Native American as the main selling point. While it is true that Depp has used his fame and money from the role to help Native Americans, and the resurfacing of the role has brought these social issues to light, critics have said that it would be better if an actual Native American played the role, instead of Depp.
Though the role of Tonto in this revival of The Lone Ranger is not overtly racist like it was in the past, there are still plenty issues inherent within the character. It is a bit of a dual edge sword; Depp is helping bring awareness to the otherwise ignored Native American culture, but is also engaging in common stereotypes that actually hurt the advances of Native American rights movements. It isn't a perfect step or a completely politically correct role, but it does have certain positive benefits in the rehashing of the popular Western.
WORDS: Donna. Prior to working as a social manager at Edictive in Sydney, Australia She worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, USA
Nicole Loher is a dedicated and elegant fashion blogger. Her blog, “The Style Student” has evolved into a staple resource for fashion, personal, and health advice for her readers. Nicole has become an excellent role model by documenting her perseverance through the Fashion Institute of Technology to landing her current job at Nannete Lepore. Today, Nicole shares her elegance with us in her installation of our essentials series.
1. YSL’s Top Secrets All-In-One BB Cream 2. Theo’s Pure 85% Dark Chocolate 3. Nike Free 5.0+ in Black 4. Juice Press Coffee with Black Label 5. Satomi Kawakita Hexagon Ring with a white diamond (available at Catbird) 6. Beyonce & Jay-Z 7. The Walking Dead 8. pineapples (obsessed with them. vintage & botanical sketches!), and 9. Positano, Italy.
Deep in the heart of Kearny, NJ lies a young artist looking to pursue her dreams purely for the love of it. Too few characters in the world today are on the pursuit of true happiness, and extinguish who they are for the limelight and dollar bills. Even fewer have the gusto chase something not economically stable upfront, and suffer the rain in favor of a happy existence.
17-year old Shannon Stoia is an artist of that caliber. With her amazing photography, she’s pushing the boundaries of what young people are capable of, despite common misjudgments about the underdogs of the artistic world. At the start of her career and passion, she shot multiple eye popping modeling sets, parties, and landscapes; with an eye for detail that she exhibits, the creation at the mercy of her lens has made for an immaculate portrayal of both who she is and what makes up her world.
Perhaps her most defining feature though, is her perseverance. Despite the decline of financial gain for freelance and independent photographers, she’s stayed the course, never faltering from her path. We sat down to talk about who she is, what she thinks of photography as a medium, and to get a feel of the young woman behind the shutter.
Fameless Quarterly: At what point did you become really interested in photography?
Shannon Stoia: When I was in 8th grade, my art teacher encouraged me to take abstract photos around the school as a project grade. I did that and I was fascinated by it.
So after that, I used to take walks around town and practice shooting and I got really into it.
FQ: Is there anything in particular that you like taking pictures of above everything else you do?
SS: I love taking photos of people, models. I love working with them and composing the photograph, it makes the experience very enjoyable.
And you model a bit as well, right?
SS: I do! And as a photographer, I enjoy that as well because it inspires me and gives me ideas for when I shoot my own photos.
FQ: Is there any angle you're going for when you go to shoot, or do you just sort of go with the natural flow of things?
SS: I definitely go with the natural flow of things. I like to experiment with different lighting and angles.
FQ: If you have one, what has been your favorite shoot so far?
SS: Oh man, I don't know if I can answer that. I have plenty of shoots that I loved doing, it would be so tough for me to choose one.
FQ: In that case, to who or what would you say if you have one, is your greatest inspiration for your work?
SS: I adore the work of Tyler Shields and Annie Leibovitz. They inspire me to cross boundaries and continue working hard as a photographer so that I can reach my goals and become as great as them one day.
FQ: How do you feel about "art" these days?
It's fantastic. Artists have more freedom than ever in this age; and they're taking complete advantage of it, which I admire.
FQ: So you wouldn't agree with the idea that art that isn't being challenged by social suppression is dull in comparison to a time period when those ideas were being challenged and somewhat taboo almost? Do you think that because we have more freedoms and social acceptance that art has sort of suffered?
SS: Definitely not. I feel that the way that artists chose to use that freedom is what makes them who they are and it makes them stand out. I feel that disregarding social acceptance can be important when it comes to art because that is what gives the artist ultimate freedom. Artists have to do their own thing and not worry about being judged by society because that's simply what makes us artists.
As early as 2012, Danish songwriter Mø had been leaving traces of her electronic soul to indie audiences around the globe with a series of singles and Bikini Daze,an EP that has made her debut LP one of the most anticipated records of the year.
No Mythologies to Follow is a perfect example of her artistry. Equally divided between new material and previous releases, the album is a reflection of her idiosyncrasy and boldness as a musician. The entire record borders between astonishingly beautiful and somewhat peculiar, fluctuating to different extremes to chronicle the insecurity and romantic complications of young adulthood.
The first thing anyone is bound to notice is Orsted’s voice; partly due to spot-on vocal mixing, it stands out as the highlight of the record. Beautiful even when it ventures oddly into its higher register, its inability to sit still is its most remarkable feature. It swirls and scintillates, laments and longs for, and makes itself the master of any sound it has to adapt to.
As the album winds forward, fans will find themselves invariably split between the previously released material and the new songs. It seems, at times, that she is lacking the drive that earned her the considerable following gathered in such a short time, or that she gets stuck in trying to craft a complex song and ends up losing the direct impact she has shown such talent for. Despite this, the record as a whole still shows all her abilities and artistic insights. With the eccentricity of a modern day Nico and a set of musical abilities that is entirely her own, Mø makes her official debut as one of synth pop’s most promising stars.
Nestled comfortably in her one-bedroom apartment off of Walnut Street in Montclair, with an icy Amstel Light in one hand and her trusty canine sidekick Pixel in the other, is Laura Sly: founder and Creative Director of Double Stop Designs.
When she’s not creating posters for musicians like Portugal. The Man or designing the label for Coldcock Whiskey, she’s fervently developing her skills and abilities, both inside and outside of her comfort zone. A graphic designer by trade, Laura has adapted to the ever-evolving environment that is digital media to not only hone the skills that she was trained for, but to go above and beyond by learning web design and coding, and taking on her most recent endeavor - motion graphics.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with Laura, who also happens to be an old friend. Along with catching up, we had the opportunity to talk a bit about who she is, what makes up her personal and artistic style, and her overall daily journey through life.
Fameless Quarterly: What’s a typical day in your life like? What are your rituals?
