Pretty Ugly Gallery

Pretty Ugly Gallery is a photographic mission dedicated to finding the beauty in "ugly," mundane objects, such as dumpsters, trash cans, rusted cars and fire hydrants. The project started in 2013 when photographer Howie Ronay was suddenly captivated by a rusted out dumpster while walking in Downtown Chicago. He began to photograph it and posted his finding on Instagram. We caught up with Ronay on the evolution of Pretty Ugly Gallery from Instagram to gallery walls.

 

Asymmetric Magazine: We love the whole concept behind the Pretty Ugly Gallery and how you got started. When you’re shooting, do you go out on the search for interesting dumpsters and trash cans, or are all of your pieces things you’ve stumbled upon at random?
Howie Ronay: My shoots happen randomly. The ugly objects I photograph stop me out of nowhere. Before I know it, I’m standing in the middle of the street shooting a traffic cone or a dumpster. To a passersby, I must look insane. I was snapping shots of a bulldozer in Marina Del Rey, and a man came up to me asking if I worked with the Department of Transportation. Things can get interesting when you’re shooting the types of subjects I shoot.

AM: So, what’s your favorite 'pretty ugly' subject you’ve come across in LA so far?
HR: I’d love to answer this question with an LA centric object, a dead palm tree branch or the back of the rusted Hollywood sign, but the best subject I’ve come across in LA has been my first and only garbage truck. I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of shooting a garbage truck until now. So, cross that off the bucket list.

AM: Who are the masterminds behind Pretty Ugly Gallery?
HR: I’ve been shooting these neglected, overlooked objects for the past few years, but it was my wife’s idea to turn it from an Instagram feed into something more. This past year, we’ve garnered interest from some surprising venues. Robert Redford’s Sundance Foundation selected Pretty Ugly Gallery to exhibit at one of its cinema galleries. We’ve also done private exhibits in Santa Monica and Austin. And more recently, Giancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad said he had to have Trash Can 3 from our Trash Can series. I have to give my wife Jennifer a lot of credit. She saw that it could be something more.

AM: Were you a photographer prior to starting Pretty Ugly Gallery, or was it that first dumpster in Chicago that sparked your interest in the art?
HR: I was not a photographer prior to starting Pretty Ugly Gallery. But, I’ve been lucky enough to have a career as a Creative Director in advertising where a big part of the job is to express myself visually. Still, there’s nothing like being able to express yourself uninhibited and with complete autonomy. It’s a beautiful thing. Kind of like a dumpster in the right light.

AM: Aside from finding the beauty in the ugly, what’s your biggest inspiration?
HR: The truth is, finding the beauty in the ugly is the biggest inspiration.  In some strange way, I feel like I’m giving a voice to these often ignored, everyday objects that we pay no attention to. When people send us photos of trash cans or traffic cones they’ve hung in their homes, it makes me really happy. It’s a validation of Pretty Ugly Gallery’s mission to find the beauty everywhere.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
HR: Pretty Ugly Gallery actually started in Chicago, and I’ll never forget that first brown dumpster I shot downtown. While Chicago may have been the genesis for Pretty Ugly Gallery, Los Angeles has been my muse. The photographs have really evolved during my time in LA. There’s an artistic energy here like nowhere else that I think has fueled the evolution of Pretty Ugly Gallery.

 

 

There’s nothing like being able to express yourself uninhibited and with complete autonomy. It’s a beautiful thing. Kind of like a dumpster in the right light.

 

 

AM: It’s stunning how the pieces look as if they’re abstract paintings. Can you share a bit of your process and creating each piece?
HR: Thank you. It’s surprising how many people comment on how much they love the 'paintings,' which is such a great compliment. But they are indeed photos. I can tell you that my process isn’t nearly as interesting as the ugly subjects themselves. I like say the dumpster does most of the work.

AM: Can you tell us about the organizations/charities you're associated with?
HR: Pretty Ugly Gallery’s mission is to find the beauty in all things, so we felt that we should partner with organizations that help find the good where it’s not always so easy to do. We recently partnered with Anthropos Arts in Austin, TX, which provides musical instruments and education to underserved young people. Pretty Ugly Gallery artwork is also currently being incorporated into a documentary about street homelessness in America. The documentary is called Invisible to You, and it sheds light on this serious social issue, as well as the people who are working hard to help remedy it.

AM: What music are you currently jamming to?
HR: I’m into a big Eminem phase right now. After watching HBO’S Defiant Ones, I’ve been listening to the Recovery album a lot. The way he manipulates and plays with language is an incredible gift.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
HR: The plan is to get Pretty Ugly Gallery pieces exhibiting in more galleries. I also have this vision of visiting other cities and photographing their “ugly” objects, and then creating a collection of Pretty Ugly pieces from those shoots with proceeds going back to that city. In my mind, I see special editions and photo books dedicated to PUG HOUSTON and PUG SAN JUAN, for example.

View more from Pretty Ugly Gallery.

 
Posted on November 21, 2017 .

Art as Therapy

 

words and interview by Alvaro Gutierrez

The model Neptunian Haze is known amongst photographic circles for working with established and emerging artists in the Los Angeles area and across the nation; those who embrace analog and guard the medium by keeping film alive and powerful. It’s evident from the dark, powerful and sensual compositions of her work which is raw, unedited and untainted by the digital age; it is a craft that transcends time, maintaining the roots of photography vibrant and alive, never ephemeral. Beyond the camera, the artist whose birth name is Sabrina Angelina Rucker faces the trials of bipolar disorder, which affects roughly 2.5% of the US population. To reconstruct the negative into a positive, she harnesses her inner demons for the camera with the ambition to serve as inspiration to other artists like her and to convey what they must endure and serve as evidence that art can be therapy—even within the darkness. We caught up with art model and photographer Neptunian Haze on art as therapy. 

Asymmetric Magazine: What is your biggest inspiration at the moment?
Neptunian Haze: My biggest inspiration at the moment, and for quite some time, are all of my talented friends and fellow artists who have always been there to support me in so many ways.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
NH: This is such a difficult question. I feel that with each person I work with, I share a musical taste connection that helps us vibe when we work. Each experience is unique.

AM: What inspired you to become a model and now, a photographer?
NH: My insanity and how to cope with it. And to show others how to cope with it–to make it beautiful and harmonious. My art isn’t always pretty, and it isn’t always fun. It’s the full spectrum; you’re not going to get anything filtered. There’s no Photoshop—it’s as raw, real and authentic as one’s soul can hope to be.

AM: So, is modeling and photography a form of therapy for you?
NH: It’s probably the most effective form of therapy that I have found away from pharmaceuticals including medicine like cannabis. It’s progressive therapy—you’re actually doing something; it’s active therapy.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
NH: Los Angeles is where I found my bearings as an artist and a model and where I made many of the connections that have helped shape me to be the woman I am. I started working in the film industry doing make-up, which had been a huge bonus being an independent traveling art model. When in Los Angeles, I always have a feeling of community and support. In addition, there is a wonderful variety of humans to meet and be inspired by. I can almost always find someone to simply get together with and collaborate any day of the week and make something so surreal. I would have to say that's one of my favorite things about Los Angeles. It provides me with many elements needed to make genuine images.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
NH: My themes are typically not planned. I do have an extreme fondness for collecting antiques and making sets for my images. My images when collaborating typically tell a story. Together with the photographer, we come up with ideas. Ideas and a story that we both don't quite have a way to tell with words, so we use emotion and imagery. My personal portraits or travel photos are more that of a diary, or journal of once again, the failure of words. Sometimes it's also a way to escape and truly explore a feeling.

AM: A lot of your work shows the turmoil that you go through. How do you emotionally prepare  to take the photos that you do?
NH: There’s no way to be ready. There’s no form of any sort of ritual to do to prepare for anything that can happen in life, because life is unexpected. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. And you can’t project that, you can’t expect that, you have to live life without expectations and almost like everyday is your last. So that’s how I deal with trying to release these emotions. There’s no preparation, there’s the deconstruction, and the reconstruction of feelings, thoughts emotions that help me overcome obstacles or whatever you want to overcome in your life. I like obstacles because you can overcome them and not be a victim to them.

AM: You also deal with many dark themes such as suicide and death, but there’s also light, beauty and sensuality. What is the range of your work?
NH: It’s the full spectrum of what every human body is capable of if they are accepting towards their emotions. It’s the willingness to accept them, the willingness to embrace them, as hard as it may be, to become a survivor instead of a victim to these feelings. When I feel low, whenever it may be, I pack a bag, pack a snack if I’m feeling ambitious, and drive a good distance where I can be away from the clutter of the city and be with my own and release that in a healthy way that conveys emotions that I know others need to speak but don’t have a voice for. I feel that my art has been important for myself, as well as others who suffer from similar emotional and mental disabilities like bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, hyper sensitivity, and extreme anxiety. In addition to actual physical abuse.

 

 

There’s a void in all of us, and that’s the beautiful challenge in life–to try to fill it.

 

 

AM: Do you feel your best work is on the darker side of the human experience?
NH: For myself, yes. I would say that I’ve had a very hopeful response from many individuals dealing with similar struggles, similar disabilities in their lives, who have found solace in my work and finally see someone who’s been able to express how they do feel, and emote feelings that some can’t quite say.

AM: How does it feel to reach those artists out there struggling with the same challenges?
NH: In a selfless way, it feels good. I don’t feel so alone. When people try to contact me about certain situations or tell me that I’ve spoken to them, it makes me feel really good, and I want them to know that it makes me feel good, because that’s important, and I hope that I can do the same for them.

AM: You work with talented individuals and your work is so impressive.
NH: As an artist, I feel that I have still not done enough. You’re never going to fulfill that craving, to fulfill this void in you, whatever it may be. So that’s going to be a fight until the day I die.

AM: Is there a void in you?
NH: There’s a void in all of us, and that’s the beautiful challenge in life–to try to fill it. And succeed. Most of us do.

AM: Aside from art, how do you fill that void?
NH: I have a beautiful dog named Mandy, and she’s taught me more than anything that can be taught in life. She’s taught me how to live carelessly, not worry so much about how other people think of me and to just be accepted whether people want me to be or not. I am Mandy, hear me roar.

