Found in Transition

Since 2017, spazioSERRA has been subverting the paradigms of art curation in Milan. The unique exhibition space occupies a formerly dismissed aedicula within the Milano Lancetti train station, a site of commuting, certainly not catered for the arts.

However, over the last five years, spazioSERRA has grown into one of the most distinguished curatorial realities of the city, adopting a grassroots and collaborative ethos that revolves around a multidisciplinary collective of young personalities. They are not afraid to challenge the artistic status quo and try to democratise arts, making it a daily experience for passersby.

Its curatorial practice speaks to the present, moving within sculpture, performance and mixed media, with the now not so utopian aim of sparking a discourse on arts, culture and beauty in a suburban setting that, traditionally, was only seen for its pragmatic and structural means. 

Defying labels and refusing the conformist definition of gallery, spazioSERRA is busy narrowing the gap between art and the public sphere, growing seamlessly with the local community.

We sat in conversation with the team behind spazioSERRA.

Lorenzo Ottone: spazioSERRA aims to promote contemporary art in a suburban context. Howimportant but also challenging it is, within that specific social context, to establish adialogue with such a broad community, made of both locals and commuters, whichmay not be necessarily exposed to nor interested in art and culture and who mayhappen to find themselves by the space for other purposes? 

spazioSERRA: spazioSERRA was established to specifically cater to this audience. Our unwavering mission revolves around fostering an authentic and meaningful dialogue with the community, rendering it a matter of great significance to us. Our ultimate aim is to democratise art, liberating it from constraints both literal and metaphorical, thereby fostering accessibility, openness, and transparency. 

The challenge lies in the undeniable reality that the passersby, intentionally or fortuitously interacting with our space, constitute an immensely diverse collective. Certain exhibitions possess the power to ignite the curiosity of specific visitors, while others engender intrigue in an entirely distinct set of observers. We aspire for the passersby, who traverse the Lancetti railway station on their daily commutes, to discover something within our space that can transcend their routine, infusing it with curiosity and a touch of liveliness. 

Furthermore, cultivating a dialogue with the community holds paramount importance. The irrefutable truth remains that spazioSERRA derives its essence and purpose from this very collective. As an integral part of a bustling urban ecosystem, nestled within a public space of a train station, it finds itself intricately interwoven with the broader social fabric. Failure to maintain this vital connection would invariably result in the gradual erosion of its significance and eventual obsolescence. 

Lorenzo Ottone: The exhibitions you promote range widely, from performances to sculpture and mixedmedia. Can you please guide us throughout your curatorial approach? Within an artworld that is quite multi-faceted and fragmented, what stimulates you the most rightnow? 

spazioSERRA: We actually acknowledge and embrace the diverse and expansive nature of artistic  expression in the present era and ever-evolving landscape. We try not to confine contemporary art into a singular definition or medium and instead we aim to promote art that addresses pertinent societal issues and provokes meaningful conversations. Works that challenge established norms, promote inclusivity, and shed light on underrepresented voices resonate strongly with us. We are committed to providing a platform for artists whose practices embody social consciousness, cultural diversity, and critical discourse. We recognize that different perspectives, cultural backgrounds, and social contexts influence artistic expression. It allows for the exploration of unconventional materials, interdisciplinary collaborations, boundary-pushing artistic experiments, and the fusion of traditional and contemporary techniques. 

Ultimately, our curatorial approach is driven by facilitating meaningful connections between artists, audiences, and the broader cultural landscape. Our curatorial collective is formed by multidisciplinary individuals with diverse backgrounds, expertise, and walks of life. So we try our best to curate exhibitions that both inspire and engage, inviting visitors to embark on a thought-provoking journey through the rich tapestry of contemporary art. Over the years, our curatorial approach has evolved significantly, and we anticipate that it will continue to evolve in the future. 

Lorenzo Ottone: At the moment we are noticing an increasing attention towards archive culture.Whereas a spazioSERRA is located in an environment that unfolds at the speed ofsound, dictated by the passing of time and trains. How can art capture the presentand the zeitgeist when there seems to be so much emphasis on the past? 

spazioSERRA: Art, with its innate versatility and capacity for interpretation, possesses the remarkable ability to bridge the gap between past, present, and future. While archive culture may be rooted in preserving and revisiting historical records, art can infuse the present moment with vitality, relevance, and contemporary resonance. Rather than being constrained by the weight of the past, art can engage with history as a source of inspiration and reflection. Artists can draw upon archival materials, cultural artifacts, and collective memory to create works that explore the contemporary human experience. By recontextualizing historical narratives, art can shed light on the enduring themes, struggles, and aspirations that shape our current reality. 

Moreover, art can serve as a catalyst for dialogue and critical examination of the present. It has the power to evoke emotions and provoke thoughtful contemplation. Artists can respond to the pressing issues, complexities, and transformations of the modern world, using their creative expression to capture the zeitgeist and stimulate collective consciousness. Moreover, the immediacy of art’s impact lies in its ability to engage with the viewer on an emotional and visceral level by creating moments of connection and reflection that go beyond the barriers of time. Through these dynamic and experiential approaches, art can vividly reflect the spirit of the present, surpassing the perceived emphasis on the past and artists can evoke a profound sense of connection to the ever-evolving world around us. In short, art’s capacity to transcend temporal boundaries and its potential to explore historical narratives in a contemporary context enable it to capture the present and embody the zeitgeist.

Lorenzo Ottone: You work with young, up and coming artists. Even your own definition of collective issomething that often hails from youth and underground culture. How is the collectiveand social dimension of spazioSERRA shaping your identity? 

spazioSERRA: The majority of the artists we have worked with are in fact relatively young and emerging; we also had the chance to work with artists who are well established and belong to a different generation. We do want to provide a platform for emerging artists to showcase their talent, share their perspectives, and gain exposure within a supportive community. It is truly needed in the current art world. 

By embracing the essence of youth and underground culture, we shape our identity. We also find our distinct character and purpose through our commitment to fostering a collective spirit and creating a vibrant social space. The social dimension of spazioSERRA is equally significant. Our space is designed as a gathering place, where diverse individuals can converge, engage, and experience art in an inclusive and dynamic environment. By facilitating interactions and dialogue between artists, visitors, and the community, we cultivate a sense of shared ownership and participation. Our identity is driven by the collaborative energy that permeates spazioSERRA while fostering a sense of belonging. We strive to remain receptive to emerging trends, societal changes, and the ever-changing landscape of contemporary art. By engaging in ongoing dialogues, we ensure that our identity remains relevant, vibrant, and in tune with the aspirations of our artists and audience. 

Lorenzo Ottone: Last year, your call for artists was titled “Un posto impossibile”, an impossible place,which is what a gallery within an underground railway station may look like at first sight.Have you found an answer to your question? How utopian is spazioSERRA’s visionnow, 5 years after its opening? 

spazioSERRA: It depends on the question to be answered. Our aim is not to necessarily provide answers but more so to create an environment that could potentially generate questions. Every visitor can have their own answer or simply reflect on the questions they personally perceive. spazioSERRA is a peculiar place situated in an underground train station but it is not really a gallery and this is why the expectations from a space like this can be somehow unusual but certainly not entirely impossible. We never set out to have a utopian nor a dystopian vision. While our vision continues to evolve, we find that spazioSERRA’s essence remains firmly rooted in serving the community. The journey of the past five years has allowed us to realize that the vision itself is an ongoing pursuit—a continual exploration of possibilities and a quest to defy limitations. By seamlessly integrating art into this dynamic urban environment, we seek to reduce the boundaries that traditionally separate art from the general public sphere. Yet, we acknowledge that the road to achieving our vision is ever-unfinished. As we navigate the complexities of operating within a train station and engaging with diverse audiences, we continuously adapt, learn, and refine our approach. We try to promote art as an integral part of people’s daily lives. Art has a transformative power. The diverse voices that have graced our space, and the connections forged between artists, visitors, and the broader community determine spazioSERRA’s impact as an exhibition space. The fulfillment of the vision also depends on its ability to sustain its operations over time. These factors can shape the overall vision and determine the extent to which it aligns with the initial starting point.


Hundebiss is Here to Stay, and Simone Trabucchi is Here To Party

Britannica describes folk music as music “passed down through families and other small social groups” which is “learned through hearing rather than reading.” In a 2014 interview with Tiny Mix Tapes, Simone Trabucchi said, “I’m doing folk music, I’m playing with cheap technologies. This cheap technology has a story; the language that technology develops has a story.” Nearly ten years later, this still rings true.

Trabucchi, who runs Italian record label Hundebiss, has never believed he was doing something out of the ordinary. He was living in the small comune of Vernasca, hours away from Milan when he started the imprint back in 2007, only with a goal of sharing music he loves. Just as folk music lives in oral tradition, so do the eclectic collection of sounds from Hundebiss.

Throughout the 16 year run, he’s released with the likes of Lil Ugly Mane, Hype Williams and more. What started as black market for niche music and an underground noise party has expanded into a respected independent record label—Trabucchi’s brainchild that evolves just as often as he does.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Tell me the story of Hundebiss. What made you decide to transition to doing a label instead of just throwing parties and making music?

Simone Trabucchi: The early 2000s was a good moment for “noise music”. There were a lot of things happening in the US, UK, and all over Europe. There was like a nice scene—very, very active. Every week, there were people releasing dozens of tapes and CD-Rs. At the time, I was living with my girlfriend. We were very excited about the scene and we wanted to know more about it. So we started a little distribution [company]—buying stuff and re-selling to our friends here. From that, it was very easy to switch to the label. 

Right after we started to set up Hundebiss nights in Milan because it’s such a big city and there was not much of that scene around yet so we felt like we were filling a gap in a way. For a few years, it was very, very good. The parties were quite weird. If you think about it now, it was so weird having just 50 or 100 people listening to someone playing a Behringer mixer in feedback. It’s very absurd. I feel like all the music now is a bit more functional and – somehow- predictable. Back then, it was really someone making white noise for 20 minutes and people were just there listening.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: How did people find out about your parties back in 2007? MySpace?

Simone Trabucchi: Yeah, MySpace. Probably a little bit of Facebook later. And then the community—word of mouth, People started talking about it.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: That’s so cool. What’s your favorite memory from the Hundebiss secret show era?

Simone Trabucchi: In the beginning, we started this party in a Chinese bar. They had a secret door and there was a small room with the perfect sound environment. Every time you touched something or plug[ged] something [in], there was a shock. Very scary, but at the same time it was beautiful. [It was] a bit on the outskirts, not in the center, so the people that were coming were really into it. 

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Is the bar still around?

Simone Trabucchi: No. We organized a year worth of programming, but after two parties, it closed down forever without notice.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: What can people expect from Hundebiss parties today?

Simone Trabucchi: Very good turnout. Very different. Usually it starts with a live show and then a DJ set, so the first part of the night is listening and the second part is more dancing. It’s doing super well. I think people like the fact it’s thrown in a squat that is very chill and that it’s different from going to a club. I have nothing against clubs, but it’s different.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Is the DIY scene in Italy poppin’?

Simone Trabucchi: I think it’s always been poppin’, to be honest. It goes through waves and it’s changing. Obviously, it’s adapting to times. The good thing in Milan is the same people you’re going to find in a DIY party are the same people you’re gonna find in a non DIY party, so it’s good. It used to be more of a political statement to throw or go to a DIY party. The political component of it is something I really care about. I don’t consider myself an activist, but I think I think it’s good to bring content into activists’ venue, and expose people to different things.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: What kind of statement do you want to make?

Simone Trabucchi: I don’t want to make any statement. To be honest, I don’t feel myself politically committed because it’s too complicated for me. But I care because I grew up in an anarchist environment and these people have always been open and nice to me.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: That’s fair. In 2014, you made a statement that Hundebiss was “doing folk music for the Twitter age.” But now that it’s almost a decade later, does that still ring true?

Simone Trabucchi: I still like the idea of folk music. I like the idea that most music is folk music for our age. That’s a bit of a provocation because I don’t really believe there is much experimentation these days. It’s very easy to be labeled as “experimental” right now because they don’t know where to put you in. So I still think I’m releasing folk music and I’m making folk music because my sound references are folk. For instance, I think trap is super folk. It’s always been folk, vernacular.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: How do you balance running a label while also having your own music project?