Laura Sly: The absolute first thing I do in the morning is make a cup of coffee – San Francisco Fog Chaser K-Cups. Then, I walk Pixel and get ready for work. I also like to start the day by going on Vimeo and watching anything that I find interesting. In fact, I spend any free moment I get watching tutorials or training videos on Youtube or Vimeo, which is actually how I learned about motion design. The rest of my morning is pretty basic: after getting ready, I’m off to my job where I work as lead designer for a local IT company; I work pretty regular hours, 9am-5pm. I come home, walk Pixel, and get right back to work freelancing for Double-Stop! How pathetic is that?!
FQ: Not at all! This issue is all about dedication, so spending your day hard at work in order to achieve your goals resonates with a lot of people. Artists of all shapes and sizes find themselves having to adhere to some sort of structured lifestyle in order to support their true creative intentions. Bottom line: you’re preaching to the choir!
LS: Haha, ok good.
FQ: How would you describe your artistic style?
LS: I really enjoy working with vectors and colors. I like curvy lines and abstract shapes, and tend to do that a lot with the posters I create. On the other hand, I think a lot of my other work incorporates geometric shapes, which was sort of drilled into my brain with my web design work. I tend to use similar color schemes for everything, like all cool colors or all warm colors; I’m trying to get out of that but it’s so automatic. Typography is also key! Balancing all of these elements to achieve an interesting composition is what I love to do. People often say that I have a specific style, like if they see something I made they’ll say, “Oh yeah, that’s totally your work.” I can’t see it, which is kind of weird.
FQ: I think I know what they mean though; it’s hard to put your finger on something like that because its so tailored to someone – there is no word for it. You mentioned curvy lines and abstract shapes – that’s that Portugal. The Man poster for sure! That was something that you had complete creative control over, and I’d say that represents your style the best, at least to me.
LS: That’s exactly what I mean. I don’t even try to do that; it just happens.
FQ: And that’s why its your style! Does that coincide with your personality, or do you feel that you adhere to a different style than the work you produce?
LS: I think its totally different altogether. With my work, I tend to make things really colorful and bold, and I’m quite the opposite of that. I’m very timid, so my style represents that. If I’m around the right people then I’m ok, but meeting random strangers and interacting with people I don’t know makes me nervous.
FQ: So you’re an introvert.
LS: Exactly, but I guess not so much when it comes to my work. Hm, I guess I never thought about that.
That’s why these interviews are so important, you know. It’s an interview, but its also a therapy session.
LS: I’m going to be bawling by the end of this, aren’t I?
FQ: Yep, prepare to discover some repressed memories! Do you have any restaurants or bars that you frequent?
LS: Enzo Pizzeria right here in Montclair, totally. That’s the answer right there. I also like Spice II, which is a local Thai restaurant; I always get the Massaman Curry. As for bars, I like going with friends occasionally, but I’m not one to go out all the time. I actually love being home.
FQ: So if it were your choice of bar, where would you go?
LS: On Monday nights, I’m at the Great Notch Inn in Little Falls for their open mic night; it’s always a great time. Aside from that, I would say either Egan & Sons or Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair since they’re local.
FQ: Are you doing what you love?
LS: Yeah, I think now I am finally. For a while, I was doing what I was good at and not what I love, and now I finally found what I want to do - motion design - and it feels really good. Of course, I love art, and I went into design because it came sort of natural to me. The first job I got turned out to be a great experience, but it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in, though that’s the way it went for a few years. Now I’m learning to say no to things that I don’t want to do and I think that’s really valuable. It’s to the point now where I’m turning down work so that I can pursue what I love. Especially when my time is so limited, I don’t want to be tied down to projects I’m going to work on for three months and get nothing out of.
FQ: What piece of advice can you offer to others based on your own life experiences?
LS: I would say just that it's ok to say no. If you’re good at something, or if you do it in general, people are going to want to take advantage of you. I went through that a lot - people trying to basically get shit for free or people who don’t think you’re worth it and chop down your asking price. Basically, you don’t have to accept every single project that comes your way. In the beginning, sure - everyone does that. You kind of have to go through the bullshit; I’ve gone through it so much. In the end though, your work has value that only you can assign, and if you have the experience, know your worth. If people are going to laugh at your price, just say no.
Aways Away is a four-piece alternative rock outfit hailing from Bergen County, New Jersey. The sound they’re hoping to make impact with is as unique as it is obvious. With a musical upbringing in the shadows of New York’s club scene, the band mixes the most conventional foundations of rock ‘n’ roll with the tone of alternative acts such as The Pixies, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Public Image Ltd, The Strokes, Television, and the like. Sitting down with frontman/guitarist and main songwriter Evan DeAgustinis, we look at the experiences and aspirations of a band striving to make it among a million challenges.
Fameless Quarterly: What’s the hardest part of being an aspiring artist? Evan DeAgustinis: Right now, it’s all about getting our music past that white noise factor. The hardest part is being able to fit everyone’s life in such an uncertain project. It’s all a sacrifice at first, there’s no salary or benefits to keep you going; and you really have to figure it all out for yourself, there’s no guide or college major for aspiring rockstars. Everyone has to be on the same page if you want to make it as a group, and it can get frustrating. Also, I sometimes struggle between playing what I want and what the kids want. Do I keep on doing what I love, or give in to what has appeal? I don’t even know what people want to hear these days, but I feel if I did give in to mainstream demand, the crowd will be wanting something else by that time.
FQ: And yet your music has solid foundations in rock ‘n’ roll. Why stick with it then? ED: There’s something about blasting rock ’n’ roll that gives you feelings no other kind of music can get. Good rock’n’roll has soul to it, no matter how edgy or refined you play it.
FQ: What’s most discouraging about being an underground act? ED: Sometimes you see musical guests on late night shows or with a lot of backing and they’re not even good. It makes you think “what am I doing wrong?”. The local scene is also really not an accommodating place for artists to perform. Booking agents today will charge ten bucks to have a band play at a crappy venue with a terrible sound system, and then when they’re done their fans disappear. In the old days, people would go out to CBGB’s or Max’s Kansas City just to hang out and listen to bands, nowadays people go out to watch their friends’ band and then leave, and it’s discouraging as a musician.
FQ: What can the industry do to accommodate young artists? ED: There’s nothing in the industry really promoting alternative music. Most people don’t even know what college radio is when I ask them. And modern music sharing makes it all more difficult, I always say being on Spotify or iTunes is like being on a cable TV show and trying to stand out.
FQ: What is your ideal gig? ED: We’ve been playing support slots for some famous local bands like Wyldlife and Sponge, or this band Big Red from Australia, and we really like it. It gives us the opportunity to play to someone other than friends and family. There’s usually more people at those shows too, so it’s always more fun. It gives you a chance to prove yourself.
