Tattooer and artist Tamara Santibanez spoke to graffiti writer and street artist Ian Debeer about his art, criminal conviction and social media; his temperamental relationship to it and how it’s reconstructing how we produce and consume contemporary art.
T: I’d like to hear a quick concise bit of background about your history, as far as art, your graffiti art, or prison for a little context.
I: I started writing graffiti when I was 15 or 16 and got into a lot of legal trouble. Did prison time- actually had the second longest sentence in the US history for the crime of graffiti. Ever since then I have been trying to figure out how to make other types of art. Graffiti is the greatest contributing force to who I am now I think.
T: Are there other types of art that you were working in besides graffiti before you went to prison?
I: No, I drew a lot when I was younger. I’ve always drawn and I’ve always had a loose appreciation for aesthetics. But when I was doing graffiti, it fulfilled every creative desire that I had so I didn’t try to familiarize myself with any other medium.
T: You have quite a graffiti legacy in New York, you’re still everywhere. What to me is a really interesting part of your whole story is how the terms of your parole were restricting your form of creative expression. Can you talk a little bit more about that and elaborate on the specifics of it?
I: I’m not allowed to own or possess any traditional art making materials that include but aren’t limited to: any type of paint, any marker, any pencil, any pen, any crayon, chalk. Anything that you can use to mark a surface essentially, I can’t [...]
Our good friend photographer Maxime Ballesteros captured the recent absurdity of Miami Basel’s annual art fair. From the art world socialites, Instagram celebrities and bi-coastal fashionista’s, the tropical city’s art fair looks just as much luridly aspirational as it does strangely dystopian in Ballesteros’ images of a debauched scene of cultivation.
Photographer Chris Bernsten’s portraiture is focused around ‘queerness’, but it’s a queer representation explored beyond what it’s too often prescribed to- mere sexuality. Tattooer and artist Tamara Santibanez interviews Bernstein about the roles of gender, sexuality and identity in his work before his new show ‘Twilight Children’ opens at Gulf and Western Gallery, New York.
Tamara: First of all, I want to hear about what you’re showing, when you’re showing and what the body of work is for the show.
Chris: My show is called “Twilight Children” and it’s going to be at the Gulf & Western Gallery which is 721 Broadway at Astor place. I am showing hundreds of photographs collaged on the walls from the last few years. It’s really an exhibition about queerness, not just in terms of sexuality, but in terms of a queer lens on seeing the world and experiencing things. To me the show is about connection and sharing time and space with people, and to me thats always been the driving force for me-actually connecting with people. It’s a fair amount of portraiture and intimate work with people that I’ve known for years and love and care about and I just want to fill the space with them and be able to show people that- show the things that we do and the places that we do the things that we do in.
T: Earlier you spoke about queer spaces, queer communities, and you also spoke about riding trains as queer transit. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
C: Queer just means so much more than a sexuality or an identity. Queer is doing the thing that is not expected. Doing the thing that doesn’t cost anything or doesn’t get money made from it. If [...]
SORT is a zine made by Sang Bleu friend and long term collaborator Joseph Delaney alongside stylist Matt King which is launching this evening in Dalston at The Victoria. So, to celebrate we are publishing an exclusive preview from its fashion section. We caught up with Joseph to find out more about his interest in a severe aesthetic and the pursuit for an ’empty beauty’.The project comprises of various different media–from zines and fashion imagery to concrete objects and music. We’ve made a few zines previously on more specific subject matter but this is more of an introduction of our collective interests, a kind of visual (and briefly textual) manifesto for a wider ongoing project. It’s approached in the way we’d approach a fashion editorial, simply because this is the visual language we’re familiar with, but this was our opportunity to present it in the way we want it to be seen. The empty pursuit of beauty refers to the collective idea of that beauty and perfection (in the conventional sense) are something to be aspired to. There’s the feeling in the collective consciousness that this is changing, yet we’re still bombarded with an endless feed of a certain image of what we could and should be; everything from preened bloggers or impossibly toned porn stars. There are of course a wide range of narratives disputing this and offering up alternative points of view–this is ours, that there’s beauty in something ugly or grotesque. Come to the party tonight where you can enjoy djs playing the best of Industrial music from 10pm, more information can be found here.
Between 2010 and 2012 journalist, writer and film critic Juliet Jacques documented her gender reassignment surgery online through a Guardian column titled ‘A Transgender Journey’. The series approached the realities of trans identities – navigating public spaces, mental health, speech therapy – and the process of the surgery itself – consultations, infection and lengthy bedbound recoveries- with an unflinching honesty that in its entity is an arresting documentation of our human identities rather than a mere gender specific one.
This year, Jacques published her autobiography Trans: A Memoir with Verso Books, providing a more in depth depiction of a trans woman’s life beyond the physical transitioning experiences and musings that played through the Guardian column. It’s an exploration into her person that belies gender and sexuality, though remains an authentic account of the experiences of identifying as trans.
Though we are akin to sharing our lives with unknown others through the internet, it takes a certain level of confidence to invite an audience for something as personal as gender reassignment surgery, particularly at a time when trans stories were unacknowledged and undervalued (Jacques herself said the column aimed to defy socialist, conservative and feminist transphobia of the moment). For Jacques, who came of age with the Internet, her changing identity is, quite literally, established online; an account of before, after and the often forgotten in-between, her journey to her true self is scribed on the World Wide Web. We met with Juliet to speak about her own regard for digital identities and how the internet continues to shape trans identities today.
What role do you think the Internet played in the establishment of your identity from when you were a child and then through your transition?
I grew up with Section 28 which was that [...]
Discovering Marten’s work occurred while looking at Peter Hujar’s stunning photograph of the late 70s downtown New York drag queen Ethyl Eichelberger. The black and white photograph shows Eichelberger with her back to the camera displaying a beautiful large tattoo on her back of an angel in a naive style. This tattoo looked like nothing I’d ever seen before for that time period so I decided to do a little research into its origins. It didn’t take me long to discover that artist Ruth Marten had made the tattoo and was an established fixture on the punk art scene in New York at the time tattooing many well known personalities. Besides from the individuals that she tattooed she also created live tattoo art performances which coincided with the likes of Punk Art exhibition. While trying to research more about this unusually original practice of merging the space of art display and body modification for a time like the late 70s I found almost no information except for images of her current work as an illustrator. Tracking down her email address we were however lucky enough that Marten agreed to create a small interview with us about her experiences during this fascinating period of tattoo history. . . Why and how did tattooing develop as a medium of your choice? . After Art School I realized that I was completely unprepared for financial self support, enthusiasm aside. As drawing was my passion and as I had already received a tattoo from Buddy in Newport, R.I. (a real Sailor shop with tons of flash on the wall), I naively assumed that I could have my own such sovereign scene. Supplied with a loan from my Father, I bought a kit from Huck Spaulding which was pretty simple and went [...]