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FEELS LIKE...

Ladies and gentlemen, FEELS II is in the books. Much love and many thanks to all the folks involved in bringing our first art and music festival to reality. Bringing together a host of musical artists, from Kool A.D., Teebs and Kreayshawn, to visual artists like Ryan Rocha, Bud Snow and more, FEELS II was one to remember.

Category Archives: Art

BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN

Life on the road with Elliot Gold, and the outlaw biker gang that blazed a new trail

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They called him Cameraman. Welcomed into The Chosen Few outlaw motorcycle club in 1971, California-born photographer Elliot Gold followed the legendary crew of bikers as a friend and observer.

Born from the mind of founder Lionel Ricks, The Chosen Few originated in Los Angeles in 1959, and established a presence across the country throughout the ’60s and early ’70s. While groups like The Hell’s Angels may have boasted more notoriety, and generated more widepsread controversy, The Chosen Few offered a similar level of grit and rough-hewn charm, but also managed to pose perhaps an even greater challenge to society at large. As the country’s first racially integrated outlaw motorcycle club, the power of The Chosen Few’s legacy is rooted in their ability to band together despite the prevailing prejudices of the day. Uniting under the common bond of brotherhood, The Chosen Few deconstructed social barriers while creating a culture of their own.

Over the course of two years, Elliot Gold travelled with the gang, capturing candid, intimate moments amongst the brothers who formed the collective. Following them on runs, outings, and other social events, Elliot captured an array of iconic images that help to give context in weaving together the narrative of the legendary Chosen Few. Needless to say, he picked up a few stories of his own along the way.

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BASIC SPACE

Three-dimensional creations by Bristol's own George McCallum

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George McCallum

It’s always cool to see artists take on new challenges, and push their work into new territory. When we last checked in with Bristol’s finest, he was still killing it with the illustrations, as usual, channeling a cartoony imagination, a lifelong love of comics, and an appreciation for the gnarlier things in life into vivid, colorful pieces. We were even lucky enough to have George lend his talents to an epic piece from Amanda. But even then, as George McCallum inched closer to art school graduation, you could see his work evolving into new forms–specifically, making its way off the page. Starting with plush toys, matchbooks, and signage, George began to adapt his zany aesthetic to three-dimensional objects, some of them even fully functional.

Since then, George has expanded the scale of his 3-D operation, supplementing work on smaller pieces like masks and apparel with larger, more complex pieces like furniture and housewares. And yet, despite the added level of craftsmanship, the tone of the pieces stays true to George’s sensibilities, from the eye-popping colors to the playful sense of humor. One piece, “Hand of Time” consists of a clock modeled after a wristwatch. The watch’s only hand though, rotates backwards at 2 RPM, poking fun at our obsession with time by being functionally obsolete. Another, “Chair Man Mao”, transforms the legendary dictator into a seat, adding a pair of Nikes to his feet for good measure. With art school in the rearview, and a dope body of work already under his belt, I think it’s safe to say this is just the beginning for Mr. McCallum.

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LOVERS & FRIENDS

The Fairoaks Project paints an unforgettable portrait of San Francisco's storied gay bath house scene

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The Fairoaks Project

Part of me feels like they can tell us, but we’ll never quite understand. Maybe you just had to be there. As much as I’ve been told, and as much as the ’60s and ’70s have served as a boundless reservoir of inspiration for me, there’s still something elusive about it all. The sense of freedom, and exploration, and radical imagination that defined those decades is something our generation, and others, have tried to recapture, but could never really duplicate. There’s something about a photograph though–whether taken for artistic or documentary purposes, or just as a memento of a moment someone wanted to hold onto–that can communicate a feeling instantly, across decades.

I’d imagine Gary Freeman felt that pretty powerfully when his longtime friend Frank Melleno pulled down a dusty cardboard shoebox, and started to thumb through the treasure trove of Polaroids that would become The Fairoaks Project. In 1978, Frank, fresh off an adventure in Alaska, had found a gig as the night manager at The Fairoaks Baths in San Francisco. Owned and operated by a gay commune, The Fairoaks was known in the late ’70s as a hub for sexual liberation and experimentation, but also close-knit community. Unlike most gay bath houses at the time, also, The Fairoaks was situated on the edge of a largely black neighborhood, and welcomed a steady influx of young gay men who reflected back the city’s rich diversity. It was a place to stay, to find support, to find friends and to indulge. Openness, unabashed sexuality, interracial love, friendship, fucking and LSD: it would be hard to imagine another place so broadly embelematic of the progressive ideals that defined San Francisco during the ’70s. Fortunately, Frank found himself at the center of it all, with a Polaroid camera in hand.

