Traveling to Queens from Manhattan on the 7 train, you’ve probably seen this large warehouse completely covered in graffiti. To on-lookers, the four story block-long structure may be an eyesore, with its yellow façade falling victim to vandals. From a distance, a developer’s plan to knock down the century old building to make way for two residential high rises seems justified. When you look closer at the building, however, you see colorful murals created out of spray-paint and stencil. This building known as 5 Pointz is a place for graffiti artists to hone in their craft; where they’re allowed to paint on the four story walls. Known as the mecca of graffiti art, it would be a shame to see 5 Pointz sacrificed for a redundant tower that will house over-priced restaurants and snooty shops, many of which have dotted the East River over the past five years.
Last December, YNY introduced D.J. / actress Lisa Sredniawski in Stimulation for the Actors Soul. In that article, we explored art modeling as a creative and fun option for actresses like Lisa to earn a living. Along with the opportunity to work with like-minded artistic individuals, Lisa told YNY “It’s freeing not having to work in a stuffy, corporate office with a mandatory dress-code and a monotonous daily routine.”
In addition to art modeling, Lisa works as a DJ. DJing gives Lisa the same freedom she found in art modeling, but in a non-confining environment. Her passion for music soon became a second career after taking a friend’s suggestion to play music that she likes at parties by becoming a disc jockey. Now, Lisa spins at local underground clubs, lounges, and bars. Choosing the DJ name DJ Shred, Lisa has been turning tunes since January of 2005,
The KGB Bar is not your typical bar with cramped seating, loud music, and drunken bar-hoppers bumping into you. Instead, it is a literary venue for the East Village that hosts fiction, non-fiction, and poetry readings each night. I recently went to their poetry reading, where each Monday two poets read in the dimly lit space surrounded by black and white framed photos on dark red walls. Sitting at a cozy table in a causal atmosphere with people of all ages enjoying an inexpensive (but not cheap tasting) drink, I was transported to a quaint coffee house listening to original poetry.
The evening I went, KGB poetry series founder David Lehman and his protégé Matthew Yeager took the stage, using themes that were both familiar and relatable to me. For example, Yeager’s “Mothers Sleep” was an in-depth observation of mothers with different lives, sleeping in various beds. He lists possible events in their daily lives, the objects in their houses, bedrooms, and bedside tables, all completely different as they are doing the same activity. Yeager avoided talking above the audience, as he engaged us, asking if anyone could guess who “KG” was, in reference to the title of his next poem. One of the crowds answer was “Kathy Griffin” in which he replied “My kind of audience!” “KG” was Yeager’s characterization of Kathy Griffin’s ability to blatantly confront celebrities’ high school-like behavior.
The verses in Lehman’s poetry were more abstract, but he carried on the same relatable tone as Yeager. Lehman started his set by saying, “Poetry is not stuffed up in the ivory towers of academia. But rather, poetry is all around us in the world that we live in.” His statement complemented the poetry of that evening.
Just like poetry can be found anywhere, anyone can read poetry at the KGB Bar. Those interested in reading can email firstname.lastname@example.org with a portfolio of the perspective writer’s poetry. The KGB Poetry Series provides a mentoring program where inexperienced poets are paired up with already established poets. The first step towards getting involved is to attend their poetry readings and join their mailing list. Now through mid-May, the KGB Bar Spring Poetry reading series will be held every Monday night at 7:30pm. Their Fall series begins in September and will run through December. The KGB Bar is located at 85 East 4th Street above the Red Room Theater. For more information about the events at KGB Bar, visit their site at www.kgbbar.com.
Ever wonder about the world of tattooing? Not just the technique behind an ink soaked needle, but the passion that goes into creating art on skin? To get an in-depth look at the artistic side of tattooing, I recently met up with tattoo artist Jeremy Garrett – a.k.a. NYARTMAN. Garrett discovered his calling at the School of Visual Arts. Always passionate about illustration, Garrett’s career in tattoo artistry was something that happened accidently. Garrett explains “it started when a friend of mine asked me to give him a tattoo. Back then, I was actually very snobbish about tattoos. [Tattooing] gave me a chance to do art and earn extra cash…Word got around about my work, and soon I was doing tattoos for kids all over campus and beyond” From that point on, Garrett’s love for tattooing flourished as he began to develop a serious business from a hobby.
Hailing from Ohio, Louis Matteo came to New York with music in his heart. Since the mid-2000’s, Matteo made his dream a reality, playing alternative-rock music at venues throughout the city that host local independent musicians like him.
Recently, I met up with Matteo at a concert in Best Buy in Chelsea. After a set of songs that told contrasting stories through a rhythm similar to my favorite rock band Train, I talked with him for a bit.
