September 24, 2013
Man and Woman. Husband and Wife. Artist and Muse. It’s a path few travel because it demands. A kind of commitment to creativity unparalleled, as standard of excellence, an ability to balance the personal and the professional, the private and the public, a kind of elasticity and mutability that comes from years past, experiences shared, mysteries unfolding, new opportunities revealed, the moment made eternal. The photograph, the space where the two meet, where time stops and what once was shall now and forever be.
Fat Girl by Carlos Batts (Barnacle Books) is a love story. It is a story of love that begins with a knowledge of self, a fearless acceptance of truth, of a way of being that is deeply one’s own, so FTW if they complain. April Flores found her happiness in the body voluptuous, the body scorned by society as this, that, and the third thing because they won’t let a woman live.
April Flores does not just live. She flourishes. She is not but a flower but a field, a meadow, a deep luscious jungle, for she is not merely muse and model, she is a feminist porn icon to (knee-high) boot. This is her body—and this is her world. And it began with her first encounter with Batts, when he suggested she put on a bikini, and after a moment’s hesitation, Flores freed herself, and she stepped before the camera, and the love affair began.
Fat Girl is a tribute to the beauty of woman as she is, as she discovers herself in all her glory, as goddess, siren, and beauty. The photograph is the space where artist and muse meet, each enchanted with the other in the self, enacting Nature’s math of one plus one equals three. The photograph lives in our world, now a thing to contemplate as a reflection of both Flores and Batts and the space in between, where all are invited to meet.
The book is an invitation into their world, and a celebration of all the spirit made flesh, manifest in each photograph, for Miss Flores is an energy, radiating fire, light, flame. She changes her image but never her identity, like a diamond revealing facets of herself, as she grows, blossoming like the flora for which her name stands.
Flores writes, “It is hard for women of all sizes to feel confident because, from the time we are young girls, we are bombarded with messages and images in the media and other places that make us feel like we can never be too thin, too young, or too successful. It is even harder for plus size women to feel good about themselves because rarely are plus sized women represented in a completely positive way. The book is my answer to that problem. This book is an exhibition of my confidence and happiness as a plus size woman.”
Indeed it is, a beautifully, thoughtfully, tastefully curated collection of Batts’ deliciously vivid celebration of his wife, the yin to his yang, the fusion of seeming opposites. Through his photographs, we come to see his vision of a world where women are creatures of completeness, knowing themselves better than anyone else. No longer do we ask, “What do women want?” so much as we say, “Yes, more please.”
Flores is more than a sex symbol, she is a symbol of the sex that inspires the act of creation, be it in life and in art, in the way that the book becomes a treasure chest to be perused at leisure. Fat Girl is one woman’s path through this world, one that is exquisitely pleasurable, risqué and erotic, an adventure in art and style, a tongue planted firmly in chic. Batts’ photographs of Flores naked but for red stilettos and a Miss Piggy mask, remind us that the truest icon of womanhood begins with the Venus of Willendorf.
Fat Girl is deeply personal, yet splendidly friendly, just like Flores and Batts themselves, their lives an open book, a collaboration of kindred spirits now pressed in inks on paper and tucked between the covers. Fat Girl reminds us that she is we and we are she is beauty is deep. It is of the skin, muscle, flesh, bone, soul, and spirit. We are lucky to witness and share it.
September 19, 2013
Joie Iacono is a diamond, polished to shine, reflecting, refracting, and bending light at she desires. A photographer, painter, designer, director, stylist, actor, DJ, and collaborator, Iacono is a many-faceted gem who best embodies the phrase, “I am every woman.” She first picked up a camera at the age of eight and turned the lens upon herself, becoming both artist and model in each frame.
“My work is diaristic; I am always pulling elements from what is going on in my life, to re-enact and perform these moments for the camera. I am an artist, a business woman, a wife, a homemaker, and a world traveler—yet I’ve been an outsider all of my life. As humans, we are such chameleons. I believe in making the world what I want it to be. My birthday is December 31; according to astrocartography, that’s the Day of the Joker. The Joker is no card and yet it is all the cards in the deck at the same time. I experience nothing and everything. In my art I am capturing the experiences I am having from a tertiary place. I am observing the changes and allowing the process to take place. My mantra for the last couple of years has been to let experiences pass through myself, rather than carry them with me. I am being a receptor, a channel, a path for these ideas.”