AM: Where do you want to take your career?
NH: For me, it’s staying alive at the moment. I would not be alive if it were not for photography. If it were not for individuals encouraging me to create, to share emotions, to help them express emotions. I have worked with so many photographers who, like myself, have a voice but don’t know how to put it into words. But I've been so fortunate to work with a select few individuals that, when we do come together and collaborate, they aren’t fluid with the camera but have so much to say. Without words, I can comprehend, and I can exude those feelings and emotions and have an understanding, which is quite cosmic, if you ask me. There are very few people that I’ve been able to do this with, and that’s the work that has been most recognized and best received. Many individuals reach out to tell me my work keeps them going, and that’s the best feeling ever. So if I can continue to do that for the rest of my life, I will die a happy girl.

AM: On the darkest and toughest days of your life, what goes through your mind before you decide to pick up the camera and take another shot?
NH: Unfortunately, thoughts of dark things come to mind—of hurting myself, of unspeakable things—so to clear my head of that, whatever feeling I’m feeling, I want to reverse it. I’ve had a lot of times where I’ve just wanted to give up. I want to bury myself, so I’ll do something remotely kind of showing that. I try to make something beautiful out of what someone might find sad. I decide to do the opposite, so when I do feel that way, when I want to hurt myself, I tell myself, 'What’s the point? That’s not going to do anybody good, put that pain on something, so if somebody is feeling that way that day, if they see that, it might give them hope to push forward and not give in to the inner demons.' That’s what helps me.

AM: So, on the contrary, during your best days, during days of light, what inspires you to pick up a camera and take another shot?
NH: My friends. When I do have that moment, it feels so foreign and rare and I don’t want it to ever leave again, so I want to capture it with my camera to think of it forever.

AM: Who is Neptunian Haze and who is Sabrina Rucker, and how are they alike, and different?
NH: I don’t know if they’ve even met, to be honest. You’re speaking with Sabrina, but when I get behind the camera it’s just a different persona I take on, I can feel more uninhibited and be my true self. I can have my government name, Sabrina Angelina Rucker, and then I can be Neptunian, and I can do my art, so that’s what differentiates me, but I still have the same soul and have the same heart and mind and keep making my art.

AM: You’ve been very candid, raw and unbound. What do you want to tell other artists who are struggling with bipolar disorder and are searching for the light to step out of the darkness?
NH: I feel like I fall into that pit every day, and I look at the beauty I’ve created and think about how I’ve overcome that, and how much strength it took to overcome that. And the fact that I’m still here today gives me hope that I will overcome it again. So every time you’re stuck in that rut, or you’re in that low, or you’re falling down that roller coaster and you really want it to crank you back up, just remember what you did in the past—and that you've done that, and you're capable of it, and you can do it again. And that’s what keeps me going. Done it before, and I’ll do it again and will continue to do it.  

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
NH: After many years in front and behind the camera, ideally I would love to focus more of my art towards creating self portraits, travel journals, capturing life moments, and photographing new experiences while utilizing a variety of analog film cameras. I want to explore new ways to document human interaction in multiple types of medium of developing and printing my film. I hope to solidifying a signature look to my work so that one may recognize it just by the way it feels. I want to open my experience behind the camera to open up others in front of the camera. I feel for the most part the world of photography has been run by slightly misogynistic males, not all of them, but I have a trust I’ve been able to build up with women and they feel very comfortable and very beautiful around me no matter what. I attribute this to seven years of working seminars on how to do makeup and be attentive to each different type of person, their personality, and what they’re looking for, so I have an ability to connect with people and make them feel like themselves—and not try to change them, and not make them something they're not and Photoshop them. I look forward to making women feel themselves and as beautiful as they truly are without any editing. I just want women to be women and take it back.

Find more of her work on Instagram.

 
Posted on November 1, 2017 .

Search Engine Art

 

Gretchen Andrew is a search engine artist and Internet imperialist whose HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO and #accordingToTheInternet projects look at the Internet as a tenuous form of authority that can be used to understand, manipulate and imperialize definitions. Her search-based practice is accompanied by a painting practice that is used as an image source for her related Internal Imperialism. We caught up with Gretchen on a few of her projects including search engine paintings, Interior, a solo exhibition in Inglewood, CA, and her HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO live in LA without a car/#8milesonLaCienega Instagram project.

 

Selections from Hackney Wick

Selections from Naked Woman

Selection from Malignant Epithelial Ovarian Cancer

 

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your project Interior.
Gretchen Andrew: Interior was an exhibition about what it means to confront otherness through art. In retrospect, it was also about the things that we can get lost in because they don't originate in our own minds. I'm a proponent of this sort of escapism and have recently been more conscious of my own desire for it. Interior was a solo exhibition at Whitcher Projects run by Lisa Pomares and her husband Charles. They have become two of my favorite people to be around, making their support of my work even more meaningful. Charles made [the above] video, and I'm thankful for what he was able to capture.

AM: How does it compare to your other work?
GA: In Interior, I presented paintings as raw emotional objects without my digital art, which can admittedly be distracting. Last year, I had two exhibitions of which I am very proud: one entirely painting and one entirely digital. This gave space for each practice to breath, but now I'm interested in bringing them back together. I'm doing this through my “search engine art”, where I hack search results for places, people or ideas to be dominated by my paintings, using the authority of the Internet against itself. For example, I'm making a series of paintings about the London district of Hackney Wick. The goal is to replace the fancy real estate listings with my painting. Having the power to impose my own perspective on what this place is, just because I know how, is a reminder of the ways this happens in more sinister ways all the time.

AM: How did 8 Miles on La Cienega come about?
GA: I was so lucky to have the hospitality of Stefan Simchowitz and his family while working 8 miles away in Inglewood. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn't think this way, but I just figured I'd run it. Then it happened that at the end of 17 hours in the studio, I was exhausted in one way but energized in another. So, most nights I ended up running the 8 miles back. LA on foot is a total adventure. Where there are sidewalks, they often end abruptly, but there's a curious life there that I wanted to document. I did this through the hashtag #8milesonLaCienega. Here are some of the strange, weird and totally LA stuff I saw while traveling on foot to and from creating work at Whitcher Projects over 35 days:

 
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AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
GA: Spending time with other artists. Painters like my mentor Billy Childish but also those working in other mediums like fashion and music. From the outside, creative work looks like freedom, but it is almost entirely built on discipline. Getting to know the practices of others makes me more consciously celebratory of my own freedom.  

 

 

From the outside, creative work looks like freedom, but it is almost entirely built on discipline. Getting to know the practices of others makes me more consciously celebratory of my own freedom.  

 

 

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
GA: I've found that the physical space in LA can lead to emotional and creative space. Though I was living in London, LA became the deeply connected to the hope I have for my work.  It is home to the first people that started to really join me in it's risks. I met the Simcor team in LA, and the mutual trust and excitement we have is central to my ability to focus on the work instead of the all too common concerns of career and market. They have also connected me to the other artists around in LA: Joey Wolf, Petra Cortright, Marc Horowitz and Kour Pour. Knowing peers and contemporaries whose opinions you respect helps the work evolve while keeping the wolves at bay.  

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
GA: I've just written a manifesto after a friend reminded me that while it isn't my job to make work people like, it is [my job] to educate them on why they could like it. My Fuck the Space Above Your Couch manifesto is a way of celebrating the people that already support what I do while letting the similar-souled know there's something to join. The painting themes get to live in this world of raw emotion, while the digital aspect of my practice address the themes and implications of Internet authority: the way the Internet classifies and defines the world, such as through search or the user generated nature of YouTube’s “how to” videos.  

 
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AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
GA: I usually listen to audiobooks while I paint. Speaking of LA, I’m on a big Bukowski kick. But when I listen to music, I go for artists whose music feels like literature. 99% of the time, I'm listening to Craig Finn or Conor Oberst. Both have brilliant new albums. Particularly, I’m obsessed with Finn’s song, Be Honest.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
GA: Right now, I'm working on bringing the painting and digital art halves of my practice together through my Internet Imperialism project #accordingToTheInternet. In one aspect of this project, I am making paintings about and imperializing the Internet definition of, ovarian cancer, which my mom has been fighting for three years. Googling medical conditions is the worst idea ever! And the image results for ovarian cancer are very clinical, having nothing to do with the experience, which for me is marked by a secondary fear of my own body. By hacking the search results to be of my paintings, instead of medical diagrams, I hope to expand the definition and serve as a reminder that all images, including diagrams and photographs, have bias and perspective. Expect the paintings to stay darkly hopeful. I'm also leaving London, which has always felt temporary but indefinite. I'm feel pretty over living that way. Maybe see you back in LA soon. 

Gretchen Andrew is a search engine artist and Internet imperialist whose HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO and#accordingToTheInternet projects look at the Internet as a tenuous form of authority that can be used to understand, manipulate and imperialize definitions. Her search-based practice is accompanied by a painting practice that is used as an image source for her related Internal Imperialism. She has completed projects or exhibitions with The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, The V&A Museum, The Photographer’s Gallery, The Barbican, The British Film Institute, The Lumen Prize for Digital Art, The British Arts Council, The White Building, Ace Hotel, Arebyte, and The London Film School. She recently spent two months in Los Angeles working on her exhibition at Whitcher Projects. You can find more of her work at gretchenandrew.com.

 
Posted on September 26, 2017 .

transpLAnts

selected works by Jason Travis

 

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your most recent transpLAnts series. What sparked the idea?
Jason Travis: In early 2016, I moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles. It was the first time in my 35 years that I'd lived outside of Georgia. I wanted to create a photo series focusing on people I meet—people who have also moved to Los Angeles to start a new chapter of their lives. I wanted to hear about their journey and experiences. I wanted to learn how living in different places has shaped their existence.

AM: Are those photographed people you personally know/knew prior to this series, strangers or a combination of both? How did you meet them?
JT: These are all people I’ve met in Los Angeles through various encounters. Some people I’ve met through acquaintances, others through a job, and in a few cases, some of them are my neighbors. Towards the beginning of my time here I was especially curious to learn where other people have lived—a bit of comparison and contrast with my own life. It was always less about justification and more about hearing stories.

AM: How did you choose the location for each portrait?
JT: The locations are usually determined by proximity. Mostly on the street, but sometimes at a person’s home or business. Location and light definitely come into play. Originally, I wanted the images to be very simple in structure. A full-body portrait wherever we happen to be—something relatively quick to execute and replicate with the following individual. However, that always lends way to experimentation and wanting more interesting shots. The early ones are more straightforward, but I think as its progressed I’ve started looking for more unique corners of this big city.

 

 

I wanted to create a photo series focusing on people I meet—people who have also moved to Los Angeles to start a new chapter of their lives. I wanted to hear about their journey and experiences. I wanted to learn how living in different places has shaped their existence.

