Our Weird and Wonderful issue wouldn’t be complete without remembering how lucky we are in this life to have people who transform their faces into elaborate works of wondrous art – Austin James Smith, Lucia perešová and Lyle xox – perform on stages in Las Vegas, London, Berlin and Beirut – Anthony Nakhle, Johannes Jaruraak, Gingzilla, Alice Longyu Gao or performers like Yvie Oddly – and transport us to worlds beyond our wildest imagination – Florent Venet, Franknitty 3000, Minori, Pandemonia, Lena and Katya Popovy and Portis Wasp.

Austin James Smith

NEW YORK, USA
ARTIST, JEWELRY DESIGNER

@EMPTY.POOLS

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: It’s the physical manifestation of how I’m feeling inside at the time, projected on the outside of myself. A lot of people think that the way I express myself is a way of sort of hiding or changing my identity. I find for me it’s actually the opposite – it’s the accumulation and visual explosion of things that I’m currently thinking about.

Q: How did it start?

A: It started when I was in school in Chicago and started going out to clubs and experimenting with wearing more alternative fashion. In school I was creating lots of handmade clothing with crazy screen- printed patterns, and found that nightlife was a fun place to showcase the pieces. Over time my focus shifted from making strange clothing to different headpieces that I would wear out. I started seeing them as more fine-art objects and less ‘club wear’, and moved away from the club as my outlet and to the photo studio.

Q: Why do you do it?

A: I find that my current process challenges me in ways that other methods of making do not. I show a very vulnerable side of myself when creating looks that I photograph, and I find that I connect better with other people since I’ve started. I’ve always been a sort of shy and reserved person, and I feel that doing work like this really pushes me outside my comfort zone, which has generally made me a more confident and self- aware person as a result.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

A: Walking The Blonds runway. A big thing that I feature in my work is custom temporary tattoos , and The Blonds had me create temporary tattoos for their show. It was really amazing to have a part of my personal work be celebrated like that.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: Being able to express myself freely and have people actually understand and be inspired by what I do and support me, is what makes me most happy.

Anthony Nakhle

BEIRUT, LEBANON
ARTIST, DANCER

@ANTHONYNAKHLE9

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: For me, my art feels very definite. It is intense and very real. It triggers an intimate and transparent side of my personality that I always project while dancing, creating or performing. My work arouses your attention, it’s provocative, it makes you uncomfortable at some points and it makes you think and question your sexuality as an Arab man. I am always searching for diversity in my art and it is something I recently started to incorporate into my creative process.way I express myself is a way of sort of hiding or changing my identity. I find for me it’s actually the opposite – it’s the accumulation and visual explosion of things that I’m currently thinking about.

Q: How did it start?

A: Thanks to my beautiful, supportive parents. It all started because of them. They saw something in me that no one else did or believed in and, they put me on that path at a very young age. At first it didn’t make much sense why I am doing this, but I did it anyway. It took me a long time to adapt to it and find my own voice in my art.to showcase the pieces. Over time my focus shifted from making strange clothing to different headpieces that I would wear out. I started seeing them as more fine-art objects and less ‘club wear’, and moved away from the club as my outlet and to the photo studio.

Q: Describe your process.

A: Honestly, it depends. Sometimes it’s very spontaneous and fast. An idea would occur to me in an inconvenient situation. I would hold on to it, execute it with little planning and then everything just seems to fall into the right place at the right time. Other times, I enter into my own fantasy dream, usually influenced by what’s going on in my life or what I am being influenced by at the time.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

A: Being able to understand who I am as an artist, being able to share my art and be recognized for it, impacting people’s lives and inspiring them by just being my true self, and carrying my Middle Eastern culture and sharing it with the world through my art.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: The satisfaction after finishing a performance/dance class. When the plane lands in Beirut after all my work abroad. First bite of food when I’m very hungry. A good laugh with my closest friends. And last but not least, when the beat drops.

Florent Venet

LE MANS, FRANCE
ARTIST

@YOURHYBRIDLOVER

Q: How would you describe your work?

A: My work is a monstrous hybrid of human, fairy, and skinned wolf on a frozen lake. My work also is a human transmuting into rock, moss sprouting on their face. And my work may be a camp hybrid of a moth and a gorilla. It is basically a bunch of fantastical creatures living their lives in their natural habitats bringing queerness back to where it all started: nature.is something I recently started to incorporate into my creative process.way I express myself is a way of sort of hiding or changing my identity. I find for me it’s actually the opposite – it’s the accumulation and visual explosion of things that I’m currently thinking about.

Q: How did it start?

