Take the Picture – There seems to be a never-ending plethora of artists dabbling in the at times indulgent art of self-portraiture these days, but few ever rise to the fierce degree of established and still relevant talents like Cindy Sherman or Robert Mapplethorpe. Photographer Gregory Moon is that rare exception, and though his work is way different from the aforementioned art greats, he adds his own singular touch to his work, which veers from the ultra-sexual to the uber-sexy. Constantly revealing and evolving, he shows absolutely no fear in expressing his unique vision of himself and gives pause to those seeking only an unhealthy dose of counterfeit astonishment.
Style That Doesn’t Suck – I’ve never been a fan of the “man bag,” those supposedly fashionable but oh-so-strange-looking oversized sacks of stylish indulgence that designers like Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton have tried to convince us normal male mortals (and not just the gay ones) that we need to complete our daily ensembles. I still rock a $12 black nylon backpack from 14th Street. But then I came across the superbly sublime designs of San Francisco-based accessories designer Basil Racuk, and I’ve been singing a decidedly different tune. A 20-year veteran of the fashion biz, Racuk worked his magic for several large houses before striking out on his own as an artisan working directly with private clients and a few select retail stores. His passion for California gold miners and the alterna-hippy vibe of Haight Ashbury has resulted in a collection of rare leather pieces dating back to the Gold Rush days. The pieces have a handcrafted, lived-in-already feel and feature such unexpected touches as handpainted finishes and ergonomic shapes that keep them fashionably current, yet comfortably minimal.
Style Exiles – I first spotted Muffinhead on Facebook but didn’t truly take in his entire amazing self spectacle until spotting him at one of artist Kenny Scharf’s Cosmic Cavern black-light parties. Describing himself as a “performance absurdist and hyper-surreal cartoon character intent on bringing other worldly visions to life, he injects a bold and brash jolt of visual distraction that brings to mind such geniuses as Leigh Bowery. Since relocating to New York in 2005, he has brought his chaotic and somewhat obsessive panache to the city’s hottest galleries, events, and nightlife. His solo show The Exhibitionist at Arena Studios received rave reviews, and he has been a featured player in the Deitch Projects Art Parade since its inception. This “Art Terrorist” seeks first and foremost to see his concepts through to brilliant completion, often taking several grueling months to finish. His recent collaboration with Kenny Scharf called “SuperWow!” was one of those unique only-in-New-York experiences, bringing together a group art party, performance exhibit, and all-night dancing to dazzling effect.
What Would You Wear to the Second Coming? – it/EQ collaborators Ethan Shoshan and Carlo Quispe create custom clothes based on psychosexual power relationships inherent in the wearer, uncovering unconscious desires and allowing personal liberation. The story of it/EQ is based on one of the principles of Shamanism, and that is imbuing meaning (personal, spiritual, social) onto things; that objects, people, places have special powers — living symbols of power — and to reach beyond the ego into a realm where we are all deeply connected. The first amulet that ever existed was the shell portion of a sea-urchin. It has a hole through it, called it/EQ (anus) and was made the first amulet because of its association with a particular power of healing through wind and breath. Ethan Shoshan, 29, is a social ecologist and multimedia artist born in Brooklyn. His works utilize many creative platforms using visual media, performance, sound, video, installation, clothes, and cooking. He is currently living and working in New York as yoga practitioner, macrobiotic chef, and volunteer for various community organizations. You can check out more projects and sign onto the mailing list at www.disiterate.com. Carlo Quispe is 31, born in Lima, Peru, and now lives in New York in the Dominican ghetto of Washington Heights. Carlo’s work depicts men who have sex with men and their very private lives. His comic Killer Heights recently had a public showing in September at Printed Matter Inc. He is currently teaching visual literacy at the Hetrick-Martin Institute and is co-editing the next issue of World War 3 Illustrated, called “What We Want,” due out in early 2010.
The Stuff You Need Right Now – With the continued advent of skinny jeans, finding the right shoe that keeps the elongated and lean line fresh requires footwear that doesn’t look bulky or make you resemble a modern-day version of Bozo. Nobody wants toothpick legs balanced on boat-sized feet. I usually opt for a classic pair of Chucks but was recently turned on to the reinvention of a true old school classic. Reworking their ultra-classic signature canvas kicks first introduced to the masses in 1916 by the company US Rubber, Pro-Keds has teamed with the uber-trendy boutique Opening Ceremony to create a line of red, white, and blue styles in faded washes, bandana prints, and even denim.