 

 

AM: What similarities and/or differences did you discover amongst everyone's stories and what lead them to LA?
JT: I do see a bit of everything, and I believe, as with myself, moving somewhere becomes about more reasons than just one, regardless of what you might tell yourself. People that may move solely for work are also moving into a different environment, with different surroundings, weather, attitudes, friends, and circumstances. That’s a big deal. I’ve encountered people that have moved for possibilities, to make a big change, to get a new perspective. I’ve talked to people that have moved to be closer to family, people that want to start fresh, people that are attending school, and also people that seek different opportunities altogether. Everyone’s story is a bit different, and I love that.

AM: Did you meet anyone whose journey particularly resonated with you based on your own experience moving from Atlanta?
JT: I’ve developed a lot of feelings based on my own personal experiences, but talking with people about this subject has definitely given me perspective. Most people have lived in multiple places, while I spent my entire live in Georgia prior to this move. I’ve enjoyed talking to people that moved frequently when they were younger versus making the choice on their own as adults. I’ve seen a lot of growth in myself, which is something I might not have experienced otherwise. Hearing about others that have moved for loved ones or with loved ones is fascinating to me. That’s a huge transition to go through with someone. It takes time to adjust. It takes patience. There's a lot of different scenarios. I think everyone's story has resonated with me on a whole, but I do love hearing especially from people that have moved from the east to west coast. I think there’s a deeper sense of understanding there.

 

 

Everyone’s story is a bit different, and I love that.

 

 

AM: What music have you been jamming to lately?
JT: I’m always listening to my favorites from the ‘90s: Dinosaur Jr, The Breeders, Pavement. I’ve been listening to the new Juliana Hatfield album, Pussycat. Looking forward to The War on Drugs’ new record.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
JT: I’m excited to celebrate 10 years of my ongoing Persona series. November marks a decade and more than 500 entries in that series. I’m currently planning something special for that occasion. I’m also working on couple music videos, including one for an unreleased Sealions track.

Jason Travis is an LA-based photographer, videographer, designer and illustrator from Atlanta, GA. You can find more of his work at jasontravisphoto.com. Check out Purposely Random.

 
Posted on September 1, 2017 .

Performances by Ania Catherine

Line Scanner

// credits: Creative Director, Projection, Editorial: Dejha Ti, Choreographer, Performer: Ania Catherine, Director of Photography: Glenn Milligan, Key Grip: Andrew Joffe, Animation: Naoko Hara, Animation: Kipp Jarden, Music: Alvo Noto, ‘Uni Mode’, Location courtesy of Optimist Inc, Los Angeles, Projectors courtesy of PRG, Los Angeles // Los Angeles, 2016

Inner-workings of Rho

Inner-workings of Rho was a performance installation created for an exhibition at Durden and Ray Gallery featuring 18 LA artists' interpretations of the book "Going Native" by Stephen Wright. //credits: Choreographer: Ania Catherine, Performers: Ivana D'Souza, Jessica Emmanuel, Blaire Nicole Ostendorf, Meredith Adelaide, Emily Duncan, Austyn Rich, Madeline Hodges, Gina Marte, Curated by Steven Wolkoff // Los Angeles, 2017

Bop

// credits: Director: Ania Catherine, Director of Photography: Dejha Ti, Choreographer: Ania Catherine, Dancers: Victoria Batlle, Kendall Carney, Natalie Clement, Savanna Kubat, Kaylia Pham, Evie White, Music: Brandt Brauer Frick, Gaffer: Andrew Joffe, Editor: Ania Catherine, Production Assistant/Stills Photographer: Maxim Smirnov, Location: Optimist Studios, Special thanks: PAVE School of the Arts // Los Angeles, 2017

Architecture in Motion

Architecture in Motion is a conversation between movement, architecture, and fashion. // credits: Wearing pieces by designers Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood, and Dries Van Noten, Choreographer: Ania Catherine, Photographer: Nathalie Priem. 

 

Asymmetric Magazine: How did you get started as a performance artist?
Ania Catherine: I started training in dance when I was six years old (ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary), so I started performing at a young age and throughout college. However, my dance training feels really far from the performance work I do now. The shift from being a dancer to being an artist who works in the medium of performance came much later. What I had always connected to most about dance was the performing element—the power, the altered state of consciousness, the message being transferred from my body to the audience. At some point in my early 20s, I found myself wanting to communicate with my body, but dance (the way I had been trained) seemed to be a huge barrier to what I was trying to say. I found established movement techniques and methods I had learned to be crippling. During the process of creating, I couldn't help but think about how I would alienate my audience from my own humanity by using a physical language that I didn't even feel was my own. If I didn't feel connected to what my body was doing, why would anyone else? From there, I started a process of unlearning. I refer to the movement I’m finding while unlearning as nondance, and frequently use this concept when teaching my students. Nondance has become my preferred movement approach; it’s not a technique, but an evolving movement vocabulary combining pedestrian body languages and the aesthetics of boredom. It's a way to let the body be honest. The process of unlearning how I had been taught my body should move, and digging inside myself to find out how my body wanted to move and be perceived by others, was the start of my work as a performance artist. Before being able to use my body to say something, I needed to listen to it.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your choreography?
AC: Some common themes are gender, control, desire, politics, power–everything is undoubtedly influenced by my politics and academic studies. I have a master's degree in Gender and Public Policy from LSE (London School of Economics) and upon entering the program, I had the intention of pursuing a career at UN Women or another organization working to advance women's rights around the world after graduation. During my studies, I realized that the my areas of academic research (gender, sexuality, postcolonial theory, political science) were what I wanted to dedicate my life to, but also that working in government or public policy was probably the wrong application of that calling. I found that because of the rigidity of the systems that are in place and the thickness of bureaucracies, the difference I may make in that realm would likely be limited. Instead, I decided to take those issues and speak to and tackle them through art–outside the formal political system, reaching people through their senses. The areas of life that have always drawn me in—performance and politics—I once viewed as split intellectual regions, evidence of a “double-sidedness” of my personality. Only in the last few years did I realize that my explorations and thought work in gender studies, political science, and philosophy need not be limited to verbal and written expression, but I can use creative work as an arguably more accessible way to tell stories, channel critique, stimulate difficult conversations, speak to human experience, and invoke reflection. It is a mission of mine as a person and artist for my work to be a site where gender norms and stereotypes are not reproduced and reinforced, but instead revealed, challenged, and/or mocked. Additionally, I want my work to not only increase, but also improve representations of queer identities and relationships. I think it's important for creatives to recognize the social responsibility attached to our contributions to visual culture, whether it be photography, films, installations, or performances. Is the work we put out into world reproducing, upholding, and legitimizing toxic social structures and hierarchies or undermining them? I view my work as a form of visual activism.

 

 

I view my work as a form of visual activism.

 

 

AM: Do you find it challenging to express these themes as a performance artist as opposed to a traditional visual artist?
AC: To be a choreographer is (in my mind) to be a visual artist who works with bodies as a medium. As a performance artist, I use my own body, and as a choreographer, I create visual art using others' bodies, and I actually find the body to be a really productive way to express the themes I want to explore in my work. Everyone has a body. Of course, everyone's body is different, but everyone has one. That starting point is significant, because there is a sense of being able to relate to the work on a physical, human level. When people watch a performance of bodies, they have the chance to view a form they see everyday, something familiar, but in a new situation. I like arranging everyday, unremarkable events, interactions, and objects in a way that causes the viewer to experience that same scenario out in the world with new eyes.

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
AC: It changes every single day. Some examples would be the way someone is sitting at a bus stop, a song, a feeling of lust, fashion, a statue, my grandma making breakfast, anger. By design, my inspiration is consistently sourced from outside my fields of work. I would never go watch a dance show or study a choreographer's work to get inspired. I look everywhere except the areas in which I work, then apply it to my mediums. That way, what I'm making never feels like a regurgitation; it always feels fresh and that it's mine.

AM: Where is your favorite place to perform in Los Angeles?
AC: LA has many incredible locations—theaters, galleries, art spaces, and also public spaces that I still want to discover and make sites of work. I have shown work at great spaces like Durden and Ray Gallery, Montserrat, Highways Performance Space, Union Station, The Electric Lodge, and Grand Park, which were all unique and positive experiences. In addition to showing work in performance venues, I really enjoy bringing movement into spaces where it is not expected, into the public sphere, and in front of eyes that don't seek it out and people who would never buy a ticket to a performance. One time I passed a store with a beautifully symmetrical window display that sparked an idea in my head for a piece that would be performed in the windows for all the passers-by; I immediately emailed them and asked if I could use the windows for a performance. In order to overcome the problem of "preaching to the choir," I guess my favorite place to perform in Los Angeles is always changing because it would need to be the place where I'm least expected.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
AC: Los Angeles plays a huge role in my work, in odd ways, as well as more expected ways. One way is through the time I spend in the car sitting in traffic. I sometimes have several hours a day in the car when all I can do is listen to music and let my mind wander. It is not uncommon for me to pull over because a song will be playing while I see something interesting happening in the street that registers to my senses like a music video, and I feel the need to write it down. To me it’s like watching life’s choreography. Those spontaneous moments of synchronicity I encounter while driving feel magical, and are hugely influential in the kinds of moments I want to show in my work. I recently showed a piece at Highways Performance Space called Public, which was created using chance operations to create those same types of accidentally interesting street encounters. Also, there is so much architectural and cultural diversity that one never feels that they fully know LA, which is exciting. I like knowing that I could take a freeway exit I usually don’t take and be completely surprised by the buildings, people, and scenes I find there. LA’s potential to endlessly surprise  serves as an ever-evolving well of inspiration that will both frame and determine what I create here.

 

 

Before being able to use my body to say something,
I needed to listen to it.

 

 

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
AC: Currently, I'm really inspired by everyday sounds; for example my last few pieces used anti-depressant commercials, the sound of a bathtub filling up, the clanging of silverware as music, a la John Cage. I love classical music (Dvořák, Satie, Tchaikovsky) and some contemporary musicians I love are Nicolas Jaar, Amon Tobin, Gidge, Moderat.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
AC: I have been working on creating an evening-length show called cue desire. It consists of 13 different performance works, which I'm aiming to premiere early 2018. I will be presenting my latest film "Bop" at the International Meeting on Video-Dance in Spain this September, along with a presentation about utilizing slow cinema techniques in creating a dance film. Also, we just wrapped post-production on a film I've been working on since last summer with my creative partner Samira Mahboub (we have an ongoing collaboration working together as SAMANIA). The film is called Hex, it's a short film adaptation of Mary Wigman’s 1926 performance Hexentanz which we tie into explorations of the "witch" as a historical figure and feminist icon. It is currently in the festival circuit, but once the viewing restrictions are over, we plan to host a screening and discussion in LA. Finally, SAMANIA is collaborating with visual artist Dejha Ti on an activism-centered international poster series combining art photography, design, typography, and choreography. We are aiming to have the posters in the streets of several cities by next year.