A: It unconsciously started in my childhood where fantasy and science-fiction were all around me. For example, I played Dungeons & Dragons all my life. On every family holiday, I would live through the same character, a human rogue called ‘Rounga’. The young Florent also played loads of video games (maybe a bit too much), such as World of Warcraft, Skyrim, and League of Legends. I love these games because weirdness and fantasy is the norm, what refreshment is this!

Q: Can you describe your process?

A: I’ll first go into my studio, start making anything, whether it is a costume, a mask or a prosthetic. From there, an idea will emerge, morph, and evolve into a full-blown creature. Once the creature is fully birthed, I will start embodying it, discovering how it moves, where it lives and what it feels. Then, I go on adventures in the wilderness with my best friend, Mona-Lisa, to find its natural habitat, in which pictures will be captured.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

A: My favourite moment so far was last winter in a community, up in the mountains, called Schweibenalp, in Switzerland. I brought so many creatures there, which could not wait to come alive in the wild, because it is where they truly belong. The process of photographing these pictures with Mona was so moving because that was the moment I could fully realise the characters and unleash their fantastical realness.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: Deep down I know I am a hippy. What makes me the happiest is running around in the sun naked with a bunch of people by a lake; sounding, cuddling, bathing and dancing together–feeling part of a community.

Franknitty 3000

THE NETHERLANDS
Q: How would you describe your work?

A: Deconstruction of the obvious.

Q: How did it start?

A: My first real job was as an Art director at a huge international sports retailer. Realizing that an office job is just not my vibe, I went back to my passion – storytelling and moving image. I worked in Japan, doing mostly advertising and music-related stuff, then made a move to Hong Kong and decided it was time to focus more on my own process. I found a good way of showcasing short and concise ideas though social medi, and from there I was able to reach the kind of people I really want to collaborate with.

Q: Describe your process?

A: It’s mostly a staring contest. There are times I start completely without any kind of premise or concept and just stare at images. Usually the ideas are hidden in there somewhere...just have to dig them out. That’s how you discover new things. New techniques you can later use for something. Doing brain gymnastics. It’s always about adding different layers- satire, humour, textures and bending the rules. Just when I feel I’m close to something digestible, I might add something totally unexpected or just plain ridiculous. Cherry on the cake. I care a lot about execution. So apart from the more artistic part of the process, I spend a good amount of my time polishing and making sure it’s done up nicely. Everybody knows the difference between a three- and a four-star hotel. But thefive- star hotel is all about the details. You get the extra nice soap and shit.

Q: Why do you do it?

A: I’m not really the type to always be quiet. I have to make some kind of noise somehow. I really enjoy infiltrating certain established worlds and creating something disruptive in there. It’s fun. I have some kind of allergy for the obvious, too, so I need to express that.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: Working. And apart from that just chilling on the couch with a special someone. Knowing my dad and my sister are doing alright. Street beers in Tokyo. Reunions with old friends. Tax free zone at the airport. Friday night. Just random life stuff.

Gingzilla

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
INTERNATIONAL CABARET GODDESS

@GINGZILLA

Q: How would you describe your work?

A: An explosion of FUN!!! Connecting with people and giving them experiences of pure JOY and VULNERABILITY via song, costume, theatrics and HUGS. It can be over-the-top EXTRAVAGANZAS one minute, then an intimate, heartbreaking BALLAD the next.

Q: How did it start?

A: I’ve always loved to dress up in girls’ clothes. It wasn’t until moving to London in 2015/16 that I discovered the world of drag. East London brought me sights and sounds I’d never seen or heard before – edgy, political, creative, genderfuck and all the in betweens. It opened my eyes to self expression and art making and helped me establish my new persona – GINGE.

Q: Can you describe your process?

A: Dreams, music and ridiculously stupid thoughts have a big influence on how I create. Once I have an idea in mind, I try to visualize it from the audience’s perspective – kind of like a director.Then I start to doodle costume ideas and interpret them to my incredible costume designer– Ride-Or-Die Tina! She has the power to unlock the cacophony of scribbles and, produce a stunning/ iconic, piece that fits like a glove every time! I just wanna create exciting, mind-blowing, side-splitting work that brings LIGHT into people’s lives and challenges us all to grow. I’m looking forward to collaborating with incredible artists that INSPIRE me and SCARE me a pinch. Hehe!

Q: Why do you do it?

A: I get the most enjoyment from subverting people’s expectations... i.e. How can I go from looking glamorous and statuesque to gross and REVOLTING?? Eat an entire chicken then vomit it out? Maybe?, My mum said I’m not allowed to do that anymore... Ok, Margaret!

