COVER STORY: ORVILLE PECK

Photographer: Emma Craft @emmacraft
Stylist: Angel Emmanuel @angelemmanuel
Photo Assistant: Michael Decristofaro @m.decristo
Editor in Chief: Marc Sifuentes @marc.sifuentes
Creative Director: Louis Liu @herecomeslouis
Interview by: Dustin Mansyur @dmansyur

With his fringed masks, rhinestone suits, and shoegazing lyricism, Orville Peck is every bit the part of “lonesome outlaw”. Reimagining tropes of tradition, Peck’s take on country music reinvents the genre as a decorated landscape ready for queer expression.

Orville Peck is a nomad. Like a cowboy on a cattle drive, home is an elusive feeling; the masked musician who’s been described as every imaginable synonym for “enigma” feels happiest hanging his hat just off the highway in a roadside motel. The open road is a part of his DNA, having traversed and inhabited several continents, countries, and cities as a boy. His incessancy for wanderlust belies a romantic narrative spun in the stories of his songs, lulling his listeners on a quixotic journey through a memoryscape evocative of another time and place.

Releasing Pony in March earlier this year, Peck’s sincere approach to his storytelling and lyricism is reminiscent of Lucinda Williams or Patsy Cline, intimate and unadulterated. His vocals are as hypnotic and coaxing as a desert oasis on Route 190 through Death Valley. Somewhere between the inexplicable pain of loss resides the unparalleled elation of love and lust. It is the proverbial longhorn skull and rose motif. As a queer artist who croons about gay hustlers or doomed love affairs, his sincerity is the foundation for his music’s transcendency, appealing to longtime country music fans while attracting a younger, more diverse audience to the genre. In an era demanding the commodity of content, Peck deciphers himself apart from the formulaic clout of music industry contemporaries through his visceral ability to be truthful. It is this vulnerability that cannot be faked nor bought, and an even rarer quality for a performer as sensitive as Peck, fearlessly weaving the stories of his experiences and muses into the embroidery of his album; Pony is forthcoming and unapologetic. While the illusion of his shrouded pageantry may have him pegged as the “musical outlaw”, coupled with the intimacy of his music, it creates a contrasting dichotomy that is equal parts mystifying and infatuating.

Ready to saddle up and lead a cavalry of change in the country music industry, IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation with the artist just before he embarked on the European leg of his tour.

Jacket from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Maison Fabre, Necklace: His own

Listening to your album, really took me back to my experience as a gay person of color who grew up in the rural Midwest on country music, struggling to find acceptance in the 500-person town I was raised in. Because of your music’s authenticity, one might easily assume you had a similar experience. Where are you from and what was your experience like growing up?

I mean I grew up in a bunch of different places, by the time I was in my early twenties I reckon 5 different countries and many many cities. I’ve lived in Africa, in Canada, in the States, and in Europe—so I moved around a lot. My parents were both from kind of humble beginnings and whenever they did kind of have any money they would put the emphasis on traveling and getting to go and experience new places and cultures. So I think I grew up with a pretty diverse view of the world, in general, but especially in music and art. And I think country music always connected with me because, not only did I love the instrumentation and the themes, but I also related to the environment that it’s set in. I was born and grew up in a desert area, so there were obvious connections to it. As a young gay weirdo, I was really drawn towards the campness of it, the bold storytelling, the theatrical nature of it, which also ran kind of congruent with a lot of sincerity, heartbreak and loneliness which are all kinds of things that I felt and I still carry around with me now.

It’s funny because country music has this stigma surrounding it that it’s supposed to be for well-adjusted conservative, aggressive, white men. It’s sad because like you said yourself, a lot of queer people of color or marginalized people that grow up in small towns feel outside of country music. But the stories within country music—even going back to artists like Patsy Cline—I think those stories speak clearly to people like us. I think also that’s why it’s so obvious that someone like Dolly Parton is such an icon for gay people because she’s someone that had to blaze her own trail and really really convince people to listen to her by dressing provocatively and wearing crazy wigs and essentially being, you know, like a drag queen. But, she could also write some of the most heartbreaking gut wrenching songs of our whole civilization. I think country music has always been written by outsiders and it’s always been for outsiders. I hope to help to break that stigma down because it’s not supposed to be only for white men in trucks or whatever.

How did you break into the music industry; was it something you always imagined you’d be doing?

I was a performer since I was about 10 years old. I started with acting and I was a dancer for a long time and I’ve always been a singer. There were always instruments around my house, I never had formal lessons but I taught myself how to play guitar and piano. I think I just always knew that I was going to be a performer in some way. I’ve been in a bunch of different types of bands all through my twenties, but I knew that I always wanted to make country music and I always wanted to really sing and I never had the confidence to do it for a long time. Then I took a break from music for about 6 years at one point and then when I came back to it I knew I wanted to do country music because it had always been in the back of my mind.

You’ve toured extensively with punk rock bands. Do you find a correlation between the genres and your approach?

Definitely, there’s a similar rebellion, of course. I think there’s a similar aesthetic in some ways. The punk that I grew up loving was early seventies kind of punk. Those people all had pseudonyms; they all had costumes that they wore. You know they spent more time on hair and makeup than most musicians probably do now. So I think that there’s a lot of correlations between country music which is essentially pageantry and drama mixed with vulturous sincerity and heartbreak and I think that that’s kind of what punk is too.

Shirt and Jeans: R13, Vest and Chaps from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Hat: Stetson, Boots: Star Boots

Returning to country music, did it feel like you were returning to your roots in a way?

What I do now feels so easy in a way because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s the easiest thing to just be yourself. The best qualities about you are the most sincere ones. Of course, I still struggle with insecurities about it and I have self-doubts, but the older I’ve gotten, it’s become easier for me. Even though I’ve been a performer for so long and been doing it as a job for a long time, I think this time I can really sit back and enjoy it for the first time because it’s become fun and easy to be myself.

You’re about to embark on your European Tour for “Pony”. You’ve described yourself as a “born drifter”, which kind of furthers the romanticism of your musical canon and persona. What is it about the open road or a nomadic lifestyle that calls you?

I’ve just always felt anxious. As I’ve said, I moved around a lot when I was younger, so I think the idea of moving to new places and kind of making your home wherever you are—that’s always just been part of me I suppose. I find it very hard to put roots down. Oftentimes I’ve tried to stay in cities for long periods of time and I’ve always kind of gotten anxious and not really known where my place is. Part of what appeals to me now is that I’ve learned to really find the adventure in it and not look at it as a downside. When people ask me where I’m from and I say lots of places, it’s not to be obtuse or enigmatic, it’s just because I genuinely feel like I have left little pieces of myself in all these different places that I’ve lived. That to me is so special because I can go back to those cities and feel like I’m right back at home in a way that I’ve gotten to meet incredible friends and family all over the world. So I think those are things that appeal to me about it. I’m just someone that’s never been able to sit still.

Do you feel most at home when you’re on tour?

Yes, I do. I definitely feel most comfortable. When I’m stuck in one city and I have a lot to do like I am right now— I’m about to leave in two days again for tour—but I tend to have the most anxiety and stress when I’m stuck in one place. I do feel at home on tour; I just feel at home when I’m traveling.