Simone Trabucchi: I think it’s all part of the same thing. You can definitely tell when I was more into certain things, musically. But I also don’t think that the sounds of the artist I’m releasing get inside my music automatically, but maybe thematically sometimes.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: So do you feel like the transition from Dracula Lewis to STILL reflected in the label as well?

Simone Trabucchi: A bit, yeah, definitely.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: With a label known to release in physical format, why did you start Digital Hundebiss?

Simone Trabucchi: Because physical format is a pain in the ass! It’s super expensive to produce and absolutely not sustainable on any level—for the planet, for myself economically, or for the artist. An artist is expecting to get some money out of a record, which is hard with physical. But I’ll tell you the truth people are much more happy. I also like the fact that it’s more immediate. [Digital Hundebiss] is doing well because people are buying the tracks they want to play in a party the day after.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: How did the vinyl delay debacle during the pandemic affect the label?

Simone Trabucchi: Quite a lot, because everything was getting super slow. Producing a vinyl was taking almost one year. But it was also nice to see the reaction of the people. Right during the pandemic, we released a record with Muqata’a, but vinyl came out exactly one year after. I was expecting many people to cancel their order, and ask for a refund, which would have been like a massive problem for me. Nobody asked for a refund. This kind of loyalty and support was quite impressive to see.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: As someone who has a penchant for the physical format, what do you think about NFTs?

Simone Trabucchi: I was trying to understand what was going on, but I didn’t find my place in there. Not yet, at least. It’s definitely interesting and I think there are some people that are doing some intelligent stuff. But I don’t know. It’s a bit too nerdy for me. Too far away from my daily life maybe? I’m still very analog somehow.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: What about AI?

Simone Trabucchi: I have nothing against it, actually. AI is a tool. I like it to be honest… I found my way through Chat GPT and now it’s a tool that I use quite consistently. I don’t think it’s much different than Google. I’m not anti-technology and have never been. 

I don’t even think it’s affecting any artistic product, so I’m not worried. I don’t think you can replace an artist. But you don’t even need to be an artist. I don’t think you can replace a human. We are too dysfunctional to be replaced.


All images courtesy of the artist

Joshua Gordon

The underbelly of alt culture

When Joshua Gordon went to Thailand, he followed a gang of teenage bikers and witnessed their fraternity. He saw how the young boys had each other’s backs and would die for one another. He directed the film about this along with the country’s occultism and witchcraft culture that religious people might completely exile in their belief systems, but that other people base their spirituality and faith on. After a while, he wanted to investigate the drag landscape in Cuba. Armed with his lens, he was hoping to capture the tight-knit drag community in a country that might not yet be open to the queer scene. He ended up meeting twin trans sisters and peered into their intimate life.

Joshua’s thirst for fascination also brought him to Japan. Amidst the psychedelic allure and eccentricity of the country, he photographed the locals’ fascination with toys. He saw young punks living and sleeping with their plushies, a lifelike woman giving birth with the baby’s head popping out of her vagina, and lots of latex sex dolls in stores and homes. Somehow, Joshua knows how to excavate the surface of the social infrastructure. He digs hard and deep that midway, his photographs and documentaries have unraveled parts of him that seem to be hidden in plain sight. These visual cues are snippets of the ups and downs he has gone through in life and art, a narrow gateway to who he is and how he became what he is.

Take ‘Transformation,’ where he manipulates photos of himself using artificial intelligence to bring about different versions of himself. He considers the project special to him, but viewers seem to have only noticed and commented about his physique and the size of his penis. The series has become reduced to a visual commodity for public viewing, making Joshua aware and alert to the current relationship between art and the viewers. What Joshua creates gives nothing in-between; either the viewer gets startled by the brashness of his images and films, or they feel for the emotions the visual works evoke. Every publication and project hides a backstory, and in a conversation with NR, Joshua brings them to light.

Matthew Burgos: How did you develop your documentary style in photography, video, and collage? Has this always been your intended style?

Joshua Gordon: Documenting was always the first thing I did. I started using photos as a tool when I began creating pictures at around 13/14 years old, not for any artistic reason or self-expression. Every skate crew needed a filmer and/or photographer, so that’s what I became. And every graffiti crew needed someone with a camera, so I filled that role too. Over time, through graffiti, I learned more about photography and discovered my favorite photographers. After that, I delved more into what might be considered quite traditional documentary photography.

Matthew Burgos: Let’s discuss your zines Diary Part 1 and 1.5 which definitely have the documentary photography style you just mentioned. Do you see the photos in these zines as a reflection of how you saw and painted the world at the time, with the use of dark and gritty imagery?

Joshua Gordon:  I think it’s dark and gritty because I was depressed and poor at the time. I was living hand to mouth and didn’t really have a penny to my name. When Diary Part 1 was made, I was working in a warehouse loading trucks and stealing stuff from high-end stores for cash. The other zine was created just after I left.

I think that when I started making pictures for those books, I wanted to shock and be brash. I was surrounded by a lot of misery, staying in moldy bedsits with rats crawling on my ceiling, and I was never able to pay my rent. Shocking isn’t my intention now; I’m more interested in evoking emotions.

Matthew Burgos: Your Butterfly project seems to have a similar style yet a different tone. Can you talk about how you approached this project, and what brought you to explore the nightlife in Havana?

Joshua Gordon: Well, I don’t really plan much; I just go with the flow and feel things out. I’ve always been inspired by 80’s drag, and it’s been a constant source of inspiration for me. I wanted to find some older drag queens and live with them.

Aries offered me the chance to go to Cuba and work on a project of my choice, including creating a book. I was going there to explore and see what I could find. When we arrived, the queer world was small and super intertwined. It ended up being less about drag and more about these two twin sisters I met and their friends. I suppose you could say it was a portrait of them and their community. 

Matthew Burgos: You also directed Krahang, following a group of teenage biker gang in Thailand. How did you discover them, and what did you learn about them that wasn’t evident in the film?

Joshua Gordon: There are a lot of interesting things happening in Thailand—hidden customs and alternative perceptions towards topics that might be considered taboo in other parts of the world. What sticks out to me when I spend time in Southeast Asia is the sense of community. The West is obsessed with individualism. Everyone thinks that the world revolves around them and people have the “main character syndrome.” There’s no decency or love among people.

In Thailand, life is hard and fast and vibrant. There’s a strong community spirit. The boys in the gang were best friends and would have died for each other. I was also very interested in Thai witchcraft and occultism, which is something pretty much everyone there is interested in or scared of. I touched on that in the film along with the teen biker gang.

Matthew Burgos: Let’s talk about your investigation into adult toy culture in Japan leading to the book TOY. What specifically drew you to explore this topic in a country known for its eccentric culture?

Joshua Gordon: I love toys; they’ve been important to me my whole life. Objects bring me a sense of comfort and fluffy familiarity when I travel. Everything in Japan is “kawaii:” you see an ambulance speeding down the street and its logo is a smiling drop of blood. Even the police logo Pipo-kun is fucking adorable. Japan is cute but it also has a dark edge. I wanted to show that mix in the book; the duality of cuteness and darkness.

During my time in the Japanese countryside, in a quaint area called Gunma, I found an old toy museum. Inside, I discovered these porcelain sculptures of couples with long robes on. When you turn them upside down, you see the characters’ penises and vaginas with fuzzy pubic hair. A lot of things in Tokyo have a hidden meaning or a secret backside; I wanted to explore that. 

Matthew Burgos: How about ‘Transformation’? Is it a visual anthology of the growth you’ve experienced throughout your career?

Joshua Gordon: I was at my lowest when making ‘Transformation.’ I was dealing with a severe eating disorder, hospitalization due to tumors, a difficult breakup, and substance abuse, and I felt like I was going insane on a little beach in Mexico. The photos helped me escape somewhere else. I tried to use artificial intelligence and children’s image manipulation apps to create a fantasy land of my own.

But nobody understood. I received comments about my physique and penis size—just basic interpretations of something that meant a lot to me, a project that acted as sort of a ladder to help me out of my hole. It was devastating. I spent around 7,000 pounds and six months creating the books and artworks. I managed to sell only one book at the exhibition and not a single painting. It was quite upsetting, but the project (still) means a lot to me.


All images courtesy of the artist

Claire Barrow

In The Middle of It All 

Claire Barrow’s work balances in between worlds of pop culture, politics and ethereal creatures. With a combination of the media she consumes and the topics she’s passionate about, the result is an unexpected display of these themes colliding into different disciplines. Whether it’s paintings, sculptures or illustrations she has dreamed up and then translated onto clothing, her art is boundless and unpredictable.

Born in Yarm, a town in Northern England, Barrow grew up watching Disney films on repeat and listening to bands like Slayer and Sonic Youth. Daydreams of moving out of her small town and a career in fashion didn’t seem so far-fetched when she moved to London in 2008. She studied fashion design and it was not long after, her career in fashion started to bloom. Catching the eyes of industry leaders Barrow describes her move out of the traditional fashion calendar to be more freeing and expressive. 

“I’m grateful to come from a fashion background, there’s been so many benefits and collaborations that have evolved from my history within that but I’m also grateful I can pick and choose when to enter back into that world, it’s not about money for me,” 

Barrow tells me over Zoom, behind her lies a stack of boxes and canvases ready to be moved after almost 10 years of living in the same house and studio space.

There are many passions and interests Barrow weaves into her work– her theater upbringing, fashion and makeup seamlessly appear through her work. Her most recent show, Victim of Cosmetics, presented in an office space was inspired by the wasteful nature of the beauty industry. Currently, Barrow is in the midst of expanding her studio space, where she’s excited to create more sculpture work.

In this very exclusive interview we catch up about inspiration, creating in a climate crisis and pop culture.

Jessica Canje: The venues you pick to showcase these shows are often unique like the Piccadilly Tube station or a reformed office space, how do the venues you pick intersect with that specific show?

Claire Barrow: I love to build worlds that resemble the spaces you visit in dreams, trapped places, and half-remembered theme parks from childhood, the big supermarket where your mom dragged you around that felt like an eternity. Recurring places and scenarios stick with you and get filed in your brain’s office cabinet. The feng shui is off.

The tube station (Piccadilly Circus) was thanks to Soft Opening for inviting me (thanks 👍), but otherwise, the office, the field in Hackney where I did a show, and my website reflect this kind of experience. Being big into games and theme parks as a kid, and then in my teens and 20s, creating fashion presentations and experimenting with the use of space to showcase my collections. It’s something that has stuck with me as I’ve transitioned into making art my primary practice, and I would love to explore it further going forward.

Jessica Canje: I love your current website, do you often think about how people will interact with your work virtually if they don’t get to experience it physically? What was the thought going into making your website the way it is? Can you describe it for those that may not have seen it or may never get to?

Claire Barrow: Glad you like ! So, it was created in collaboration with Rifke Sandler of DXR Zone, who formatted and coded it. The site is heavily inspired by early, now-defunct net platforms such as Active Worlds and Geocities and it functions as a hybrid of an 3D online museum, an underground bunker, and a frozen metaverse of my current art and archive, complete with a gift shop! It is designed so that you can navigate it with clicks, clicking on different areas to move around the site. When you first enter, you find yourself in a field with earth in the sky above you. Going into the pink Wendy house with the blue roof in the garden leads you underground into the foyer, where you can choose a door and explore different galleries. The galleries feature 3D renders of my art, sometimes flat to the wall, and sometimes arranged in themed rooms, secret passageways, with soundtracks and GIFs. There is the option to view it all in 2D instead, if you’re that way inclined, or too confused.

Essentially, this platform serves as a way of inviting people to view a gallery showing of my work, outside of the traditional gallery system or Instagram, irrespective of their location. So, when I’m exhibiting work physically in a specific location, I think it’s nice for people who can’t attend in person still have a way to engage with it through this platform. I understand 3D viewing rooms at Art Fairs are becoming super popular, so I’m leaning into the trend in my own way.  

Jessica Canje: Your last show was partly inspired by the wasteful nature of the cosmetic industry–how do you feel about the impending doom of climate change and waste? How does it translate into your work?
A name from your recent show Victim of Cosmetics came from a quote by Khloe Kardashian, Bury Me In Lip Kits and Eyeshadows, 2023
Is your work intuition led or is it through thought and research and much deliberation?

