Los Angeles in Film

Cabin fever can sometimes extend farther out than your own home and into the city that you live in. At least, back in November, it did for me.  I was in a weird mental space that month, consumed by a real fear of commitment - something I always failed to openly acknowledge was an apprehension that I internalized. You see, I'm at the age in life where most people start becoming responsible for things - for taking care of themselves, the companies they're employed by as well as the company that they keep. This all involves committing to establishments, to people, to professions and to cities.  This Fall I realized, I never truly pledged myself in any permanent way to any of these things. For the longest time I thought I was chasing stability, but in reality I was running away from it...until now.

This Autumn, New York and I made it official. I signed contracts of all varieties - from professional paper work to lease agreements, I ended 2015 with an "I do" to the city. Though, I knew none of these arrangements were truly forever, it sure felt like it and that scared me. Two years ago I was sleeping in a tent in Utah without a cellphone writing everything in a Moleskine journal and taking polaroids exclusively on a Land Art Road Trip. Today, I spend my week days on a laptop and cellphone in a corporate office on 5th avenue. And though I really love my job, I feared losing the free spirited version of myself. I didn't want her to die off with the contracts I signed. So, I took a few days off and booked a trip to the west coast on a whim. It definitely felt like the right decision. 

I went to Los Angeles without any solid plans. I purposely left my DSLR at home and packed nothing but Impossible Project film and my old polaroid camera. I spent most of my days wandering around the city, visiting museums, exploring famous streets, and meeting up with family and friends. I got to spend time with my youngest cousin, eat sushi with him, and pick him up from school with my aunt. I roamed around the neighborhood of Silver Lake with my closest friend, Nicole, who just made the bold and brave decision to move out west for a new career opportunity. I was so excited and happy for her and it was so cool to experience something different with her, nothing like the bars we frequented in Brooklyn. I spent a full, glorious day in Venice Beach with my oldest friend, Olivia, taking photos of palm trees, eating ice cream while walking down the boardwalk, and chasing the sunset right before I flew back to New York. It was one of my favorite trips in 2015. I'm happy I made it.

I took a red eye flight back to the east coast and embodied the happiness I felt in Los Angeles once I returned to New York. I understood that committing to a certain lifestyle doesn't necessarily mean you need to give up on the things that don't easily fit into it. You just need to make time to do all of the things you love. You can have the dream job, the cool slide hustle, and the relationships that you deserve - you just have to make the time for them, even if it's overtime. Before my trip to LA, I hadn't shot with my polaroid camera since March 2015. I realized that the simple antidote to the insecurity I felt on my recent life decisions was in that camera. I didn't have to give up the ability to explore and create, two things that I really love doing. You can see that in these images and if and when I ever feel stuck, I'll look at them to remind myself of this. Life can get busy sometimes, but the world will always be out there for you when ever you need it to be. 

I'm very excited for this next chapter in my life, for what 2016 has to offer and for my new commitment to live, learn and grow in New York. Though Los Angeles was incredibly lovely, I really couldn't think of a better place to say yes to than the Ol' Big Apple. Let's do it.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

As a New Yorker, I have to admit that neighboring northeastern cities were never something I deeply yearned to visit nor places that most of my friends recommended to travel too. So, though I only live a two hour drive away from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only time I ever visited that city was for a brief college tour when I was seventeen. Aside from the campuses I saw, I really don't remember much about the city. More recently, a friend suggested we visit Philly, a city she happened to grow up just outside of, for the 4th of July - where coincidentally the events that lead to the creation of the holiday took place. I was down to go. I was eager to leave New York for a little while and a destination so convenient to get to and new to me seemed like a good option...and it was.

There are many amazing things to do and see in Philadelphia, but what struck me the most was the amount of interesting and uniquely creative street art along its infamous South Street. At any random corner you might find something the city's residents referred to as a "mosaic bomb" - a mural crafted of several hand-made tiles and glittering mirrors. They make Philadelphia's streets a lot more interesting and beautiful in such a distinct way. These tiled murals reminded me in some way of the mosaic architecture of Antoni Gaudi found throughout Barcelona, Spain. And like Gaudi, the artist behind these mosaic bombs left his city an entire, impossible to replicate, building crafted in the same way as his murals. This place is known in Philadelphia as The Magic Gardens.