It is through these channels that Iacono’s imagery travels, finding its form as it makes its way through time and space. In 2003, Iacono debuted her photographs in “To Drown a Rose,” a solo exhibition in New York’s Chelsea Gallery District. Her work was met with great acclaim. She recalls, “After my success, I got shy about being so open with my life. It took me a long time to begin working intuitively again. I could hear the voices of critics in my head, or wondered what buzz words gallerists might use to pigeonhole my work, and that made me scared of success. Working on commissions for other artists such as Antony and the Johnsons helped. I could put things forward for other people, and explore where my vision and their vision would intersect. That really helped on a personal level. It got me back to myself. My work became about exploring insecurities, narcissism, vanity, beauty, self hatred and self love.”
It is now, ten years later that Iacono returns to the world stage in “J.O.I.E.”, a collaboration with Cédrix Crespel opening September 19 at AD Galerie in Montpellier. The exhibition, which features Crespel’s paintings of Iacono’s photographs, runs through October 19. Crespel’s press materials describe an admiration that borders on idolatry, a love and affection that elevates Iacono to kitten on a pedestal status. The text notes, “From this exchange emanate the grandiose portraits of J.O.I.E., with their fluorescent lipstick traces that illuminate the penetrating and piercing tints, their fluttering black satin sheaths and their cracking garters. The artist does not center sexuality in the glimpse of a thigh, an erect nipple or a moist mouth, but in these stretched forms, gloved in black, playing striptease with the arms and the hands of the model. Joie is depicted as dressed, and her finery, though light, seems like a substitutive virginity. She is passionate about her role, and she photographs herself in the poses the artist will later reproduce in paint.”
Iacono embraces all of the luxuriousness a sex kitten promises. “These works show how I see myself, and then how Cédrix sees me. They place importance on the object and this gives me the opportunity to perform, to act, to be Bardot. I didn’t have to overthink a thing. I just put on a little make up, locked myself in, and I took pictures of myself. It was a great way to blow off some steam!”
Iacono then references a Buddha quote: “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Her portraiture reflects her profound respect for her being, and the photograph becomes a marriage of inside and out, of soul and visage, of director and star, of bridges across seemingly opposite sides of life, each image Iacono creates is a collaboration between artist and muse. Two equals one in this duet that celebrates the feminine, the goddess, the siren song that calls to all in the mortal realm.
“Being human you can affect change. I’d much rather be a dolphin but they can’t effect change in the same way. That’s part of the burden. The human condition is heaven and hell. The cycles of beginning and ending, light and dark, spring and fall, death and rebirth, they are universal principles. This is a space of discovery, and of meditation. Think of crying and laughing; the place where they meet is rapturous. When we love ourselves as much as we love others, we allow ourselves to be open and let it pass through you. That’s a huge driving force in my work right now.” Which makes Iacono ripe, vibrant, and alive, her vision of self is strong and passionate enough to capture Crespel’s imagination this Fall.
September 14, 2013
September 1, 2013
As I’ve said all along,
a good idea attempted is still better that a bad idea perfected
and I’m still turning my problems into my assets.
August 23, 2013
Flying High. That’s the way it was, the way it is, the way it can always be. High is a state of mind, of body, of spirit. It is the transcendental reality we call can achieve when we divest ourselves of anything less than the divinity that exists in every existence, every being that sets forth in the Universe. There are many paths to the same place, making life like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, you see.
Destiny is the handshake between God and Man, and it is Destiny that takes us by the hand and draws us into possibility, and it is here that life is actually happening. We have a say in this path, and we can follow its highest course when we align ourselves with eternity. Greatness distinguishes, inspires, and elevates. Greatness is a state of mind, a choice, a willingness to listen to the inner self, the place where the soul resides and speaks in pictures, sounds, and words.
It is in the photographs of Jamel Shabazz that we know our greatest selves. It is in looking at Jamel’s photographs that I discovered the soul, the place where light meets film meets paper meets my eye and my eye meets Jamel. I feel high, ohh so high, flying like nothing else, high off the heady mix of people doing things in places I’ve never been but already seem to know, of people who remind me of a time and a place not too long ago but so very, very far away, only I’m in Brooklyn, like his photos and his photos are all that remains.