Claire Barrow: I got the title from this lady, Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry, who died 1760 from the lead poisoning caused by her makeup. She was a superstar beauty icon, like the Angelina of her day, and named the “Victim of Cosmetics” in the papers.

This body of work was heavily research-based, more than most of my others, which have been led by absorbing my reference points into something initiative. But still I used intuitive techniques; like, I was often creating wet canvas then applying paint, allowing it to dry then informing the structure of the painting. Before the invention of the world in the 1640s cosmetics were referred to in general terms as ‘paint’, so I used paint, and dyed concrete powder.

My algorithm selected this project for me, it’s just something I felt I had to make due to the images and research I was receiving. Then it further developed into a response to beauty capitalism and pressure to work hard in the beauty and cosmetic production industry. The sculptures resemble inside-out makeup bags, keeping things hidden inside them, but flipped out.

I re-watched the Kardashians, from top, everyday while making the show. Which was such a slog and depressing, honestly.

But I was to try and pinpoint a time when the world changed and yassified itself, like they did, valuing beauty and perfection above all else. It was around season 12, a few years after Kylie’s Lipkit success.

Jessica Canje: You’ve been based in London for quite some time now, how is the creative atmosphere in the city at the moment?

Claire Barrow: A claustrophobic feeling of coexisting but it’s exciting and scary and fun, and being a bit shit, but that’s ok.

 Jessica Canje: It’s always exciting seeing you release new work as you’re often reinventing your output, what can we expect to see more of in the future?

Claire Barrow: I’ve just just moved my studio to Camden, the punk graveyard, I think it will have an impact shortly. I hope to give back more, to be strange and brave… and make up some dances.

Jessica Canje: Have you seen Barbie?

Claire Barrow: Yeah I liked it. It didn’t talk about anything to do with plastic, I thought it was quite interesting, you know? In the midst of a climate crisis. It’s a crazy waste of plastic, all these toys with non recycled plastic.

Jessica Canje: Do you like sci fi?

Claire Barrow: I love Sci Fi and horror and tacky action films I’ve been really into. I love John Wu films. 


  1. THE BOTTOM, 2022
  2. ETERNITY BITCH, 2023. Installation View
  3. PIPE, Dinner Party Gallery, 2021
  5. VICTIM OF COSMETICS, 2023. Installation View. Fieldworks, 2023

    All artworks courtesy of the artist

Denzel Curry

Fighting The Good Fight 

When some people hear the name “Denzel Curry,” they think of the explosive chorus of his high-octane hit “Ultimate.” Others may think of his viral music video for “Ricky”––which recreates the backyard brawls Curry attended in his hometown of Miami––or the fact that he toured with superstar Billie Eilish, who has proclaimed Curry to be one of her favorite artists. The rapid conclusion that can be drawn from his flashiest achievements––that Denzel Curry is a great rapper––pales in comparison to the one drawn by those who have dug deeper into his complete body of work. When you truly connect the dots of his career, you are confronted with a portrait of an artist who has made a truly massive contribution to the development of hip hop in the past decade. 

Curry, who began writing rhymes as a child, was still in high school when he became a part of SpaceGhostPurrp’s infamous collective, Raider Klan (stylized RVIDXR KLVN), whose gritty sound, gothic aesthetic and hieroglyphic style of writing influenced an entire generation of rappers and headlining acts. Curry was also a member of the creative cosmos who helped establish both Soundcloud and South Florida as one of the most exciting breeding grounds of underground and experimental rap in the 2010s. He helped transform a digital platform into one of the most consequential genres of its time: Soundcloud rap. 

On each new record, Curry reinvents himself. He evolved away from his original claim to fame, the aggressive, speed-rap of Imperial (2016) and into a more confessional and vulnerable terrain with Ta13oo (2018). Last year, he conquered boom-bap with Melt My Eyez and See Your Future––an album that revives the beats and politically minded rhymes of 90s hip hop. Even though Melt is his first record that actually sounds like Nas, De La Soul and Wu-Tang Klan, Curry’s high-level wordplay and amplification of social issues have long embodied the spirit and soul of “golden age” hip hop artists, who viewed their music as a means of political resistance. Critical issues like criminal justice reform, systemic racism and police brutality are deeply and tragically embedded in Curry’s life and creative output. Both his classmate, Trayvon Martin, and brother, Treon Johnson, were murdered by the police, in 2012 and 2014, respectively. 

The art of the battle is a theme that connects Curry’s childhood with his greatest sources of inspiration: anime, video games and martial arts. Conflict is at the center of his musical oeuvre, which sheds a powerful light on the harrowing realities of being Black in America––and the internal dialogues of someone at war with both the world and themself. And despite his many accolades, Curry’s status in the music industry today is the byproduct of a constant fight to be seen, heard and respected. With his pen as his sword, Curry has proven himself time and time again to be a formidable match for any opponent. Denzel Curry is, above all else, a fighter worth betting on. 

Cassidy George: I know that you’re really devoted to your Muay Thai practice. Is that how you started your day?

Denzel Curry: I can’t do Muay Thai today. I fucked my neck up yesterday doing calisthenics because I didn’t warm up. Now I have to chill.

Cassidy George: Is Muay Thai so embedded in your routine that not being able to practice makes you feel “off”? 

Denzel Curry: Yea, plus I get fat really easily! Normally, I spent most of my time on the couch and eating. I still plan on getting sweaty today though––but at the sauna. 

Cassidy George: Earlier this summer, you released a new single “Blood on my Nikez.” It’s a big shift in sound from your last album, Melt My Eyez and See Your Future. Is this the start of a new era for you? 

Denzel Curry: This isn’t a new beginning, I just wanted to have fun with my music. Melt is my perfect project. It’s the best thing I’ve ever put out, but I don’t feel like it got the recognition or appreciation that it deserved. Everyone is just concerned with numbers and what goes up at shows. So many other artists, like Kenny Mason, also came out with impeccable projects last year. I feel like they were swept under the rug because they weren’t “popular.” 

Cassidy George: Is that a difficult or intimidating place to be in, as an artist? What comes after a magnum opus? 

Denzel Curry: I plan everything far in advance. When I was making Melt, I already knew what the next project would be. It may not come out now, next week or next year––but it will be released at some point. I just need to flesh it out a bit more. Until then, I’m just dropping shit that’s fun. Melt set a really high standard for me and I won’t release another album until it’s 100% ready. 

Every track that I write, I write from my feelings. Back in the day, a lot of my feelings were just anger and sadness. When I came to LA and was making Ta13oo, for example, I was in a new environment and there was nothing around me. I experienced a little bit of depression. Making that album…it was very internal to external. I had so much more fun making Melt because the stuff I was talking about, like therapy, and just the soundscape I was going for––it took the burden off of my shoulders. Once it was well received by the public and critically acclaimed, people were like: “Wow, I didn’t know he had this in him!” The upside of that is that it caused a lot of new people to want to work with me because they saw a new side of me, beyond the “rah rah rah” of Ta13oo or Imperial

People are so wishy-washy though! When new things come out that they like, they go back into the old stuff and are surprised that it’s good. Many people didn’t even listen to those records because they expected just one thing from me. That’s the narrative I’m trying to change. 

Cassidy George: What was the narrative, specifically? And what new narrative are you trying to construct? 

Denzel Curry: That I was a one-trick pony and that I’m not versatile. I ended up proving on Ta13oo that I was hella versatile. My true fans know that in each project I do something different and that I always nail it. Of course, people will always choose not to listen––but that just comes down to preferences. I can’t let that kind of thing get to me…but I let it get to me. You know what I’m saying? I’m human. It is what it is. 

Cassidy George: I think one of the greatest pleasures in life is proving people wrong.

Denzel Curry: That’s my greatest revenge! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and the only reason I’m successful. I get good at so much shit just to spite whoever said I couldn’t do it and all of the people who said “stick to one thing!” I’m like, “Okay, see you next year!” I remember there was this guy back when I was getting into rap who would always ridicule me. I just never stopped rapping. One day “Threatz” blew up and this man hit me up again and said, “let me get on a track!” I was like, “ain’t you the one who said I couldn’t rap? You wanna be cool now? Fuck that!” 

Cassidy George: Your parents supported your rapping from early on though, right? Who was it that didn’t believe in you? 

Denzel Curry: Some people thought it wasn’t possible because they didn’t see it.

Cassidy George: By “it” do you mean your talent? Or potential? 

Denzel Curry: Yea, but everybody sees it now because they can’t avoid it. People only see things when they’re unavoidable. 

Cassidy George: When I heard Melt and saw your music videos for “Zatoichi” and “X-Wing,” I immediately thought of the Wu-Tang Klan. In many ways, you are continuing a long tradition of rap that is influenced by Asian culture. Any thoughts about why there is so much synergy between those two worlds? 

Denzel Curry: Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… those albums were essential listening for me back in the day. As far as culture, I grew up watching Toonami. I also watch kung fu movies, but anime was what really did it for me. 

Cassidy George: Battles are an ongoing theme in your history, your hobbies, your music and your message. On Melt, the battles you rap about are both internal and systemic. Who or what, if anything, are you battling right now? 

Denzel Curry: The same thing that I’m battling now is the same thing I’ve battled since the day that I was born: my demons. I am always translating that into my music. I knew I had to take martial arts seriously because I needed to reach a level of fearlessness, where you can go up against anybody and be unshaken. 

Cassidy George: Even yourself? 

Denzel Curry: Of course. You can be your own worst enemy. 

Cassidy George: Is that what you were working on in therapy?  

Denzel Curry: Yea, but I don’t go anymore. I just want to live my life without feeling like I’m walking on eggshells. Therapy only increased my anxiety, funnily enough. It helped a lot, which is everything––but it felt like I was being told what to do. I just want to live my life with no ifs, ands or buts. 

Cassidy George: Wow. Eggshells? Really? Isn’t the whole idea that you are free to share and say anything without judgment? 

Denzel Curry: I didn’t feel it during sessions, I felt it when I walked out of them. I felt like I had to snitch on myself constantly. Now, I’ve done the work. I’m good with myself and I can make the right choices. I don’t want to go in there and get all of the answers. 

Cassidy George: You strike me as someone who doesn’t respond well to being told what to do. 

Denzel Curry: Shit, man. I’m an Aquarius! We’re known to rebel. 

Cassidy George: I’ve always thought of you as “my favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.” But which artists are you most excited about right now? 

Denzel Curry: Paris Texas, Kenny Mason, Destroy Lonely, Ken Carson, JID, Jasiah, Midwxst. A producer named Sophie Gray and an artist named Sherelle. Also Kaytranada, PLAYTHATBOIZAY, Amber London. 

Cassidy George: Is there anything that all of those people have in common?

Denzel Curry: All of them have this appeal that came from the underground. There’s nothing industry about it, it’s real. 

Cassidy George: That’s also been a theme in your career. 

Denzel Curry: Yeah, it’s a battle. It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. It gets exhausting because you think that these people should know by now what you’re capable of, but some people are scared to get outshined and others don’t see the value in helping you.

Cassidy George: Are you good at playing the game? 

Denzel Curry: No, but I always stay myself when I am playing it. I just think it’s best to treat everyone with respect and dignity. 

Cassidy George: What frustrates you the most about the industry in 2023?

Denzel Curry: Labels and the people that run them. When I say I want to work with another artist, they say “Sure, we’ll get to it”––and never get to it! It’s all fake. If they don’t see what you have to offer at that moment, they put you on the back burner. Everything I put out is quality and yet I am always questioned about the things I do. Right now, I’m focusing on getting my singles right. With albums, I’m playing the long game. I want to make sure everything I put out is timeless. 

Cassidy George: How do you do that? By ignoring trends?

Denzel Curry: No, you have to pay attention to trends. You just can’t ride them all the way. You take bits and pieces. Good artists copy. Great artists steal. But you can’t steal something new from somebody that’s newer––that’s fucked up. I’d rather steal from old shit and make it new. Think about it: you couldn’t have Jackie Chan without Charlie Chaplin and Bruce Lee. 