Ania Catherine is an LA-based artist, choreographer and creative movement director. You can find more of her work at aniacatherine.com.

 
Posted on August 21, 2017 .

Body Language

selected works by Mallory Morrison

 

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your current photography work.
Mallory Morrison: My current work is shot underwater, not a surprise, and is focusing on telling simple short stories with body language. As a former ballet dancer, I have always pulled from that experience to help pose my subjects underwater and out, but I want to take it even further and utilize dancers and synchronized swimmers to tell a story in one image, like a choreographed dance would do in motion within a few minutes. It’s a nice challenge, and I’m excited to continue with this idea.

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
MM: Seeing dancers perform. When I see a dance performance, with the lighting, the costumes, the choreography, I find my self blinking a lot, like I’m taking pictures with my mind. I was a ballet dancer for 24 years, and then when I was getting into for photography, I started out shooting dance performances. So it was the origin of my two passions coming together.

AM: How did you get started shooting underwater?
MM: I went to Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, and I was shooting dancers in a studio setting. I was getting really bored and uninspired with that environment, so I was looking for a way to change up my process. I realized that gravity was my main problem with the studio. It was too hard to get the dancers in perfect spot in the air for long enough. So, I decided to find a place without the boundaries of gravity and shot in the pool on campus. After that first shoot, I was in love.

AM: What challenges do you face compared to traditional photography?
MM: Communication was the biggest hurdle to get over when shooting underwater. I have since figured out my method, but starting out, it was very frustrating to see the shot happening in front me, it’s just perfect, except this one little thing that could be fixed so easily–if I could talk to my model! I have taught myself not to sweat it, and the moment will come when it comes. You’ve got be very zen under there, otherwise, everything will become too overwhelming.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
MM: Interesting question! Los Angeles weather definitely plays a big part in my shooting habits. For location, it is really easy to find pool options here. I can work in most backyard pools, and there is no shortage of those here!  Also, it is a very active and water friendly city, so it is really easy to find models who are very confident swimmers.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
MM: I mainly work with themes of a journey and finding yourself. I like to present those ideas in short stories where I am only showing the middle part of the story and it is up to the viewer to fill in the beginning and ending for themselves.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
MM: I am really liking house music these days. I like when DJ’s blend old songs in with new sounds. The blending of different sounds really gets my mind moving. My favorite DJ right now is Dimitri from Paris.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
MM: I am going to be shooting a new series, diving deeper into my body language theme. I see so much potential for really unique and captivating story telling.  I am going to do something a little different, and work with multiple people in the water, and not just models, but real people who have real connections to each other.  I mainly play the un-real world of story telling, so it will be a great step to venture into the “real” world!

Mallory Morrison is an LA-based photographer. You can find more of her work at mallorymorrison.com.

 
Posted on May 25, 2017 .

Covered and Uncovered

selected works by Kayla Cloonan

Covered and Uncovered, pieces 1-4 // Swarm, pieces 5-9

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your series Swarm and Covered and Uncovered.
Kayla Cloonan: Covered and Uncovered is the reconciliation of work throughout my last two years in college. It was early in the development of my artist voice, when I began to recognize the patterns of my obsession with mark-making and experimentation with surfaces and materials. I reflected on my fixation with covering and uncovering prior layers, often masking the entirety of the initial image. This history both seen and unseen still fascinates me into current work. The series Swarm developed later with a continued fixation with layers of history, this time exploring the potential of an all-over aesthetic of clutter and overlapping layers with no single vantage point. The series also was a challenge for playing more heavily with color.

AM: How do they compare to each other as well as your other work?
KC: As with these two series, all my work is connected by a constant exploration of the potential for materials, surfaces and shape, line and color. I often work on multiple series at a time, each of them talking to each other in different ways. My work is derivative; drawings come from paintings, paintings from drawings, and so on, and so forth. I always keep a constant play between happenstance and refinement.

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
KC: I am inspired visually and emotionally by the world around me. I am obsessed with colors, shapes and textures. My work evolves from a state of play, experimentation with materials and surfaces and then later visual and tactile refinement through layering, sewing, etc. My history as a photographer gave me the framework for how I observe the world around me and all of the colors and shapes appear and reappear throughout the surfaces of my paintings. These narratives appear more literally in my performance and installation work, where I encourage viewers to analyze, explore and open their senses.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
KC: Since I moved here, Los Angeles has been a source of energy and inspiration in my work. The bustle, people, buildings, noise, smells and action of the city feeds my curiosity. LA is a constant fuel for my artistic spirit.

AM: We love your layering and use of mixed media! Can you tell us a bit about your process for creating a new piece and choosing materials?
KC: In my studio, I always foster an environment of playfulness. I make no preliminary sketches or planning, nor do I prescribe or name work before it is finished. I start with a surface or material that sparks my curiosity, search through my paints, pencils, pastels, inks and work with little direction but basic color palette. I view work in progress as unfinished, and I allow an anything goes approach, allowing myself to freely manipulate and play with the possibilities of the work. As I develop a series, I continue to refine the layers, isolating shapes and redefining surface. I collect strange paints and mediums, recycle and cannibalize older unfinished works and save scraps of old paintings and drawings for later collages. Nothing is precious until it feels done. Only upon completion of the work do I analyze them through writing and through writing develop titles and further tie together visual relationships.

 

 

Nothing is precious until it feels done.

 

 

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
KC: How do I even begin? I am fascinated by the history of mistake–human mistake. Themes in my work are often chaos bent into harmony; past marks become hidden, torn surfaces mend with sewing. Surfaces, to me, are like possibilities–open palettes for receiving energy. My work captures a moment of jumbled thoughts, an inkling of insanity among sobriety, a glimpse at insecurity among structure. It comes from somewhere deep inside, from a spot barely accessible, from a memory long repressed, from a feeling long-since felt. It attacks in built-up anger and refines in apologies and excuses. An attempt at transforming mistakes into constructive usefulness. A deliberate lack of perfection–the visual feed-through of earlier layers–that is what the work is about; a reflection of humanity and my experience in it's day-to-day grind.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
KC: Coming from an instrumental background, I am inspired by many genres of music. My current musical obsession is with many EDM bands, particularity lounge music, or as I like to call it, instrumental collage. I always have music on in my studio and work in flow with the rhythms.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
KC: I have a few series in progress right now, ranging in size. One of which is a series which began with a collection of fabric swatches I found while doing a residency in Chattanooga, TN. I've also been experimenting with old color photos from past projects, responding to pre-existing marks and cutting out and sewing the surfaces. As far as future projects go, I have an installation piece in development with altered books. And I'm still ironing out the possibilities for an interactive show somewhere in LA.

Kayla Cloonan is an LA-based abstract artist. You can find more of her work at kaylalcloonan.com.

 

Posted on May 17, 2017 .

Big Bang

selected works by Ross Sonnenberg

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your current work as a photographer.
Ross Sonnenberg: My latest series is called “The Big Bang Pictures”. All photographs in this series are photograms. Photograms are made using light directly on the photographic paper. There is no camera or negative. I lay the photographic out in my garage, which has to be completely dark, and as my light source, I use different kinds of fireworks. For example, firecrackers, bottle rockets and ground flowers, which spin and change colors. As they do this, they leave marks, burns, streaks and actual holes in the paper.

AM: We're so intrigued by your use of fireworks, sand and water in your pieces. Can you tell us a bit about your process?
RS: My goal is to try and make my own fictional pictures of space. I have always been fascinated by the Hubble Telescope photographs of our universe. To get the look I was going for, I use sand to approximate the stars. To get the color, I use colored gels and cut them into different shapes and place them on the paper. The color of the fireworks also play a role in deciding what they will look like.

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
RS: I’ve always had the desire to create. Whether it was drawn as a kid to making short movies with my friends on Super 8 Film.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
RS: My major desire was to make movies and at 23 was about to attend Art Center of Design Film school. I suddenly became very ill and was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus, which nearly killed me. After a year of chemotherapy, I was well enough to move in with my girlfriend (now my wife of 20 years), and I became the stay at home dad. During this time, I was painting and taking photographs and creating different bodies of work (which helped me keep sane). Themes have varied from dealing with my illness to the vastness of our solar system and questions of are we alone in the universe?.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
RS: My go to music is Nine Inch Nails. Lately, I’ve been listening to Spoon and TV On The Radio.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
RS: I’ve been experimenting with different paper like black and white and Ilfochrome (which was discontinued in 2007). I have also been painting directly on the photographs to make mixed media pieces.

Ross Sonnenberg is an Long Beach-based photographer and mixed media artist. You can find more of is work at rosssonnenberg.com.

Posted on May 15, 2017 .

Wax Figures

selected works by Kendall Devine

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your collection of work.
Kendall Devine: My work emerged from a desire to shift the perspective of people. I had a collection a few years back titled Ambiguous Bodies that depicted people by highlighting their strongest characteristics, and while it was received by some, there were others that couldn't understand why I didn't paint the bodies a color to match their skin tone. I was upset at the thought, that even though I added so many features, lyrics, quotes and color all over the board, people could still only focus on the color or lack there of. Out of frustration, I said, Screw this I'm going to paint green, blue, red, and gold people. I don't want to focus on the physical attributes of humans. I want people to feel the energy of one another. After all, that's where the heart of the matter is, in our energy.

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
KD: My biggest inspiration is life (the delicate cycle of beginnings and endings), love (the way we give love and receive it, the way it motivates us) and connections (why do we believe that our differences are so great that they must divide us?).

AM: We love your use of candle wax. How did you begin using it, and what's your process?
KD: I started using candle wax because I wanted to add another dimension to my work. I liked the idea of having a vision, holding onto it and having faith to see it through to the end but not actually seeing the bigger picture until the end. I like the way a candle burns and lights the area for itself and those near to it, and in doing so, it changes and takes on another form–different than how it began. As far as my process, I use melted wax, and I patiently drip the wax directly onto the board. I paint the entire picture with wax, then I add an actual layer of paint on top of the wax so that the images come to life.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
KD: I was born in a small town in Texas, and my Mom moved my family to California when I was in junior high school. Over the years, I have lived in many other states, but I always come back to LA. There is a magic here that is unlike any other place I've lived. I'm mesmerized by the lights and the energy of the people. There are so many different types of energies here. There is a place for everyone–you can make your home anywhere and anyway you want it to be. That's what I want my art to reflect: that we are all here trying to feel our way through this thing called life, wanting to find a place to call home and be ourselves.