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NOW WE’RE HERE

Visual and biographical highlights from the photographic career of Ian Flanigan

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There’s not much going on around 1317 Olive Street. Desolate warehouses line the streets, with sporadic fruit stands sprinkled throughout. More than a couple walkable city blocks away from Downtown LA’s revitalized core of upscale eateries and rooftop hotel pools, 1317 Olive Street stands alone. However, this nondescript location, situated in the middle of Downtown LA was once revered for housing one of streetwear’s most pioneering brands: for over twenty years, 1317 Olive Street was the home of the beloved Freshjive warehouse. Home to Rick Klotz’ now infamous streetwear company, the offices provided a temporary workspace for a variety of creatives in varying fields to work, connect and grow in their craft. As crass and irreverent as the Freshjive offices were, inside these walls is where I first met Ian Flanigan.

A former product photographer for an electronics company called Accessory Power, Ian came to Freshjive aware of but unaccustomed to the nature of Freshjive, and Rick Klotz’ idiosyncratic mind. His first day of work couldn’t have been more different from his last…

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White Wax

Brandon Tauszik's new photo series captures Oakland's street-side murder memorials

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Clusters of candles, empty liquor bottles, and personal effects on corners in East, West, and North Oakland are an all too common sight. These street-side memorials, ranging from the most subtle flower vase to trinkets filling the width of the sidewalk, are often erected at the spot of the murder and serve as a way for communities to remember slain loved ones. The public nature and commonality of these memorials also provide a haunting reminder of the dehumanizing effect that violence has here in Oakland; another member of the community, faceless to outsiders, has been reduced to candles and bottles on the sidewalk.

I was immediately drawn in by Oakland-based photographer Brandon Tauszik‘s latest photo series entitled “White Wax”, which is a collection of pictures featuring Oakland murder memorials. The familiar but evocative imagery is at the same time powerful and problematic for me. Art that depicts the results of systematic oppression can help to educate, but it can also glorify these situations for an audience that has only second and third-hand experience with the realities being addressed, if any at all. For people who have lost family members and loved ones, does this series trivialize their painful experiences? For those on the outside looking in, are we being desensitized to the violence that is happening just miles from our homes, looking at photos on the internet of memorials for people who we will never know? These questions don’t have simple answers, but I know other folks reading will be able to offer more insight than myself. After all, the Bowties is about nothing if not interaction. See other photos from the series below.

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CHROME WITH HALF MOONS AND TIPS

From elaborate nail art, to imaginative design and photography, Lauren Michelle Pires does it all

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Lauren Michelle Pires

I suppose I didn’t quite imagine my local manicurist at Star Nail on 5th Ave in Brooklyn doing nails for a high fashion photo shoot, but I also wouldn’t have pictured someone with as extensive a background in the arts as Lauren Michelle Pires. It makes sense though; in order to create 3-D rose gold rose tips or full-on textured crushed black ice, you need mad skills and a high fashion aesthetic. And with the rising popularity of nail art in the fashion industry, Lauren has cultivated a skill that’s particularly in demand at the moment.

Having graduated just two years ago from Central Saint Martens, Lauren has already had an impressive array of clients who are just as diverse as her skill set. From photographing campaigns for powerhouse commercial brands like Nike, to creating packaging design for high end designers like Stella McCartney, Lauren continues to build a diverse portfolio of work, even collaborating with lesser known indie labels and various fashion publications.