From composing to performing, Matteo has been fascinated by all areas of music. When as a child, he fondly remembers his mother singing with him while his grandmother accompanied them on the keyboard. It was at the age of nine when he enrolled in private alto-saxophone lessons, which became a major turning point that led him to pursue a career in music. He further explains, “My fiery passion for music began to blossom and flourish from that point forward. As I dug deeper into every aspect, my love and appreciation for this creative outlet grew stronger and stronger.”
To the Los Angeles locals, Jovanka Bach was a physician. To others in the theater community, she was a respected playwright who wrote and produced over a dozen plays in her lifetime. She lost her battle to cancer in 2006; however her work lives on through her husband, director John Stark. Since her death four years ago, Stark has actively produced and directed several of her plays in Los Angeles.
Mercy Warren’s Tea is one of many pieces written by Bach and produced by her surviving husband. Performed in late 2009 at the Odyssey Theater in West Los Angeles, Stark preserved the characterization of historical figures that Bach used throughout in her plays. The action in Mercy Warren’s Tea centered on the first American female playwright Mercy Warren and first lady Abigail Adams living in the 19th century. Tension rose between the two prominent women in this fact-based production: the heated debate between the two women at a tea party dominated the majority of the play’s events.
Another one of Bach’s period pieces was Chekhov and Maria. This play dug into the personal life of early 20th century playwright Anton Chekhov. This story depicted the intense relationship he had with his sister Maria, as it was set during the last year of his life when he silently suffered from tuberculosis. Bach’s original play ran in Los Angeles, New York, and London prior to her death. It was in 2008 that Stark adapted Chekhov and Maria, producing it as film which was shown at the New York Film and Video Festival. Soon after, the beautifully crafted eighty minute piece received an award for best drama by the festival. It was a collaboration of costuming and strong believable characterization that made Chekhov and Mira both a great story and a respectful tribute to Bach’s creation.
Last but not least is the birth of Nightsong for the Boatman. This never before seen play was discovered by Stark as he moved from his home in Ojai, California. Amazed by the twenty year old piece his late wife wrote, Stark immediately went in to production with it. Nightsong for the Boatman was performed at the Odyssey Theater from November 19th to December 20th. Now, following in the footsteps of Bach’s previous plays, Nightsong for the Boatman is heading to New York this coming month. From January 6th through the 30th, Nightsong for the Boatman will be performed at TBG Theater at 312 West 36th Street, Thursday through Sunday.
Dennis is an up and coming designer from Brooklyn. A childhood love for drawing led him to a career in graphic design, and Dennis has been creating urban-wear for eight years now. His line of clothing, “ToySLDR,” consists of hooded sweatshirts, casual sweaters, and t-shirts for men and women that can be purchased http://www.toysldrs.com.
Dennis thought long and hard about the name of his clothing-line. Then, after looking back to his childhood and remembering his favorite toys, he decided what better then to call it “ToySLDR” Because money was tight growing up in a single-parent household, he couldn’t always get the toys he wanted. However, for just a dollar, Dennis often bought a large pack of 20 toy soldiers. He reflects “Of course I had hundreds. So essentially even while having a little, I had a lot.” He adds “couldn’t think of a better way to represent myself, other than a memory like that, serving as a constant reminder of where I started, ended up, and planned to go.”
While his childhood inspired the “ToySLDR” moniker, his hobbies and interests serve as inspiration for his pieces. For example, music plays a major role in his work. “Some pieces were created from phrases or how I felt when hearing a certain song that inspired a visual.” For Denis, his mind is always at work, picking up ideas both big and small. It is from these racing thoughts that he carefully chooses which one actually “works” when putting an idea down on canvas. Dennis says “A lot of my ideas seem great in my mind, but just don’t translate well when putting it out there.”
Animation also plays a major role in Dennis’s inspiration for his work, stemming from his enthusiasm for comics, old Karate movies, and video games.
The piece that speaks to Dennis the most is “The Dream” sweater, imprinted with the words “Dream, Create, Inspire.” Though “The Dream” is probably one of the simplest items, it is also the most vocal to Dennis, as it speaks on a personal level for him. It’s a message that he wishes to share with others: “Not necessarily with just art, but whatever it is you do. No matter what dream you set yourself out to achieve, don’t just do it well. Be great. Be incredible at it, no matter what that ‘it’ is. So much so, it inspires those who see it to WANT to do the same. That’s what great art does for me. Seeing something so well done makes me want to do better. It serves as an inspiration to dig a little deeper, push ideas a bit further.” As inspiration comes to him from the outside world, he aims to inspire his customers with his products..
Dennis’s hard work and dedication will help him reach his goals and overcome the challenges that he faces: “Slowly but surely, I’ll get to where I need [or] want to be. If it all came easy, there’s no satisfaction.” This process takes tremendous dedication, involving late nights in front of his computer to develop new ideas. But even with the computer off, Dennis is up late sketching in bed, doodling, or even thinking about how to improve a certain piece. He wouldn’t have it any other way and just wishes there were more hours in a day for his art.