Pants: Gucci, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Wing + Weft Gloves, Belt: Diesel, Belt Buckle: Stylists Own, Boots: Frye, Necklace: His own

What is your song-writing process? How often do you write? Is it an ongoing discipline or something you do only when you apportion studio time for it?

I’m kind of writing all the time. It’s all different. Sometimes it’s an idea just based around a concept for a song. Sometimes it’s based around a melody that I have in my head. Other times it’s based around one lyric or a line that I want to try to incorporate. Oftentimes I start from more of a visual or kind of an emotive place where I know what kind of vibe I want the song to be or what emotion I want to evoke for the person listening to it. Then I go from there by making it personal to me and hopefully telling a good story at the same time.

Pony was released in March earlier this year and received with splashy critical praise as well as excitement from your fans who’ve been waiting for it since your single release of “Dead of Night” in 2017. What are you most proud of about the album, and can you share any personal anecdotes from the recording process?

What I’m most proud about and just generally about the past year is that I’ve been able to express myself as an artist. That includes collaborating with people, which is something I never used to be very good at doing. I’ve learned in the past year to really embrace that. And I find it really fun and exciting now being able to work with people on videos, visuals, aesthetics, stylists… as an artist I think it’s really important. Then in addition to that, getting to do what I’ve wanted to do since I was little, which is to be a singer and really sing, and sing about heartache and things that are important to me and things that are sometimes difficult for me to sing about. I think the bonus of that is everyone enjoying it; it’s more than you could ask for and I find it very fulfilling.

I’m curious if you ever struggled with proclaiming yourself as a gay artist right from the start or did you ever feel that you would embark on your career and let it come out naturally? How important is it to your brand?

I’ve never struggled with it. I think it’s important to me and it’s also not important at all in a way. As an artist, if I’m going to write songs with any kind of authenticity they’re going to have to be from my perspective and my experiences. And my perspective and my experiences happen to be of someone who has been with men. To me it’s kind of a non topic in a sense, but not because I’m dismissive of it, but because to me I’m just following in the footsteps of every other singer and songwriter who sang about the people they were with and sang about their problems. I just feel like I’m being genuine to myself so of course it’s going to be about men if that’s who I’ve been with. So I think on one hand it’s a huge part of who I am, what I do, and what I sing about. I’m completely proud and open about being gay and being part of that community, but I also think it could hold just as much weight if it wasn’t my background either.

What has been your greatest internal or professional challenge that you’ve had to overcome as an artist thus far?

My biggest challenge I guess has been trusting and really believing in myself I guess, which is something I learned through the help of other people a lot more in the past couple of years. I always was a creative child. I knew what I always wanted to do; I knew that I could write songs and I knew I could perform and make people smile and clap. But I think I still had a lot of barriers and defenses up,and in some ways I still do. I just never had much opportunity to really collaborate with people growing up, so that’s been a big learning curve for me. It’s interesting because I used to think that opening myself up to working with other people or even really opening myself up to sharing personal things about myself through my art would in some weird way dilute me as an artist. But it’s only just really enriched me as an artist and made it far more exciting. That’s been a struggle for me but it’s been a nice struggle in a way — It’s important to be far more open than I used to be.

Vintage Jean Paul Gaultier top from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Hat: Silverado Hats, Gloves: Perrin Paris

Was there a defining moment in your career that proved to be a turning point or breakout moment that propelled you to the next level?

I think a lot of artists and creative people struggle with the fact of embracing that they’re going to do this for real or whatever. Like of course you have to supplement art with an income and usually that means working some job you’re not really interested in and that’s kind of soul sucking. But it’s also about a state of mind, just fully deciding one day that you know you are going to do it for real and you are going to own it. Even though I was a performer since I was very young, I still had those fears. It wasn’t until maybe my mid-twenties that I decided that I’m only going to be an artist and everything else is purely to facilitate that. It’s just that mine is a change of mindframe and a “jumping-out-the-airplane” thing. You just have to do it.

Queer people working in media and entertainment have enriched the sector, and provided more representation for fans who identify with and relate to what you’re creating as an artist. When you were growing up, did you have any queer icons you looked up to?

Definitely, I was a fan of the obvious ones like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. I grew up loving dance and theater so there was no shortage of queer icons in that world. But I also grew up with a lot of icons who weren’t queer, I never felt outside of those people being references or inspiration for what I do. I never let the fact that I was gay define anything about me as an artist. Of course it’s enriched me in lots of ways, but I never let it be a barrier.

Now that you have this platform and visibility, how do you hope you can influence a younger generation of LGBTQ fans through your music?

It’s really lovely when I hear from young queer or trans people that tell me I represent something for them in country music that they never thought was there, or that they never felt a part of. If I can be that for someone, then I feel completely honored and thrilled by that. I hope that people feel welcome to express themselves and be a part of anything that they feel they want to be a part of, and not feel like the color of their skin or their gender, sexual orientation, or anything else should limit them. I think as marginalized people we tend to have to stand on the sidelines and be a fan from a distance or feel like maybe we don’t belong. I hope it inspires people to take up more room and get on and be a part of it because it is part of them, it’s already part of them, and there’s no invitation needed.

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews the landscape of country music is diversifying to include many new types of sounds and voices. How important is it to you to expand the genre and/or to receive acceptance from the mainstream country music industry?

I think it’s important to me in the sense that country music has always been diverse and there’s always been people of color making country music, there’s always been gay people making country music. Unfortunately, those things haven’t been able to be very visible. So I think it’s been a long time coming now that those different perspectives in country music are visible. I think it’s happening quite quickly now, and those walls put up by industry people in mainstream country music are starting to crumble. We’re getting a lot of weird new voices in country music, some have always been there, but they’re starting to creep through the cracks now. I think that’s great because it’ll just start ending the stigma about who country music is for.

Shirt, Coat, Pants, Boxer Briefs: Versace, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Lincoln, Boots: Star Boots

You’ve talked about your mask as having dual-purpose: an element of showmanship and a tool that allows you to be more raw / exposed as an artist. How did you arrive at the mask? Did you create the first one or did you work with a stylist or designer to engineer the look?

It’s all me and I make them. I think it was just my version of following in the footsteps of many country performers who had bold, camp, flamboyant visual imagery to their performance. There’s a huge lineage of that and a lot of them are very straight, conservative people in country music that would wear bedazzled rhinestone suits. Dolly Parton would wear 3-foot high wigs. It’s all in that sphere, so I’m definitely not the first person to do it. Maybe for newer country musicians it’s not as common, but that’s basically where I’m coming from.

Do you connect more with your audience because of the mask?

I think so. I think it eliminates a certain amount of pretense. I think it destroys the mask that people walk around wearing everyday, which you know, isn’t a real necessarily mask. I think it eliminates a lot of bullshit especially. It’s the same as when people feel so comfortable around a drag queen or someone like that. Something about it just puts people at ease and makes them feel like they can be comfortable and be themselves. That’s what I experience in my shows with people and they all look like they’re really connected to the performance because of it I think.

Jacket from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Pants: Gucci, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Maison Fabre, Boots:Off-White, Necklace: His own

You’ve been described as a musical “outlaw” and the mask reinforces this idea. In a way it’s reminiscent of a bandana-wearing bandit hero, like Zorro or the Lone Ranger. Do you think your audience responds or relates to it because of this idea of a hero-like figure?