Jamel Shabazz for A Thousand Words: Flying High and Crack Kills.
August 19, 2013
A portrait of the artist is his subject, that which he stands before, for it is through his eye through his mind through the very pressure he asserts at the tip of his finger as he sets forth, that very moment he aims, fires, and shoots, that fraction of a second captured as the shutter clicks, the photographer stands before the Universe, eternally.
It is the photograph that is evidence of his path, a path cut and carved with great swaths of panache and pride, a kind of knowingness that camera creates, that shutter click is really a wink, a tongue placed firmly in cheek, cheekie, all these good things. It is the way we stop time and set it free, releasing the eternal into the Universe, eternally.
Joe Conzo happens, is always happening, wherever he goes be sure to know, there will be scenes, people, stages upon this earth, be it the sidewalks or the streets, be it the performance palaces and the neighborhood parks. Joe is New York, the Bronx to be exact. Born and Bred, represent. A gentleman of the old school, from a time and a place where you stood your ground, because ground is sacred, and from the ashes of flames arose the greatest generation because they fought the war on this here homefront. They stood for the people—our people—and they won.
It’s bigger than hip hop. Hip Hop was born of this. We see it in Joe Conzo, and we see it everywhere he goes. The Hell Lady of the Bronx begat a soul that continues to share of himself, here with Koe Rodriguez for a Thousand Words, with photographs of Paul Newman and Charlie Chase. This is how it was, how it went, almost all of us missed it except Joe, who was there, just as he always is, with a camera in hand, a big smile and kiss, a twinkle in the eye, and a story to tell. Because he knows. Joe Conzo He is the revolution made whole.
August 17, 2013
A Thousand Words in every language. A thousand worlds all seeing the same image. The stories captured forever and then—
We behold because what we see is always there when we look. It is in the image that we live forevermore, photographs from the Album of Life, every page a reverie, a memory .. of a shared time and a place that was and is forevermore captured on the page. It is this, the photograph, a vessel of soul, three dimensions transposed into two, the ephemeral made eternal and then—
We print it in a book, print it on the page and hang it on the wall. In this way the photograph is precious for a piece of paper is easily torn. But what holds well, endures and can be born? Cotton. It is a canvas upon which we have created egalitarian style, a casual chic that is all that is great about America. The t-shirt is a space for hopes and dreams as it stands before us to bear witness. It is this, as the billboard of the heart, the the t-shirt is where art becomes love.
Koe Rodriguez launches A Thousand Words, a new line of apparel and home design that showcases the work of New York legends Joe Conzo, Martha Cooper, and Jamel Shabazz. I’ve been waiting for this. That Dondi t-shirt! Cause, I mean, who would have ever thought? I gotta give it up. Props to Koe Rodriguez for having the knowledge and the vision to make this happen. Because it’s what the world’s been needing. Art, sweet, art.
Once upon a time, the trains actually ran, and you could see burners, throw ups, tags, whether you wanted to or not. That was live. Fly handstyles add energy to the mix. Graff is life as art, and everyone’s taken along for the ride. Just like music, block parties, shows around the way, kids inventing the world in which they want to live.
Do It Yourself. That was and it is the ethos by which I was raised, New York in the 70s. We know it, that’s why we create. What else can you do? “Be the change you want to see in the world,” like Rumi said.
August 8, 2013
Chemistry is you touching my arm and it setting fire to my mind.
—nayyirah waheed, flood
August 7, 2013
When I was seven, eight, nine I had a babysitter named Tutti. Tutti was the daughter of the super, and lived downstairs from us at the time. Sometimes we’d go down to her place, and we’d hang out in the bedroom she shared with her older brother, who was real into that rock music.
He had decorated his walls with posters taken from fan magazines. And I can still remember to this day staring at this one photograph that caught my eye. It was a picture of three white men, their eyes shiny and bright, set against a black background where you could not tell it it was day or night.
Unthinkingly I’d stare at this photograph whenever we hung out in her room. It didn’t even occur to me that I could stop looking because I didn’t want to. The image was the first that I looked up with a kind of reverence that I later came to experience on those early trips to the museum. Or the museum gift shop. Whatever the case may be. It was perhaps this image that was among the earliest in imprinting me with an endless desire to look, to see, to observe, to cast my gaze up the two dimension world installed upon the wall.