 

 

I don't want to focus on the physical attributes of humans.
I want people to feel the energy of one another.

 

 

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
KD: I tend to lean towards themes of freedom and tapping into your inner strength, finding peace within, breaking barriers, and loving yourself so fiercely that you have no choice but to reflect love out into the world.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
KD: Oh wow, I could be here all day! My range is pretty eclectic, but I'll just give you the last ten artists I was listening to according to my iTunes playlist: Frankie Beverly and Maze, Kat Graham, Erykah Badu, Marian Hill, Prince, Solfeggio frequencies ( tibétain singing bowls), The Black Keys, Damian Marley, Bucket Head, and Bruno Mars.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
KD: You can expect to see me take over the world! Just kidding! I have a project in the works that I'm so excited about, but I'm just giving it all the time it needs to develop properly. It will combine art as well as music and really bring people in. I want this next project to make art come to life! 

Kendall Devine is an LA-based painter and candle wax artist. You can find more of her work at kidevine.com.

Posted on May 3, 2017 .

Preservation

selected works by Anita Wong

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your current work.
Anita Wong: My current works have been dealing with preservation of nature and Guo hua, individualism in the viewer’s eyes, patterns in nature, and the role of traditional art in the digital age inspired by The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, an essay by German cultural critic Walter Benjamin. My painting series Rorschach, for example, offers the viewer a Rorschach test, which invites them to question openly on what the individual sees. This invitation lets the viewer see art with not just the eyes but also the mind. It allows an old ancient art form to question the modern minds. As Claude Monet says, 'Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.' Individualism to the viewers' eyes is something I think of as great importance. I’d like to leave it to the viewer to figure out the meanings of each painting–what it means to one viewer might mean something completely different to the others. I’d like to use the traditional art form to open and question the modern minds. Visual communication is different than verbal communication; there are abstract meanings and certain beauty in it that words can never achieve. My current painting series Preserve, which uses pins to preserve real insects and objects found in nature, reflects my ultimate goal: Preserving the beauty from nature and the old art form of Guo hua. What I learned in design, photography and digital arts plays a key role in my art creation. My ultimate dream as an artist is to develop unique styles of Lingnan Guo hua and modern traditional arts that speaks to both eastern and western viewers.

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
AW: My biggest inspiration is nature. As Claude Monet says, 'The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration.' and 'I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.' My biggest inspiration in life is my mom, an animal lover, a Chinese language and history teacher, and biologist. My teacher 辛鵬九, whom is a world-renowned Lingnan style master. I am currently inspired by impressionist painters. The new Lingnan Guo Hua style I am developing is inspired by impressionism for its characteristics in expressive defined brush strokes, shimmering effects of light, movement and passage of time. I’m fascinated by not just the style, but the movement that brought painters outdoors to experience nature [free] from the limitation of indoor studio sets. I'm very interested in how impressionists share a similar brush works as Guo hua–fast and expressive in their brush strokes that captures the moment. Unlike realist painters, impressionist painters and Guo hua painters are using the medium as an expression of their feelings and view points toward the subject matter, rather than an imitation of the realities. I like to create art for arts sake. I don’t want to limit myself with what sells or what is trendy. Creating art and being an artist is a luxury to me. I wake up every morning and feel lucky to be alive because I am an artist. As great Salvador Dali said, 'Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy–the joy of being Salvador Dalí–and I ask myself in rapture: What wonderful things is this Salvador Dalí going to accomplish today?'.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
AW: I consider myself an international artist. I've lived in cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, London and NYC, but the city of Los Angeles has a special place in my heart. Art is in the air here. Art is not limited in the city museums and galleries; it's more than that in LA. Art is alive in the lifestyle here. It's in fashion and self expressions, on the murals of sidewalks and buildings, in underground film screenings. Art makes the city of LA lively, it bring us all together, and it is why we all love this city so much. The city is very inspiring to me as an artist. It's a great city to seek new ideas and new inspirations. My goal as a modern traditional artist is to save a traditional art form but at the same time allow it to move forward with current style and time. On a fun note, I am a foodie as much as an artist, and the city of LA is filled with great restaurants to explore. I am publishing my first coloring book for foodies with artist Anastasia Owell Castle–la bouffe: its time to eat!, inspired by all the restaurants I visited in the city. It will be published this year on Amazon.

AM: We love your 3D rice paper paintings. Can you tell us a bit about your process for conceptualizing those pieces?
AW: The 3D rice paper paintings titled Preserved is an art and science collaboration project with Stanford University MAHB, inspired by my little collection from nature. A broken butterfly wing, a bunch of fallen leaves on the path way, a cicadas shell on a tree, some strangely grown twigs and pressed flower bookmarks from my childhood friend–I find these preserved objects beautiful and precious. I have preserved these strange finds from nature under glass with backgrounds of Guo hua, rice paper paintings, one of the oldest art form that honors nature. They are given a second life and are frozen in time with new meanings under the glass, they tell stories of their existence and lives.
Rice paper paintings, along with calligraphy, were once a common practice among all Chinese, but are seen by some as a dying art form. As a Chinese American artist, I want to preserve it, cherish it and bring it to life with new ideas and creative thinkings. The title Preserved contains the meaning of preserving nature, as well as the traditional art form of Guo hua, both fragile but beautiful, and both need to be protected and preserved.

AM: Are there any other themes that you pursue in your work?
AW: When I was young, I spent many hours caring and observing birds. I have been captivated by their beauty, and animals and nature became the subject to my art ever since. Aside from nature, I like exploring the movement of time. Perception and preservation are also recurrent topics in my paintings.

AM: How do you think art impacts society and social change?
AW: Art has a strong impact in our society and vice versa. Art is a non verbal communication in the very heart of every society, ancient or modern. Art does not verbally tell you what to do nor what to think, but it communicates through senses. Good art talks to the soul through the senses; it triggers feelings and actions. Good artists engage viewers with their art, and their message can impact individuals, society and in a large scale, change the world. For this reason, I never want to follow any trend as an artist. I want to create art that contains my own language and one that lasts with time. I want to create traditional art that speaks to the modern minds. I believe art is the most influential communication tool in the society; it reflects our lives and influences the young minds. Like words we speak, art has different tones, message and casualty. If we think twice about what we say and what we write, we must think even more when we create.

 

 

If we think twice about what we say and what we write, we must think even more when we create.

 

 

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
AW: I like jazz–I always have. I enjoy going to live jazz performances in the neighborhood during the evening when the city is shimmering with lights. It is very romantic and beautiful to me. Art is a feeling to me, I cannot force myself to create art. I create art because I feel it, and I can’t help but to express this feeling. When I lack inspiration, I like playing the piano and listening to music, as it triggers emotions and feelings. Aside from jazz, I like exploring different music as much as I like exploring different styles of art. I think it's very important to keep the mind open, be open to different music, different food, different art, and see where it leads you. The world would be a boring place if we are all the same.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
AW: My plan for my next project is a Chinese painting with the influence from motion picture and optical illusion. It's a continuation of my interest in movement and ways of seeing. You could expect a lot of new art projects from me this year. My goal is to promote Lingnan style Guo hua to a new generation of viewers. I will continue to develop modern traditional art. I am the 3rd generation of leading Lingnan style painters since Chao Shao An–my teacher is a very well known Lingnan artist, and I feel obligated (in a super cool and very good way) to promote and develop this rare but beautiful art form. I feel that my expertise in both western and eastern art; fine art and design will play a big role in my [future] creations.

Anita Wong is an LA-based rice paper painter. You can view more of her work at anitayanwong.weebly.com.

Posted on May 2, 2017 .

Instant LA

selected works by Kevin Klipfel

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your recent photography work.
Kevin Klipfel: I typically work on 35mm or medium format film, but a couple months ago I bought a refurbished Polaroid Sun 600 camera from The Impossible Project and have been shooting lots of instant film, which is the work you see here. I wanted to try shooting work similar to what I normally shoot, except on this little non-professional camera that I remember people using when I was really young and growing up in the 1980’s. I was able to find one that looked almost identical to the one my parents had–or at least the one I picture them having in my memory–and use it to shoot contemporary urban landscapes and things of that nature here in LA. I kind of view them as records of little fleeting, dream-like moments of things I really like here, akin to when I go back home to my Mom’s house where I grew up in Buffalo, NY and look through these boxes of photographs she has of my family from when I was growing up. I feel like when you picture your childhood memories in your head they’re never super clear or aggressively sharp. For me, they’re always a little dream-like, like fragments from an old Super 8 film camera or a Polaroid picture, and I thought it would be cool to have something concrete like that depicting my life in Hollywood right now. It’s been a lot of fun, so even though it’s crazy expensive to buy the film, I plan to keep on doing it!

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
KK: I think my biggest source of inspiration, in terms of what actually motivates me to want to do the work, is just life and the streets and the city itself. When I was a teenager, my first impulse to take pictures didn’t come from other photographers; I was just looking at the things around me and felt an internal impulse to take pictures of them. I wanted to capture it for myself and also for people to know that 'everyday' stuff was interesting. Sure, flowers and sunsets are beautiful, but so many other things are, too. I remember things like the side of my old school building or this huge Adult Bookstore sign that had a big painting of a defense lawyer's phone number on it, and sometimes, I feel like we take the beauty and interestingness of those things for granted. I didn’t know anyone who did photography, and I couldn’t really have named many photographers, but there was something about the typography of the city that I just wanted to capture. That has never changed.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
KK: It plays a huge role. I have so much love for this city and feel so at home here–more so than anywhere I’ve lived or even where I grew up. I’m always excited to go out and take pictures. LA is so visually rich, with this strange mixture of grittiness and glamour, which is really right up my alley.
There’s also specific things about Los Angeles that end up playing a role. For example, my work can often be abstract and very much about color, and LA is such a colorful, vibrant city. And since my work is also very much about 'pop' elements of culture, it’s hard to think of a better place for me to live and work. Also, the city played a role in why I chose to shoot this work on Polaroid. Sometimes, when I pull out of the garage of my building and onto my street in Los Feliz, I’m astonished by the colorful, hazy sky and how it makes everything look almost a little lazy and faded–like LA just smoked a whole bunch of kush and put on a Neil Young record and just decided to spend the day chilling by the pool drinking margaritas. That ‘look', whatever it is exactly, is something I love and was part of what I was [chasing] after in using the Polaroid camera for these pictures.