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: OK, where do I start... BREAKFAST, making out with beautiful lips, friends, sunsets; BREAKFAST, laughing like an idiot with friends, Jody, BREAKFAST, sex, sushi, music (loving Yebba at the minute), BREAKFAST, swimming at the beach, sunshine yellow; BREAKFAST, cuddles, love - (I’m a hopeful romantic), BREAKFAST, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, BREAKFAST, BREAKFAST, BREAKFAST and BREAKFAST. And why? Just ‘cause.

Johannes Jaruraak

BERLIN, GERMANY
ARTIST, DRAG PERFORMER
Q: How would you describe your work?

A: I’m a visual artist, exploring alternate realities with avant-garde make-up, fashions and performances. Something that has been self- titled as ‘distorted drag’.

Q: How did it start?

A: Drag was, first and foremost, my way of presenting the clothes I had designed and made. It was the final accessory to add to a look to make it complete. The make-up always had to mirror the garments, and as my garments became progressively more intricate and/or bizarre, so did my make-up. At one point the make-up took over and I developed what is now my very specific aesthetic. But every look still lives from the outfit, no matter if it was my own creation, a collaboration, or styling.

Q: Can you describe your process?

A: Every character starts from something small. A pattern, a color scheme, a print, a shoe. Anything that makes me want to start the process of going from sketch to a fully realised and handcrafted creation. Once the look is finished and I can see the final silhouette and visual language, I decide on the make-up to accompany it, by either going through my concept calatogue of make- updesigns I had done before, or I create something new along the lines of my aesthetic.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

A: Getting to work with inspiring artists I had looked up to in awe a few years back, such as Nick Knight, Tim Walker, James Merry, and Björk – that’s been the best. Sharing and exchanging ideas and visions with people you truly admire for what they bring to the world is a beautiful way to widen one’s horizons.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: The day before a shoot, when I have my new creations laying in front of me, waiting to be packed, along with shoes and every little extra piece I will wear to make the character complete. Just the anticipation of bringing something new together for the first time is so much more thrilling than actually being in the full illusion in the end. Because once it’s been done, it’s onto the next. I don’t give myself much time to enjoy them.

Lucia Perešová

KOŠICE, SLOVAKIA
MAKE-UP ARTIST, STUDENT

@GEMINIBLUSH

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: I like to paint unusual things on people’s faces! I draw a lot of inspiration from the Surrealist movement as well as the airbrush art of the ‘80s and I aim to create pieces that will make you stop, scroll back, and think for a second.

Q: How did it start?

A: I’d always been very interested in art and makeup, but I only thought to combine the two about a year and a half ago. I like to switch between various mediums every once in a while, though I feel like makeup is here to stay.

Q: Can you describe your process?

A: The process starts as soon as I wake up – I actively look for inspiration anywhere and everywhere I go and as soon as I catch a glimpse of an interesting shape, texture or color palette, I try to come up with a look that I could incorporate it into. I always sketch everything out on my right eye before diving into my favorite part, mixing the materials. I like to take my time and pretend I’m an alchemist. Then I just play some music or a podcast and get lost in painting and seeing the final transformation is fascinating – especially when it comes to full-face looks. The experience of looking in the mirror and seeing something that doesn’t quite make sense or shouldn’t exist on your face is extremely fun and strange at the same time and it keeps me coming back. I always want to be at the point where I can appreciate my work but am never completely satisfied.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

A: My whole experience with the more editorial part of the makeup community, if that counts. Everyone is so supportive and open- minded and it makes me so happy to see artists supporting artists.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: Getting so lost in something that I don’t notice time passing – right now it’s art, non-fiction, and late-night talks with interesting people.

Lyle xox

WYMARK, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA
MIXED MEDIA ARTIST

@LYLEXOX

 
Q: Describe your art.

A: Mixed-media self-portraits that fuse sculpture and make-up using entirely found objects and recycled garbage to craft all the elements that adorn my head and face. This assemblage and live collage are then captured in a self-portrait.

Q: How did it start?

A: I worked as a makeup artist for 16 years. During the last four years of my time with MAC Cosmetics, I began posting images of self-transformations. Originally they were more cosmetics-focused, with some elements of ‘recycled garbage’ added into them, and over the years it has become much more sculpture focused. I eventually left my full-time makeup artist career to focus solely on my freelance artist career.

Q: Describe your process.