Photography · Geray Mena
Styling · Sophie Gaten
Hair · Chrissy Hutton
Grooming · Alice Dodds
Location · The Rubicon London
Special thanks to August Agency



I sit outside a cafe in Ridgewood, Queens with Eartheater on a balmy day in July. Sweat lingers on hairlines and we sip spicy margaritas, the salt dissipating lip liner, a visual synonym for loosening lips as we go from pink to red, it all comes around, laced and flowing. The constant droll of children and families passing by jumbles with the sounds of a man drilling into the side of the cafe, sirens wail and cars boasting prodigal subwoofers leave fallout to linger. Ridgewood’s grit isn’t overtly special to the unbroken eye but what hurts so much is the gnawing feeling that maybe you just can’t see it, can’t see the way to let it inside you, lapsing. Yet for Eartheater it is home, oscillating between the starfall that comes with stardom, “staying” is indeed its own genre of romance.

While many interviews have referenced her upbringing in distance and isolation, a first kiss in a graveyard – to bring it back here where the circle itself feels refreshingly right, bare as if “x” still marks the spot. On the brink of releasing her latest LP Powders in September, Eartheater, a known creator of sonic and visual worlds, wants nothing more than to feel grounded and in turn, free. Despite the ways in which she herself has become mythologized, a story we tell ourselves through speakers and high-pitched vibratos, Powders is influenced by memory and its tone conveys an enduring ache. As ethereal as Eartheater seems, her continued work with Chemical X, the label she founded this year, alongside the relationships she maintains with her community, remain her main sources of inspiration and emotional fodder. In turn, the lyrics themselves are often anecdotal, reflective of experiences she’s had, heart full, head full, exposed. As she continues her ascent, it’s everclear that though she is winged, she remains down to, and of this earth. 

Eartheater: Do you think the album should be titled Crushing or Powders?

Lindsey Okubo: Even though Crushing is my favorite song on the album, I like Powders better as a title. Why are you oscillating between them now?

Eartheater: I get these moments where I get hit with an idea and a couple years ago, I knew I would make an album called Powder sand it was going to be about the process of breaking everything down to that state of being residual dust. Then all of a sudden, this always happens right at the last moment before putting something out, where I ask myself all of these questions. With Crushing it was about the action, the verb, the doing, which then made me think about what tool I’d use. I was up at six in the morning thinking of actually calling it “pulverizer.” 

Lindsey Okubo: But what I like about Powders is that there’s kind of an innate softness to it, an implied sense of being refined and pure. It doctors a sense of magic because it’s the eventuality of something and maybe it’s also kind of about you? 

Eartheater: And the synonyms are so vast. Powder is a spice, flour, salt, sugar. It’s makeup, it’s gunpowder, ammunition. It’s also liquid money. It’s cash. It’s soft and vulnerable but it’s also pigment. It’s powerful and transposable, it could be anything, turn into anything, it’s fairy dust. The verb “crushing” makes it more about what I’m doing now but powder is what it could be, it opens it up to the future, so yeah, it’s got to be Powders. I just turned in the masters and I don’t think I’ve racked my brain so hard with mixing. I don’t think I’ve ever talked through the process of it as much as I did. 

Lindsey Okubo: Right and how does this feel different as things grow? 

Eartheater: I’m obviously going to do what I need to do the way that I want to but as things grow, there’s more eyeballs. It’s a bigger thing with more pressure. I’m learning through every single album I make and am picking up where I left off. I’m learning the crux of engineering it all and understanding what it is to really make frequencies, emotions and ideas play. I needed someone who was not stressed in their life to mix this album because energy gets infused into it and I became very protective. It was an intense process but I am so grateful to everybody that put their blood, sweat and tears into this because I definitely was squeezing blood, sweat and tears from many, many a stone.

Lindsey Okubo: So it was someone new mixing for you?

Eartheater: This was the first time I had multiple mixers because I picked a specific mixer for specific songs. Before I would always have just one person do it all, which is what usually happens, but I really tried to be present, I sat there with them, talked to them and felt them. I’m really happy with the way I trusted my gut but it’s more than that, it’s following through.

Lindsey Okubo: How are you defining being present? 

Eartheater: I think a lot of it has to do with communication and also giving myself the time because I realized my ears are so volatile and I’m not a machine. I can’t just listen to a mix and give feedback in that moment. I have to be in the right state to absorb it and hear it properly. I’ve been pushing back this deadline, driving everyone crazy, but I don’t care because it needs to be perfect. 

Lindsey Okubo: You’ve spoken a lot about this sense of patience turned endurance you’ve cultivated across albums, communities turned collaborators that requires greater intentionality and nurturance because everyone exists in different environments and cadences. 

Eartheater: I’m just being protective of the essence that is there. The magic can be in something that may sound like a mistake but you have to just be very vocal about what’s true and what needs to be cleaned and what needs to stay scuffed.

Lindsey Okubo: Right it’s all about communication but we often forget that communication is a learned process, it’s subjective. Walk me through this learning curve through your own experience. 

Eartheater: Totally and it’s also about being open to learning in the communication because there were many times in this mixing process where I was getting way more in the nitty gritty of it to where I felt pretty tongue tied in trying to describe what I needed or what I needed to hear. Technically, because I’m a composer, arranger and songwriter, when it comes to the technicalities of frequencies in that world, I’m less versed. It was about being vulnerable, allowing the egg to be on my face when I’m trying to describe what I’m trying to say while knowing I might sound like a fucking idiot but pushing through it. 

Lindsey Okubo: For so many artists there is this expectation to explain one’s work through verbal language, an artist statement, press release, or whatever it is regardless of the work’s form. It often presents this conundrum when it comes to how the work is received or presented. Do you want people to receive your work in the way that you’ve intended or do you prefer them to take what they will?

Eartheater: I definitely want to shine light and illuminate certain things. I understand that I’m in control of the listener’s ear and that is absolutely part of it but at the same time, I hope that people see a million other things that I never saw. I do really think about the multiplicity, or the myriad of hypothetical ways that someone could perceive certain lyrics or gestures. Ultimately, I don’t give a fuck but I do like to cycle through and explore all the nuances because that’s what makes it fun. To me a piece isn’t interesting or doesn’t hold my attention if I don’t feel like there are many layers of meaning or ways in which it can be interpreted, it’s about the triple entendre. I just want people to like to feel something, not just to fill the void of sound, I want to pluck heartstrings, I want to make them feel alive. 

Lindsey Okubo: When do you feel most alive?

Eartheater: When I hear really good music from fucking legends! When I’m moved by art, when I’m moved by things that I feel like I want to be a part of. 

Lindsey Okubo: How much of that is also tied to extremes? 

Eartheater: I’m glad you said that because I think it is extreme. I think you have to go to extremes, you have to practice, you have to learn and you have to live your life and you have to be messy. It’s contradictions up the ass, getting chaotic, getting stupid – being very disciplined, being very hard on yourself, pushing, working hard, humbling yourself. It’s both sides of the coin and that in and of itself is extreme. I definitely drove myself insane, I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten so crazy. 

Lindsey Okubo: I feel like that’s also just being in New York, you know what I mean? There does feel like there is this chaotic energy that’s been fueling everyone right now that feels collective and I think that’s also what’s special about New York. I know you used to work at Happy Fun Hideaway and they just had their 10th anniversary! 

Eartheater: I was their first hire! I worked there for five years! 

Lindsey Okubo: Crazy how many bodies have moved in that space, how it’s nurtured so many and and I feel like you’ve carried that same conscientiousness through to your pursuits with Chemical X and everything. You have this nuance of understanding community and understanding people in a way that definitely influences your music and maybe that gets overlooked a bit? 

Eartheater: Well write about it, so they can read about it [laughs] I feel this album was a culmination of everything especially coming out of COVID and looking back on this crazy mountain that I built and climbed at the same time, I feel really proud of that. It’s hard for me to even adjust to feeling the magnitude of it because I do really just feel like a village girl being in this neighborhood. I know the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, I watched kids grow up on my street, taught them how to play the guitar and now they’re applying for college. I wanted this album to feel grounded. Trinity and Phoenix were fantastical, there was this sense of reaching out and Powders is about breaking things down, unabashedly using nostalgia and romantic memories, pulling them forward.

Lindsey Okubo: I feel like nostalgia has also become the buzzword that it has because of how quickly things move nowadays. The role of memory has become a lot more prominent for the same reason. 

Eartheater: Has it? We definitely want to feel more grounded because where’s the substance? What is the material? Maybe the memories are the powder and here I am with a butterfly net, trying to catch the powder. It’s like cultural compost or something. 

Lindsey Okubo: There’s a lot of duality in your work and it’s important to acknowledge that the things that seem, feel or look most obvious have an underbelly to them. For example, I’m curious what the role of innocence plays in your work? The loss of innocence seems like it mirrors your trajectory in a seductive way. 

Eartheater: Yeah that’s interesting, I have to let that simmer. I didn’t go to school, I have a weird upbringing and there’s nothing I can do about it. I am who I am. There’s a lot of ways in which I’m like, shit, I probably would be so different if I had been trained and put through the same sort of experiences that most people are and I feel very different a lot of the time. I just have to stay okay with not knowing what something is, saying I don’t know what you’re referencing. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that but it’s better than pretending. 

Lindsey Okubo: I almost feel like that’s a blessing because it warrants a sense of singularity to you. I feel like when you say you have different references, connection then more so becomes about emotional benchmarks. 

Eartheater: I’m glad you said that, the emotional alchemy is something I try to hone in on which is what I love to do with the lyrics. I try to express emotions that are difficult.

Lindsey Okubo: Right and how adjacent is poetry to it? I know I’m staring at your tattoo of it right now. It’s interesting to think about who you’re speaking to, who you’re writing about and how it all becomes abstracted? For instance, in Clean Break that’s seemingly such a strong visual cue but could also be an emotional one. 

Eartheater: I feel the poetry is what’s abstract, but if you really process it, the meaning is quite pinpointed. In Clean Break, I was actually just speaking very anecdotally and talking about what happened with that song. Lola came over and I just got back from tour in Mexico. Along the way, one of my bags that had my laptop in it went missing and my phone was pickpocketed. I got home and had no way to communicate with anyone, no computer, no phone but I still had to edit this video for Lola. I walked to my makeup artist, Nina’s apartment and sang to her window so I could call up MOSHPIT, who I needed to edit with.

Despite this involuntary isolation, I was able to connect with Lola to hangout and to comfort her as she was dealing with a breakup. My mom is English so making tea for these situations is like a reflex but I didn’t have a teapot but I had this cylinder glass vase. I filled it with tea bags and as I’m pouring the hot water in – boom! The bottom of the base drops off, a perfect, clean break. It doesn’t shatter and I’m exclaiming to Lola about how insane this is but she’s crawling on the floor and I’m looking at her like she’s crazy. She eventually leaves, I’m sobering up and I looked down on my coffee table and there’s a perfect pile of glass shards. In her stupor, she had noticed that it wasn’t a clean break. She has been crawling around picking up all the shards around my living room. Something about it just hit me and the song downloaded into my brain. I grabbed my guitar and lo and behold, there was no way to record it because I had no phone, no computer but I stayed up all night writing the song and it was heaven. It was paradise because finally I had the space to write. 

Finally, there’s time for the concerto without this technological fodder. Duality revealed itself in how annoying it was but also what a blessing, being a clean break, but not a clean break, what I’m going through and what you’re going through – and how we’re going through it together and it’s completely different things but there’s this spiraling magic to it. A concerto is when you have a soloist against the whole orchestra, right? It’s like our experience versus everyone else’s that we’re around. I decided to use the word concerto to reflect this sense of being closed-minded which we will always be to a certain degree. As much as we want to empathize, it’s like how concerto of me to not see, it wasn’t a clean break.

Lindsey Okubo: Just in hearing you tell the story, I know how everyone has mythologized you because you’re a world-builder but at the same time, it’s in these personal mythologies that the real magic lies. It’s being able to see the signs, being open to the synchronicities and connecting the dots. 

Eatrheater: It’s simple! The self-awareness oscillates, but it’s part of it. You have to allow yourself to plunge into things where you’re going to experience something, where you’re going to learn. That’s what I try to tell my babies, I think it’s really hard right now because people are really scared. 

Lindsey Okubo: You mean with Chemical X? What are they scared of? 

Eartheater: Of making mistakes. Yeah with Chemical X, but a big sis now for a lot of artists in the community.