FQ: If the band doesn’t become successful in a few years, when do you think you’d start drawing the line? ED: I don’t know if I have an answer for that yet, but if ten years have gone by and I still haven’t made it, I’m going to have to ask myself “how long can I wait to become famous while I live in a crappy apartment and work two part-time jobs?”
FQ: What is it like to share in this dream with a group of friends and bandmates? ED: Well, I’d like to say that everyone has the same amount of commitment, but you just don’t always know. We’re all just getting out of college and trying to figure out our lives, and we can’t always meet regularly. Sometimes we won’t play a show for a while, and then when we get back to practice you feel like strangers at first.
FQ: What’s the best thing about aspiring for success? ED: You’re constantly on a journey. I’ve heard many bands that have made it big, and they’d like to go back to the old days, they feel they’ve got nothing left to accomplish. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. I hate the struggles right now because I’m stuck with them, but if I did get famous I’d probably miss all of it.
Aways Away full-length debut Some Things We’ll Never Know is out online, with two EP’s scheduled for release later this year.
Max Fischer is the publisher of “Yankee Review,” president of the French club, the Rushmore Beekeepers, and calligraphy club, represents Russia in the model United Nations, is Vice President of the Stamp and Coin club, Captain of the Debate team and fencing team, Lacrosse Team Manager, 2nd Chorale Choirmaster, founder of the Astronomy Society, the Bombardment Society, the Yankee Racers and the Track & Skeet club, Yellow belt in the Kung Fu club, JV Decathlon for Track & Field, Director of Max Fischer Players, and 4.5 Hours logged in the Piper Cub club. Max Fischer is an activity jock, one of those kids too bright and restless to color inside the lines.
Jason Schwartzman plays Max Fischer, Rushmore Academy's most enthusiastic and least scholarly student. Max's secret shame is that he attends Rushmore on a scholarship. Like Charlie Brown, his father is a barber; unlike Charlie Brown, he tells everyone that his father is a neurosurgeon. Always dressed in a tie and blazer, unless in costume for one of his activities, he speaks with maturity and is barely able to conceal his feelings of superiority for every adult he interacts with, who enforce their stuffy rules because they are not, and never were, able to work without a net the way Max can.
It seems to be Max against the world, until he catches the attention of Herman Blume. Blume, a depressed industrialist played by Bill Murray, doesn’t have much in common with Max, but they fascinate each other. Herman sees Max as someone who hasn't yet lost enthusiasm for the world around him, even if he's mostly enthusiastic about a fantasy world he's creating. They eventually become interested in the same woman, a second grade teacher named Rosemary Cross -- and that’s where their paths diverge. The movie turns into a strategic duel for Ms. Cross’ heart between Max and Blume, that is funny up until it gets mean with Max spilling the beans to Blume's wife.
The heart of the movie is not how charming or quirky Max is, but rather his dedication. If you're paying attention, it's clear that Max's manias are fueled as much by unhappiness as they are by narcissism. When he tells Ms. Cross that Harvard is his safety school if he doesn't get into Oxford or the Sorbonne, he's not just trying to impress her; that's really the standard he holds himself to. It is revealed that he does this because his mother, who encouraged him to write plays and got him into Rushmore Academy, died of cancer. It's ingenious the way Max uses his political and organizational abilities to get his way with people; how he enlists a younger student as his gofer, how he reasons patiently with the headmaster, and thinks he can talk Miss Cross into being his girlfriend.
The culmination of Max’s dedication all builds to this film’s satisfying ending. Max puts on a play at his new school about the Vietnam War and invites everyone from the rest of the film; no villain is excluded as a condition of the heroes' happiness. At the afterparty, they all get along wonderfully. In the first play of Max's we see, it's apparent that he's interested in the acclaim it can bring him. In the last play, he has discovered the more rewarding purpose that art and dedication can serve. He has created an environment in which all injuries can be healed, all sorrows forgotten. It takes heroic efforts (and in Max's case, flamethrowers, dynamite, and a wildly inaccurate understanding of the Vietnam War), and it never lasts long, but it's what dedicated art can do at its very best. “..at least nobody got hurt” Says Max. “Except you” Responds Miss Cross. “Nah, I didn’t get hurt that bad”
In the final shot, as if in recognition of how fleeting happiness and reconciliation like this always are, Anderson uses more frames per second to stretch the moment out as long as possible. Those moments in life always playback in our memories that way.
At times, it can be hard to say that a photographer is trying something new. Don’t get me wrong, unique and new can, and in this case are, two separate things. With Philipp Bolthausen’s work, I dare say that mixing typography with double exposures and black and white photography is something new. Bolthausen’s work is dreamlike; in his series, “Monsters of the Mechanical 20th Century World,” he double exposes typography with railroads to create an amazing array of lines, featuring rail yards and reflections of electrical lines and rail cars. The high contrast images are sometimes hard to read, producing rather coherent images of shapes and lines, displaying the confusion of these 20th century beasts and their homes. Bolthausen’s work hovers between abstraction and representation, forcing the viewer to confront their desire for visual coherence, while offering an alternative structure for the photos of today. We had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his passion and get to know him better through his work.
Fameless Quarterly: How does one become a Photographer? Philipp Bolthausen: I do not consider myself a photographer in the ‘artist’ sense. It is not about becoming a photographer, but more so a melding of the medium to your person. Everyone needs a mode of expression, some people paint and others write; my choice has been to pick up the camera; and this does not automatically define me as a photographer. I guess though, in answer to your question, that to become a photographer (for lack of a better word) one has to be able to experiment and find comfort in taking pictures, it is about enjoying the process that one creates for himself while pushing the balance between technique and creativity to the breaking point.
FQ: What Inspires you? PB: In overlapping images a distortion of reality is created, the image no longer is a direct representation of what the naked eye can see but transforms into a portrait of the subconscious. The multitude of images become representative of the intrinsic layering of human emotion where there are no clear-cut lines but a fusion of phantasmagorias. It is finding the sequentiality within the structure that creates the image. It is not a depressed feeling but a repressed state that drives my inspiration - the notion of chaos emerges and I give in to it. I find inspiration everywhere; from the papers and books I read, to the people I have met for a brief second. My encounters and experiences has been my influence and will continue to be so until the moment I become immune to my surroundings.
FQ: What makes the good picture stand out from the average? PB: The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ergo there is no way to define a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ picture. The subjectiveness of an image lies not only in the viewer, as each person will have his own interpretation of the photograph, but in the person behind the camera too. From my viewpoint a ‘good’ photograph is when it leaves you wanting more; the image has to be able to tell a story pushing the viewer to explore it.