I think so. I think people project a lot of different interpretations of it. That’s what I love about it and that’s also why I hate to talk too much about it because I don’t want to put too much narrative on top of it. I actually like that people can have their own interpretation of it. Some people look at it and think of the Lone Ranger and then some people look at it and see an S&M mask and it’s like, well that tells me a lot about that person. That’s what I like about it—that it is open for interpretation. And it allows people to be involved in what I do. For a fan to feel involved in it and that they can get a piece of that too, then that is what you could only hope for as an artist. People not only enjoy what you do but they’re invested and they feel a part of it. Some of the musicians, visual artists, actors, filmmakers, and authors that I still respect to this day are people that made me feel like I had some ownership of what they did as well.

The dichotomy of being an openly queer artist while hiding your physical features is a striking juxtaposition. Do you think you’ll ever “out” yourself physically from under the mask?

I don’t know. To me I don’t feel like I’m hiding at all. I feel like I wear my heart on my sleeve in a lot of ways. We’ll see what that evolution is. At the moment I’m really happy just doing my thing as I’m doing it.

Your music explores the nostalgia of Americana and its sound. It’s a staple source of inspiration for many iconic popular country and folk-rock ballads. Having such a diverse international background, what inspires you most about Americana?

I think it’s the seemingly normality. I think Americana as we’ve been told to believe is apple pie. It’s very clean and neat with a picket fence. The reality of American culture is far weirder and darker than that at times. It involves a lot of trauma and craziness. I think that’s the part of Americana that I find far more fascinating. I think that is the real Americana. I always talk about how I love motels because the idea of this like chic version of a hotel that is on a highway and it’s very cheap, there’s no questions asked and sometimes people live in them for months at a time. That doesn’t even exist anywhere else in the world and that’s like a whole culture of America that is of its own. I find that really fascinating and I think the people and characters that inhabit those kind of worlds are really interesting.

Shirt from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Vest: Gucci, Jeans: R13, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Agnelle, Belt: Kippys, Boots: Fyre

So many artists reinvent themselves over the course of their career. With your musical training, background, and musical influences being so diverse – Do you think you’ll stay exclusively a country music artist or begin to incorporate other sounds into your work?

I think I’ve always been kind of incorporating different sounds into it, but at heart I’m a country boy and I’ll continue to be a country musician. I think I’ll always try and push that to not leave it strictly in what other people’s idea of what country music is.

That darkness has, in recent times, become much more visible. Concentration camps have quickly become a new norm in America under the current administration. Trans rights have been challenged through rollbacks on protection for military service and healthcare provisions under the Affordable Care Act. Do you foresee this escalating its target on more LGBTQ+ people?

Unfortunately, I think I do. I think across the board not just with LGBTQ people, but also people of color, women, and marginalized people. In America we’ve been allowed to believe that things are changing but at the root of it nothing has been changing. Now that’s become more obvious to us and I think, strangely, not to sound flippant about it, but I believe that’s where this resurgence of cowboy aesthetic has actually come into play in our culture. To me being a cowboy has nothing to do with wearing a cowboy hat or being a rancher and roping cows or charging steers. I think being a cowboy is being someone who is intrinsically, innately on the outside of things and given a bad rap, maybe getting the short end of the straw, and forced to live on the outskirts of town. But instead of letting that be a negative, it’s about finding the power within that and the adventure and the freedom. The idea of getting on a horse and riding into the sunset, I think that sounds really beautiful for people like us right now where we can find our posse of rebels and cowboys, make our own rules and essentially live as outlaws. Those all sound like motifs and pastiche kind of ideas, but they do hold bearing. I think that is what being marginalized is about. It’s about not assimilating to the status quo, finding our community, our power, and charging ahead in the face of whatever. I think it’s a powerful thing, and I actually do believe that is why we’re seeing so much cowboy imagery in fashion and sub-culture and because there is something adventurous and powerful about that.

You alluded to this earlier in our conversation and in previous interviews drawn upon similarities between the Old West and the present state of affairs today saying, “We lived in a recent time when we hoped everything was going to be okay, that the powers that be were going to sort it out. But now everyone’s fending for themselves because they’re disappointed. Everyone’s on their own horse, doing their own thing.” So, if we’re all on our own horses, do you think we are equipped to become a calvary for change?

I think so. I do like to believe that. Listen, I have lived in countries other than America where I have seen, witnessed, had to live through massive social change on a really huge scale. I think it comes through perseverance and I think it comes to sticking to your guns and not swaying from who you are and what you believe in. I do believe that is powerful enough to make change because I’ve seen it happen. I think it’s time for all our posse, to find our community, and do exactly that—form a calvary and stick to who we are in the face of no matter what for change.

STUDIO 54 ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

STUDIO 54 ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

On Saturday, December 7th the New York glitterati from the worlds of Art, Fashion, and Nightlife mingled with the society set from Zurich in a Studio 54 themed gala atop One World Trade.

The event, to celebrate the Swiss beauty innovators Haleh and Goli Abivardi, culminated with a private concert by Boy George.  Transforming the entire floor of the event space ASPIRE, MAO PR outfitted the cavernous space with 15 foot high disco ball inspired islands, a 25 foot LED wall projecting pulsating lights which synced with the retro disco music played and even recreated Studio 54 famous Moon with the coke spoon (replacing the spoon with a toothbrush with a nod to the Abivardi sister’s dental care brand).

Guests, who took the 70s dress code to heart, included Lynn Ban, Michael Musto, Peter Davis, James Aguiar, Gabriella Forte, Grazia D’Annunzio, Edmundo Castillo, Stephen Knoll, Shannon Hoey, Christopher Makos, Mathew Yokobosky, Miss Jay Alexander, Susanne Bartsch, model Dara Allen, Dianne Brill, Romero Jennings, Victoria Hayes, Joey Arias, Freddie Leiba, Amanda Lepore and the original Studio 54’s very own Carmen D’Alessio.

All photos courtesy Andrew Werner

Dara Allen

Robert Christy as Divine

Amanda Lepore

Lynn Ban

Corey Grant Tippin

Miss Jay Alexander

Agent Wednesday

Jonte Moaning

Kyle Farmery

Cheng

Michael White

Nadja Giramata

Dianne Brill

Susanne Bartsch

Kenny Kenny

Connie Fleming

Yana Dobroliubova,Valou Weemering, Luisa Laemmel, Grace Valentine

Goli Abivardi, Boy George, Haleh Abivardi

All photos courtesy Andrew Werner

AINA

Earrings: Iris Trends @eyeofiris | Dress: One Trieu Yeu @onetrieuyeu

Photographer/Director: Benjo Arwas @ Seen Artists | Styling: Maison Privee | | Model: Aina Faro @ MP Model Management | Hair and Makeup: Nicole Chew @ Art Department | Cinematography: Josh Hammaren

Earrings: Iris Trends @eyeofiris | Dress: One Trieu Yeu @onetrieuyeu

Jewelry: Iris Trends @eyeofiris

Left side: Jewelry: Iris Trends @eyeofiris | Dress: One Trieu Yeu @onetrieuyeu

Right side: Dress: Masaki Matsuka @masakimatsuka

Dress: One Trieu Yeu @onetrieuyeu | Earrings and Necklace: Iris Trends

Dress: Masaki Matsuka @masakimatsuka

Dress: One Trieu Yeu @onetrieuyeu | Earrings and Necklace: Iris Trends

Dress: Masaki Matsuka @masakimatsuka

 

MAC PRESENTS: POWDER KISS CABARET WITH SUSANNE BARTSCH AND ALAN CUMMING

M·A·C POWDER KISS CABARET

A party that united the Fashion industry and New York’s Nightlife Scene in a night not soon to be forgotten!