Lindsey Okubo: Right and I think in not wanting to make mistakes, you realize that there is a formula for things nowadays. 

Eartheater: Well, yeah, but that’s boring! How are you going to make anything new? If it’s a formula, it’s already been decided for you.  

Lindsey Okubo: Yeah and for those that you are a mentor to, how are you helping them to achieve that? People don’t really see the difference between success and fulfillment nowadays and they equate one with the other but one feels totally different. There is no room for this sense of fulfillment because people want to be this person, they want to be this person, now. Agreed?

Eartheater: I feel a huge sense of fulfillment but a lot of people around me are telling me that there’s so much potential for ultimate success and I’m like, I feeI like I made it! I could have never imagined that things could have even gotten to this point. I’m so grateful every day but everyone wants more and more, but for me to do that, I actually need to sit back, collect and live. There’s an input and output to this process. I feel extremely fulfilled in the work and maybe I don’t have the numbers but I don’t care, the respect is there. Where I don’t feel fulfilled is in the part of my life that isn’t about music and I’ve been hell bent on it in my own way which is getting nitty gritty, staying grounded but I need to go out and see shit, I’m not going to be locked in my fucking tower, I’m ravenous. 

Lindsey Okubo: Right and that activates this awareness of time because time doesn’t stop for anyone and if you sequester yourself, when you come back down, you often feel this disconnect between the community you’ve built in lieu of the pressures of being an artist.

Eartheater: I just love shooting the shit with all the characters and all the people and reminding myself, what is more than this rat race? I think that’s where the romance is, that’s where I find so much material for songwriting. I’m definitely at this place where I feel fulfilled in the work and I’m excited that after this album and the next album, to reconstruct my mode a little bit. 

Lindsey Okubo: How would you go about doing that? 

Eartheater: I want to try some new things out like acting, maybe I make a fucking cookbook [laughs] There are so many things I enjoy outside of this. I want to ride, I want to buy a horse. I want to train, I want to do show jumping, that’s what I thought I was gonna do before I did music. I want to lecture, I want to teach, I want to learn, maybe I’ll go to school? I love that it’s opened up to the point where I can even think about that because from what I came from to be quite honest, for me to be successful this is the only thing that I could do. Otherwise, I would be mucking stalls or waiting tables. I’m doing this so that I can then have the freedom to then do other things. 

Lindsey Okubo: It’s refreshing too because I also feel like when certain people ascertain this level of success, they pigeonhole themselves into identifying with what they do. I feel like even if they have other interests, they feel like they can’t explore them. I feel like nowadays it happens too often because everyone wants to be “relevant”. 

Eartheater: I am bringing it back to farming, like, you can deplete a field of the nutrients of a certain plant if you’re always planting the same thing there. You have to let it  rest and plant a different plant there and then move the other one to another space. I need to redistribute my energy to be renourished. It’s a wonderful feeling, but I feel like it’s the last squeeze of a particular root. I make it difficult for the structures of industry in that sense because people just want a mode of product development and to create commerce around that, but I’m not a machine. 

Lindsey Okubo: What’s your relationship with time? 

Eartheater: I think I’m really rebellious. I remember when I was 18, I thought I had to put out my first album then but I didn’t, I put my first album out when I was 26. The pinpointedness of age and time and the expectation to deliver at a certain point didn’t help me at all. As I do in many aspects of my life, even in myself, if I see something being too much of a soapbox or godhead, I rebel against it. I decided not to give a shit about time and it’s definitely one of the motifs of my lyrics. In doing so, I gained so much more clarity to just do what I need to do. It relieves the anxiety because that thought process is just a feedback loop. Despite the world being topsy turvy right now, I feel more wise, acute in what I need to do and more strength in my voice than I ever have. What a gift that is! It makes me feel youthful. I want to exist there. 

Lindsey Okubo: Right and even in just being a woman, we do have to more or less face the realities of the biological clock at the same time which creates this whole ageist attitude. So much of age is more so just solidifying how you personally define things like trust, hope and faith and that only deepens through experience. 

Eartheater: Ageism is adjacent to sexism and it’s the power of mindset! The difference between faith and hope? With hope, you’re allowing there to be a possibility that it might not happen. Faith means I know wherever I’m going is gonna be cute. I’m gonna make my little adjustments to make sure it’s cute, but I have faith in myself to be able to do so. The glass is half full with hope but faith is the fountain. 

Lindsey Okubo: Ultimately I feel like it’s also something that reflects your personal power. You have your horse tattoos and I feel like it’s also that kind of iconography that embodies this idea of power. But again, duality, can’t have power without self-doubt. 

Eartheater: Power for me is knowing, no matter if everyone around me is unsure, I’m sure. There’s a spectrum of self doubt and you have to look at it and address it. Don’t immediately shun it because that’s being an ignorant, egotistical, balloon-headed asshole if you’re not actually asking, why am I doubting this right now? Because sometimes it’s right, maybe it’s actually correct but you have to dissect it. What voice is speaking in the microphone right there? Oh, it’s that little bitch that said that one little thing and what is she doing with her life actually? Or wait, it’s that motherfucker that has their shit together? I actually am gonna listen. It’s a process, it’s complex and that’s what we need to talk about more –  the complexity of our thoughts, the tree of association.

Lindsey Okubo: I was talking to the Paris Texas guys about safety and stability and they were saying that safety is about having the space to have those conversations with yourself, being able to sit down and think about things. As an artist or creative person, you’re constantly thrown into new situations with new people in new places and this notion of stability goes out the window but how do you maintain a sense of assuredness? 

Eartheater: Back to power again, there’s a lot of things we can buy to make ourselves feel better, but we also need to remember that we can do a lot for ourselves with nothing and that’s self love I guess. I think it’s about trusting your gut and not being afraid; and part of not being afraid is making mistakes and making a fool of yourself. I do think that this has to be an aspect of the identity of being an artist because right now with the exhibition of social media, people expect things to be so buttoned up and perfect, and that’s  so boring to me. 

Lindsey Okubo: Yeah, we crave rawness. What are some of the mistakes that you’ve made, if you want to talk about them?

Eartheater: Being so inspired by something and trying to do it without realistically understanding the amount of time it takes to execute it properly. It’s letting those dips happen so that you can rise in another way later.


Photography · David Brandon Geeting
Stylist · Dominick Barcelona
Set Designer · Megan Kiantos
Hair Stylist ·  Shin Arima
Make Up Artist · Jezz Hill 
Manicurist · Mamié Onishi
Retoucher · Nikita Shaletin
Production · artProduction


An Open Process of Idea’s Rather Than Forms

PPAA Pérez Palacios Arquitectos is an architecture firm based in Mexico City that focuses on “the architecture of ideas and not forms”. Heavily influenced by nature, be it by inspiration or practical site locality, PPAA seek to create projects through an open creative process. Pablo Perez Palacios founded PPAA in 2016 after over a decade-long architectural journey. This journey began with an interest in architecture sparked during his time living in Florence. NR Magazine joined Pablo Perez Palacios in conversation. 

Nicola Barrett: You stated about Infinite Openness that architecture needs to recover the idea of presence, of being part of a place and time. What do you mean by that?

PPAA: When we do architecture, we really put it to the test. Once it’s finished, at least while we’re still doing architecture for humans, you allow the passing of time to become the real judge. The project only starts when it’s finished. So that’s what I meant by that. I have this saying that I believe that really good architecture is one that, with time, it dignifies itself. I always say that there’s nothing more horrible than a new building. You need to allow life to go through the building. It’s really about having an open process that allows multiple actions to happen inside that built environment.

Nicola Barrett: You also said with this project that architecture has lost its connection with nature. Do you think there are ways to regain this connection in pre-existing buildings/spaces/homes? 

PPAA: Architecture has become a fight between artificial and natural. What I believe now, especially for the new generation, is that architecture needs to connect with nature. A very simple example is, developing an office building that has a glass facade with an air conditioning system. It works because there’s the sun outside and you are cool inside. But that’s no longer the way to approach it, because if we keep doing that we end up with the issues we have now. So architecture needs to come back to the basic principles and a primitive way of doing things. That is what has been lost. We can still develop whatever technology we can, but in the long term, we’re messing up the natural environment.

 Also, one thing that I don’t know if I mentioned, as important as the space we build, is the space that we leave behind. The void, the empty space is even more important than the built one. And it was super evident during the pandemic, people were in desperate need of a balcony or a terrace. 

We have to come back to the primitive way of understanding that nature is always better than architecture or the artificial. The more we develop buildings around that idea, the more consciousness and the more sustainable they are going to be.

Of course, it’s harder to do with pre-existing architecture and it’s harder to adapt. But with pre-existing cities or structures that are already there, we can start thinking about the space between those buildings. I don’t think you can possibly change everything that is already there. But there are a lot of things that can be done in this empty space, the void between things. I would think about it as a way to connect things, rather than transform the things that are already there. So it’s more about the space in between or how you deal with the space in between the existing buildings rather than the buildings themselves. When you start connecting all the little abandoned spaces into something, that brings more value to the existing works.

Nicola Barrett: What were some of the challenges you faced when working on the Echegaray project and what was your process when deciding to flip the ‘conventional layout’?

PPAA: The biggest challenge was to try to communicate to the clients the idea that it’s on a rocky slope, it really doesn’t make sense to bring a machine and tear it down. It’s much more appealing than just getting rid of it. So once they understand that the rock has a beauty in itself, then the second challenge was to make them understand that due to the slope of the plot, it’s much cleverer to have the social area at the top. The house itself is in this black rock, then you discover this openness and this view for the social spaces at the top. I think in the end, they bought into the idea and were super happy with it.

Nicola Barrett: So the biggest challenge was getting them to agree with it, not the construction?

PPAA: Of course, if you don’t fight against natural elements, like you don’t need to get rid of all this rock, then it’s easier. Structurally speaking, you use the rock as a support. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. But besides that, the social area at the top has this super light wooden pavilion and we just brought in the structure. Like it doesn’t weigh a lot. Everything starts to align once you understand the natural conditions.

Nicola Barrett: In Moliere the space can be divided by sliding doors. How does this work exactly with people living in this project, or rather how has it worked?

PPAA: You normally have this idea that, okay, this is a living room and this is a kitchen and this is a dining room or whatever. With the possibility of multiple configurations, there’s really something that happens in the natural way of using space. When we did this project, their children were very small, so the houses changes with the user as well. If you want to have an open kitchen facing the dining room, or you want to have it closed because you have small children you can do that with the sliding doors. That they really understood from day one because it just gives you a lot of ways to personalise the space. 

Also, something worth talking about, is that architects have this idea that we kind of control everything. We design and specify, from the door handle to the curtain or whatever. But in the end, people personalise houses, they end up doing what they want, so it becomes a home. In Moliere the possible configurations just give you multiple possibilities on how you make it your own. It’s a very simple approach because it’s just literally a sliding door. But with that simple gesture, you have a lot of ways to inhabitant that space. 

Nicola Barrett: In Las Golondrinas the house is divided into three independent volumes with free space between. Do you think this idea of separate spaces and then communal gathering spaces could really benefit people who can’t afford the current housing market?

PPAA: In that specific case, what we’re separating is the moments of how you exist in the house, like sleeping time or social. So that idea of configuring the house around how you use it, would be something super good to do on a large scale. You can definitely take advantage of sharing more of a public space. At the moment people cannot afford a house and it’s bad because developers are trying to squeeze everything that you need into a smaller space. Before you used to have separate rooms for everything. So the idea of separating the use of the space is much cleverer than rather than minimising everything into one single space. 

And I think that the way to approach the housing of the future should be, okay, we give you the essential spaces that need to be enclosed. Like you need a private room, of course, and a bathroom. But maybe the social area can be something that is shared and adaptable. So, yeah, I think people need to really understand, especially developers, that the answer to the housing problem is not just making everything smaller.

Nicola Barrett: Juan Cano I was designed to blend in with the environment. Do you think that this is something important to consider in projects, partially when building amongst older local buildings?

PPAA: I think this idea that it should blend with the natural environment is not very formal in terms of the way it’s done. It’s more conceptual. It has to be something that really blends not only in terms of architecture and what colour it is. If it’s in an urban location, we have to stop thinking that every single project has to advertise how new and extreme it is. The value is how it blends with the surroundings. It’s about doing an architecture that’s value is not in the formal aspect, but the concept behind it. 