FQ: What does photography mean to you? PB: In four words: ‘Become who you are’ (Nietzsche). Photography is my tool of getting the lines and patterns out of my head; the most primal mode of dealing with ‘the day’ is to find a way for the mind to escape it – photography is my creative poison of choice ut aiunt.
FQ: One of today’s main discussion points amongst photographers is about the use of digital photography; do you use digital cameras? What is the influence of digital technology on your photography? PB: The use of photography has an extremely vast reach, for each purpose a different hold on the medium must be had. Digital cameras and their complementary post processing software has undoubtedly aided in the business development and changed the way the world views/uses/plays with it. It has been a cognizant choice to work in the large part with analog instead of digital cameras, notwithstanding my deep admiration for the digital realm. The choice between the two is one for the individual to make in basis of their specific needs. It is impossible to state whether one is better than another as it a subjective preference which will push one person to use analog and another to use digital. The single effects of modern post-processing are not important in my work, I will not go beyond the traditional workflow of the darkroom as my goal is to achieve more than a photographic representation from film; it is to tell a story through the rewriting and reinterpreting of shape and life by opposing contemporary limitation of all representation and letting the image form itself solely through light and shadow.
FQ: Color vs. Black and White. Why one over the other, and is the photographic process different? PB: Again, the choice of black and white over color is a personal one. Using the 20th century medium of black and white film allows me to see and therefore place the present into perspective, challenging the viewer with the unfamiliar and disremembered feel of grain. Lines are very important in my work; the harshness of the shadows in black and white allows me to experiment with multiple exposures to create a new image, a technique that, for me, does not need color.
FQ: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors? PB: I don’t. Weather is an irrelevant factor as I am not attempting to achieve a technically perfect photograph, my images aren’t pictures of something but objects about something. When photographing I am much more concerned with what I am seeing through the lens, and how it will work with the photograph I have previously taken rather than with the meteorological conditions which are and will always be out of my control.
The awakening of adolescence has been a recurring theme that has always fascinated a great many visual artists; conflicts of identity, physical change, psychological instability, and emerging sexual and emotional sensations within young people are all themes which, in particular, have appeared in photography ever since it’s development. From Lewis Carrol’s “perverse-innocent” girls to Larry Clark’s problematic “Kids,” a long and tortuous path has been paved. Alongside these, the latest work of Jae Kim could also deservedly be included. Jae’s collection of photos consist of adolescence, photographed throughout his youth in Leonia, NJ, Flushing, Queens, and Little Neck, NY up until now.
[I was] The total opposite [of the Asian kid stereotype]. Not going to school, smoking weed, doing all that shit.
There’s something serendipitous about Jae’s marriage with photography. It all started with a camera Jae found, or if you’re a romantic, a camera that found a photographer.“I was hanging out outside the school smoking and I find this camera, this film camera just sitting there; the kind that the school rental gives out and the kid happened to leave it, some random person. Stuck it in my backpack and went home and just left it there...I did stacks and stacks and stacks. It’s depressing looking through it, but it’s still memories. We used to go out and shoot, just around the old neighborhood. We had a beautiful spot and we’d go spend days just shooting.”
Jae began photographing his girlfriend at the time. Being young at the moment and being around people that hold closely similar values, he was and still is able to portray the intimacy. Jae developed the remarkable ability to use photography’s strength as an objective record of reality to first access, and then highlight, those images that most clearly express essential social relationships. His subjects confront the viewer directly, occasionally holding a defining tool of their trade; the formative influence of an individual’s social position is inseparable from who he or she is, making itself felt in his or her intimate nature no less than in public persona. Social class stands before us in all its detail and specificity.
As a result, we have the subtle and complex depiction of many social types as well as of more traditional ones in a new and sharpened light. Taken together, they succeed in being a mosaic-like portrait of youth in New York. In Jae’s work, people see things that they see in themselves. Photographs are part of your memories of people, so you don’t imagine them in action, you imagine them as a still, almost a sculpture; static, defined by this one moment. It becomes an icon of that memory.
Jae shows the complexity of identity, within unfamiliar territory – both emotionally and physically – where the simplest of emotions are amplified and everything is lived out with an intensity that adults will never again be able to feel. We are talking here of a kind of parallel reality, a territory which doesn’t understand any of the geographical spaces Jae has moved through. It no longer belongs to a completely true reality, nor to a conceived fiction, but rather finds itself fed by its own codes of behavior, where the dividing line between good and bad, happiness and sadness, innocence and perversity, and reality and fantasy, is blurred.
Young people instinctively know that the severe visual intrusion adults have subjected them to is linked from their physical changes and their sexuality, to that vague emotional territory where they have entered, which adults are unable to access, and which they themselves will have to leave before very long. Here’s to staying young.
Made In America is the sophomore record of the national touring pop-rock group Reverse Order, and it’s familiarity is really what sells it forward. Opening track “Waiting” gives a good first impression right out of the gate, introducing a sound that’s been cleanly refined and easy to get into.
Like most talented pop artists, the band gives a lot of drive and passion behind a radio-worthy style that would surely illuminate some of the duller stations in the NJ/NY area, but it’s nothing so spectacular that we really haven’t heard before. That being said, Made In America is certainly not just another thrown together production.
While I was sort of hoping for a Fall Out Boy-esque approach to pop-rock with both fun danceable music, combined with a heavy, fast, and hard texture and lyrics with real meaning, what the release hits back with it is melancholic movement with a great deal of transparency, lack of subtext, and smoothed out digital effects.
Biggest issue with this record-- lack of variety. Every song plays like a breakup ballad; there’s nothing spectacular or fun to entertain and entice the listener. If we’re going to stay for your set, try to make it fun
While Made In America is in all respects a decent album to check out, stream, and even buy in support of independent artists, the Russo brothers - who make up 2/4’s of the band, still have a ways to go before they find a sound that really impresses upon the senses how much fun and originality can go into pop music, especially when blended with the versatile and always favorable rock genre.
'Making It.' How the Pursuit of a Label is no Longer Relevant to Longevity and Success
For many artists, “making it” is the validation of their life’s work. Finally moving up from smokey bars to big stadiums, having their music promoted on the radio, and above all, having that record label tied to their name gives them the sense that they’ve finally gotten to the peak of their career, or at least achieved a milestone in their pursuit of success.
But is a record label really necessary for success anymore? In 2013, “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, making it the first single to do so since 1994 without the support of a major record label. Astonishingly, they did it again with “Can’t Hold Us,” making them the first duo in the chart’s history to have their first two singles both reach number 1 without a label.