AM: We love the signage and typography you capture in your Polaroids. Do you have a favorite sign in the city?
KK: Ah, such a tough one! There are so many cool signs here, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with the main Chateau Marmont sign that you can see while driving east or west on Sunset. I especially like the way it looks lit up at night when you’re either leaving or heading toward the Sunset Strip.

 

 

I’m astonished by the colorful, hazy sky and how it makes everything look almost a little lazy and faded–like LA just smoked a whole bunch of kush and put on a Neil Young record and just decided to spend the day chilling by the pool drinking margaritas.

 

 

AM: When you're shooting—how much of it is instinctual vs. planned?
KK: It’s almost all instinctual and never planned. I’ll just see something I find meaningful or visually interesting and know immediately I want to photograph it without much thought. It’s a totally intuitive feeling and not rational at all in terms of the specific choice of material. I’ve even found that when I’ve tried to plan, it’s a lot less fun for me. So on a typical day, I’ll walk all over the place, sometimes lots of miles, especially around Hollywood and Los Feliz. One great thing about LA is that the scenes change all the time. For example, I like to walk a lot on Sunset, pretty much all the way from where Los Feliz turns into Silverlake and then on into Echo Park, and if you come back like two weeks later the billboards and ads will be totally different. So it’s really a constant sense of discovery. Sometimes I’ll even kind of mentally trick myself and say, 'Oh, you don’t have to take any pictures, just go for a walk and see what happens.' Something that’s interesting to me that I want to take a picture of almost always happens.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
KK: I never consciously pursue themes, but obviously they’re there, and lately I’ve really clearly seen what they are through others’ work. I go to the New Beverly Cinema on Beverly Blvd. all the time because they show movies there in 35mm, and they’re so beautiful to watch. A lot of times I’ll re-watch movies there that I’ve seen many times but will come away with something new. For example, I recently saw a midnight showing of True Romance, and I really identified with a lot that was in Tarantino’s script. Like, there was just this absolute, unabashedly sincere love for certain elements of American culture, like Elvis, or even just the excitement of going to get a hamburger at a hamburger place or eating a piece of pie in a diner. I really love that and identify with that enthusiasm and saw how much I think that’s a part of myself and my work. Something very similar happened when I saw a double feature of Godard’s Breathless and Band of Outsiders there. Godard’s work from the 60’s has this totally authentic, almost street photography kind of feel: it’s shot, say, in real cafe’s with scenes where characters are talking over a pinball machine or with Anna Karina smoking in front of a bunch of movie posters on the street. Aside from the compositions and photography done by Raoul Coutard being amazing, I really identify with the aesthetic of those films. I recently read this comment on Amazon’s Band of Outsiders page where someone said it’s hard to figure out whether Godard’s work is arty trash or trashy art (because of his use of B-movie genre conventions done so artistically), and I also identified with that as a description of my work: it’s photography done very seriously and with an understanding of the history of the medium, composition, etc., but the subject matter often involves 'lowbrow' forms of pop culture: I’m not out taking pictures of Ansel Adams landscapes, but just the regular stuff of everyday life. So, it was kind of a case of 'looking-glass self,' where I was able to see some of the defining characteristics of my own work by identifying with some of the defining characteristics I noticed in works of art that I loved.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
KK: For the last year or so, I’ve been playing like four or five records from the ‘70’s almost constantly. They recently reissued Neil Young’s On the Beach and Tonight’s the Night, which I’d been trying to find on vinyl forever, so I’ve listened to those so many times over the last year or so. The subject matter can be super dark, but they’re mostly crazy, rocking albums, and I just love them. I’ve been loving Harry Nilsson Schmillson record–the one where he’s on the cover of the album in his bathrobe holding a hash pipe–and playing that one all the time, too. I just love the 70’s vibe and kind of free-wheeling spirit of that record. Another one I love is Gram Parsons GP record. The cover of that one is really cool, too, with a photo of Gram in the Chateau lobby. I found out recently that this album was recorded in what’s now a little coffee shop on Cahuenga; I was just out taking pictures and stopped to get in a coffee and saw a plaque that it used to be the Wally Heider recording studio and all this famous albums were made there. The most recent thing I’ve listened to a lot is the Father John Misty's Fear Fun album, which is also a great LA soundtrack that has quite a few mentions of the city. All of those records were either made in or influenced by LA, which is something I’ve found a lot of inspiration from. And Morrissey is always in there somewhere: I just bought a copy of Years of Refusal at Amoeba in Hollywood and have been playing that one a ton. The poppish punk sound on that album reminds me of a lot of the music I listened to growing up, and I think Years of Refusal has to be one of the greatest album titles ever.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
KK: The Los Angeles County Store on Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake does a fine art series, and I have a little solo show of some of the 35mm film work I’ve been shooting over the past year opening there this summer (it opens on June 24th, 2017–please come out, it’ll be fun!), so I’m still working on finishing that up. I've been experimenting with blowing up some of the Polaroids into larger prints and have been really pleased with the results, so maybe it'll include some of those, as well. In general, I’d just like to keep doing work that excites me, have fun here in LA, and see what possibilities might open up in the future.

Kevin Klipfel is an LA-based ifne art photographer. You can view more of his work at kevinmichaelklipfelphotography.com.

Posted on April 20, 2017 .

Karing Vibes

selected works by Kari van den Eikhof

 
 

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your current work.
Kari van den Eikhof: Currently, I am doing a lot of commissioned astrological constellation pieces. My constellation idea came from wanting to create a gift for my friend who was having twins. I knew roughly when they would be born, so I created a Sagittarius constellation for them with the hopes that they would be born within the time frame of November 23rd and January 21st. And they were! I put the piece on my Instagram, and people were really into it. So, I added the listing to my shop. Now people who are much more well versed in astrology than I am are ordering them. And they want to customize their inscriptions with zodiac characteristics, ruling planets, and elements. It's great. I learn something new every time I create one.

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
KV: My inspiration changes all the time. And different areas of inspiration spark different pieces, which is why I have these very distinct series. I like to acknowledge synchronicity, and that’s probably my most prominent form of inspiration. If I notice something showing up over and over again, I take it as a sign that it’s something I need to give my attention to. I first noticed synchronicity when I was starting my Wildlife in Footwear series. I was seeing specific animals multiple times a day, and once I would acknowledge and paint them, then the next animal would show up. It was awesome.
The same thing happens with my constellations and my feminist illustrations. My life is unfolding in ways I would have never anticipated, and with that comes new forms of inspiration. I am allowing myself to go with the flow, and I’m letting my art evolve naturally. There was a time when I was rigid with where I wanted my art to go. But with that rigidity, I lost steam and creativity. So, again, I had to acknowledge where my heart and mind where, and what forms of synchronicity were showing up for me. Once I let myself grow in different directions, my creativity was sparked again with my constellation pieces and then my feminist illustrations.

AM: We love your wide range of subjects. Can you tell us a bit about your process for conceptualizing a new piece?
KV: When I do my best work, it feels like I’m just a channeler. My work just flows, and it doesn’t feel like I’m doing it. That’s how effortless it feels.  Sometimes I’ll get an image flash in my mind, and I will have this urge to immediately put it to paper. So, in those cases, I don’t have to think about it too much, and the process and conceptualization time is super quick. I credit these experiences for my wide range of subjects. Then there are other times when I plan out my work. For my Wildlife in Footwear pieces, I really have to think about out what kind of shoes each animal can wear. What is the personality, what is the logistics of the foot and shoe type, how would it fit, and so on. The conceptualization and sketches take the longest, but once I start to paint, I am able to get into a flow.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
KV: I don’t know if I can say the city of Los Angeles plays a huge role in my work. I tend to get overwhelmed with LA. My spirit thrives in a more open and slow paced environment. I’d say the largest role LA plays in my art is through my school. I attend Antioch University, Los Angeles as a Clinical Psychology graduate student, and the people I’ve met there have been so kind, inclusive and authentic. I think that space and those connections have inspired my work. The school is progressive and social justice oriented, which has certainly influenced some of my illustrations. But more than that, Antioch has provided me with this amazing space to really look at myself and challenge the boxes I put myself in. The way I view myself has evolved, and that has undoubtedly influenced my artwork.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
KV: The themes I pursue are different depending on what I am creating. My Wildlife in Footwear series started as a form of self-care. I started purely for enjoyment, so my theme was simply animals with shoes. Now I am drawn to themes such as: inclusion, social justice, universal consciousness, spirituality, and all things feminine. So those are the themes I invoke when painting my galaxies, constellations and illustrations.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
KV: I’m a huge BØRNS fan. I love the gender ambiguousness of his sound and image. He have a couple songs that have spiritual themes, which I love. I am also a huge fan of The 1975, Tove Lo, Years & Years, and, surprisingly, Willow Smith. She has this new album called Ardipithecus, and it kind of blew my mind.  I was listening to her song 9 when I received the flash of inspiration for my Sisterhood piece. It’s one of my favorite pieces, so thanks Willow!

Kari van den Eikhof is an LA-based illustrator and painter. You can view more of her work and shop her prints at etsy.com/shop/KaringVibes.

Posted on April 19, 2017 .

The Design Series // No. 6: Wolf & Man

Wolf & Man is an independent LA-based contemporary menswear line. We caught up with Brian Chan about their designs and shop.

Asymmetric Magazine: How and when did you start Wolf & Man?
Wolf & Man: We began the brand in 2013 after a year-long backpacking trip through Asia and Europe. At the time, menswear in the states was taking off and contemporary brands were evolving.

AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
W&M: Vintage Classic American Menswear

AM: How would you best describe your style?
W&M: Personal style? I’m always in pretty damn comfortable garments.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your designs?
W&M: Working Class has been a huge role–independent men who work hard at their trade, whether you’re a high school teacher or a street sign painter.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
W&M: Being able to sample locally and have dye houses very close to me is pretty awesome to do more riskier things for fun.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
W&M:  Jacques Greene's album Feel Infinite

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AM: Where can our readers shop your products?
W&M: Downtown Los Angeles at POP Little Tokyo, Kingswell in Los Feliz, and at wolfandman.us.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
W&M: More fun wearables

AM: What's your best advice for aspiring designers?
W&M: Don’t save the best for last. Always share share share!