Also, Cano is a townhouse and there were not a lot of townhouses in Mexico City. In the city, there were a lot of houses, the urban sprawl, all over. So they have these huge kilometres of city that is just single homes and then the nicest areas are starting to have flats, one on top of the other. A townhouse is something that is in between. People still want to have their own house with their own garden, but the point is maybe you cannot do that because there’s not enough space. But we can’t just have one flat on top of the other. So by introducing the townhouses in Mexico is something that we believe, in terms of urbanism, is a way of addressing this. It’s about being honest and doing architecture, and it’s about ideas rather than forms. The formal aspect of architecture is something that shouldn’t be the number one priority.

Nicola Barrett: What was the process behind building La Colorada?

PPAA: That’s a super good example for the previous question. La Colorada has this typical a-frame which is a structure that has existed throughout the ages. It’s a shape that is found in every construction from around the world The first part of this project was an a-frame that was brought to the site, and then our clients asked us to make it into a larger home. So we extended the a-frame and we created these covered terraces and put the rooms underneath. So basically here we really forgot about the architecture ego and said, we’re just doing an a-frame.

There’s no point trying to do something extreme in the middle of a nice forest. An a-frame made out of wood really blends with the nature. Forget about the architect’s ego. Just do something that really disappears. Of course, we needed to make the client understand that when you’re going down to your room, you go through an outdoor space. You’re going to go from inside to outside and then inside again. But it’s also a way to disconnect, you force the user to be outside, put on a jacket. It was a simple gesture that allowed us to create a space that really blends in.

Nicola Barrett: What are some upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about?

PPAA: We have a few. We’re doing this electric charging station for cars, like a system of gas stations for electric cars. It’s really interesting because we’re doing a system that can be replicated many times. It’s freestanding, and it has this solar-powered system. 

We’re also working on a project that’s kind of our first high-rise building in Mexico City, that’s actually a preexisting twenty-five-floor building. Instead of just pulling it down and doing another one with a glass facade and central air conditioning, we’re actually changing the concept of how we do something that is literally one floor above the other one. We are making it public so you can go to the restaurant on the seventh floor and the public bath house that we are doing at the top of the building, like old Russian public baths. We’re very happy to be working on that project.

We are also doing a project in Mexico that is made out of the earth from the site. So that’s really nice. It’s this compressed earth with very thick walls. And we have a lot of things going on.

We’re looking to get one amazing public project, that would be our dream to do. Something that really has a public character, like a library.

And the more we do things the way we believe it should be done, the more happy we are. We need to avoid trends in life. Because when you start doing things by a trend, it becomes almost like fast fashion. It gives a temporality to the architecture and it gives a value that is valid only for a small period of time. We believe there are people out there who value our ideas. I believe that the more time passes, the better the architecture is.

It come to a point that we avoid having architectural references or books or magazines inside our office because we don’t want to see them. Once a year we take all the physical models and break them. It’s like we can have a clear mind afterwards. 

Nicola Barrett: So where do you get your inspiration from?

PPAA: It sounds like a cliche but from nature. I still haven’t been in a place that can replicate having a nap underneath a tree in the park. Our biggest aim is to try to do something as nice as nature. And also to give the exact same value to the space that we left as to the space we built. A simple example of this is a house and a patio. The patio is as important as a house. The empty space or the void or what’s left unbuilt is really what gives value to what you build. We try to start from that openness. Forget about formal aspects, forget about if I want it to be round or square or black or white. It’s really about understanding that it has to be, ideally, similar to what you feel in nature and as open as possible.

Nicola Barrett: What advice do you have for young aspiring architects and creatives?

PPAA: Yeah, definitely do something that is personal. Of course, you need to read about everyone, but the more you try to find your own way of expressing yourself, the better. Of course, you need to learn basic strategies, but study everything else around it. Like, for example, if you study architecture, but at the same time you study medicine or anatomy, then you have a better understanding of how to do things. A very straightforward example, if they ask you to do an aquarium, then of course you need to know a lot about whales and fish. Don’t worry too much about trying to do something like someone else. If you try to get ideas from other architectural examples, you’re going to end up doing things the same way. Worry a lot about finding your own personal way of doing things and dedicate as much time as possible to reading, studying, and learning everything that is not related to architecture.


CLOUD designed by PPAA. Photography by Maureen M Evans
INFINITE OPENNESS designed by PPAA. Photography by Rafael Gamo
MOLIERE designed by PPAA. Photography by Rafael Gamo
LAS GOLONDRINAS designed by PPAA. Photography by Rafael Gamo
LA COLORADA designed by PPAA. Photography by Rafael Gamo
CLOUD designed by PPAA. Photography by Luis Garvan Located in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA

Haley Josephs

Glowing Underfoot

Painting is not easy. In fact, “It’s hard to make paintings”, says Haley Josephs. (A painter.)  Josephs is not wrong. Art is old. It has survived time and has broken ground longer than civilization. From the Kununurra petroglyphs in Australia to the Chauvet Caves and Fayum mummy portraits, art has grown old, and painting has grown up. But it has never been easy. No matter how ‘simple’ Matisse made his forms, there is more than just technical skill required to paint something that endures. Although modern stresses spread on the contemporary skyline, art and creation are myriad and many. 

Some people paint humanity in its barren reality, while others depict the trees and the abstract emotions of humankind. Some grow grass and paint horizons that are endless and gold or muted in a haze. And some people paint both. 

Haley Josephs paints atmospheres stratified by living forms and forests. Look at the paintings long enough, and the figures and shrubbery sway, form into forest and producing form. They are separated by time and depicted in a scene. Superimposed by a colour that glows from afar like hot fire or heavy foreboding, soon to reach but still at a distance. Intimately separated by layers of paint and the glazes that hold them. Josephs shares emotional figures that come with a sense of accepted loss. They radiate mystical serenity. 

Her paintings give us something to ponder on, to feel. They shed light and emotion like myths and time, spreading out into the present like glowing bulbs in a century that is gloomy and dark, somewhat starved of and simultaneously surfeited with hope.

With a pictorial attitude that runs along the lines of an “If I don’t do it, then it won’t get done, so only I can do it” attitude, Josephs discusses her work and how she mines her mind, constantly experimenting — and at times failing — in a drawn-out process to improve and develop more and more work. When she will be done is unclear. Actually, the answer is clear. She won’t.  She has a lot of work to do and isn’t stopping anytime soon. 

Billy De Luca: Where are we calling from now?

Haley Josephs: Just home in Brooklyn. My studio is nearby in Williamsburg, but I’m around Domino Park next to the East River.

Billy De Luca: The last time you exhibited your work was at the tail end of last year.  How did you feel about that show in London?

Haley Josephs: I feel like so much has happened since that show, but it really set me up for where I’m at now.  Having made so many works with such intense colours from my time in and around Acadia National Park really helped me feel free. I learned a lot from all the explorations of colour, the references to nature, and even just being up there, honing in.

Billy De Luca: And what are you doing now?

Haley Josephs: The work has been progressing into a darker territory. The show gave me the nutrition to keep going; many of the exhibition’s works were made out in nature. I made a lot for that show, and I could have kept going. I just felt this need to produce. There was just so much to do, even though there was less time and space. It was the most I’ve ever felt OK about a show; I always feel pretty weird about putting all this emotion into something and putting it out into the world and having people watch you. But this show, I felt the calmest. I used to be very judgemental of myself after a show, but after the London exhibition, I felt ready to move on to the next step. 

Billy De Luca: And now that this exhibition is done, what would the ‘next steps’ be?

Haley Josephs: I used to be interested in the lusciousness of paint right out of the tube or barely mixed on the canvas, letting that be and sit on the surface. I thought that was really sexy. Now, I feel like there’s more nutrition in delving into how to capture colours in a shadow. I want to spend more time on the paintings I’m currently working on. I want to be layering more, practicing with different glazes, and working on the complexities of deeper colours. Finding colour within the darkness.

Billy De Luca: The darker tones reflect light when glazed, and it’s a fascinating experience up close. When you look at a Caravaggio, you can see how much layering goes into his dark background and how many colours sit behind this ‘darkness’.  

Haley Josephs: And it’s attractive. When I was in London for my show, I also explored parts of Europe over the weeks. I realised that when I was surrounded by paintings in museums, I was attracted to those with darker tones. Before, I felt intimidated to push through and challenge colour. But now I am more interested in the browns, greys, and greens that have these complexities. 

Billy De Luca: How do you achieve that?

Haley Josephs: I’m now using a material called Canada balsam (a natural resin that has the effect of an old master’s glaze). They almost look like there are colours underneath glass, layered so much and keeping the vibrancy without muddying it. When I go up close to a painting, I like to see what the artist was thinking about, like how tree bark is expressed through the paint, not just colour.  There’s this one painting I did with a Unicorn, and it had an extremely glossy surface, so much so that when you look at the painting in person, your body is also in the image. It’s almost like a mirror, and you have to confront being a part of the painting and interacting with it. That’s also why seeing the picture in person and not just online is essential.

Billy De Luca: What sort of dialogue arises from your work? 

Haley Josephs: Well, I think the truth is my work is really hard to talk about. I think of paintings as metaphors and try to create worlds of emotional landscapes. There’s this surreal aspect because it’s so otherworldly. Sometimes the landscape or sky or abstract landscape is supposed to represent this inner world, one where people get this intensity of emotions that are unnamable. 

Like everything is sort of unnamable.

Billy De Luca: It can only ever be boxed into a word…

Haley Josephs: And that’s why I make paintings. It’s my way of communicating, some people can say things in words, but obviously, not everybody can articulate everything. I can only hint at certain things that it’s about. It is up to the viewer to feel how they feel; that doesn’t have to be described in words.

Billy De Luca: How do you feel about these works? 

Haley Josephs: I mean, to be honest, this work feels like me. More like what I’ve been trying to describe in the past. I feel like I came up short before and couldn’t really tell you what I was trying to tell you. However, with this recent show, I felt closer. The works I’m making now are more ethereal and feel less about the figure and more about emotion. It’s not always just about narrative. People notice there’s a greater intensity to the work. Maybe it’s because of the shift in a darker palette, but I think it has to do with me being more intentional about how I start my compositions and what means I used to execute the work. In the past, I would let myself be more content with things and think, ‘Oh, this is OK,’ and wouldn’t really question everything in a way that I felt like I was really challenging myself. But I am now.

Billy De Luca: Have you changed your practice method?

Haley Josephs: I used to use source materials, sometimes taking photos of myself to get the anatomy right or looking up pictures online to inform my vision. Now everything comes from my imagination. I’ll draw out a composition in my sketchbook, letting it come out onto paper. Making sure I have the correct design is just as hard. I just draw it out until I get it. It’s now coming from this true place and looking how I really wanted it to look.

Billy De Luca: That’s very much like Giacometti’s visible reworkings in painting.  Fleshing it out shows how hard painting and proportion can really be. When did you start working in that way?  

Haley Josephs: When it came to school, I mainly painted from photographs of family members. I liked older photos (there’s something interesting about the colours of older photographs), I liked the palette, and I then started working on pictures of female family members that had passed on. My sister and my aunt passed on, and they sort of became characters that naturally came up in my work. They inserted themselves organically. When I was using source materials, they’d still be there. Now I’m more intentional about using images in my head. I’ve started doing work that is authentically me, and I’m beginning to rely on my inner narrative and imagery. I have to hone in on that.

Billy De Luca: When did you begin making art in general? 

Haley Josephs: I grew up attending a Waldorf school (Steiner School) with a huge emphasis on art. We did a lot of watercolours and form drawing — and a lot of the prompts were biblical. But before then it starts with a memory. I was four or five years old, and my cousin (Sophie) and I lived together for a little while.  We had a basket filled with old crayons and scrap paper, and we would draw all day for hours. We used to get really into this thing where Sophie would take all the neon-coloured crayons, and we would try to invent a new colour. We would draw one layer after another with these neon crayons. They would build up on top of each other, and I would have this feeling in my stomach that made me feel tingly. I wanted to get this…colour experience.  It felt like a trip, like I was in this other world, and I realised that, through drawings, I could make this different world. A lot of kids, when they grow up in challenging situations, can interact and react very differently. Drawing this other world allowed me to escape. 