On top of that, the pair was nominated for seven Grammys, and took home four for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album (The Heist), Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Performance (“Thrift Shop”) -- all without the representation.
So is going for the gold to impress labels still “worth it?” Probably not. The most recent shows I’ve been to featured three bands back-to-back that all sounded like Hot Chelle Rae. And why? Because a lot of groups think their sounds need to be saleable in order to get noticed. Instinctively, they listen to the bands that have made a name for themselves doing largely the same thing, and follow suit with it.
Not only does this stagnate the music industry, but it kills creativity, and drowns out what should be a diverse and passionate underground music scene. This year, Macklemore alone has proven that you don’t need that level of representation to “make it,” and more importantly, that you should follow your dreams because your personal goals are to reach out to an audience, not to win awards and become a followed celebrity on TMZ.
In another related success story, you can examine the career (or lack thereof) of Bomb The Music Industry. While BTMI never took any offers to get signed, or even took themselves seriously for that matter, they represented independent musicians by inviting anyone in the audience who could play to join them on stage, generally showing indifference in naming their tracks, and above all, making music that got the crowds roaring and getting out there whenever they could just for the hell of it.
There are countless artists out there that are completely underrated and likely to remain unsigned for a long time, but that’s okay! Underground expansion is a higher-minded goal than fighting for corporate attention. Moving your name across state lines and overseas has never been easier with the tools on social media sites, and developing an ever-growing community out of a handful of fans who “liked,” “shared,” and supported your art, is a far greater thing to have than to be part of an image. Being able to reach your fans and connect with them one-on-one as regular people, far overshadows the prospect of “rockstar fandom.”
In short, the underground music scene, especially in the NJ/NY area, is alive and well. While major and independent labels can help shape a stable career, independent studios and standalone producers not tied to a business contract are plentiful, and the online community has only bolstered that fact.
Here’s to another decade of great and underrated artists. The world may never know your name, but at least in your fan’s eyes, you’ve “made it” pretty far.
This article was published in our DEDICATION Issue
Dedication is an enormous part of our lives as artists. This issue we've inaugurated a new column titled METHOD with Laura Sly, a NJ based illustrator; In it we'll talk about day-to-day lives as artists. Within DEDICATION we have editorials like 'Incomparable Commitment' where we talk about Max Fischer's dedication and 'Making it' where we talk about where pursuing a label doesn't necessarily mean success for a musician. We also feature work from Jae Kim, Shannon Stoia, Philip Bolthausen, Megan Duenas, Katie Sadis and a plethora of others.
What You Pay For: Breaking The Bank Won’t Help Your Sound
Any musician, big or small, has had that experience walking into their first show. The picturesque scene of an unsettling dark room in a smoky venue surrounded by more primed musicians than you, toting expensive and often large equipment made for the professional industry.
Is it really worth it to have a 1200w Marshall Stack with a pro-equalizer and guitar wireless router hooked up to your rig? Unless you’re playing Carnegie Hall, you actually look a little ridiculous. Local venues like the recently closed Canvas Clash in Boonton, NJ, and the Paramus Veterans Of Foreign Wars (VFW) where this writer got his humble beginnings in performance, you’re unlikely to need much more than 20 or 30 at most.
In small venues like the ones that local and underground bands play, the acoustics, in addition to the sheer size of the standing crowd room, play a big part in carrying sound waves from wall to wall. If you’re headed into Dingbatz, for example, it’s more than just a pretty stage at the end of a bar; it was specifically designed to cater to the musicians needs. Getting a relatively medium sized amp, with a moderate degree of control over shaping your sound is really the responsible way to go, both if you’re starting out, or going pro.
For years, this writer played, and still plays, a modified Chinese 2001 Squier Precision Bass and a 100w, Ibanez SW100. An ultimately cheap rig, this equipment has been through venues big and small, and has a range of options that hit every end of the spectrum. With the right fine tuning, it can virtually be used anywhere, and is still light and compact enough to get away with transporting from place to place. As for the instrument, in 2006, it was priced at $140 used, and over the years, modifying some of the stock pieces (pickups, pots, scratchplate, bridge and tuning heads) has propelled it to a point where it’s actually better than some high-end equipment, both because of its sentimental value, and because of the uniqueness in the sound it creates. By blending hand-picked individual parts with a little ingenuity and style, it’s an original, one-of-a-kind piece of gear that every musician should take notice of.
What’s more important than pouring your hard earned money into something that you don’t need, is remembering that every musician, professional or just budding into the semi-pro lanes, is playing with regards to the love of the chase. The pleasure you get from putting on a great performance, and impressing a small crowd or a large audience is a rewarding experience, don’t cheapen that for yourself by believing the false equivalency that good equipment means good quality sound.
Ultimately, you’ll be able to get there by just hand-picking what works for you. You could invest a few thousand in a Gibson ES-335, or you can run down to your local pawn shop, shell out a bit for a brand you’ve never heard of just because you like the way it feels, and then modify certain outdated and fried parts to get the kind of sound you’re looking for. What you end up with is a happy wallet, a great sound, and equipment that’s catered specifically to you and your needs. Otherwise, what’s the point?
When it comes to trying to find new incredible music it can be hit or miss and sadly many times it is a complete miss. This is a gross falsity when I was trying to find something new and stumbled upon the song “Bed” by SZA. I instantly fell in love with her whispered lyrics as well as the simplicity and intensity of her beats. Listening to this song is like listening to a less synthesized more mature Imogen Heap or Frou Frou.
SZA’s genre of music could be classified as electronic soul or alternative R&B. However, when listening to all her other songs you come to the quick conclusion that her music can never truly be boxed into one particular genre. Some of the songs have somewhat of a more soulful R&B feel with the dragged out lyrics that turn into quiet mumblings and her moody rhythms. Yet, other songs like “Bed” have more of an electronic feel without overdoing it. Her true voice stays pretty much intact while the electronics of the song are focused on her beats. As if that wasn’t enough, in songs like “Euphraxia,” SZA mixes the electronic background with a more soulful foreground to make and absolutely beautiful song. Trying to keep her music diverse is obviously not a problem for SZA, who never overuses the ever so trendy digitizing of music.
Not only is her take on music incredibly artistic but also, so are her album art and her music videos, which seems like a slight impossibility with only one EP and two music videos to date. Somehow though, she gets this right just like her music. Her album/song art all have flowered themes yet are in no way childish or feminine. The look is more of a Georgia O’Keefe painting but with more pops of color. When it comes to her music videos there is a consistency between her album artwork and the idea’s behind her videos, with nature playing a key role. Not only is nature a continuous motif but she also takes clips from movies to use them as metaphors for her lyrics. It is a truly brilliant idea and entertains you while at the same time explaining to you the meaning behind her songs.