It was this desire to look, to stare shamelessly, to watch that which could not watch me back, but into it I could see… See or rather feel a powerful energy, a space where two became one, where artist and subject fused, where the ephemeral became eternal, and three dimensions became two. It was this need to look that has taken hold of my heart, this desire to understand through the symbolic renderings that break down the barriers between time and place.
It was this love of vision that has cast upon my heart a love for all things photography so imagine my surprise it could come to pass that one day I should meet the author of this image. Janette Beckman. She who has been everywhere I want to be, but I was just a bit too young, and so it was through her lens that I would see: London in the 70s, in all its punk mod ska rokabilly glory. New York in the 80s, with all its hip hop energies. It was Miss Beckman who had crafted some of the most influential images of my life, beginning here with this one photograph that became the cover for the Police album Outlandos d’Amour. And so it goes full circle, because it never begins and never ends. Only me I awaken to find myself spinning round again.
Happy Birthday Janette, and many many more. May you continue to enliven and inspire as you walk along the edge, where all the outsiders gather to create what never existed until they made it happen. May your photographs continue to touch little girls staring at the wall, little girls who grow up to purchase albums and stare at record covers and buy cassingles and pick out outfits inspired by these looks. Like Jomanda say, I got a love for you.
August 3, 2013
I had to get on stage so people would leave me alone.
July 28, 2013
July 27, 2013
“In the house of lovers,
the music never stops.
The walls are made of songs,
and the floor dances.”
Saturday. July 27 from 3–6pm, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles hosts a conversation and book signing with April Flores and Carlos Batts on the occasion of the publication of FAT GIRL, a Barnacle Book. And though I cannot be there in person, I am there in spirit, writing this morning of April Flores and Carlos Batts. Writing? Well, really, listening.
The words come. They always do. It’s a river, just step into it. I sit still and listen and then I hear the words tap dance across the pages of my mind, and I take dictation and pretend these words I write are really mine. I’ma say I share in them, with this voice. But it’s not a voice, it is a compulsion to translate the ineffable into words.
So I put fingertip to keyboard and I stroke away, ratta-tat-tat like Snoop Dog said on some track off his first album. And I’m saying Los Angeles. California. There’s something in the air, the water, the light, the sky, the sun. For this is where I first met Carlos Batts, in a hotel lobby in Irvine, back in 2002. And we sat talking photography, and talking books. These things happen, and then they happen again, and seeds are planted, and the thing is, you can’t ever know, even if you think you can.
From this came that and then it took a turn. And then it circled on back. And then one day last summer i began. To put fingertip to keyboard and stroke away, and write the foreword to FAT GIRL and Miss Flores told me she read it aloud, like a poem, like a troubadour, like me I can’t not ever not, so I keep on keepinn onn. And I don’t re-read, because i can’t, not til time has long passed, and the ink has dried upon the page. And the book is releasing, and my words are there, alongside the photographs and stories that Flores and Batts share.
And I am honored. More than that. I am humbled because there but for the grace of God… I was just thinking, allaboutthat. About that song by Machine. You know that. But yea, There is a grace, a divine energy, a cat landing upon its feet, tumbling tumbling tumbling. It is always as it is meant to be. It is a Barnacle Book, and me I am fanning Tyson Cornell for making this a reality. And I am saying y’all gonna learn today.
July 27, 2013
And so it had finally come, From the Edge of the World, because this is where it is. This, yes, California Punk. 1977, 78, 79, right on to 81. Turn the decade I remember it. My first. It. Was. Big. Brave New World like Huxley said. But out in SF, we talking Burroughs. She caught him with a gun. Darby Crash. Hellinn Killer and Sid Vicious. Poison Ivy. Kids on stage. Kids off stage. All this raw gorgeous energy. Black and White. Color shots. A sweet little photo album, remembrance of things past like Proust said.
And me, quoting novelists I’ve never read, and never will, because words, they do go onn. But photos, now they be screaming, shouting, whispering sweet nothings without ever saying a word. And they embed themselves in memory just like I am there and it is happening to me, like I am hanging with John Maxwell and Roky Erickson at Mabuhay Gardens, and I’m standing against the wall and Ruby Ray is taking photographs in the mirror and it’s just like yesterday, it’s like Fate Keeps On Happening. And that’s Anita Loos, you see ..