On April 9th, the spring event season kicked into high gear with the celebration of M·A·C COSMETICS Powder Kiss Lipstick collection. Sony Hall, the former site of the decadent WWII era nightclub Diamond Horseshoe was transported to it’s hedonistic roots with the one night only M·A·C POWDER KISS CABARET MC’d by actor Alan Cumming and New York Nightlife Icon Susanne Bartsch with a dozen decadent performances including Amanda Lepore, Dirty Martini, Joey Arias and Julie Atlas Muz. Over 400 attendees consisting of artists, fashion editors, models, celebrity stylists, and top makeup artists mixed with the crème de la crème of New York nightlife, mirroring M·A·C’s ongoing commitment to celebrating diversity and inclusivity.

As part of the various Pro to Pro Events held internationally throughout the year, last night’s event celebrated M·A·C COSMETICS’ origins as a company that produced product specifically for the professional make up community.

ABOUT POWDER KISS:
Matte, totally reinvented. Delivering a romantic blur of soft-focus color, this weightless moisture-matte lipstick was developed to replicate a backstage technique: blending out edges of matte lipstick for a hazy effect. Its groundbreaking formula contains moisture-coated powder pigments that condition and hydrate lips. The result is the zero-shine look of a matte lipstick with the cushiony, lightweight feel of a balm.

Shop the new line of Powder Kiss lipsticks here!

Performance at MAC Powder Kiss Cabaret Hosted By Susanne Bartsch at Sony Hall on April 9, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Jared Siskin/PMC)

Amanda Lepore attends MAC Powder Kiss Cabaret Hosted By Susanne Bartsch at Sony Hall on April 9, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Jared Siskin/PMC)

Alan Cumming attends MAC Powder Kiss Cabaret Hosted By Susanne Bartsch at Sony Hall on April 9, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Jared Siskin/PMC)

Performance at MAC Powder Kiss Cabaret Hosted By Susanne Bartsch at Sony Hall on April 9, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Jared Siskin/PMC)

Susanne Bartsch and Performers attend MAC Powder Kiss Cabaret Hosted By Susanne Bartsch at Sony Hall on April 9, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Jared Siskin/PMC)

HIROKO KOSHINO: A TOUCH OF BAUHAUS

Please join us on Thursday, November 1st from 6 to 8 PM at WhiteBox in NYC and meet Hiroko Koshino at the opening of her exhibit,  Hiroko Koshino: A Touch of BAUHAUS.

A Touch of BAUHAUS, curated by Kyoko Sato, is part of the WhiteBox Prime SAS (Seminal Artists Series), which honors artists of great repute. Past participants of the WhiteBox Prime SAS include Carolee Schneemann: More Wrong Things, Michael Snow: Snow Alert, Naoto Nagakawa: XXX-1960’s, Vienna Actionists Hermann Nitsch and Günther Brus, Hyman Bloom, Braco Dimitrijevic and Aldo Tambellini to name a few.

Post-World War II Japan found itself in the midst of rapid economic and cultural transformation – one in which growing industries such as technology and fashion shot to the forefront. It was amidst this landscape that a group of young people began rebelling by sporting a preppy, Ivy League look that broke stride with propriety-and time-honored traditions, and celebrated individualism. Known as the “Miyuki Tribe”, with Hiroko Koshino at the helm, talented young fashionistas began reinterpreting traditional Japanese artistic elements through a personalized and radical lens.

Visual artists began to be influenced by various new incoming art notions culled from Abstract Expressionism and Land Art, paralleled by the indigenous and subversive Gutai movement. This fresh shift in artistic perspectives made way for a wave of artistic leaders that included Hiroko Koshino. Building on her belief in the unity of all forms of art-a Bauhaus tenet- the classically trained Koshino used key elements to inform her paintings and sumi-ink masterworks as the basis for her stunning fashion designs, resulting in her recognition as one of the foremost couturiers in Japan.

HIROKO KOSHINO: A Touch of BAUHAUS will, for the first time in New York, reveal how Koshino’s visual artworks inform her high fashion designs. Curated by Kyoko Sato at WhiteBox, the exhibition will include Koshino’s most inventive runway pieces, side-by-side with her signature abstract paintings and sumi-ink works, including-in WhiteBox’s project space-a site-specific eighty-foot-long ink scroll that epitomizes her brilliant combination of art and design as Gesamtkunstwerk, the Bauhaus approach towards a total artwork.

After years of creating riveting artworks inspired by key painters ranging from Jackson Pollock to Gustav Klimt, as well as the Lyrical Abstraction and Tachism movements, Koshino began experimenting with the connection between art and fashion in the serene studio created for her by her colleague, genius architect Tadao Ando, in Ashiya. There she was able to deeply connect with her love for Mother Nature, free from the hustle and bustle demands of Tokyo, while infusing her paintings with a deeply Japanese attitude.

Koshino’s innovative design techniques, based on painting with sumi-ink directly onto the fabric, were the essence of many of her innovative fashion creations. In an essay on Koshino and her works, critic Anthony Haden-Guest writes, “Hiroko’s Sumi-Ink works are wholly beautiful, but not so much so as to overwhelm. They do not exclude, they embrace.”

Early in the history of Japanese art, Nihonga, tradition-based Japanese paintings, used to be exhibited in separate spaces from yōga, or artwork with Western influences. A push for change and a reconciliation of the two energies was beginning to happen. Thus Haden-Guest points out that while Hiroko’s work is “delicate, forceful and remarkably various … it embodies this accommodation, in her fashion, as in her art,” fusing the two styles.

In 1977, Hiroko joined the cutting-edge group “TD6” (Top Designers 6), presenting her fashion collection in Tokyo for the first time. Since, she has been showcasing twice a year. In 1978, she became the first Japanese designer to join Alta Moda in Rome, a sensational show earning her a thirty-page article in the Italian edition of Harper’s Bazaar.

In 1982 Hiroko Koshino created International Inc., leading the “Designer’s Character Brand” boom that turned fashion into a top industry in Japan. Subsequently, she debuted her brand and her signature prêt-à-porter collection at the Paris Fashion Week, to great acclaim.

Koshino considers herself an artist since childhood. She got started drawing characters from Manga and Anime, attending Kabuki plays regularly, influenced as well by the Bunraku national puppet theater of Japan. Six decades later, Koshino unabashedly continues her painting career, having created, by now, well over 1,900 paintings using a wide variety of techniques and inventive, unorthodox paint applications.

Her artwork continues as a wellspring of inspiration flowing right into her fashion design. “I can continue designing because I paint,” Koshino explains. Indeed, her paintings frequently function as brainstorm-drafts for what will later become one of the extraordinary design creations that she refers to as “the architecture of the body”, all along carrying as part of her signature, the elemental Japanese sense of sculptural ‘high volume’ in her couture.