Despite the challenges that he faces, what Dennis finds rewarding is the growing amount of appreciation and support for his work as both a designer and an artist. He further adds “It’s as if all those late nights and all day brainstorming ideas is worth it, because somewhere out there, there’s people who support what you do. I can’t stress enough how humbling a feeling it is to know that people are using their hard earned money on something you created. He feels much gratitude for this experience and adds “The day I bump into someone wearing a piece, I’d probably stop them and ask to take a picture with me!”
Ultimately, Dennis would love to pursue his art as a fulltime career, instead of it being a something he does on the side. In the next two to three years, he would love to see ToySLDR be as it is now, but on a larger scale. His goal is to reach the point where ToySLDR is on the list of common brand name street-wear. He would love to open up a flagship store here in the city while expanding to shops outside New York. And hopefully, someday Dennis will have the opportunity to work with the designers whose work he respects most. He mentions his wish to create alongside Nick Tershay or Nick Diamond from Diamond and Co., or to collaborate with Bobby Kim or Ben Shenassafar of “The Hundreds.” He concludes “It’s not limited to just them however; I’m always willing to trade ideas with creative people to build something.”
There’s more to fitness modeling for Jennifer Nicole Lee than gracing the cover of fitness magazines like Body Style and On Fitness. The Miami based model has built her career from having successfully lost 70 pounds after having two children. The lifestyle change entailed eating a consistent, healthy diet and exercising regularly. These rules enable Jennifer to maintain her superior physique.
Through her website http://www.jennifernicoleleeblog.com, Jennifer shares her experience to help others maintain this same healthy lifestyle. In her YouTube workout videos, Jennifer strongly emphasizes the notion that being healthy while looking and feeling beautiful is an attainable goal that anyone can have. She strongly encourages her audience that if she could do it, they could do it to. For example, there’s the “JNL Fusion; Angelina Jolie Workout Challenge.” Through cardio exercises, Jennifer shows viewers that they don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on trainers or surgery to get the body of Angelina Jolie. Instead, they can spend ten minutes a day with her online workout videos.
In addition to her online fan-base, Jennifer is also credited for fitness DVD’s “Fabulous Fit Moms” and “Total Body Workout.” She has also made guest appearances on “Inside Edition,” “Oprah,” and “The Early Show,” in order to reach a wider audience. Earlier this year, the model turned fitness guru also became an author. She wrote “The Mind Body and Soul Diet,” a transformation guide to health and happiness. Her second book “The Jennifer Nicole Lee Fitness Model Diet: JNL’s Supper Fitness Model Secrets to a Sexy, Strong, Sleek Physique” is an in depth dietary guide. Her career as a model has become a mission. Through hard work and dedication, Jennifer is able to attain a healthy body and lifestyle, while helping others to accomplish that same success.
In New York City, it’s challenging to earn a living while being a performance artist. The theater work that’s readily available is often unpaid. Artists usually turn to temp agencies in order to earn a living while pursuing their dreams. Other actors find work modeling for art studios throughout the city.
There’s more to art modeling then just standing naked in front of an art class for twenty minute intervals. It’s work that requires character development and strong concentration. It’s a challenge many actors are up for; it’s a performance opportunity that stimulates their soul.
I recently met up with Lisa and Monica. Both women model for local art institutions, including FIT and The Art Students League. Lisa, a professional DJ and actor, enjoys posing for art studio classes. It’s a relaxing environment, where she’s surrounded by like-minded individuals. She has made friends with many artists and actors modeling for FIT and ASL.
Lisa gets a thrill from looking at the finished painting that depicts the artist’s interpretation of her but does find a handful of things challenging in being an art model. Injuries can occur after holding a single pose for a length of time: nothing severely damaging, except for the occasional pulled shoulder or leg muscle. In addition, there are times when the materials used for the model’s support are unsanitary. Lisa explains that sitting naked on dirty pillows and sheets can put one at risk for yeast infections. Though standing completely still for twenty minutes can get grungy, strenuous, and boring, Lisa doesn’t have the confining and stuffy feeling she would get from working in an office. On a scale from one to ten, she gives art modeling a seven.