Shop Wolf & Man: wolfandman.us.

Posted on April 11, 2017 .

Eyes in the Sky

Selected works by Scott McFarlane

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your current photography work.
Scott McFarlane: I focus on landscape aerials, aerial portraits, lifestyle, and travel photography with a variety of clients. And love trying out new techniques as camera technologies emerge.

AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
SM: The ocean. I try to incorporate it in almost all of my shots as I am constantly in awe of how different the sea can look depending on the light. And I am fortunate enough to live by the beach in Southern California, so that inspiration is easily fed every day. I am also very inspired by the design of typography.

AM: We love your aerial photography! How did you get started working with drones?
SM: Ahh, the D-word! To some people the word “drone” has a negative connotation and they prefer the geeky terms “quadcopter” or “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” instead. But I don’t mind “drone.” I got started with drones a few years ago. I own a video production company so incorporated them as an invaluable filmmaking tool. When I got into serious photography, I was tired of seeing the same old stale shots of famous landmarks and locations, so the aerials offered a fresh perspective.

AM: What challenges do you face when using drones as oppose to traditional photography?
SM: There are a ton of challenges compared to going out with a DSLR and shooting traditionally. Since drones are a relatively new technology, the FAA is constantly creating new rules and regulations. Before taking off, you must perform a pre-flight checklist and make sure you avoid No Fly Zones that are within range of airports or in areas with potential safety/security concerns. Then, when in the air, you must pay attention to the weather, maintain a line of sight, and deal with nosy bystanders (most of which are genuinely interested in what you’re doing). And now the French military are training eagles to take down drones that could be possible threats so, yeah, will soon need to watch out for drone-hunting eagles, too. Many challenges, but the results are worth it.

AM: What is your favorite place to photograph in California?
SM: Anywhere along the coast that is outside a No Fly Zone. And far away from eagle nests.

AM: When you're shooting—how much of it is instinctual vs. planned?
SM: Locations are planned but when I get there and start exploring, anything can happen. You discover all sorts of new things with eyes in the skies.

AM: How would you best describe your style?
SM: I strive for a very clean aesthetic–prefer center symmetry and minimalism. The less distractions in the photo the better. Imagine a mashup between director Stanley Kubrick and photographer Michael Kenna–that’s what I strive for.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
SM: I generally do not focus on specific themes, but if I had to choose one it would be examining the interaction between puny, insignificant man within the grandeur of nature. I usually incorporate at least one human subject in my photos, although you may not notice them at first glance.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
SM: I love discovering new music on SoundCloud. “Surf” and “Rockabilly” are the search keywords I use the most.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
SM: Next month, I am heading to the Philippines with my wife to shoot aerials for a tourism company, which I am super excited about. I also have a few art shows coming up and selling prints at galleries. Other than that, I try to go out every day and capture something new so make sure to check out my Instagram @scott_mcfarlane.

Scott McFarlane is an LA-based photographer and videographer. You can view more of his work at scottmcfarlanephotography.com.

Posted on April 6, 2017 .

The Design Series // No. 5: Tuesday Bassen

Tuesday Bassen is an LA-based illustrator and designer behind her self-titled line. Her badass collection of pins, patches and apparel are derived from her illustrations depicting female empowerment in the modern world.

Asymmetric Magazine: How and when did you start the Tuesday Bassen shop?
Tuesday Bassen: Tuesday Bassen shop started out smaller with handmade ceramics in 2011 and expanded over the years, mostly in 2014 when we started putting out stickers, pins and patches. Later in 2015 we expanded to clothing made in LA.

AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
TB: As an illustrator making clothing, my biggest inspiration is thinking about what would make me or other women feel most powerful to wear (without having to put on a power suit).

AM: We love how your products often derive from your illustrations! Can you tell us a bit about the characters you draw and your process to creating those designs in your shop?
TB: Yes! My clothing is all based on illustrations that I make of women and the clothing I draw them wearing. The characters I draw are a representation of the frustrations and anger that I may feel or other women may feel as a result of daily transgressions. I find these angry portrayals to be therapeutic, so the next logical step was to bring tangible products of these characterizations to the women they are inspired by.

AM: How would you best describe your style?
TB: Slumber party meets Easy Rider.

 

 

The characters I draw are a representation of the frustrations and anger that I may feel or other women may feel as a result of daily transgressions. I find these angry portrayals to be therapeutic, so the next logical step was to bring tangible products of these characterizations to the women they are inspired by.

 

 

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
TB: Empowerment through figurative violence.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
TB: Los Angeles is an amazing city with high highs and low lows and is simultaneously glitzy and gritty. I love the entrepreneurial independent spirit of the city and that there are a million different ways of doing things here without asking for permission.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
TB: Lately, I've been really into Big Eyes.

AM: Congrats on your recent opening of Friend Mart! Where else can our readers shop your products?
TB: Lots of small businesses around the world like Hello Holiday and Strangeways, but you can also find my goods at Urban Outfitters and on my site ShopTuesday.com.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
TB: Finessing clothing designs with a continued focus on manufacturing in Los Angeles.

AM: What's your best advice for aspiring designers?
TB: The path somebody else took is not necessarily the best for you. Figure out your strong suits and pursue those.

Shop Tuesday Bassen: shoptuesday.com.

Posted on March 21, 2017 .

The Design Series // No. 4: Valley Cruise Press

Valley Cruise Press is an LA-based line of pins, patches, accessories and apparel owned by husband and wife, Ted and Kelley Feighan. Thanks to their collaborative spirit, it's also the backbone of many artists' pins you see all over. We caught up with Kelley to get the story behind their brand and artist collabs.

Asymmetric Magazine: How and when did you start Valley Cruise Press?
Valley Cruise Press: Valley Cruise Press was started in January 2014 as a fun hobby. We began as a zine publisher, putting out our founder, Ted’s book ‘Flower Arrangements’ and eventually expanded to include pins, patches and other accessories. What started out as a side project in our apartment quickly grew into an international brand within a year!

AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
VCP: We’re inspired by vintage California imagery. Growing up in dreary Ohio, the promise of sunshine and palm trees every day was like a little tropical oasis in a cold winter. We still love going to thrift stores and flea markets to look at old catalogues and postcards with sunny vintage imagery and have them all around our office.

AM: We love how you partner with so many different artists and brands! Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration process?
VCP: Sure! We love collaborating with artists, and it’s really the heart of our brand. We find artists in a couple different ways:
1. Reading up on art websites, magazines, Instagram etc. and reaching our to artists that we think we would be a good fit. This was how we originally found artists and has been a big part of building our brand identity.
2. We get hundreds of submissions each month, and a lot of our collaborations come from those submissions. Ted, our creative director, looks through his email weekly and considers each submission for new projects we have in the works
3. Referrals. Lots of the artist we work with know other artist and will recommend their friends.

AM: How would you best describe your style?
VCP: We love bold color and illustrations for all of our products. We try to create unique designs for each product, focusing on the artwork and bringing it to life in physical form. Valley Cruise Press is all about making wearable art and we try to reflect this in all of our designs.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
VCP: Our themes really change with each season. We always look for bright colors and bold illustration, but with each new product line, we try to focus on a new theme. For example, last summer was vacation in the tropics and our upcoming spring line will be spring sunshine. We love that with product lines we’re always able to change and work on new themes that inspire us.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
VCP: Valley Cruise Press is very much a reflection of our experience here in Los Angeles. Visually, the city and the landscape have a huge influence on our designs. The bright sun, the palm trees, the colors are all reflected in our products and our branding. One area where this is most prevalent is on our Instagram. Once or twice a month we try to take a picture trip to give us a chance to see how our brand fits in the greater landscape and experience new and exciting places around and outside the city.
Not only is Los Angeles visually inspirational, but socially as well. Almost everyone here works for themselves in some capacity, which gives the city a vibe of endless possibility. Owning our own business is a challenge that I’m not sure we would have been able to undertake without the drive and positivity that surrounds us every day here.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
VCP: Alton Ellis has been on repeat in our office nonstop lately.

AM: Where can our readers shop your products?
VCP: All of our products can be found on our website at valleycruisepress.com. You can also find us in Urban Outfitters, Pacsun, Amerian Apparel and about 250 other stores worldwide.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
VCP: So much! Most of it is top secret, but let’s just say we’re expanding way beyond pins and accessories for next year. Expect to use us on your phone and in your ears very soon.

AM: What's your best advice for aspiring designers?
VCP: Work hard, but enjoy what you do. Working for yourself is never easy and is going to require some seriously long hours, but make sure to still have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point!

Shop Valley Cruise Press: valleycruisepress.com.

Posted on February 23, 2017 .

The Design Series // No. 3: MNKR

 

 

MNKR is an LA-based line of men's and women's apparel, prints, pins and patches. We caught up with founder, designer and illustrator Matthew Fellows on his designs and shop.

Asymmetric Magazine: How and when did you start MNKR?
Matthew Fellows: MNKR began in 2003 because I wanted to start a new brand that would be able to grow with me as I evolved as a person. I had started a couple other brands before this, but they really limited me creatively, and I didn’t see room for growth. MNKR would in effect be me, or at least mirror my life, hence the generic name MNKR (moniker), meaning a name or nickname.

AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
MF: Day to day life inspires me. Things I go through, things that filter through me. The funny stuff, the sad stuff, all of it. For instance 'Rose Dagger' is all about falling in and out of love–I wear my heart on my sleeve. ‘Ninety Nine Bottles’ is because I probably drink too much, (this design came off my graffiti filled bathroom wall). ‘Matt’s Tats’ is all of my tattoos. ‘Road Less Traveled’ because I grew up going on road trips nearly every summer and taking the small country roads through obscure towns was what we used to do. I still love that kind of travel to this day.

AM: How would you best describe your style?
MF: Less is more for sure. I grew up in a house filled with vintage signs and advertising, and this type of aesthetic has stayed with me. I also grew up skateboarding which heavily influenced who I am and how I design. Plus, I think I’m more of an ideas guy than an artist, so my design style has evolved out of trying to easily convey an idea in the simplest way possible.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
MF: Peace, love, travel, humor, the outdoors, and death …and sometimes food.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
MF: LA has changed me in ways that I can’t even express in words, both for the better and probably for the worse. I’m sure this comes through in my work, but I couldn’t really say how.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
MF: I just made a playlist for a photo shoot that had these dudes on it; Souleance, Karol Conka, Nobody, Misun, Buscabulla, and my fav, Petite Noir, especially the songs MDR and Down. Rad.