According to the destination's mission statement, "Philadelphia's Magic Gardens (PMG) inspires creativity and community engagement by educating the public about folk, mosaic, and visionary art. PMG preserves, interprets, and provides access to Isaiah Zagar's unique mosaic art environment and his public murals." From floor to ceiling, the space is entirely crafted by the artist, Isaiah Zagar's, beautiful mosaic art. It's unlike anything I've ever seen before with the sparkling mirrors and hand-made tiles weaving beautifully into boldly colored glass bottles, bicycle wheels and folk art statues. In addition to serving as an inspiration hub of Zagar's work, the space also houses an art gallery that features similarly colorful work of other artists. 

I truthfully could've spent the entire day there and still felt that I had not soaked in enough of the amazingness this place holds. Even more incredible then the space itself is the amount of time and dedication it took to build it. Starting in 1994, Isaiah Zagar spent fourteen years excavating tunnels and grottos, sculpting multi-layered walls, and tiling and grouting the 3,000 square foot space. To give that much of your life to a project that is entirely an expression of you is beyond admirable; even more so when you closely inspect the level of detail involved in every square inch of the Magic Gardens. Both its beauty and what it took to create it are extremely powerful and inspiring.

You can learn more about Isaiah Zagar and Philadelphia's Magic Gardens on the organization's website here. If you're ever in Philadelphia, I highly recommend a visit to this incredible place. 

 

'BOUT IT

Indie-R&B singer, song-writer and producer, JMSN, is not at all what you would expect him to be – he is himself.

I met him for the first time at Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, while on the New York leg of his east coast tour. There were still several hours before Christian Berishaj was due to perform, but somehow the venue was already crowded with excited fans heavily anticipating JMSN’s impending performance. And suddenly while I’m pushing through the crowd with JMSN’s manager, he appears in the most casual of ways. Emerging from beneath a big winter coat, I assume he partially wore to keep himself warm in New York’s uncomfortable brisk and also to shield his identity from fans unknowingly surrounding him from all angles, there he is. Despite seeing photographs of him beforehand, I’m still surprised by his appearance. It’s as mysterious as it is humble. His shoulder length hair seems unbrushed, his beard grown out, and his outfit of choice - an old t-shirt and Champion gym shorts. His look is something you’d expect someone to wear in the comfort of their living room, not on stage for a concert they’re headlining.

Strange as it may be, the lack of effort he put into his appearance is what ultimately makes him that more interesting and as a relief to me, very approachable. His casual demeanor is what eventually inspires me to shoot him in the sketchiest parts of Cameo Gallery without any second thought – their graffiti covered bathroom, their strangely wide open electrical closet, and on their dirty basement stairs. He doesn’t seem to care, in fact it actually feels like he’s having as much fun as I am photographing him in the next odd location we can find. He looks into your eyes while you’re speaking to him, he flashes genuine smiles at certain moments, he is fully present throughout the entire interaction. You’d be surprised that someone with this caliber of talent, whose star is so quickly on the rise, and whose collaborators already include heavy hitters like rapper, Kendrick Lamar, and Producer, Ta-Ku is this low-key.

And once he gets on stage, it all makes sense. JMSN doesn’t need flashing lights, a decadent set, or a stellar wardrobe to impress you. The passion in his beautiful voice, the dedication to producing immaculate music and oddly enough, his awkward but amusing dance moves are more than enough to hook you in. By passing on the massive record labels who tried to and once did sign Christian Berishaj with the intent to glamourize his look and pop-ify his music, he proved to them, to himself and to his fans- that he could only be the best musician he can be by staying true to himself. I had the opportunity to speak with him after his show and I found that that statement could not be more honest.


Read the full interview on Billboard. Gold Frame Impossible Project polaroids taken at Cameo Gallery, February 14th, 2015. Animal Print Frame Impossible Project polaroids taken at SOBs, February 15th, 2015. Though I wasn't aware of it at the time, both varieties of film happened to be expired when these were taken resulting in a few minor imperfections. Their unique flaws are what make them beautiful, an outcome of a dated photography form that can't authentically replicated in digital. These are truly one of a kind prints.

Yoko Ono's One Woman Show

In 1971, Yoko Ono announced a solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art—a one-woman show that she mockingly titled Museum Of Modern (F)art. However, when visitors arrived at the Museum there was barely any evidence of Ono's work. Outside of the Museum's entrance, a man wore a sandwich board affirming that Ono had released a horde of flies and that the public was invited to follow their flight within the Museum and across the city. What's evident now is that Yoko Ono was way ahead of her time. 