It’s a shame to think that SZA started her music more then ten years ago in 2001 and only now have I and many other people discovered her songs and tremendous talent. Born in St. Louis, Missouri and living in Maplewood, New Jersey; SZA was brought up listening to the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Björk to just name a few who eventually turned into the influencers of her music. This can be truly heard on her latest EP titled “See.Sza.Run” which came out in October 2012 and premiered by Complex. The EP has seven tracks with production of it coming from Top Notch, ApSuperProducer, Brandon Deshay, and more. Every song on the album is a hit, which is greatly due to her diverse range of style as well as the diversity she used within her production team. If you are at all interested in venturing out of the usual music profile then give SZA a listen because she is far from the usual and in the end I doubt you will be disappointed.
Most of us associate animated movies with fond childhood memories, whether it be a Disney classic or the latest high-tech efforts from Pixar or PDI/Dreamworks. But what we often take for granted is that the history of the animated film as we know it today developed in pieces, with sound, color, and computer-generated imagery all representing big breakthroughs in the industry.Let’s take a quick peek into the history of the animated movie to see how it has evolved over the years.\n
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The first animated feature film is considered to be the cut-out animation El apostol by Quirino Cristiani from the year 1917, though unfortunately all known copies were destroyed by a fire. As such, the oldest surviving animated film is The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), a German animated fairytale written by Lotte Reiniger that features silhouette animation, a technique in which cut-outs are manipulated before a camera.
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Can You Hear Me Now?
The next groundbreaking efforts came from the legendary Walt Disney, who decided to re-release his popular Mickey Mouse short, Steamboat Willie, on November 18, 1928 with synchronized sound, the very first of its kind. Shortly thereafter, another of Argentine Quirino Cristiani’s efforts, Peludópolis (1931),became the first feature-length film to feature sound. The next big accomplishment in sound came again from Walt Disney in 1940, whose Fantasia was the first to be filmed with stereophonic sound.
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Once sound had been accounted for, it was time for animators to set their sights on creating brighter worlds for their characters to live in. That accomplishment came in 1932, when the Disney short Flowers and Trees was released in three-strip Technicolor. A far more significant contribution from Disney that has withstood the test of time is the classic Snow White and The Seven Dwarves (1937), which has the distinction of being Disney’s first feature-length film to employ the three-strip Technicolor technique. The Disney princess’ famous “skin as white as snow” would have looked especially striking against her newly colored world with vibrant reds, blues, and yellows.
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Advances in Filming Techniques
Since its early origins in cut-out animation, a number of animation tactics have been employed to enhance the graphics and increase the realism in animated movies. One of the earliest developments is the use of xerography process, which replaced tedious hand inking; Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961) was the first feature film to employ this tactic. Next came the first feature-length 3D film using stereoscopic technique in 1983 with the release of the Australian movie Abra Cadabra. The first fully computer animated film was Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story in 1995, and the first fully-animated film to use motion capture technology to execute all of its characters was The Polar Express in 2004. These films helped to set the bar for what we expect from an animated movie when we go to the cinema today!
To set this new section we invited our homie Anarch. Anarch is a tagger/painter/post-graffiti artist/great-dude-all-around living here in Jersey City. He tends to have pretty damn good taste and just a good eye all around so it made sense to ask Anarch to curate a collection of his 9 favorite items. He came back to us with everything from his favorite 5-panel of shoes to his favorite beer to drink. Rad stuff, check it. When you’re done go take a look at his site (anarchynj.com), in which you’ll find more of his favorite things, along with his portfolio, which happens to be pure badassery.
Latin America has long been a melting pot of culture and creativity. The 20th century in particular saw pioneering literature pour out of the continent and gain international recognition. This article looks at five of the most famous and enduringly influential writers to have emerged from Latin America, who embraced and re-invented the written word to create some truly unique literature.
Jorge Luis Borges
The writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges was born in 1899, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and he grew up in the then poorer northern suburb of the city called Palermo. It was a raucous place for a young boy to grow up and its colorful population clearly influenced Borges later work. Subsequently his family lived in Switzerland and Spain, where he was schooled.
He is considered to be a surrealist, and Ficciones is a favorite work of his. It comprises of seventeen short stories which span centuries of influences from philosophy, to literature and fantasy.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Marquez is undoubtedly one of the most prominent authors of the last century; he was born in 1927 and raised by his maternal grandparents in Columbia. Although he began his working life as a journalist, he later wrote screen plays and fiction, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982.
His novels were inspired by real life events; Love in the Time of Cholera is an unconventional yet compelling love story, which Marquez based on his parent's fraught courtship.
Pablo Neruda was born Neftali Basoalto in Chile during 1904, he used Neruda after Jan Neruda, the Czech poet. He received a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, but as well as being a poet and author he worked in diplomacy and was active in the political sphere.
Isabel Allende was born in Chile in 1942, she is a passionate advocate of women's rights and often works as a guest lecturer in American Universities. Having been exiled from Chile in the 1980's, she eventually married an American and is now a US citizen.
She is best known for the 1982 novel The House of Spirits, although the manuscript was initially rejected by a number of publishing houses, it has since gone on to become a best seller and film.
Amado is a Brazilian writer who was born in 1912, his work celebrates the complexity of life in his homeland, from peasants to the bourgeoisie and includes every race. His enjoyment of colloquial language was not popular among academia for many years, but now Amado's work is globally significant, with translations into 49 other languages.
Amado's most published book is his 1937 Captain of the Sands, written whilst he was traveling through Latin America. It's a gritty and brave social critique, focussing on the brutal lives led by a gang of street children surviving on their wits in Bahia Brazil.
Although Borges remains a cultural giant, his cohorts should still be considered as significant players in the 20th century blossoming of Latin American literature - so if you're planning a South America holiday, then these literary giants should be on your reading list.