A: Inspiration begins with a found object... it can be the most mundane piece of everyday-life trash, but something about the item speaks to me and I see the beauty of its shape or color or its deconstruction. From that point, the sculpture begins and I begin to collage other items that may have the same feeling to them. I usually spend several days or weeks creating sculptures, and then when I decide to photograph a creation, I have all these random sculptures around me to choose from. I don’t sketch out any creations – it’s all done very spontaneously and intuitively. I take hundreds of pictures to get that perfect one that I feel captures the true essence.

Q: What drives you to do it?

A: I feel so incredibly connected to the work, and find a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that I am creating something that is a purely authentic piece that has grown from all the random thoughts in my mind. People from all over the world now send me boxes of their ‘garbage’ for me to use in the work... which I find incredibly beautiful, knowing that the art is connecting strangers from around the globe.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: Being in a place in my life where I know who and what I am, and being able to share myself with others in a completely authentic way.

Minori

TOKYO, JAPAN
ARTIST

@MINORI00MON

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: In my art, I use myself as a canvas. There I draw nature or the universe to unite with great energy. This comes from my deepest desire to become one with the energy I love.

Q: How did it start?

A: Originally, I liked classic dresses or gothic fashion, but these clothes themselves have too much power and it did not work in good harmony with my face. When I was concerned with this thought, my girlfriend taught me the make-up method shironuri. That was the beginning. In the early days it was just a fashion, but little by little I started to create the complete outfit myself and to create artwork on certain themes. This also has to do with the fact that my basic desire to unite with what I love has perfectly matched the realization that I can become anything with the shironuri make- up.

Q: Can you describe your process?

A: I let myself be inspired by nature, buildings, people, or the universe. The theme is decided in conversation with my regular photographer. Once the theme is determined, I research it in books or on the Internet. If I have the opportunity to visit certain places, I also go there myself. Then I create the outfit, apply the makeup, and visit the location for the shoot. If the location is not far away, I will leave home right away with the make-up on, and go by train. I love the feeling of becoming pure energy. I also enjoy the challenge of how far I can go for my depiction.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

A: I am a being that becomes the subject of my own work. In order for me to dissolve into the energy that matches the theme, I go to certain places for shooting. Once I feel that I am surrounded by the energy and have assimilated to it, I feel that I am no longer a human being, but have become pure amorphous energy.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: I want to leave a story that shows “That was my life!” So my happiness is to continue creating art. I think it’s necessary for me.

Pandemonia

LONDON, UK
ARTIST, DESIGNER

@PANDEMONIA

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARYAM EISLER

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: I am a pioneer. There is not a genre for my art, so I call it Post Pop or Social Art.

Q: How did it start?

A: It started when social media was invented in the mid-Noughties. I saw how technology, namely the camera phone, was changing society by turning its gaze upon us. Noticing how celebrity could transcend media formats, I decided to create my own celebrity as a vehicle to connect and reflect on our brave new world.

Q: Can you describe your process?

A: I use Pandemonia as a conduit to show my work through – I use Pandemonia as a conduit through which to show my work – I make paintings, sculptures, and fashion items, which she exhibits. Pandemonia herself is a three-dimensional drawing. I start with drawings, turning them into patterns that I glue together to create Pandemonia. I perform Pandemonia by both dropping in on the celebrity circuit and by exhibiting my sculptures and paintings at art shows. She gets constantly documented by the public and press wherever she goes.

Q: Why do you do it?

A: I want to express myself, break down walls and live! Yet my inspirations on the surface are fairly traditional artistic subject matter – beauty, the female form. I am also interested in philosophical questions of who we are, and how technology is changing our sense of self. I’ve recently come back from Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Paris Fashion Week show. Being platformed by him on his last couture show has to be a good reason [to do what I do]. He came to London and asked me to design, make, and walk one of my creations for his show! It was an amazing experience to work with him. I would l like to do an accessories line so everyone can experience a bit of Pandemonia for themselves.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: Realizing my vision! Last week I was in Los Angeles , where I saw my two- metre-square chandeliers and tulips exhibited at the Magic Of Persia Art Auction. Seeing one’s ideas come to life is, for me, the most exciting thing.

Lena and Katya Popovy

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
FASHION AND FINE ART DESIGNERS

@POPOVYSISTERS

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: Fine art, fashion dolls, and photography.

Q: How did it start?

A: We always liked dolls, but when we were younger growing up in Russia, we didn’t really have access to any good ones... we used to play more with stuffed toys. Then we saw an ad for Barbie, and everything changed. We managed to get one and we started making clothes and accessories for her. In our second year at our architecture and art academy, our teacher asked us to visit a nearby doll exhibition. We were fascinated by that show; the dolls’ faces looked so real and everything was so delicate and natural. We found a tutor, took few masterclasses, and soon we were sculpting our own dolls. The fashion isn’t for humans yet, but that’s something we’d love to do, and hope to do in the future. We’d like to collaborate with a fashion brand too.

