Winter Mendelson couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Georgia. “I graduated college and moved here, like, the very next day,” laughed the founder and editor-in-chief of Posture, a fresh-faced queer-centric magazine dedicated to gender, identity, and the arts. “I didn’t have a community there at all– it was like three lesbians and they were all dating each other, so it was kind of torturous.”
Arriving in New York City, she immediately realized things were going to be different. “I was so relieved and excited that there were people like me, like, everywhere. I was like, ‘This is a dream!” And yet, she realized there was something missing from the scene. “I just felt like there really needed to be a platform that showed all kinds of voices and aesthetics,” she said.
While Posture officially launched its online presence in August 2013, it wasn’t until last summer the magazine launched its very first print issue, which happened to be the goal from the very start. Now with issue #2 (the theme is “ornamentation”) pressed, printed, and set to launch this weekend, Posture seems to have really found its voice. The mag has also found a good reason to throw an insane party with the help of Bushwick-based artist Rashaad Newsome, who we first stumbled on when he threw his wild housewarming ball in Bushwick last fall.
“It’s just nice to have a safe, understanding space that’s completely dedicated to identity and sexuality and gender and race and feminism– that’s what Posture is all about,” Winter explained. “Instead of it being a side note, or just another magazine trying to stay relevant and using the queer community for that.”
In 2012, Winter (who lives in Bushwick) was hanging out at Metropolitan, the beloved Williamsburg gay bar (highly recommended for both chill, summertime hangs and drunken, sweaty dance fits), when it hit her. Leafing through some of the gay lifestyle magazines at the bar, Winter was more than a little disappointed. “They just didn’t speak to me at all, they were kind of trashy. It was kind of like, ‘I don’t know who they’re talking to, but this isn’t appealing to me,'” she recalled thinking. Later on, she googled around for “queer arts magazine”– Winter’s major interests are in the arts, with a B.A. in art history she’s worked for a number of galleries and an East Village design firm. “Pretty simple, right? I figured there would be something and there really wasn’t,” she said. “I was like, ‘How is there not like an active queer arts magazine?’”
Winter’s observation was a surprising one, but pretty dead on– aside from Vym (the new drag magazine founded by Sasha Velour)– nothing much else comes to mind that’s print, queer-made, and concerned with an up-to-date rundown of art rather than simply entertainment or “lifestyle.” It’s strange, but aesthetically, a lot of queer-centric publications feel like they’re trapped in some old (but not charming old, just old old) gay bar in the Castro. Worst of all, though, a great deal of queer media is focused on the experience of white cisgender gay men. (Again, Vym is very much the exception here, too.) “My mission was to create something that’s not cliché at all, and super inclusive,” Winter explained. “Because most of the magazines out there are very male-heavy and white-centric.”
Most importantly, Posture would have to be made by the people it spoke too. While queer issues are portrayed by the mainstream media in increasingly more sophisticated ways (in the U.S., at least), there’s still a sense that it’s all an empty gesture– rather than stemming from a place of real interest or inclusion, it can seem like an attempt to channel what the kids are doing these days. “That’s how I feel all the time,” Winter agreed. “I just felt like there really needed to be a platform that showed all kinds of voices and aesthetics.” (And it didn’t hurt that starting Posture gave Winter the perfect excuse to meet people within the community and satisfy her curiosity about artists and musicians she admires, too.)
Rashaad Newsome is one artist whose work– which spans several different media including video, performance, and photography, and draws its inspiration from the ballroom community and the art of vogue– is spotlighted in the magazine through a profile and a series of photographs shot by M. Sharkey featuring competitors from his King of Arms ball. (Performers from the House of LaBeija won the grand prize for their presentation of Vogue Afrique, an emerging style of vogue developed by Omar Mizrahi that incorporates West Africa dance.)
“I also wanted to give the people who participated in the ball some kind of platform as well, and so that allows them to have a voice within that project outside of their performing in the actual ball itself, so you can find out a little bit about them, and how they think and how they feel,” he said of the spread. The photo series reflects Newsome’s overall mission as an artist in addition to mirroring the overall thrust behind Posture. “That’s something that’s really important to me, in all of this work that I do with ballroom,” Newsome explained. “I started to do that [kind of] work, really, because I felt like there wasn’t anything existing around [ballroom] culture that was coming from people in that community. It’s about giving agency or autonomy back to the community that created that culture.”
More than 100 people had a hand in the making of the 164-page issue that’s packed with in-depth interviews, essays, and content that’s anything but “light and fluffy” crap. “It involved a lot of people from the community from all different areas. There are a lot of stylists and art directors and photographers who were really looking for a platform where they could be creative and express themselves,” Winter explained. Issue #2, as the ornamentation issue, is heavily focused on fashion with colorful, eye-popping photo spreads galore.
“But it’s not fashion where we’re pulling models and putting them in clothes– it’s people from the community and musicians and artists who are modeling for us, and they’re modeling clothing made by queer designers.” And beyond the very literal interpretation of the theme, the issue also focuses on more complex manifestations of “ornamentation” including an essay on the gendering of electrical outlets and plugs, and another, titled “Contiguous Hemorrhaging and the Allostatic Load,” about a choreographic work dealing with “the body in genocidal distress.” Posture strikes a nice balance between intelligent writing and fun visuals.
It hardly seems like something that needs to be made explicitly clear anyway, but Posture is all about inclusion and fluidity and aims to open up queer identity and issues to everyone, which makes it part of a larger push toward fluidity that includes opening up “queerness” rather than imposing more rigidity. In fact, the mag’s website defines “queerness” partially as “an openness to possibility rather than exclusions or boundaries.” (We’ve heard the same thing from the people behind the Party by Ostbahnhof– the circuit party inspired by Berlin’s underground queer scene.)
“I’m not here to police anyone’s identity, and for me it’s definitely about encouraging and inspiring people to open with who they are and be free to explore that, in what ever way that means– aesthetically, sexually, internally,” Winter explained. “We’re putting that message out there that you don’t have fit inside a box. Identity does not work that way.”
Lucky for us, Posture‘s all about throwing a great party too. To celebrate the launch of issue #2, Winter enlisted Newsome to help make the party go from typical magazine launch affair (drink the dranks and split quick) to buck-as-hell, ball-inspired throw down. It’s all happening Saturday, March 5, 9 pm to 2 am at Santos Party House on the Lower East Side (tickets are $25 and include a copy of the magazine and a gift bag). Participants from the King of Arms Ball will be on hand for performances (trust, if we learned anything from the last Rashaad Newsome ball we attended, these will be awesome), and sounds will be provided by Roze Royce and DJ Mike Q. “He’s the sound of the New York City ballroom scene,” Rashaad explained. “Through the whole process Winter really wanted everyone to be represented, and I thought that was really cool– she really was trying to make it a very diverse event.”