Although her artwork and design are deeply intertwined, Koshino explains there is a definite separation between the two camps. “The process of production in fashion and art is very different,” she says. “When I make art, I can express my spirit directly. It is very personal. When I create fashion, I need to think about what people want, and I need to design what people will buy, so it unequivocally contains a business aspect.”

Kyoko Sato 

Koshino’s works will be showcased at WhiteBox with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on November 1st. The exhibition runs through December 1st.

“I can continue designing because I paint,” Koshino says. “Both design and art are my creation, and I cannot divide them.” This thought reminds people of Bauhaus-style “total work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk), which became the title of her New York debut exhibition at the WhiteBox [HIROKO KOSHINO: A TOUCH OF BAUHAUS (329 Broome Street); Curator Kyoko Sato (Nov. 1-Dec. 1, 2018)]

FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY LECTURE BY HIROKO KOSHINO

Thursday, November 1, 2018 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Fashion Institute of Technology
227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001
Feldman C501

About WhiteBox:
WhiteBox, on its 20th anniversary remains a non-profit art space aiming for total invention catalyzing the tenor of the times. It serves as a platform for contemporary artists to develop and showcase new sitespecific work, and is a laboratory for unique commissions, exhibitions, special events, roundtables, and arts education programs, providing an opportunity to experience an artist’s practice in a meaningful way, socially inspired free from market constraints. WhiteBox artistic vision provides hard to pigeon-hole artists with sustained exposure, creating an ideal environment for more in-depth interaction between sophisticated as well as community-bound New York audiences and artists’ practices. It achieves this by inviting local and international emerging and established artists to respond to its exhibition space with leading-edge interventions, performances, and developing long-term inspired programming that allows them to develop projects and engage with audiences. The artists who exhibited at WhiteBox tend to defy easy categorization.

Special thanks to The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Nao Takekoshi.

LOS ANGELES FEMALE FILMMAKERS FESTIVAL

This weekend Passerbuys and Women & Film will present the first annual Female Filmmakers Festival (FFFEST), a 3-day screening and talk series dedicated to celebrating accomplished female filmmakers and empowering women who want to break into the industry.

FFFEST will take place from October 12th through October 14th at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles, California and will foster a community for female filmmakers to share resources, guidance and inspiration.

FFFEST’s diverse program includes feature-length such as the critically-acclaimed SKATE KITCHEN directed by Crystal Moselle, the award-winning MOSSANE directed by the first Sub-Saharan African woman director, Safi Faye  and short films such as the premiere of MAVERICK by Cara Stricker. Between screenings, FFFEST will host exclusive talks featuring some of the top women working in the contemporary film industry such as Sarah Finn (Casting Director, Black Panther), Lake Bell (Director, In A World), Jameela Jamil (Actress, The Good Place) and Natalie Farrey (Head of Vice Film) as they provide answers to the most pertinent questions facing women working in film today.

The primary mission of the Female Filmmakers Festival is to inspire more women to make films by celebrating the women leading the way, and by creating a space where women can share information amongst each other.

FFFEST has also teamed up with women-owned and women-led fashion brand VEDA to create custom merch for the festival where a portion of proceeds from every sale will go to Camp Reel Stories.

“I founded Passerbuys out of a desire to have women share resources and information amongst one another. As a lifelong fan of cinema, it felt natural to transfer such ethos to a film festival. There are a number of great organizations supporting women in film, and I see FFFEST’s role as a space to bring them together and hopefully become a tradition to celebrate and support female filmmakers.” – Clémence Polès, Founder of Passerbuys and Co-Founder of FFFEST “Women & Film was created to celebrate the women directors that have paved the way as well as the trailblazers and contemporary women of cinema. Our goal is to act as both a learning tool and source of inspiration among filmmakers, both accomplished and budding. We want FFFEST to create a sense of community for women in film in the hopes that more stories by and about women get made.” – Natalie Fält, Founder of Women & Film and Co-Founder of FFFEST

“Women are responsible for creating some of the greatest works of film in the history of cinema, yet the mass media has rarely depicted or celebrated women behind the camera. In response to that, we saw FFFEST as an opportunity for our audience to celebrate the women who’ve made strides in film and continue to today, and to inspire budding women filmmakers to join the industry and share their stories.” – Mimi Packer, Co-Founder of FFFEST

“We have stories to tell and we have a different perspective. Women in general tend to be more emotionally connected and in-tune with their surroundings but the demands of life can cause creative complacency. fffest was created to reawaken these hidden narratives and provide a platform to inspire more women to bring their stories to life.” – Dasha Faires, Co-Founder of FFFEST

For more information, please visit https://fffest.org/

CAMP IN FASHION – COSTUME INSTITUTE’S SPRING 2019 EXHIBITION AND MET GALA

(New York, October 9, 2018)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that The Costume Institute’s Spring 2019 exhibition will be Camp: Notes on Fashion, on view from May 9 through September 8, 2019 (preceded on May 6 by The Costume Institute Benefit). Presented in The Met Fifth Avenue’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, it will explore the origins of the camp aesthetic and how it has evolved from a place of marginality to become an important influence on mainstream culture. Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on ‘Camp’ provides the framework for the exhibition, which will examine how fashion designers have used their métier as a vehicle to engage with camp in a myriad of compelling, humorous, and sometimes incongruous ways.

“Camp’s disruptive nature and subversion of modern aesthetic values has often been trivialized, but this exhibition will reveal its profound influence on both high art and popular culture,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “By tracing its evolution and highlighting its defining elements, the show will embody the ironic sensibilities of this audacious style, challenge conventional understandings of beauty and taste, and establish the critical role this important genre has played in the history of art and fashion.”

In celebration of the opening, The Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 6, 2019. The evening’s co-chairs will be Lady Gaga, Alessandro Michele, Harry Styles, Serena Williams, and Anna Wintour. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

“Fashion is the most overt and enduring conduit of the camp aesthetic,” said Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “Effectively illustrating Sontag’s Notes on ‘Camp,’ the exhibition will advance creative and critical dialogue about the ongoing and ever-evolving impact of camp on fashion.”

The exhibition will feature approximately 175 objects, including womenswear and menswear, as well as sculptures, paintings, and drawings dating from the 17th century to the present. The show’s opening section will position Versailles as a “camp Eden” and address the concept of se camper—”to posture boldly”—in the royal courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV. It will then focus on the figure of the dandy as a “camp ideal” and trace camp’s origins to the queer subcultures of Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In her essay, Sontag defined camp as an aesthetic and outlined its primary characteristics. The largest section of the exhibition will be devoted to how these elements-which include irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration-are expressed in fashion.