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JUGGALO LIFE

Daniel Cronin's film portraits offer a window into The Gathering of the Juggalos

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Daniel Cronin

You’d be hard-pressed to find an experience more peculiar or extraordinary than The Gathering of the Juggalos. For many it was filmmaker Sean Dunne who introduced us to the cultural phenomenon, via his 2011 short film American Juggalo. A 22-minute documentary comprised of personal interviews with festival-goers, the film shed light on the five day, Insane Clown Posse-founded festival, an extravaganza involving love and drugs, music and sex, wrestling matches, helicopter rides, and pretty much anything else you can get away with. Now in its thirteenth year, the festival has ballooned since moving its annual festivities to Cave-in-Rock, Illinois, welcoming well over 100,000 Juggalos and Jugalettes since its inception.

While the documentary, along with the notorious Gathering infomericals, have done much to showcase The Gathering to a wider audience, cultural documentarian and photographer Daniel Cronin offers an alternative glimpse into festival life through his lens. Snapping iconic photos of concert goers in the throws of the festival, Daniel’s images reveals the culture and lifestyle of the Juggalos through some of the particularly memorable characters and encounters he came across. We recently spoke with Daniel about his experiences there, lending his insight into one of the nation’s most popular music festivals you’ve never heard of.

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IMAGINAL CELLS

Catching up with mixed-media master Jesse Draxler

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Jesse Draxler

There’s a sense of experimentation that makes Jesse Draxler‘s work particularly fun to take in. From project to project, and series to series, Jesse takes subtle, but substantial steps into new stylistic territory, and yet still maintains an undeniable tone. Occasionally dark, eerie and moody, but just as often elegant, and playfully subversive. Over the course of the last year-plus, we’ve been keeping up with his work from collection to collection, from the handful of collage pieces featured in our Black & White showcase last year, to our feature interview late last year.

More recently, Drax has been prolific as usual, creating an eclectic array of collage work, doing great interviews, and opening up his own solo show, When The Target is as Big as Everything at Minneapolis’ highly fashionable HAUS Salon. Aside from that, he’s even moved into a new studio space, a meticulous and sparsely decorated, white-walled oasis of creation. The work coming out of that studio, of course, is quality, signature shit: mysterious floating objects set against cloudy skies, beautiful women’s faces morphing into geological clusters and diamonds, and even a particularly angsty Kristen Stewart, chopped and screwed and cleverly repurposed. Somewhere in between all that, Drax even found a moment to lend us a little insight on the ideas and the process behind it all. We asked him to provide a few impromptu explanations for each of his new series, off the top of the dome. Here’s what he came up with.

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NOT A KID ANYMORE

Catching up with Los Angeles based filmmaker Jason Madison

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Fresh off of the debut screening of his latest film I’m Not A Kid Anymore, we find Jason Madison between projects. Planning more screening events while continuing to develop ideas, Jason’s years spent in his beloved city of Los Angeles have provided him with more than enough inspiration for his visual works. Over the course of the last half decade, his knack for channeling the city’s sun-drenched aesthetic has served him well, making him a go-to director for L.A. hip-hop mainstays like Dom Kennedy, Pac Div and Nipsey Hussle, whose lives and music provided the backdrop his short film debut, L.A. Is My Playground two years ago.

“I always believe in my cast more than anything,” Jason told us, in regards to his latest. And why shouldn’t he? After all, I’m Not a Kid Anymore finds the filmmaker stepping out from behind the camera, and starring, directing, and in a sense, even scoring his own coming of age story. Taking time to touch on the origins of his work, ’90s inspiration, and his early love affair with Home Alone, our check-in with Jason catches the director on his way to big things.

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SEE AS YOU SEE

Photographer Alexis Vasilikos invites us to escape the ego

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Alexis Vasilikos

“There is a seeing which doesn’t see objects. It doesn’t see thisness and thatness. It is pure. It doesn’t come from thought or intention. This is why it has the power to bypass the mind, and speak directly into the heart of being.”

It’s not every photographer I’ve interviewed that elects to send over a collection of personal, philosophical meditations with his work. The longest of the bunch is above, but most of the brief notes Alexis Vasilikos supplied were no longer than a line or two, taking on the air of a tossed-off poetic observation, and yet gesturing toward the kind of question you could sit and contemplate for years. His photography can feel the same way. Alexis’ images capture these subtly serendipitous moments, fragmentary glimpses of everyday life that seem to hint at something bigger: a funny juxtaposition, an expression, maybe just the way a shadow strikes an object.