Billy De Luca: And the landscapes? With these paintings, there is less immersion in nature — it almost pushes back.  Are these backgrounds reflecting a sense of longing?

Haley Josephs: I think I was very much influenced by my time in Maine. I was excited to be painting so much, diving into that sense of movement and place and the inner world, the emotional landscape of the characters. Sometimes, however, the paintings are done in a more abstract way, but still holding to representation and having this dream world be real but fantastical. Not everything has to be recognisable. 

The landscapes are also a part of the symbolism in my work. They revolve around my aunt. When I was a kid, she went missing and was in this accident in Montana and walked off into the wilderness and was never found. It has a very specific image in my head of this woman walking off into the Montana landscape, filled with rolling hills and a big sky. When I was at art school getting more into my specific style, I kept painting this scene with a woman and this landscape in her head and then outside of her because I imagined her disappearing into the horizon. Sure, the characters in my work can have this sadness, but the image also sends a message of perseverance and going through difficult times, of overcoming. 

Billy De Luca: And do your paintings have a style? One could place a sticker of ‘surrealism’ on a work with melting skies and name anything ‘fantasy’ following an unimaginable scene. But they aren’t only surreal. They are on a canvas and imagined by you…

Haley Josephs: Yeah I mean I have always had a problem with labels, like my whole life. But I think they are probably just paintings. 

Yeah. They are paintings. 

Billy De Luca: Brilliant. Have you always worked in oils?

Haley Josephs: When I first learned how to paint, it was in acrylic. And being at the Steiner schools, we would paint a lot with watercolour. Watercolour was technically my first experience, but I got hooked on oils, and you can’t go back from oils. It’s just so luscious and. sexy, and I love it.  Also, before I went to college, I was really into ceramics and sculpture too, and I still have a sense of clay, but my heart is definitely into paint.

Billy De Luca: And it’s been ten years since you graduated from Art School and got your MFA. Do you feel comfortable with what you are doing now, or are you still exploring the subject matter and changing things? 

Haley Josephs: I think from my earlier work being influenced by pictures of my aunt to now, there is a level of looking back which makes me realise it’s kind of always been about this chase. A chase to deal with representing and overcoming as a character, seeing a kind of salvation in different ways. In parts of my life, like after grad school, I got really confused about what my work was supposed to look like. I did a lot of really weird things when experimenting, but I think that’s an important thing to do while you’re there. Trying different things and messing around, and not being so precious about things. It took a lot of reckoning to get through graduating and having your work put in a box. Now, I feel a lot more free, and that’s why the narrative and feelings are still as present as they have always been. But it’s when the work is free that the images and story come out in a more authentic way. Even if it takes a longer time to get there. By making a lot of mistakes and failing a lot, I got to the point of being comfortable with just that, not judging whatever happens. I think the thing that hindered me the most was fear. A fear of expectations of others and myself. Now I feel like I can let go of that, and the absolute truth can then spill out. I’m always there in the paintings, but it got fogged up a lot for a while. It became uncertain. It took a long time, but now I’m breaking free of that.

Billy De Luca: But now, what makes a good artwork?

IHaley Josephs: look for a sense of deep exploration and curiosity. I don’t like settling for something and fitting it into some equation of expectations of what one’s work is supposed to be. If there’s something you want to say, say it, and have a real sense of intention and not be held back by the confinements of style.

I like the idea that art comes from this unknown and trying to say the unnameable. It has to be free; I want to see that there is freedom in the work and that it’s been pushed enough. A good painting is one where you push it out into space — nearly out of control — and then you bring it back down. You have to let it get out of control and then hone it back in.  That way, it can capture something that is in this magical realm.

Billy De Luca: And does that mean you know when to stop?

Haley Josephs: I think in the past, I would feel like I wanted the painting to be done in a matter of a day or two, and when I had the composition, the picture would be done (while the paint was still wet). I’d think that’s it. But I stopped too prematurely. Now I’m layering to prolong the painting process. It is getting harder to know when it’s done, but you learn something if you go too far. It’s really nice to have them sitting with me more.

Billy De Luca: I’m sure glazing would help. Titian glazed his paintings up to 20 times back in the day.

Haley Josephs: Glazing, yes! It does so much and shows you how you can think something is done, but then you add another glaze and realise, ‘That’s actually that’s so much better than it was… I did need that when I thought it was done.’  And that’s a big thing to learn. You have to be OK with messing it up. You have to be OK to fail. I like to see paintings that involve a struggle because safety is safe. I think pushing yourself, scaring yourself, and messing with it could be better.  Being so precious is not always the answer.

Billy De Luca: There was a recent work you painted that exemplifies this. There is so much depth coming from behind a treelined background, and a glowing filament of yellow light shines past the darkness. Those colours coming through balance with the form on the left, but how are they balanced?

Haley Josephs: Colour is really hard. I wanted there to be this glow, to make them have this luminous quality. I want there to be a sense of glowing from underneath instead of having light on the surface. It also furthers my work as it revolves around this sense of pushing out from underneath. This work aligns more with what I’ve been trying to get out for a long time.

Billy De Luca: It reminds me of a Turner yellow. The luminosity aspect of his paintings also redefines the parameters of how a painting interacts with light. A casual observer could think, “Your old series is bright, and your new series is dark”, but it goes deeper. You are not going from bright to dark. You’re going from bright to luminous. There’s a darkness in front of it, but you can see the light seeping through.

Haley Josephs: That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s super hard to achieve. There’s something about working towards getting that effect that feels like an exploration of the character as well.  The character gains a sort of sensibility through a mined inner psychology. The act of layering then feels more appropriate. I’m always learning, even with the glaze I’m working with now.

Billy De Luca: It’s true. There are many aspects in the painting process that are involved in making a painting…and making it glow and making it real.

Haley Josephs: Yeah, it’s about capturing some kind of energy that somebody can react to. The same energy that I felt when I was a kid drawing with those fluorescent crayons, trying to capture colour in this complex way that you have to work towards. And it’s not just one crayon that you can draw with, so the question becomes, how do you find the right grouping?

Billy De Luca: What would you say your harshest criticism of your work would be?

Haley Josephs: There’s always this feeling of being really misunderstood. It’s natural, and it happens a lot. In the past, the work has been talked about in a ‘cutesy’ and ‘pretty’ way and in a less-serious tone. It’s not like the work wasn’t taken seriously, but the subject matter was less regarded because of the emotional femininity of my past work. I went through a whirlwind of emotions, but I ended up with a drive to be more me and push. We all have a unique perspective we all show, so I have to try to show mine and keep going. I have a lot of work to do.


All artworks courtesy of Haley Josephs

Rae Klein

A Fraying Blur

At first glance: Things held within a cloud of pale air. 

At second glance…

Rae Klein is tough. She has built a body of work that has received considerable praise. She was born in Michigan and is still there, working with a rhythm is respectable and representative of her success in recent years. Today, her role in this relationship is simple: she keeps producing.  However, there is nothing desultory about this method. What Klein does is focus on the essential element of her life. Klein has always drawn but hasn’t always worked in oils. Before attaining her BFA, she planned to become a nurse. Before covering gallery walls, she shipped paintings out of her garage. Now, she has a studio. Oh, and she paints. 

Folds and pleats of curtains separate from tense formality. Her constructions confront yet refrain from congesting the scene (they reference without any upturned noses or scoffs). The closest you’ll get to old-school is a bunch of candles resembling Corinthian columns or caryatids. Still, they are unsupported and unlikely to raise too many analogies to the ‘art of old’ — they are also clearly paintings of candles and candelabras. The source material is deliberate, and she paints it big and small.  

The larger works are considered and organised by preliminary work. Smaller works are usually unplanned and texturally emotive, “If I’m going to sit down and do a painting, I’m going straight in, and I want to know that I can get it done in the session. I don’t want to get back to it later.” However, Klein’s paintings interreact simultaneously on both scales. Vector lines are established, and intense colours are formed. Pallid clouds interact with pairs of eyes in a spiralling stare. In the studio, she pulls up a painting with a horse head from the desk, and it immediately forms fantasies with a luminous white glow, breaking with the background through a plunged brush and sharp contrast. She makes paintings that can absorb hours of looking and hours of reading. As such, she leaves the sensuous appreciation to the viewer, briefing through a blur. Outlines are near perfect, sometimes muddied and obscured like a forest in fog. She restricts the number of brushes she uses, how long she works on her paintings, and how many finished works are produced in a month. 

All in oils, the pigments bleed down like dyes, revealing painted imagery — or, more accurately, echoes of images — sourced from eBay, thrift or antique stores. Then, they are translated, and soon layers are raked in, and blue skies wrap backgrounds like Sistine Frescoes. Using a soft brush solvent for highlights and bursts of light (looking like lens flares from a JJ Abrahams film), Klein creates these marks by melting the paint while running the brush through the surface. The thinner paint draws (using a round brush) a glossy line or carves down (using a Filbert brush) to show the canvas base. “It’s just as important to move paint off the canvas as it is to put it on,” says Klein. The ground comes through like white tree roots, shining with a subtle radiancy. Like cutting away at curtains rather than parting them. But you can still see the paint, just differently.

Contemplating her practice, Klein observes her work through a tinted window, seeing a bit of herself inside but remaining outward-looking. Klein is introspective in her description yet makes her way across canvases with a tender distance. She’s focusing on the work and the process. In other words, she’s honest. She’s tough.

Billy De Luca: This is an early morning chat.  It is 9:00 am.  Where are we?

Rae Klein: In East Michigan. I live and work in a town called Grass Lake. It’s an hour south of Lansing (Michigan’s capital) and an hour north of Detroit.  It’s like a village. 

Billy De Luca: Have you always lived and had a studio here?

Rae Klein: No. I grew up across the State. Kind of by the lake, in Holland, Michigan. After school I moved, and I had been working from my garage in a town called Stockbridge for the past two years. I moved homes and the studio here in October 2022. It’s a cheap place to live, and it’s small.

Billy De Luca: And that must have been during the pandemic too. Did that affect the scale of your work?

Rae Klein: In those days, they were a lot smaller. They went from about 40 inches to now much bigger. My new studio’s ceiling is about 12 feet (four meters). 

Billy De Luca: Does it feel better to have a gallery not to stress about the administrator?

Rae Klein: Oh yeah, absolutely. Shipping was always a doozy. Now a couple of dudes show up and pack ’em up. And that’s it. I think I just have to be there.  So that’s amazing.  

Billy De Luca: Do you stretch the canvases yourself? What makes them so smooth and glossy?

Rae Klein: No, I have a guy in Detroit who makes the canvases, and then I prime them myself. The canvases are all linen. I used to work on larger grain linen, but now I’m switching to a smaller grain. You can get a lot more detail that way. And the glossiness comes from the varnish. I varnish all the works so that I don’t touch them when they are done. Paintings can be overdone so quickly. It takes a lot of self-discipline to let it be the way it is. Some of them are smooth sailing. Others are ‘problem children’. The ones that are more of a struggle involve more problem-solving. I put them in a ‘time-out’ pile I have in the studio of works that are sitting. Eventually, I figure it out. That’s one of the fun parts of working: when it clicks. Then, knowing what to do.  

Billy De Luca: How do you find painting in oils? Does it force you to have patience? 

Rae Klein: All the work up here in the studio is drying…waiting. The oils help. But I still get impatient, and mistakes happen. I’m trying to apply a technique for controlling errors. Some mistakes will cause beautiful results, especially with textures and colours. But other mistakes have to be sorted into the ‘do not make again’ pile, for instance, getting perspectives wrong and disturbing the image or technical stuff like messing up the surface while priming. Learning to control my mistakes is a big part of improving.

Billy De Luca: And when it comes to your colour selection, do you create your own palette of pigments, or do you mix it up a lot?

Rae Klein: I do a lot of mixing. I’m really into earth tones, but it depends. If something is more mechanical and doesn’t have people, animals, or candles, it probably won’t beg for earth tones. But with my paintings that feature more organic matter, I’m squeezing those browns in!

Billy De Luca: And what makes you select your imagery and subject matter?

Rae Klein: That’s always been a tough one to answer. Basically, I think that they are just things I like. That feel timeless. I’m also now realising that they are also liminal: they could be from any place at any time. I think that’s interesting to play with.