Designers whose works will be featured in the exhibition include Gilbert Adrian, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Thom Browne, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, John Galliano (for Martin Margiela, House of Dior, and his own label), Jean Paul Gaultier, Rudi Gernreich, Guccio Gucci, Demna Gvasalia (for Balenciaga and his own label), Marc Jacobs (for Louis Vuitton and his own label), Charles James, Stephen Jones, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld (for House of Chanel, Chloe, and his own label), Herbert and Beth Levine, Alessandro Michele (for Gucci), Franco Moschino, Thierry Mugler, Norman Norell, Marjan Pejoski, Paul Poiret, Miuccia Prada, Richard Quinn, Christian Francis Roth, Yves Saint Laurent, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeremy Scott (for Moschino and his own label), Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren (for Viktor & Rolf), Anna Sui, Philip Treacy, Walter Van Beirendonck, Donatella Versace (for Versace), Gianni Versace, Vivienne Westwood, and Charles Frederick Worth.

The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, with Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Associate Curator. Theater scenographer Jan Versweyveld, whose work includes Lazarus with David Bowie as well as Broadway productions of A View from the Bridge and The Crucible, will create the exhibition design with The Met’s Design Department. Select mannequin headpieces will be created by Shay Ashual. Raul Avila will produce the gala décor, which he has done since 2007.

A publication by Andrew Bolton with Fabio Cleto, Karen van Godtsenhoven, and Amanda Garfinkel will accompany the exhibition and include new photography by Johnny Dufort. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

The exhibition is made possible by Gucci.

Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

CELAYA BROTHERS GALLERY

Celaya Brothers Gallery (Mexico City), in collaboration with INEZ SUEN (Brooklyn)  is pleased to announce its first participation in TX Contemporary Art Fair

Celaya Brothers Gallery is presenting a selection of artworks by Agostino Iacurci (Italy), Camila Rodrigo (Peru), Josh Reames (USA), Juan Carlos Coppel (Mexico), and Mathew Zefeldt (USA) at Booth 517 at George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas October 4-7 with special exhibitions by Houston’s own, Rene Garza (USA).  TX Contemporary will begin with the Opening​ Night​ Preview (Thursday, October 4, 6-10pm) and will open to the public October 5-6 (11am-7pm) and October 7 (12-6pm).

The exhibition pieces discuss the relationship between man and nature by way of still lifes, burning landscapes and eroded mountains. The artists explore -in various disciplines such as photography, sculpture, and painting and in a wide range of styles – how capitalism has driven societies to perceive progress as a (de)construction and to understand humanity as the opposite of nature.

Agostino Iacurci – Through his work with synthetic forms and bright colors, by means of an essential language, Agostino Iacurci is able to manage multiple layers of interpretation. This approach sets his tales on the perennial threshold between innocence and artifice, serenity and catastrophe; on a magnetic tension that is the interpretative key to our very existence. His recurrent themes include self-perception, uncertainty, imagination, and play. His work has a cynical and critical vision of reality —pessimistic at times— setting the stage for drama, and at the same time sublimating it, alleviating it. Iacurci’s work challenges the limits of sinuosity by presenting an image that seems familiar and innocent but is, fundamentally, malicious. And in that uncertainty lays its richness, a half-open door that leads to other interpretations.

●  Agostino Iacurci’s work has been exhibited at the MACRO Museum in Rome, Italy; the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, USA; the Media Library of Orly in France and the Biennial of Urban Art in Moscow, Russia.
●  Has collaborated with Adidas, Urban Outfitters, Penguin Books, La Repubblica, TBWA, Mailchimp, Laterza, Minimum fax, Herman Miller, L’ Unità, Orecchio acerbo, Sugar Music, Edizioni Lapis, , Cielo Tv, Smemoranda, WALLS_Contemporary Public Art, Rat Creatives, Roma 3 University, B5 Production and more.

Camila Rodrigo works with photography, sculpture and installation to reflect on the effects of erosion and wear, focusing on the idea of progress as a (de)construction, a contrast between past and future. Her images examine the passage of time, the transformation of the natural space parallel to the reorganization of society.

●  Finalist in the 2010 Lacoste Elysée Prize
●  Exhibited at the National Museum of Lima, Peru; the Museum Rosphoto in St. Petersburg, 
Russia; the Musée de L’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland; and the Palais de l’Árchevéché in Arles, 
France
●  Part of several private collections such as Juan Mulder (Lima, Peru), Eduardo Hoeschield (Lima, 
Peru), Jorge Villacorta (Lima, Peru), Fola (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
●  Published in: 77 Artistas Peruanos Contemporáneos by Mario Testino, YOUTH by: Prestel 
(Random House), Re Generation: tomorrow photographers today (Aperture foundation), and E l Placer es más importante que la Victoria (Tasneem Gallery), among others.

Josh Reames’ paintings use contemporary tools available on the Internet to create surreal patchworks of contemporary signs and symbols that portray the flattening of artistic hierarchies in our postmodern world. Reames employs computer drawing applications and Google images to create assemblages of “modern hieroglyphs.” His work considers abstraction and painting in relation to the Internet and is informed by the strange, new space where a majority of viewership takes place: online through blogs and websites. His conceptual framework functions as a kind of filtration device for cultural byproducts and its attending relativism, flattening signs, text and symbols, cultural objects and icons to the same-level composition, thereby removing their hierarchy.

●  Represented by industry leading galleries.
●  Named one of the 30 Emerging Artists During Frieze Week by Artsy
●  Juror’s pick in the 2011 New American Paintings, Midwest Edition #95
●  Was artist-in-residence at Ox Bow (funded by Joan Mitchell Foundation)
●  Exhibited at the Museo Di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy; Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in 
Michigan; Luis de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, The Hole in New York, and Guerrero Gallery in 
San Francisco, among others.
●  Published in Artcritical, Artnews, Artsy, Hyperallergic, New American Paintings, Chicago Tribune, 
Chicago Art Review, among others.

Juan Carlos Coppel 
The burning of tires is a practice carried out by farmers to raise the temperature of the fields and avoid the crops to frost during the winter preserving months of work, one of the main economic activities of the state. This procedure poses an ethical and environmental problem related to the ecological devastation of the agricultural field, even in the context of a rationalized production. The images, taken in a field to the north of Sonora, play ironically with the nineteenth-century painting by pondering, on a romantic mood, a concern of our time.

●  Took specialized courses in photography with Jay Dickman (Pulitzer Award winner) at the National Geographic, in Paris with Manuel Abellán and at the International Center of Photography in New York.
●  Won the Acquisition Prize in Fotoseptiembre and the Acquisition Prize in the XV Bienal de Artes Visuales del Noroeste.
●  Exhibited in the National Center for the Arts CENART (MX), Sonora Museum of Art MUSAS (MX), the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (USA), among others.
●  He was invited to the 4th edition of Salón Acme (MX), the XVII Biennial of Photography in Centro de La Imagen (MX), the VII Biennial of Visual Arts MIRADAS in Tijuana (MX), Guatephoto (GT) and Foto España (SPA).
●  He was member of the 2016-2017 Young Creators Program of the National Fund for Culture and Arts FONCA and the Contemporary Photography Program in North Mexico.
●  He is part of the private collections of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California and the Sonora Museum of Art in Mexico.