Fast forward over 40 years later and the Museum of Modern Art proudly announces 82-year-old Yoko Ono's One Woman Show, an exhibition whose title is inspired by that of her original unauthorized exhibit at the museum. The show brings together approximately 125 of her early objects, works on paper, installations, performances, audio recordings, and films, alongside rarely seen archival materials. This is the first exhibition at MoMA dedicated exclusively to the artist’s work. Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 is organized by Christophe Cherix, The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints; and Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator at Large, MoMA, and Director, MoMA PS1; with Francesca Wilmott, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints.

I had the opportunity to preview the exhibition and attend an informative press conference surrounding it before it's official opening. As someone who honestly did not pay much attention to Ono's work before or during her marriage to John Lennon, I have to say I was in great surprise of her artistic capabilities and the ways in which her mind functions to develop works through a variety of mediums and creative pursuits. Walking through the exhibition, which is curated in chronological order, I felt somewhat proud of Ono. A woman who was brilliant and legendary in her own right, was clearly overshadowed by the art her famous husband produced, finally had the spotlight on her at age 82. This is not to say that Lennon did not have a strong influence in her work, because he did and vice versa, but Ono's creativity ultimately wasn't all related to her relationship with Lennon and this exhibition makes that more clear.

The first section of the exhibition focuses on Ono's Chamber Street Loft Series (December 1960- June 1961). At that time Ono had rented out a loft, located on the top floor of a building at 112 Chambers Street in Downtown Manhattan. Originally intended to be used as a studio, it also became a space to present new music and ideas, unlike any other venue in the area at the time. She transformed the dull aesthetic of the grey walled and low ceiling space by creating make-shift furniture out of discarded crates and borrowing a friend's baby grand piano. In those six months, Yoko Ono and composer, La Monte Young produced numerous events that featured artists, dancers, musicians, and composers. Several works combined music, performance, and visual art blurring the distinctions between the mediums, something Ono continued on to do throughout her artistic career. These events were successful in their reach. On most nights, there were as many as 200 guests, including famous figures in the art world such as Marcel Duchamp, Peggy Guggenheim, Jasper Johns, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg. The rarely seen programs and archival photographs from the events at the Chambers Street Loft are on display in Yoko Ono's One Woman Show

After the end of her Chambers Street Loft series and her first solo show at AG Gallery in Manhattan's Upper East Side (July 1961), Ono continued to extend her reach as an artist and her creativity in a variety of mediums and concepts. She flew back to Japan in 1962, where she produced a variety of interactive works now on display at her One Woman Show. Pieces include a poem rightfully titled, Touch Poem #5, which encourages viewers to touch a hairy book of Ono's poems. 

In another gallery, performance facilitators are in the galleries during select hours to aid visitors in performing Ono's iconic Bag Piece (1964), which consists of visitors entering into a cloth bag, becoming completely enveloped. This work premiered for the first time in Kyoto in the summer of 1964, at the same concert in which she premiered Cut Piece. Also on view in the exhibition are photographs taken by George Maciunas of Ono's performance of Bag Piece in the Perpetual Fluxfest in new York in June 1965.

Assembled in the following gallery, which seems to be the focal point of the exhibit, are several works inspired by the sky, including To See the Sky (2015), a new work created by Ono specifically for the MoMA exhibition. The sky is a central and recurring subject in Ono's work. Her fascination with it dates back to her childhood memories of being displaced from Tokyo during World War II and finding safety in the countryside.

"That's when I fell in love with the sky," remembers Ono. "Even when everything was falling apart around me, the sky was always there for me...I can never give up on life as long as the sky is there."

Continuing through the exhibition, it's clear that as an artist, Ono's work relies heavily on viewer participation or imagination to complete her artworks. This becomes evident in pieces from her 1966 solo exhibition in at Indica Gallery in London, some of which are on display in the MoMA exhibition. Add Color Painting (1961/1966) and Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961/1966) require a viewer's intervention, whereas Apple (1966)(seen at the exhibition's entrance) comprises of a solitary fruit, devoid f the artist's hand beyond its placement on a Plexiglas pedestal affixed with a brass plaque. The night before the show opened, John Lennon stopped by the gallery. Moved by Ono and her artistic concepts, he was the first person to sign the exhibition guest book, including his middle name, Winston, and his home address. In the years that followed, Ono worked in close collaboration with Lennon, producing films, initiating global peace campaigns, and launching the Plastic Ono Band.