There’s something very deliberate in Alexis’ presentation too. His website consists of ten collections, pristinely laid out and accompanied only by vague, open-ended titles like swimming in the wind or back to nothing. No artist bio, no background info, nothing to take in but the images themselves. It’s that sense of mystery that gives the photographs so much power. Free from outside context, Alexis’ work allows your imagination to wander, to ruminate on whatever feeling you pull out of the image itself, rather than searching for something external to it. Later on, Alexis gave me a bit more context–about places he’d been, and things he’d learned in his seventeen years behind the lens. Whether the context is necessary is still up for debate, and given what you know already, I’d suggest digging in to Alex’s archives here first. At the very least though, our conversation offered a chance to dig a bit beyond the surface of those gorgeous shots.

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WELCOME TO WILDCAT

Kahlil Joseph's FlyLo-scored short film explores a little known pocket of American culture

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Wildcat

“Wildcat is a state of mind; an experiment inspired by the composition and performance of jazz music. The characters that populate this world are actual–cowboys; and envisioned–angels. The town they all inhabit is real–Grayson, Oklahoma.”

It seems like there are still a precious few places in America where it feels like time stands still. I haven’t been to too many of them, but it’s an eerie feeling when you find one. And somehow, those lively urban centers where I’ve spent most of my days don’t always feel quite so full of possibility. It gives me this real sense of wonder about those isolated pockets of culture –that feeling of mystery that used to be such an essential feature of exploring unfamiliar parts of the country.

For Wildcat, Kahlil Joseph zeroes in on a subculture not often documented. Grayson, Oklahoma (known once upon a time as Wildcat), boasted a population of 134 at the time of the last census, and is home to a time-honored black rodeo tradition. Following the pattern of his short film work with Shabazz Palaces and Flying Lotus, Wildcat is steeped in surrealist beauty, pairing documentary footage with a gorgeous, dreamlike soundtrack from FlyLo himself. The seven-minute short is the latest in a string of phenomenal, meditative work from Joseph, and another reminder of his promising vision. Simply put, Joseph’s films take you somewhere else.

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Fuck Yeah Namio Harukawa

Some feelings about rape and "femdom erotica"

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Namio Harukawa

First of all, fuck rape. I feel like rape cases have been getting a lot of press lately. So fuck the controversy but seriously, fuck the concept. Fuck the fact that somewhere down the line, man realized that they could physically dominate and sexually force themselves upon their own kind. Fuck the systems in play, be they familial or otherwise, that don’t have the mechanisms or strategies to teach our young men to respect others, or young women to respect themselves. Fuck power-tripping neighbors, uncles, and teachers. Fuck that all my friends have to carry pepper spray. Fuck creepers at the gym. Fuck it all. And fuck that I can’t do anything about it. But, fortunately, because I’m so damn self realized, and don’t just stick my dick into any passed out shit at a frat party because I feel insecure, I take this anger and use it productively. I use it to feel proud of being a woman. I use it to love women, love sex, and love myself, fervently and as best I can.

Now, I don’t know if that’s what Namio Harukawa has in mind when he creates his pieces, but that’s how they make me feel. The Japanese “femdom erotica” artist is best known for his drawings of thick ass women dominating the fuck out of small ass dudes. Harukawa’s images feature consensual sexual acts in which he typically depicts large women sitting on the faces of their petite male counterparts, looking incredibly indifferent. Though Harukawa illustrates women of all races, his subjects are predominantly Asian as represented through their facial features and physical props. And I don’t know if this is his intention either, but I love the fact that Harukawa is seriously flipping the female Asian stereotype on its head here. Where Asian women, too often unfairly and grossly characterized by small frames and a docile nature, are devouring dudes with their massive cakes. Harukawa’s work depicts men in submissive roles as subjects of dominatrix play, and therefore I don’t find that the pieces evoke a sentiment of rape. And I also don’t feel that the injustices of the world would be righted if things were just reversed. Simply put, seeing an image of a huge woman getting her ass ate with the utmost devotion while she apathetically smokes a cigarette just soothes my angry heart. Maybe you’ll disagree. Take a look.

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