Mathew Zefeldt – His work uses representational imagery as an element within a larger composition. It’s less about what the repeated image represents necessarily, but rather the interplay and relationships of the parts to the whole, and each other— reflecting the pluralist landscape we find ourselves in today. Zefeldt uses images from our life and culture, to reproduce them in an almost lifeless, systematic way. His interest in the aesthetics of digital collage is addressing the multiple visual languages and bringing them together in one plane, creating an overlay of styles and gestures that echo the fragmented, heterogeneous nature of contemporary reality.
●  One of two national recipients of the Dedalus MFA Fellowship in 2011
●  Exhibited at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, the 
Minneapolis Institute of Arte, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, the Marin Museum of 
Contemporary Art, Circuit 12, Joshua Liner Gallery, and Lisa Cooley among others.
●  Published in LA Times, Art Ltd., New American Paintings, and Art Fuse, among others.

Rene Garza is a New York based Artist that is in residency in Houston, TX where he was raised. Garza has spent over 15 years as a fashion and celebrity stylist traveling the world in a business ruled by visceral aesthetics. Using this time to create a body of work that reflects his long standing love of conceptual art. As an artist in many mediums, Garza notes his inspirations usually comes from travel, minimalism, geometry, dark gothic and romanticism. Garza currently has a public art installation in Houston, Texas called “A Moment” that covers an entire building’s facade and is meant to inspire calmness in our busy lives. “A Moment” follows up the exhibition of a drawing of graphite on paper at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

ABOUT Celaya Brother Gallery – IG @celayabrothers

Celaya Brothers Gallery (CBG) is a unique space that challenges the creative limits of the participating artists. A contemporary art gallery with a proactive offer that invites international artists to develop unique concepts and defy the parameters of their time.

ABOUT INEZ SUEN  –  IG @inezsuenart

INEZ SUEN is a multi-service international creative company for a changing art market. INEZ SUEN offers a wide range of services such as strategic planning, advising and consulting, and art exhibition production.

ABOUT TX Contemporary

Texas Contemporary, Houston’s leading contemporary and modern art fair, brings top galleries to the area’s discerning collector base. Now going into its seventh edition, Texas Contemporary 2018 will feature 65 exhibitors and an innovative program of special projects and public installations.

THE ORIGIN OF LOVE: THE SONGS AND STORIES OF HEDWIG – INTERVIEW WITH COSTUME DESIGNER ERIK BERGRIN

Photographs of Hedwig by Mick Rock | Talent: John Cameron Mitchell | Interview by Benjamin Price | Costume Design by Erik Bergin @ The Industry MGMT | Video by Brian Lynch and Pier 59 Studios | Production by Liz Vap/FeralCat Productions | Wig and Makeup by Mike Potter using MAC Cosmetics @ Ray Brown | Costume Assistant Lauren Hoffman | Makeup Assistant Andrew D’Angelo 

John Cameron Mitchell rose in the world of cult-entertainment after directing, writing, and starring in the award-winning film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). His Broadway production of Hedwig garnered him a 2014 Tony Award for Best Revival of Musical and a Special Tony Award for his return to the role in 2015. His seriously impressive depth of work includes the improv-based film Shortbus (2006), and 2010’s Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman which scored an Academy Award nomination for her role. He executive produced Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation (2004) and has played recurring roles in HBO’s Girls, Martin Scorsese’s HBO series Vinyl, The Good Fight and current season of Mozart in the Jungle. Mitchell has also been busy behind the camera directing and co-writing the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s punk-era How to Talk to Girls at Parties starring Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman.

“At last! My journey to Oz, long-deferred by silly obstacles like unemployment and air fare, is a reality! I shall strap on a Cubist corsette and chromium wig, regale you with haphazard stories from 55 years of fake rock stardom and wail your favorite Hedwig songs like some kind of wonder woman within. Please prepare for my eminent arrival”, Mitchell said.

Producer David M Hawkins said, “John Cameron Mitchell is one of the great artists of our generation – a multi-award winning writer, actor and director. I first saw him on Broadway as Dickon in ‘The Secret Garden’ in the early 90’s and next in his Tony winning rock star turn in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’. Since producing Hedwig in Australia in 2006 I have become good friends with John, our connection means the world to me. We have talked since 2008 about a concert tour to Australia and at last the stars have aligned. We intend to bring a decent hit of the Greenwich Village vibe to Oz. I am so very excited to share  this incredible artist with my country. You are in the best hands for one hell of a ride meeting the original Hedwig, and the man behind her!”

We had the chance to interview the artist behind the transformational costumes, Erik Bergrin, and discuss Hedwig, lucid dreaming, and finding inspiration as a bored teen at Blockbuster.

Photo by Eva Mueller at the artist’s studio

What was your inspiration behind the costumes for the tour?

John came to me and said he was thinking about a costume that had this cubist, geometric, Trompe-l’œil, black and white thing happening that wasn’t Hedwig but Meta-Hedwig. As in, it has some reference to Hedwig in the costume and there should be panels that are removed during the show to become more boy in the end. He mentioned there was not going to be a built set, but that the costume should act somehow like a set–which was the sentence that made me convulse with excitement. I love doing huge wearable things, which I think is one of the reasons he came to me.

Initially I made tons of drawings of huge pieces on wheels that would drag behind him. All of these outfits packed with tricks such as a gigantic overcoat that would slowly come apart and piece by piece be thrown onto a giant magnet board behind him to reveal a story on the inside. Or this huge mirrored contraption that would come out backstage and be placed around John, and he would spin in a circle and the drawings on the costume would come to life in an animation reflected through the mirrors of the contraption. But I had to edit it down after every meeting and not let my imagination get carried away. I knew he was going to the Sydney Opera House, so I thought it would be fun to play with multiple overlapping triangle shapes. Basically my inspiration was working in these parameters, but still making it my own.

How did you get involved with the project?

I met John years ago as an extra on one of his films, “Shortbus.” We stayed in touch and I guess he thought of me after seeing the pictures from my latest art exhibition, Shadowwork. It is a series of 9 large figurative fiber sculptures, each about 7 feet tall. I have a background in costuming and I work as a costume tailor for Broadway shows, so I think it was the combination of my large costume work and the fact that I know how to create for the stage. I was working on the costumes at the same time as preparing for Shaddowwork. At a meeting with John, I met Mike Potter who did the wigs, hair, and makeup for Hedwig since the very beginning and we became very close. He was helping me with both shows and I was helping him with sewing the wigs. We worked closely, bouncing ideas off each other, so the wig and costume were from the same world. It made the whole process such a blast!

How did the idea of the gender binary and Hedwig’s transformation from female fantasy to undressed man come about?

I always felt that the film is more about finding yourself and less about gender or another person that can define you.

And speaking of Mike Potter who has been with the show since the beginning, the film and original show, I will quote him as a more qualified source…, “It’s like she gradually sheds her armor. Her costume and hair are almost a defense mechanism. But she comes to realize she doesn’t need any of the things that she think she needs. i.e. all her artifice, in order to be whole. She’s only whole when she’s stripped bare. It’s like being reborn.”

How does the idea of Hedwig’s iconic character come into the costume construction?

Hedwig was always famous for her brilliant handmade-style clothes and is now busting out on an international stage. Enjoying the spoils of her riches, she is debuting a next-level, more mature, steel-hued Meta-Hedwig look. Shining like the brightest star. The tour is called The Origin of Love, and when the show opens John comes out singing the titular song. The sleeves open up to reveal the faces from the origin of love animation, and when closed the front of the sleeves form Hedwig’s tattoo. Mike Potter’s wig and makeup are classic Hedwig, but aged to show her impending mortality, as he says in the show.