The Museum of Modern Art doesn't fail to mention the musical efforts of Ono. The exhibition includes an audio room dedicated to the music that Ono produced with the Plastic Ono Band. Around 1968, Ono decided to create a band "that would never exist...that didn't have a set number of members...that could accommodate anyone who wanted to play with it." The name of the band was inspired by a piece John Lennon created in response to Ono's idea - a small three-dimensional work composed primarily of transparent plastic objects. Although conceptually Plastic Ono Band had no members, in practice it had a flexible lineup. For a performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Festival in 1969, the band consisted of Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, and Alan White. The band continued releasing records through the mid-1970s. In 2009, Ono revived Plastic Ono Band with her son, Sean Lennon.

Overall the exhibition left me feeling quite a bit. I was immensely impressed by Yoko Ono's artistic capability and the concepts derived from it for works such as Touch Poem #5, Apple and Cut Piece. I loved her push on utilizing imagination, which as adults I think we often neglect, and her pursuit of so many different mediums such as film, writing, photography, music and sculpture. Along with the use of various mediums, I also appreciated Ono's ability to fuse them. She was for so many years, as this MoMA exhibition brings to light, a brilliant and often overlooked artist. 


The exhibition is on view at the Museum of Modern Art from May 17–September 7, 2015. Don't miss it!


Blow Me A Kiss

There is a specific kind of power that can be found in a pair of lips. If their corners are turned upwards they can create a smile, often a symbol of happiness depending on the reason behind their movement and also frequently something that warms the hearts of those on it's receiving end. Sometimes, they part ways to blow out cigarette smoke - an action that is always glamorized in film and depicted as something dangerously sexy, at times mysterious. Even more compelling than a smile or a cigarette puff, is a kiss. Based upon situation and culture, a kiss can express feelings of friendship, greeting, love, passion, sexual activity, respect and at times much more. Acclaimed author and style innovator, Alice Harris, realized this and created "Blow Me A Kiss", her new book that draws in on our fascination with lips, their aura and power. In her new coffee table book, Harris curates a great collection of iconic images, paintings and more that offer a dazzling look into our allure with varied tones of crimson colored lips. She goes as far back as mid 20th century photographs of the iconic, Audrey Hepburn to even recent photography like Solange Knowles on the cover of Complex. Through her artistic choices, Harris proves that lips have long been symbolic of beauty, elegance, love, lust, happiness and more and further, that their appeal isn't fading away any time soon. You can see some of the amazing imagery in Harris' new book below. To see them all in their beautifully printed glory make sure you pick up a copy of "Blow Me A Kiss".

Leonid Afremov

It's rare that an artist today is able to make a living from their original artwork without exhibiting at galleries or collaborating with other brands, but Leonid Afremov was able to do it. Like his way of selling his work, the type of pieces he produces are also unlike any other modern contemporary artist. Inspired by artists like Marc Chagall, Picasso and other 19th Century Impressionists, Russian-Israeli Afremov is a modern impressionistic artist who works mainly with a palette knife and oils. His painting are comprised of heavy brush strokes in rich color and emotion. They are incredibly beautiful and a pleasure to look at. Today, Afremov sells his artwork on the internet. You can see more of his work on his website and easily purchase one straight from your computer screen.

 

Yago Hortal

What is the most important part of a painting if it's not the colors that propagate it's composition? In art, darker colors tend to invoke sadness, mysteriousness, and dark feelings, while warmer shades always seem to induce happy and positive sentiments. So it should be to no surprise that most art aficionados are immediately drawn to the vibrant works of Spanish painter, Yago Hortal. With the powerful strokes of his paintbrush the Berlin-based artist creates bright bursts of vivid color that formulate into beautiful pieces of eye candy. Any of Hortal's paintings could certainly liven up a room and add sunshine on a gloomy day in an instant. My own thoughts, as a writer more attracted to clothing over stationary visual art, envisioned these colorful strokes smeared across white column dresses, tailored slim fitting pants, and neat button downs adding intensity to simplicity. I would absolutely love to see Hortal collaborate with a fashion designer in the future. I find his brilliantly colored works to be quite alluring.