Like Lisa, Monica also enjoys working in an artistic environment. The theater actor loves modeling for art classes, because it gives her the opportunity to exercise her craft. Monica’s extensive theatrical and dance background enables her to create different characters within every twenty minute pose. While the artists paint the exterior of her body, Monica is busy creating an interior world. Her embodiment of a character enhances the dramatization throughout each pose. She loves having the opportunity to work with the artists in creating a piece from a different perspective. For Monica, it’s like creating a still theatrical performance: the artist is the playwright or director creating the image, while she is the actor representing the character within this invented world
Monica finds great joy in seeing the final product displayed at gallery exhibitions. It’s a unique treat being able to attend an upscale event for free. She not only gets to enjoy a fun and fancy evening with wine and cheese, but she also has the chance to meet up with other artists and fellow models to admire their interpretations. For Monica, having the opportunity to see her work displayed is akin to watching her own theatrical performance from an outside viewpoint. She is able to not only assist in creating a world, but also observe it as a spectator. Transitioning from an office temp to an art model was a wise decision for Monica. Rather than spending her days as an administrative gopher, she is able to earn a living while honing her passion.
In a city with an abundance of opportunity, there’s a variety of ways to earn a living during the day while chasing a dream at night. Along with traditional 9 – 5 office work, many newbies find alternative jobs through free classifieds such as craigslist. Having an alternative day job can be the best of both worlds for many young aspiring artists of New York, because you are able to have paid work that you enjoy. For example, some New York dream seekers who possess a love for dogs find work as professional dog walker. Administrative office work and temp agencies aren’t for everybody, so why not take advantage of living in a city where there are alternative avenues to explore.
So, whether you are looking for an office job or alternative work, it is essential to take precaution; otherwise, your plans for an alternative day job could lead to an alternative hell. It is easy for a new New York hopeful to get caught up in an ad that reads too good to be true. Often on craigslist, you find Models, Actors Wanted… No experience necessary. Sounds like an easy way for a budding actor or model to break into the business. However, many of these ads turn out to be seedy con artists. For an exchange of a few hundred dollars on the spot, they will tell you you’re beautiful along with empty promises of sending you out on bogus casting calls.
I learned this the hard way, when answering an ad for a personal assistant position. What attracted me to this job was the possibility of working for a celebrity. Though the woman who interviewed me was not famous, the idea of working in Greenwich Village was still appealing to me. And so, I ignored what should’ve been the first red flag, when the overly congested voice on the other line said “I’m a very kind and understanding person and not one of those weird cat ladies.” I, naïve and excited, took the position that was in my favorite NYC neighborhood, surrounded by coffee houses, boutiques, and Washington Square Park. My rose-colored vision left me temporarily blind to the cat litter, paper plates, and cat food that encrusted the floor of the woman’s dank, tiny two bedroom tenement apartment just south of Bleaker Street. Upon arrival, five scruffy cats crawled around the swivel chair that the older woman sat in every morning. Dressed in a Mumu, her snarly hair fell at shoulders’ length, and her heavy make-up failed to cover deep seated wrinkles on her face.
At first, the woman seemed nothing more than eccentric with strong vegetarian beliefs. Every morning she motioned me to sit in what was referred to as the “guest’s chair” and instructed me to greet her cats individually. While I scrubbed the floors, watered the plant, and fed the cats, she’d tell me her life story, her extreme animal-rights activist views, and her Socialist political perspective. At first, it almost felt as though I had made an older friend. But I started to notice her insane, scrutinizing eyes glaring down from her fourth story window as I fed the birds or took out the trash. She also insisted that I slit the trash bags so the bugs that covered her kitchen/living room floor could escape.
On one cloudy afternoon, I was cleaning the kitchen floor and went to turn on the over-head light when catwoman suddenly covered her face, insisting that I turn off the light so she wouldn’t be exposed to the light. Why was she photophobic? She did not explain. Due to growing curiosity, I headed over to the internet café later that day to Google her name but came up with nothing. She was just a paranoid old cat lady. In spite of my growing dislike for both the job and the woman, I stayed at it for a while longer because I needed the money for rent. I knew I had to get out of that place but feared quitting a job without having another.
It was a Friday afternoon when I came up with the solution to get myself fired. She was already angry with me that day for not being able to fix her three circa 1986 dust-busters and knocking over her pyramid of empty plastic water bottles twice. I was cleaning her bathroom floor when I discovered cat droppings at the foot of her toilet, or at least, I hope it was just cat droppings As she ordered for me to pick it up, I procrastinated and cleaned the rest of her bathroom, she continued her tirade of how I was wasting time. It was at this moment that I accidently on purpose bumped my head on a collapsible shelf, taking down another pyramid of empty plastic water bottles. As one bounced right off her head, she became enraged and ordered me out of the apartment and out of her life forever. Shaking, I ran downstairs and out of the apartment, then feasted on a bacon cheeseburger in her honor (she was an adamant vegetarian).
There are two things I learned from this experience. First, the archetype of the crazy cat-lady commonly seen in movies and television shows really do exist. More importantly, that experience has taught me to read between the lines of an ad. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. It is better to see the red flags early on, in order to avoid a day job that becomes a slave job.