Shop till Ya Drop – Live Fast is hands down the coolest shop on the LES. The carry and support an amazing array of independent designers who create one-of-a-kind pieces and accessories. Scooter La Forge, JackieHatesYou, Blue Tape Crew, Ramon Maiden, Bullets, Stiletto Leatherwear, OAP London, Michael Nirenberg, and Nickels & Dimes can all be found here, and the shop also creates rock-n-roll-inspired wedding/gala event dresses from their in-house studio. Owner Cecilia Anton opened the shop in 2005 and soon after turned the basement into a wildly popular gallery featuring artists like Nick Zedd, Vanessa Bucci, Joe Simko, and Monica Casanova. Upcoming shows include the aforementioned JackieHatesYou on October 31 from 6-11pm, and Scooter La Forge’s “Mega Monsters” on November 20. If you haven’t figured out your Halloween costume yet, get your ass down there ASAP as this is definitely the spot to put something together that will look fiercely fresh and stand out in a likely crowd of Sarah Palin wannabes.
Fiercely Correct Art – New York-based painter Lara Jochim has pretty much done it all in her quest to keep things creative. Between serving up stints as a DJ, fashion stylist, record store clerk, theme party host, and 9-to-5 publishing gal, she “relaxes” by painting abstract figurative landscapes of swirling colors and collaged distraction.
Caution: Correctness Ahead – Max Steele is a NYC-based performance artist/ blogger du jour/ go-go sensation whose personal sense of style often includes random correctness such as the Mickey Mouse tank he sports above. The kids in NY are really working the vintage again, thank God, and I’ve noticed that even though this never-ending 80s retro regurgitation refuses to leave us, there is a current of the future starting to creep up. I sat down with Max recently to ask him a few questions.
Tell me about growing up- where you’re from, were you out, gay, and performing? I’m originally from LA, but my family moved to a tiny island Bay Area suburb called Alameda when I was nine. My parents are both actors, so I was out from the get-go. Real artsy hippie CA vibe, I’m very lucky.
What made you come to NYC and what was the first fierce thing that happened to you? I came to NYC because when I was in high school this really cute punk band played SF on tour and I had a crush on the guitarist and they said they were from New York. The first fierce thing that happened when I got here was that for the first time in my life, dudes started cruising me. All of a sudden I existed.
What do you aspire to, and what inspires you? I aspire to share my work (performance and writing) with more and more people. I want to widen the discussion to include as many people as possible. I’m inspired a lot by the work of my brilliant friends, and by literature.
What all do you do to do what you love to do in NYC? I work days as a law firm receptionist, I go-go dance, and do freelance writing gigs to get money. I wish I could support myself without having a 9-5, but I’m still young.
Favorite color / drink / restaurant / club nite / performance-nightlife artist? Green, soy White Russian, Kate’s Joint, three-way tie (Queers Beers and Rears @ Cake Shop, JUDY! @ The Hose, and whenever there’s an East Village Boys party), Tayisha Busay.
Upcoming projects, dream jobs, and correct e-mail/web site contact info? I’m playing Starr Space on 10/17, opening for Ana Da Silva from the Raincoats, working on a new solo performance art show called Encourager, and writing the next issue of my psychedelic porno poetry zine Scorcher.
Fast Food Fashion – I am a huge fan of irreverent t-shirts, the less in good taste the better. My new guilty pleasures come from Mike Hawk Teez, started by childhood friends Rick Ramos and Frank Guerra, who based their collection of crude sayings on stupid phrases they would come up with back in their college daze. They come up with the fictional characters Mike Hawk, the typical dirty-minded guy, and Betty Wacksitt, the empowered hot girl who tells it like it is. Not politically correct by a long shot, which is exactly why they are SO very correct.
San Francisco Street Treat – Just spent a few weeks in San Francisco, where the street art scene is completely off the hook. Ironically, several of that city’s leading artists have been migrating to NYC and leaving their mark on both coasts. So if some of these images look familiar, you’re not trippin. The era of bi-coastal tagging is alive and well.
All photos except Basil Racuk, Gregory Moon, Lara Jochim, and Mike Hawk Teez by Walt Cessna.