AM: Where can our readers shop your products?
MF: MNKR.com is the best place to shop all styles, or we also welcome visitors to our LA Studio at The Brewery Artist Lofts. Our tees are in large and small retailers around the world, and in LA, you can find MNKR at Urban Outfitters, Nasty Gal, Black Market LA, ML General Store, and Skylark.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
MF: It kind of depends on what I’m going through at the moment I start designing. I don’t have a clue as to what I’m going to do before I do it. When the time comes to start making designs, things just start coming to me.

AM: What's your best advice for aspiring designers?
MF: Consistency is key, but, and this is a huge but, do what makes you happy, as well. If you’re doing something that isn’t making you happy, then don’t be afraid to change it up. Once you find that groove, fully explore it. If you don’t know what that is yet, then just start trying stuff until you figure it out. I feel I’m just hitting my stride after 13 years of making designs for MNKR.

Shop MNKR: mnkr.com.

Posted on February 9, 2017 .

The Design Series // No. 2: Yeah Right Press

 

 

Yeah Right Press is an LA-based + women-run line of enamel pins, patches and accessories. As their site says, "we hope our line of accessories and apparel will be worn by women and supporters and lovers of women." We caught up with founder and designer Erin Berkowitz on how they nail the badass attitude of the modern cool girl. 

Asymmetric Magazine: How and when did you start Yeah Right Press?
Erin Berkowitz: I started Yeah Right in April 2016 after years of doing freelance graphic design and running a screen printing business. So much of my work was restricted by client demands or fitting into a box as a print designer, so I wanted to branch out and create a line that felt like the truest expression of my style.

AM: How would you best describe your style?
EB: Clean, contemporary, accessible, bold, fun, feminine.

AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
EB: I’m a big fan of “boiled down” design and have been a collector of pins and patches, vintage and new, for many years. Design, color way, type, and other design elements are of course important, but there’s something appealing and outspoken about wearing an accessory that literally announces your style or opinion. Similarly, I’m attracted to stylized and straightforward print design (ad campaigns, packaging, album art) from the 60s and 70s.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
EB: I don’t often pursue themes–it typically feels random and incidental–but popular culture, feminism, and general sass and irreverence run throughout my work.

 

 

Sometimes just the color of a light in a window I’m driving past is enough to inspire a feeling or pattern or color that I want to design with.

 

 

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
EB: Los Angeles is a constant stream of loud, colorful inspiration, which I like to enjoy in the background and sort of let it funnel itself into a single, saturated feeling. Or sometimes just the color of a light in a window I’m driving past is enough to inspire a feeling or pattern or color that I want to design with.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
EB: Kate Bush, Erykah Badu, Roxy Music, Jonathan Richman

AM: Where can our readers shop your products?
EB: On my website (yeahrightpress.com) and at a handful of boutiques (yeahrightpress.com/stockists).

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
EB: I’m working on a line of screen printed cards and prints, and also some gold jewelry with Egyptian and esoteric/occult symbols. Ooh!

AM: What's your best advice for aspiring designers?
EB: Many designers will tell you to find your true voice, but I believe in finding a collection of voices, because it always felt daunting and impossible to hone in on just ONE direction. Find your various voices (some of which will be louder than others) and create some rad chorus where they all play a part in representing your full creative self. In other words, always be experimenting and following the next inspiring thing, and at least one avenue will lead you to create something that gives you that sacred “hell yeah” feeling.

Shop Yeah Right Press: yeahrightpress.com.

Posted on January 26, 2017 .

The Design Series // No. 1: Samantha Santana

 

 

Samantha Santana is a Los Angeles based designer specializing in wallpaper, stationary and prints.

Asymmetric Magazine: How and when did you start your design shop?
Samantha Santana: I started this particular design shop in 2014, and it has been evolving ever since. It is actually my second! My first what a floral design studio, which I sold three years ago.

AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
SS: I'm an ex-florist, so flowers and plants definitely have a huge presence in my work. However, I am driven to produce art as a way to keep my mind distracted from my health woes. I have unexplained neuropathy, which causes chronic pain in my feet, hands and back. Creating helps to keep my focus away from the inconvenience of pain.

AM: How would you best describe your style?
SS: I would best describe my style has lively. Color makes me very happy.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your designs?
SS: A theme I try to tackle in my work is femininity vs. masculinity. Working with flowers and plants is seen as a very feminine art, however I don't feel it has to be. I'd love to create prints that are accessible to all, regardless of your gender.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
SS: Los Angeles is a foreboding presence, as it smacks me in the face day after day with its beauty, dirt, community and conflict. I seek to show the brightness of LA in my work, and the diversity of it's culture and people. It is a city of dreamers, and I am one of them.

 

 

Los Angeles is a city of dreamers, and I am one of them.

 

 

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
SS: I have been jamming the past few photo shoots to Solange. Her new album Seat at the Table is deep and a proud representation of herself and her culture.

AM: Where can our readers shop your products?
SS: My product and services can be found at my website (samanthasantana.co), as well as Lulu & Georgia and May Designs.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
SS: I have been working primarily with fresh florals and photography for my current wallpaper and paper goods, but would love to move into painting next, as well as sculpture. Though, I built a miniature desert landscape to shoot for the Unique Markets, and it turned out beautifully. I'd love to do some more of these in the future.

AM: What's your best advice for aspiring designers?
SS: The best advice I can give to aspiring designers is learn business and marketing. Yes, you are an artist, but that means that you more than anyone should know how to sell your work, speak in commanding tone with clients, collect your fees, and keep your books straight. This advice was given to me by a mentor I had when I was in college (through the Getty foundation), and it was the best piece of advice I had ever received. A lot of times it does not matter if you are the best at what you do (and believe me, if you are starting out, you will not be). However, if you know how to carry yourself professionally and are open to constructive criticism, you will get paid what you deserve, and you will get more work. You don't have to be a starving artist...just a dollar menu artist.

View more of Samantha's work and shop the prints here: samanthasantana.co.

Posted on January 19, 2017 .

Compendium of Knowledge

selected works by David Lovejoy

 
 

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your collection of work.
David Lovejoy: I have amassed the World’s Largest Collection of original works by David Lovejoy. These exist in my home, my studio, my shop, and various galleries from time to time. This collection ebbs and flows as work is sold and I make new things out of my old things. That’s my last collection–old things. I have over 200 boxes and bins full of materials I’ve collected. Game pieces, wood trimmings, old hardware; all waiting to become part of something new.

I work primarily by repurposing existing materials. My assemblage usually takes the form of a shadowbox, as I use the depth to create layers or levels of items within. Most art hangs on walls, most walls are near where people walk, so I like to create compositions that change visually as one walks past.

AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
DL: My inspiration comes primarily from the materials I use. I have an appreciation for the craftsmanship of handmade things, a love for the patina of use that comes from a lifetime of being handled and used, repaired and repainted. There is the hint of a story in things that have been here a while, and I like to present those things in ways that catch a person’s eye and make them think and/or smile.

AM: Where can we find your art around the city?
DL: My office and showroom is on Gallery Row, above The Last Bookstore at 5th & Spring Streets in L.A.’s Historic Core–Lovejoy’s Contraption Emporium. I have several installations throughout the bookstore, and have built much of the odd shelving and sculptural bookwork there. I show occasionally in galleries across the city: The Hive, Cactus Gallery, MorYork, The Loft at Liz’s, FM Gallery. I also have a photo/graphic mural on the back of the Broadway Arts Building on Linden Place between 5th & 6th Streets, across from Pershing Square: “Back Street Broadway.” I designed the interior lobby in this building, and created the lobby chandelier. I also created the reception counter and conference room lighting in the Historic District’s Visitor Center on 5th Street, and have a small lens installation in their windows.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
DL: I tend not to pursue themes in my work. I have an over-arching idea of a “Compendium of Knowledge”, a collection of things, thoughts, and ideas that we might have set down along our road to progress and I’ve picked them up again. These existed in scrolls and books, encyclopedic collections of information–how to make tools or draw in perspective, how to occupy yourself playing string games, how to measure in scale, or understand Morse Code. Different from the Internet, where everything can be found, these were thoughtful, edited compilations of “things we need to know”.

 

 

Most of the materials I use come from this city. They also grew up here and lived their lives here. They show the timeworn history we share.

 

 

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
DL: Los Angeles is my home. I was born in Hollywood, grew up in the valley, bought our first home in North Hollywood, and I’ve had a studio downtown for eight years. Being an Angeleno is by far the strongest influence on my work–the part of me that everything else comes from. The multiple frames on my shadowboxes grew from the architecture here, my Letherebe Lights came directly from the Zeiss projector in the Griffith Planetarium. My color pallet comes from the San Gabriel mountains, a pallet which runs “from rust to sepia”, as a friend once said.

Most of the materials I use come from this city. They also grew up here and lived their lives here. They show the timeworn history we share. I’m thrilled when I get a piece of L.A. history–an instrument that belonged to an early publisher at the Los Angeles Times, or blueprints from a 100-year-old bank building, or a projector from one of the old movie palaces. I feel like a steward of these cast-offs, like a bit of that history has been entrusted to me because I caught it as it was falling toward destruction. The whimsy and darkness and surrealism and nonsense in my work all come from Los Angeles.

AM: How do you think art impacts social change?
DL: I think art can impact social change, although that is not my intention as I make most of my work. I’ve found art can unify a belief, can put words or visuals to a thought or feeling that people can agree with–“Yes. That.” I’ve made work and found years later that it affected people profoundly, gave them distraction in a time of feeling overwhelmed, or made them feel represented and supported in a situation of unfair balance.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
DL: I love odd mash-ups of styles, like French klezmer dance music. While I work, I listen to old school jazz, Latin jazz, and standup comics.
While working, I am inspired by Latin Jazz. Tito Puente can fuel my tanks into the wee hours. Dave Brubeck is my go-to in the studio, but Pablo Sanchez or Buena Vista Social Club keeps me working fluidly.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
DL: My next project is a set of large assemblage panels for an office building in Canada. In general, you can expect to see more of the same, which at this point in my career means more of everything. I work with clay, wood, repurposed materials. The title on my business card says “Thingmaker”, because that’s what I do–I make things. Some of those things are art, some of them are just things. But you can expect to see more things from me. Public art things, shadowbox things, raku-fired ceramic things, woven-willow things, built-of-books things. It’ll be fun.

David Lovejoy is an LA-based assemblage and installation artist and designer. You can view more of his work at lovejoyart.com.

Posted on January 5, 2017 .