Q: Describe your process.

A: lt starts with choosing the theme of the collection – it could be elements of fantasy, fashion, and fetish. Then we start sketching a lot, gathering proper materials and information. Only once all the preparations are made do we start with prototyping the doll body and the outfits. Everything is handmade – no 3D [printing] involved. We believe in the magic of the human touch, which cannot be translated through computer modeling and printing. In our childhoods, we used to draw comic-book series. We had several characters who grew together with us that were humans with animal heads – for them we drew a lot of outfits and made up stories. Maybe one day we’ll release that book.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

A: There are so many things, it’s hard to separate events. It was a great experience and a lot of fun making dolls for Mr. Jean-Paul Gaultier. Louis Vuitton shoe designer Fabrizio Viti, and [rap-rave group] Die Antwoord’s Yolandi Visser are also collectors, which is very humbling.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: Moments when we feel the inspiration and creating something new. Nothing can compare to this energy.

Portis Wasp

SCOTLAND
ARTIST

@PORTISWASP1

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: I would describe my art as an extension of my personality.

Q: How did it start?

A: After deciding I wanted to use social media in a different way to how I had been using it, I began to make collages and post them on my Instagram. What started as a hobby soon became my full-time job. Go figure.

Q: Describe your process.

A: If I did I’d, have to kill you.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

A: Getting to work with legendary creatives like Jeremy Scott, Nicola Formichetti, Steven Klein, and RuPaul. My hope is to continue to build a name for myself that people associate with great work.

Q: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

A: I’m very impatient.

Yvie Oddly

DENVER, CO., USA
DRAG ARTIST

@ODDLYYVIE

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: Equal parts an exploration of gender identity, fantasy, and the construct of ‘normality’ through colorful fashion and the stage.

Q: How did it start?

A: I was turned onto drag by watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, but when I turned 18 and went out into my local drag scene, I found myself disappointed by the lack of artistry and imagination I saw. I felt like I could really contribute something to the world of drag, and finally have my artistic voice heard.

Q: Can you describe your process?

A: It all starts with the spark of inspiration, which I usually draw from a specific color, feeling, animal, song. Then I hodgepodge elements from whatever pops into my stream of consciousness, editing ideas as I go, like a kind of process piece. Then I experiment to fill in the gaps until I feel a look or performance idea is ready to be debuted. My ideas are often incomplete and still changing even after I present them the first time.

Q: What are your hopes with what you do?

A: I do drag because it satisfies all of the interests and creative urges I had growing up - my obsession with the divine feminine, fashion, art, performance, and social experimentation. I honestly just hope to keep myself entertained, intrigued, and passionate for life. I hope that as long as I can do that, I can entertain others too.

Q: What makes you most happy, and why?

A: I’m happiest in life when I’m working to be happy. I’ve realized I’m never going to stay happy for very long in the moments people would expect: when I traveled the world, when I won Drag Race, when I got the call to be on. In those moments I actually found myself feeling somewhat hollow like, a porcelain doll with its smile painted on. But that discontent is what’s always driven me, because it’s the work I did and the life I lived to make those things possible that actually made me happy.

Alice Longyu Gao

BENGBU, CHINA
RECORDING ARIST, DJ

@ALICEALICE916

Q: How would you describe your work?

A: Using minimal effort, doing what I do the best, having fun and being a boss, showing people something that they didn’t know they needed until I made it for them.

Q: How did it start?

A: I gradually realized what I am doing right now, which is music and visual art, took the least effort from me. I’ve always been doing fashion and art stuff, though.

Q: Can you describe your process?

A: I write a song with a producer, and when I’m playing live I incorporate a MIDI controller, keyboards, etc.

Q: Why do you do it?

A: The opportunities – like opening on 100 Gecs’ tour at [Brooklyn’s] Elsewhere Space and [LA’s] Moroccan Lounge, or opening on Cashmere Cat’s tour at [NYC’s] Webster Hall. I am a very public person. And did I mention it takes the least effort from me? I can literally just be myself. I vent so much on Twitter people, sometimes even screenshoot my tweets [because they think] I would regret and delete them, but I wouldn’t. I don’t care.

Q: What are your hopes with what you do?

A: I would like as many people as possible to acknowledge the fun they didn’t know they could have until I showed them how to have it.

END OF STORY