Reading a novel is an endeavor that requires commitment, effort, and, most essentially, time; lucky for us, literature is not a one-size-fits-all business. Perfect for commuters and part-time readers, short stories condense big messages into digestible portions! Here are some short stories you certainly won’t regret giving up ten minutes for:
“Memento Mori,” Jonathan Nolan
For those of you who’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s psychological thriller Memento, the short story “Memento Mori” should seem very familiar. That’s because the Academy Award nominated film was based on the short story, written by the younger Nolan brother and published in Esquire magazine in 2001. The narrative centers around a man who develops anterograde amnesia from a traumatic brain injury, leaving him unable to create new memories. Although he retains memory from before his injury, the protagonist’s mind is wiped clean every few minutes, perpetually resetting itself to factory mode. Jonathan Nolan does an incredible job of allowing the reader to experience the world through the protagonist’s fractured mind by transitioning from third person to epistolary narration throughout the story. The character’s condition forces him to keep track of his life in unconventional ways, using notes, photographs and even tattoos to record important information. And just what sort of important information would a mentally impaired man with no memory need to keep track of? If you’ve seen the film, you already have your answer, and if you haven’t then I suggest you start reading and find out before it slips your mind (pun intended)!
“The Hitchhiking Game,” Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera, one of the Czech Republic’s most well-known writers, has been praised for his distinct ability to examine the duality of human relationships. His short story, “The Hitchhiking Game,” was published in 1969 in a collection of Kundera’s stories, Laughable Loves. Do not let the title fool you however, as this is no typical love story. The plot begins innocently enough: two young lovers are traveling on a long-awaited vacation, driving through the Czech countryside. Wishing to spice up their drive a bit, they begin to play a game in which the woman takes on the role of a sexy hitchhiker. The game allows them to escape their ordinary selves for a bit, something both characters initially revel in; the further they travel, the more serious the game becomes, eventually leading to a sinister change in the characters’ relationship. The narrative is written in third-person point of view, giving the reader access to both characters’ thoughts and feelings and allowing us to see how the game is affecting each of them. Disturbing as it is heartbreaking, Milan Kundera’s “The Hitchhiking Game” will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading and leave you wondering how well you know those closest to you, and how well you know yourself.
It seems like everything in Hollywood is derivative of book, graphic novel or another film. Looper is the exception to that rule & if you don’t enjoy it for that reason alone, you’re whats wrong with America. With that being said, Looper was great! Looper is a original idea by Rian Johnson which is the guy who basically brought us the lovable acting skills of Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Brick.
Looper takes place in the year 2044 where there are hit men called Loopers that take care the mob’s dirty work. Thirty years into the future, in 2074, time travel has been invented. Time travel was immediately outlawed and is now used by outlaws; so the mob of the future send their targets to the Loopers in the past so they can murder and dispose of the body. They do this because apparently in the year 2074 it’s become near impossible to kill and dispose of body’s because of tagging and tracking techniques. A Looper is paid by silver that is sent strapped on to their victims. Once a Loopers contract is over, the mob sends their future selves back to the to be executed, at which point the silver is replaced by gold & the Looper is now free to live his life but knows that in thirty years, they will send him back to the past to have the same fate. The premise is great! The inclusion of time travel brings a bunch of logic and ethic issues forward. If you had a chance to go back in time and stop baby Hitler, would you kill him or prevent him from hating? Because the fact of the matter comes down to killing a child. If you had chance to go have coffee with your past self, how much would you tell him? As Doc from Back to the Future would say, any changes you make in the past could have a dramatic effect on the present.
About 15 minutes into the film, a new crime lord, known as the Rainmaker, has taken over in the future and is giving orders about existing loopers: He wants all their future selves sent back in time and killed immediately by the younger versions of themselves. Without giving away too much, Joe hesitates to kill his future self at which point is knocked out cold by a gold bar and Future Joe runs out in to the world to find and murder the Rainmaker and prevent all of this from happening. When Joe awakes, he must arrange a meeting with his future self to get updated on their 30 year difference and figure out if they’re going to work together or against each other. Hands down the best part of the film. The witty comebacks and back-and-forth between the two are mix of exactly what you would expect would go down if your younger, more stubborn self met your older wiser self. All this over the identical plates of steak and eggs. The argument could be made that there were not enough of these scenes, but I think here one was the magic number. If there would’ve been any more, the film would suffer from being excessively weighed down. The one meeting expressed everything ones future self would be pissed about and everything ones present self would say in response. The movie was everything but bloated and ended when it needed to.
It didn’t mess with the gist of time travel as much as it could have. The end was a little anti-intellectual, and didn’t really leave the viewer with any but one question that can’t be expressed without spoiling the film for you guys. It does indeed tease your brain just the right amount without digging too deep and making your head hurt. Nonetheless, JGL & Rian Johnson work great together. Highly recommend checking this film out! Hopefully this starts the trend of original films that don’t suck.
When the topic of transition came up, the first thing that sprung to mind, most likely because it was already there, was Gravity. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film does such a beautiful job of portraying this thematic element. Add this to the incredible filmmaking and it makes for an experience viewers will not soon forget. Many films attempt and succeed at depicting the idea of transition in a characters life, but none do so as masterfully as Gravity.
Throughout the course of the film we learn that Sandra Bullock’s character Dr. Ryan Stone, who is a medical engineer on her first space mission, had her only child die at the age of four from a school yard “accident”. Through dialogue and actions we begin to understand she clearly has not moved on from this, and who can blame her? Stone nearly gives in several times, she begins to accept her fate and waits for the end to come, which almost seems inevitable at some points. However, about two thirds through the film she has a pivotal moment alone with her thoughts where she tells herself she needs to live for her daughter and try to move on, and begins, from that moment on, a new part of her life. Sandra Bullock is incredible in this moment showing us this transitional point in her character’s life. Cuaron adds to these key scenes by visually showing us these thematic elements. At one point in the film, Bullock falls asleep and in the process curls up, almost like an embryo. Cuaron is trying to get across the idea that she is being reborn and moving in a different direction in her life when she wakes up from this position and its beautifully done. The cinematography and 3D particularly in this scene aid so much in eliciting the feeling that the filmmakers want you to feel. The use of 3D in a movie set in space is a great idea and is spectacular not only in this scene but throughout the whole movie. He uses it to direct your eyes to where he wants you to have them and it is masterfully done.
Towards the end of the film, Cuaron again hits home on the idea that she is in a transitional period. When Bullock finally, after going to hell and back, reaches earth safely, she is a new person both physically and mentally. It’s the first day of the rest of her life. When she begins to walk after landing, Cuaron focuses the camera on her legs and it’s as if she is walking for the first time. It’s almost like watching an animal when it’s first born and can’t quite find its footing and balance because of its weak legs; this is a metaphor for her taking the first steps in her new life. It is striking and emotional all at the same time. This highlights only a few moments, but Bullock is sensational throughout the whole film, doing an amazing job of externally showing us her inner struggles while dealing with this nerve-wrecking transitional period in her life. She is literally the only person on screen for 75% of the movie and she is absolutely captivating. Cuaron does his part as well in aiding all of the themes in the movie, including transition, with wonderful visuals and it all adds up to not only to the best film of the year, but one of the best films of it's time, and there is absolutely no hyperbole there. When technology and emotion meet, it’s a wonderful pairing that we get all too rarely in cinema these days. It’s something that a young Steven Spielberg mastered and hasn’t quite brought back; thankfully we have Alfonso Cuaron to sate us. Let’s just not wait another seven years to make our next film, ok Alfonso? Thanks.