Billy De Luca: You’re right, temporally communal. They are not bordered by specific contextual zones like Jasper Johns’ American Flag or a Gerhardt Richter scene of Paris. It’s tailored to a broader audience.

Rae Klein: And it’s not that I’m trying to cast a wide net. I’m glad I’m not thinking about that when I’m painting, but I do like the idea of having people relate to the imagery as if they might have seen it before. In the design phase, when constructing a painting, I’m looking for it to be a little new to me. I’m always trying to play around with it. I want it to strike me as if I’ve just discovered something. I think how I sketch them allows me to play with the idea a lot. The more rigid paintings are constructed much more like collages, and that’s also where I get some excitement. For some paintings, I just sit down and…do. And that’s a whole other thing. When it comes to the physical act, it has a lot to do with texture. It is equally important to fill the painting with exciting textures and marry it with itself. I get several types of enjoyment from different processes.

Billy De Luca: So, one process generates novelty, and the other comes naturally. Would you say that’s how you started making art?

Rae Klein: When I started painting, I was adding a lot of detail to the work. I felt like excitement would come from being very descriptive. Now I’m trying to see if I can leave more out. Like, what if I could just paint a curtain in an exciting and impactful way but also in a way that doesn’t involve planning out the whole scene? I think the exciting part for me right now is saying more with less. That’s the broad journey.

Billy De Luca: I love that. It’s interesting how acts of omission can further the quality of a work. And when you do it well, it feels much better. Like when somebody finds something interesting in your work that you didn’t have in a CV or portfolio.

Rae Klein: Yes! And I’m trying to apply that to my figures. I almost want them not to be a specific person. I want them to be a representation of a person. It doesn’t need a face or even eyes. It can be just one thing. I like setting the tone with objects.

Billy De Luca: I also noted that the smaller paintings involve outlines that come over and into the surface, like a finger through wet sand. They streak into the layers, muddying the paint and allowing the earth tones to spring up. Is that an example of a finishing touch or how your paintings are conducted within a session?

Rae Klein: Oh yeah, that’s both. I use a brush for that, and it’s very difficult to do on the large ones because it takes so much time to fill in an area. And it has to be done last because it marries the background and the foreground. The blend happens within the shapes and layers. I go over an area with the paint from the background to the main subject to ‘cohesify’ the image. Sometimes it creates a more interesting pattern, colour or line; other times, I let the lines show to avoid overworking the painting.

Billy De Luca: What do you think gets people interested? Like a profound experience of art. Do you think people can just as quickly struggle to accept your work?

Rae Klein: When somebody tells me that it makes them cry. That’s when I’ve done a good job with the painting. I’m in Michigan, so most of my interaction with people besides openings is through Instagram. People are all surprisingly friendly. If they leave a comment, it’s supportive. But there have been times when somebody will go, “So, this is art?” But I don’t take my paintings seriously. I’m not heartbroken if that happens. I’m interested in how people see it.

Billy De Luca: So you are removed from your work?

Rae Klein: I think so, yeah. I don’t keep them. Once I’m done painting a work, it has done its job for me. Once it is done, it can go in a pile. The enjoyment comes from making it and learning, not the final result it extracts. I mean, I’m proud of them, but it is not like I am going to keep them. There are always more nuances to learn that come with painting. And they keep coming! So, it’s better to focus on learning and improving.

Billy De Luca: Has the way you’ve produced changed over time? You just got back from your honeymoon. How was it being away from the studio? 

Rae Klein: I took a week and a half off. And I was like…WOW, what’s going on? I just love to paint. If I have free time, I think I could be painting. I just love it.Usually, I’m pretty consistent. It has been stable for the past two years, but the period in which I worked is now widening; when I started, I would ask myself what I could do on the day, and now it’s more about what I can do in the month and how I can plan the next six months. It was interesting because I have always had a schedule, and when I started supporting myself with my work, I would make paintings available every month or two. That schedule is different in the timespan from the gallery schedule, so it has changed, and I’m structuring it a lot more.

Billy De Luca: And who would you say is your toughest critic?

Rae Klein: Good question. The gallery has really helped me grow and become comfortable with talking about my work. Nicodim is great because they are selective with their artists, but I still have creative control. It’s not always like that with other galleries. When it comes to advice, I think it’s probably my husband. I go to him with a problem, and he’ll be honest, and that’s good.

Billy De Luca: What affects your style?

Rae Klein: My method involves a lot of images too, and they are mostly found. I get a lot from that. Then comes the process of making it interesting for myself. I think style is ever-evolving and something that’s in the rear-view mirror. I figure it will continue to change since I’m on a learning journey, and that’s where the enjoyment is for me. Looking back, it seems pretty fluid, but I’ve been told it is pretty consistent. Some people see it that way, but I see it differently. 

Billy De Luca: What would be something you’d always like to keep in your paintings? Is there more to add?

Rae Klein: The first thing that comes to mind is that I don’t see the dogs or the horses going away. I’ve been drawing horses since I was a little kid. I wasn’t a ‘horse girl’ but I did love horses. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed anywhere near horses, so I had to draw them. I used to paint cars, and as I learned more, I realised it wouldn’t fit, and those got phased out. I don’t think how I get images or anything like that will change. That’s always been pretty consistent. I do want to keep up with technology, though. Trying to learn about AI generation and digital resources is very important, especially how to use that stuff. If you start to fear it, it can cause stagnation in learning, especially since that is where the momentum is taking us. So I’m concerning myself with that right now, and it’s definitely interesting to learn about. I don’t see myself integrating these new things very often, but I want to be aware of them and know how I could use them if I wanted, without having any judgement. I’m looking to coexist.


All artworks courtesy of Rae Klein and Nicodim Gallery

MoMA Ready

MoMA Ready Is Vouching For Himself

MoMA Ready doesn’t care about keeping up with the perceived glamor of electronic music. He just wants to be able to show up in a white tee and black sweats to work, and that’s exactly what he’s sporting when he shows up to The Lot Radio to meet with NR Magazine on a sunny Thursday afternoon, and that’s what he feels comfortable wearing when he’s DJing all over the world. 

He’s ultra laidback while he tells his story. He takes his time rolling a blunt and gets too distracted to take a puff as he narrates the moments of trauma and heartbreak that led to where he is today. The producer is from Newburgh, New York — a place with one of the highest crime rates in America.

“I’m from a fucking horrible environment,” he said. “I’m not from a nice neighborhood in the suburbs. I got to art school because I’m talented.” He studied filmmaking in New York City’s School of Visual Arts before fully pivoting to music in his final year. Soon thereafter, the artist—born Wyatt Stevens—stepped into becoming MoMA Ready.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Does filmmaking play a part in your production process at all?

MoMA Ready: I have a very visual brain  like in full color. Very visual. I can see everything I think about. But I’ve always been multi-faceted. I got into art school with a four-legged portfolio. I was doing video work, graphic design, photography, and fine art. But I felt like filmmaking was a medium where I can express all those factors. 

Arielle Lana LeJarde:  Do you feel like coming from a working class background and not having the same resources as other students in school informs the choice to stay an independent producer?

MoMA Ready: Yeah, but I think it more so comes from not wanting to be told what to do. I would love resources. But even when things have benefited me, if people are trying to tell me what to do, there’s a part of me that’s instantly like, “Fuck off.” I have a rebellious nature, but not in the traditional sense. I’m not edgy and I don’t have a desire to be provocative. I’m not trying to shock and awe. I just don’t necessarily want to have to present myself a certain way in order to be successful. Why sacrifice my integrity if I don’t have to? I’ve gotten this far. I’ve accomplished a lot.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: How old are you anyway?

MoMA Ready: I just turned 30. What about you?

Arielle Lana LeJarde: I turn 29 next month. I see kids coming up in the scene and they’re like 19, so I feel like we’re old.

MoMA Ready: I feel like our generation is the most important generation. I like to think of us as a bridge between this old version of society and this new version of society. Older millennials are the reason why social media exists. So I have zero shame about being this age. I’m the perfect age because I have this knowledge that this older world exists.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Speaking of the older generation, we just learned the heartbreaking news that DJ Deeon died today. How did he inspire you and your music?

MoMA Ready: It shouldn’t be a thing where people like DJ Deeon and Paul Johnson are passing away from health issues. People who are pioneers should be as taken care of as well as big headliners. It puts a lot of things into question for me and I think a lot of people treat this as symptoms of how they feel about the people that benefit. Because of the narratives that have been spun out of capitalism and white supremacy in these spaces, the wrong people end up suffering.

DJ Deeon, and other people from his graduating class, created the foundation of the movement that my friends and I have created, and are even able to stand on. Deeon was one of the OGs that embraced us. He embraced all of us on an individual level. And he was supportive. There’s a lot of animosity for younger generations and he was never on that type of time. It’s sad. I wish I could have seen him live one last time. 

DJ Deeon is a big influence on myself and my friends in the rhythms and everything that we do. So losing one of my main influences is hard. There’s not going to be someone that comes along and fills it. And I don’t have to say this just to give him respect because he passed away. He was that before he passed. All of this just solidifies his legacy.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Why do you think some people in the older generation of producers and DJs aren’t as accepting?

MoMA Ready: I want to blame them because they’re adults, right? But it’s not their fault. They’re mad at me—or whoever that they’re angry at—because of the structures that I just mentioned. Not because of us.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: When did you start producing anyway?

MoMA Ready: I really started experimenting with producing around 2013, but I had tried way before that. It wasn’t really about making music until 2016, when I experienced things in my personal life that made it hard to focus. Music was the only thing that kept me grounded.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: What happened in 2016?

MoMA Ready: I was a victim of violence. I was suckerpunched downtown and the person broke my face. They kicked me in my face and I almost died. That’s why I have a metal plate in my face. It just made me recoil because a bunch of people that were supposed to be cool with me didn’t help me at all.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: A lot of your career surrounds your collaborations and your friends. How did you learn to trust people again?

MoMA Ready: Things in my life tend to resolve themselves pretty aggressively and serendipitously, so I learned to embrace that. I learned to take those steps on those serendipitous stones. There were also certain people that became consistent in my life and I just realized that nobody was out to get me. I have people I work with, I have my friends, and we all luckily can keep pace with each other. So I’ve tried to take advantage of the blessings that I have.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: With being in AceMoMA and having a close group of friends who are all equally as prominent, do you ever struggle with wanting to just be recognised as a standalone artist?

MoMA Ready: Hell yeah! I’m very vocal about it. I’m super honest and a very transparent person. I’ve even spoken to AceMo about it and all my friends. None of us would work if we weren’t singular artists. We all have to have individual careers. It’s important. But my problem was, I was putting my work into everyone else, so everybody started outpacing me in a way that made me wonder what I can do. I started just focusing on myself.

I recently went through a breakup that made me ask myself, “Who am I outside of other people?” I put myself into a lot of people. Then, I started vouching for myself because I realized nobody else is going to do it. What I contributed to the local space in New York, based on the proximity of being near me—because of my label, my compilations, and my efforts. I don’t give a fuck if it sounds cringe, but I’m owed. And I’m taking it now.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: What do you want people to know about MoMA Ready and what do you want people to know about Wyatt Stevens?

MoMA Ready: MoMA Ready is a persona. Don’t think that because you listen to my music that you know me at all. And it’s not because I’m trying to not know you. It’s more so that you need to approach me as someone that you don’t know. I understand that, especially with the way that I am on social media, I’ve built a lot of parasocial connections with my fan base. I answer their questions. A lot of artists are very like yeah, I’ll let you know what’s weird. Like forever. I feel like because I’m so honest with people in these questionnaires like people feel like they have a literal relationship with me.

About Wyatt Stevens? I’m a complete human being.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: How would you describe the New York City dance music scene and what is your part in it?

MoMA Ready: Shit. It’s a special place right now. New York City dance culture is now what people used to think it was. Nightlife has always been happening here, but I think as far as dance music is concerned, I want to say it’s never been like this anywhere in the country. I’m probably definitely wrong, and some old head is going to think I don’t know what I’m talking about. But for my generation, we’re doing a really good job of maintaining the culture and being expressive and making sure that the real is still here. I’m thankful to be a catalyst in that. I know I’m not the only one, but goddammit, I’m a big one.


 Photography · Sam McKenna