When you began your artistic career making costumes for the clubs in NYC while in school, did you ever think it would become a career in fine art/ performance?

I don’t think so? But I’m not sure because I never really had any goals. Which I know is unusual to say, but I never really did anything with a goal in the end. I started sewing when I started making costumes. Eventually, I put a book together of the things I made and got hired at a costume shop my friend was working in. Then I hopped to other shops and spent a long time working with really brilliant tailors. Every day I used to leave feeling terrible because I was working with super talented and experienced people and I wasn’t able to do anything properly. That kind of experience really humbles you when trying to learn. It taught me to put severe focus into everything, because I never wanted to have that feeling of a broken spirit when I left the shop. I soon realized that the fear of not wanting to feel like that caused a snowball effect that grew until it was impossible to do anything right. As soon as the tiny seed of fear was planted, I kept at it and at some point something shifted, and I can’t at all tell you when, but things seem to work like that with me.

Some of Erik’s early sketches of Hedwig’s transforming costume

Can you elaborate on how your background/education in psychology influenced your work on Hedwig?

I would say everything in my life up until I made this costume are causes and conditions for the way I designed it. All of the experiences in my past have subtle effects on how I design, so its difficult to distinguish how each particular experience directly influences me. I can, however, tell you that my psychology education brought me to my study of eastern philosophy and meditation, and lucid dreaming. One instance where lucid dreaming directly influenced the costume happened a couple of weeks into the project..

I was hitting a block when I was sketching. When I get stuck sometimes I’ll turn to my dream practice for advice. I do several exercises during the day that help me become aware of the fact I am dreaming when I am asleep. When you’re in a dream you’re in a subtle part of your subconscious, so there are all of these practices you can do to explore the darkness or shadows you have lurking in there. I was in the middle of a dream that had my best friend in it, who I have a deep and long history with, and I became lucid and turned to him to ask for help.

I turned to my friend and said, ”What should I do with my project?,” In a quick and desperate manner, because I wanted the answer before I woke up. Every time I leaned in close to ask him this question, his face morphed into wolf features. He wasn’t answering so I asked again, “WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY PROJECT?” The wolf morph happened again, and again he didn’t answer, so I asked a third time and this time we fell together off of a balcony to the ground floor. We were looking at each other and he said to me,”This is all I ever wanted. For you to be nice to me…” I completely froze and remained still for a minute, just staring, and it generated this incredibly raw feeling of tenderness. I immediately had my heart broken open. I woke up after a minute or so and even when recalling this now I get choked-up. It left me in a sensitive and vulnerable state. I woke up a minute later and the strong feeling was still there. I knew what I had to do was stop working from a mass of thoughts and references and just hold this feeling to guide my mind to make the decisions. I made some drawings from this place of vulnerability and it all came together that day. I trust any design that comes from that place. I had so many moments like that when I was making, “Shaddowwork.” These experiences have taught me my creativity is best accessed from a place of vulnerability and tenderness.

What was it like working with John Cameron Mitchell?

Magical. He’s the perfect mixture of professionalism and fun. He is super sharp, always coming up with new puns. Working with someone who can bring a costume to life so magically is so valuable. I had my idea of what the costume would look like on him, and then he would try it on and animate it in a whole new way. You just have to surrender to the magic because it’s so much greater than anything you could have come up with in your head. It forces you to detach yourself from your original ideas. Something like that can only come from someone who has the magic.

When did you first watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch (the movie or the Broadway adaptation) and what did you feel from that experience?

I think I was 18 on a really boring vacation in Florida with family, and I rented it from Blockbuster video. VHS. My sister fell asleep and I watched it alone, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it the next day. I don’t think I fully understood all of it, but was so mesmerized by the way it looked and sounded, that I watched it a couple of times in the 2 days. The songs stayed with me. I got the soundtrack and the more I listened to the soundtrack the more I wanted to watch the film, and the more I watched the film the more I wanted to listen to it.

What was it like working with the legendary rock ‘n’ roll photographer Mick Rock?

It feels like you’re working with a legend. Reading about his background and everyone he’s been on tour with and the iconic shots he has photographed, it’s all in him as soon as he walks in the room. He had amazing stories; I could listen to them all day.

What was the inspiration behind the photoshoot and video?

The goal was to really capture this next interpretation of Hedwig in an amazing way. This is a whole new direction for the character, which was truly born for The stage. Mick Rock, who already shot one of the penultimate Hedwig photos as well as so many other iconic rock photographs, was the perfect photographer to capture it.

As an artist and costume designer, what is your goal with each piece? What do you want the viewer to take away from your work’s message?

I definitely made Shadowwork as a way to get something out of me. I know there are ways to merge the dream state and the conscious state. I’ve read a lot of about it and have experienced glimpses where the lines were almost blurred. It’s like lucid dreaming. When you become lucid in the dream state you can call out to different shadows in your subconscious. Shadowwork was one of my ways of doing this in the waking state. Building this series of my own mental hell in order to get it out and confront it. So one of the larger goals is to merge the dream state and the waking state.

For this costume, I think I just wanted to live up to the legacy of Hedwig and make the fans excited and proud.

What can we expect next from you? Are you going to collaborate further with John Cameron Mitchell on any other projects? Or Mick Rock?

I am currently doing a book called WORDS AND PICTURES  about my Shaddowwork series consisting of stories, drawings, and photos… and about John and Mick: I HOPE SO!!!!!!!!

SOCIAL WORK – THE NYC FASHION BRAND FUSING EASTERN REVOLUTION AND WESTERN REBELLION

The SS19 presentation of Social Work, the brainchild of Qi Wang and Chenghui Zhang, was presented this past June on the sewing room floor of a factory in the New York City garment district. The Spring/Summer collection was modeled on the actual workers of the factory as well as traditional models, blurring the lines between manufacturer and consumer, proletariat and bourgeoisie. 

 Both Wang and Zhang met at Parsons, where they graduated in 2017 from the fashion design program, after interning for such brands as Ralph Lauren and 3.1 Phillip Lim. During their time at Parsons, Zhang was awarded the Hugo Boss Scholarship and went on to be featured in the likes of Vogue Italia & High Snobiety

 Much of Social Work’s designs involve the inventive manipulation of textiles and silhouettes. In their S/S 19 collection, their inspiration comes from 60s youth-oriented counterculture in the western world and the concurrent Great Cultural Revolution that happened in China, and the distinct contrast of sociopolitical changes presented by these two sides. 

 In the Western world, new cultures, lifestyles, and anti-authoritarian movements were booming. The influence of government was undermined. While in China, the whole country was enveloped by the political terrorism pursuing the “true communist ideology.” Many of the silhouettes in this collection combine the western 60s mod styles with Chinese workwear uniforms, and designed for both genders, incorporating slogans from George Orwell’s 1984.

The resulting collection is a mash-up of the muted tones and unique prints of 1960’s home decor and the symbolic bright red and austere, traditional clothing of the working communist. The Social Work lookbook images offer a clear artistic representation of the tension between rebel and revolutionary.

Photography by Chris Shoonover and Jonathan Schoonover | Makeup by Agnes Shen | Hair by Akira Nagano