Already with the release of their debut EP Bangs last summer, Central Jersey duo Brick + Mortar are giving their hometown of Asbury Park something else to be remembered by -- besides Springsteen.
Playing a rather singular brew of music, their driving, edgy, dynamic crosses streams madly to make a record produced in hip hop fashion, seeping from every corner with subtle keyboard hooks, and crafting a highly improbable sound that blends the tone of the most unconventional indie music with mammoth anthems like “Old Boy” and “Heatstroke” to thrash about to at concerts and scream every word to back at the stage.
Unique as they are engaging, their appeal is not simply a random phenomenon of eclectic lunacy, but rather a masterful, experienced vision that combines everything possible while indulging in artistic expression.
The band will release an LP later this year after coming back from a U.S. tour that has seen them play at Lollapalooza, making now the perfect time to go see them live.
Watch these two as they blast a noise fierce enough to rival a metal quintet, or charm the crowd with their charisma. Frontman /multi-instrumentalist Brandon Asraf’s lyrics are introspectively private, his delivery dreamy and distant; yet it all strikes a chord of humanity, which when laid out with frenetic and precise powerhouse John Tacon’s drums, sends fans into hysteria and leaves new listeners in awe. Going to one of their shows is a must for every indie fan in New Jersey.
An unassuming trio from London, Ontario, Snow Mantled Love describes their music as “bedroom pop,” and it is easy to see why. Resonant production, perfectly blended guitar and keyboards, and the stunning delivery of vocalist Danielle Fricke make for some of the dreamiest indie in the scene.
Their songs are warm, wistful, private, and serene. Constantly evoking a sense of longing or projecting soundscapes of delightful depth, it’s music for staying in, watching a storm out the window, and feeling pretty.
Since their formation in mid-2012, they have released an EP titled Romance 126, and later released it in remix form under the name Remix 126. After the release of this EP last fall, the band continues to delve into their melancholic haze with even more inspiration and mellow tones.
Songs like “Drift Down” and “Dream Talk” are beautiful midnight ballads that will make you fall in love with Fricke’s voice, while “All In The Name Of Good Dancing” stands out as a two-minute piece with more electronic elements and greater drive.
While the songs can also tend to carry on further than is necessary for them to create impact, and combined with a placid mood to induce some drowsiness, it is not a heavy or lagging work to take in, and has all the potential to become a favorite among fans of Beach House or the quieter side of Modest Mouse’s repertoire.
It turns out that when you ask someone about love, they may feel compelled to tell you a story about heartbreak. When you read stories about success, you read about overcoming great adversity. Human beings seek experiences that elicit enjoyment or pleasure, whether those experiences be good or bad. It's stimulation in the brain that carries meaning; that tells us we're alive.
The writer who faces the blank document may not find pleasure in that moment, but through a painstaking process of planting their butt and exposing themselves, they eventually flip the pain of starting into the pleasure of being read. The photographer who has chosen a new environment may have difficulty finding the right lighting, but through this trial he or she may capture something timelessly breathtaking. Of course there are simple pleasures with no prerequisite for any pain, like a dog looking up at you, its body shaking uncontrollably, begging for you to pet it. Or buying new shoes, although this kind of pleasure is fleeting and quickly demands replenishment.
But when you look at any kind of art—a book that changes the way you think, a painting that stirs emotions, or even the kind of customer service that is seemingly rare—it's easy to only appreciate the end result, not the long trail of anxiety, fear, and effort that it necessitates.
Perhaps the most rewarding of them all are the ones that require discomfort, because now we're emotionally invested and being challenged. And yet, for most of our lives we numb pain and avoid it altogether. We avoid the pain of telling the truth, of looking people in the eyes, of facing ourselves—a strange painful pleasure in its own unique way. This, however, is simply part of human nature. We gravitate towards the positive experiences that promise it will happen again, and avoid the unpromising ones like a bad meal at a restaurant.
Plato once observed that all things are created by nature, chance, or art; the first two being the most great and beautiful, and the last being the most imperfect. But when you look at any kind of art—a book that changes the way you think, a painting that stirs emotions, or even the kind of customer service that is seemingly rare—it's easy to only appreciate the end result, not the long trail of anxiety, fear, and effort that it necessitates. We gawk at newfound overnight successes but fail to appreciate or even acknowledge the decade of adversity prior.
How, then, do we learn to view pain as something temporary, something that actually functions as a profound source for pleasure? The Stoics believed that pain and pleasure, success and failure, life and death, were simply just part of human life, therefore they were neither good nor bad. What make our negative emotions so destructive aren't the emotions themselves but the judgments that shape them. But how difficult this mindset is to keep when we've been cheated, lied to, undervalued or misunderstood! We react emotionally, all the while fueling our escape, when in fact we should be embracing this pain and transmuting it into something worthwhile—a lesson, a story, a piece of art. Look at anything you deeply admire, and you may see the connection: the creation was not made in the avoidance of pain but rather because of it.
If there is one underlying principle about human nature that deeply influences the way we lead our lives, it's our innate desire for connection. To be understood and ultimately missed. Which is why stories about pleasure, or any of the synonyms associated with it, always contain elements of pain, frustration, or adversity. Hence, it's vital in our careers and lives to understand that pain and pleasure are ephemeral but not meaningless. We get to decide what has meaning and what doesn't.
Sure, watching your house burn down is painful, and the hopelessness associated with such an event is justifiable. But it isn't helpful. Running a marathon produces pains in the body, but crossing the finish line yields a feeling of ecstasy. It's easy to spend our lives selling ourselves short and opting for the kind of pleasures that can be bought, however fleeting they may be. It's easy to lie, to not give the advice that your friend needs to hear. But a life avoiding pain can inadvertently deny us from feeling any kind of memorable pleasure. In most cases the two need each other; they compliment one another. When you are vulnerable with someone, it may be painful to share what you've been hiding, but the potential for a deeper connection may ensue. When you write, dance, draw, sing, or create, you may be misunderstood or criticized, but the opportunity to find the right people who appreciate your work and are moved by it? Such pleasures are worth pursuing indeed