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Tattoos Have Gotten ‘a Little Bit Bolder’ During the Pandemic, This Artist Says

“Come up on the second floor, and then it’s the second door!” Juju told me over the phone when I asked how to get to The Secret Door, the Williamsburg tattoo parlor where she worked. Outside, the grey, graffitied warehouse had barren walls; inside, dim-lit corridors and innumerable doors made it look like a maze. Ironically, “The Secret Door” was printed in small characters on the heavy metal door in question. Inside, a few green plants and some vintage pieces of furniture here and there worked as a bright frame to all the art, in sketches or framed, that lived in the open-space loft-style studio. Above Juju’s station, outlines of abstract faces, minimalist moons and elegant designs mapped the wall and welcomed every client into Juju’s world.   More →

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Museum of Chinese in America’s President Nancy Yao Maasbach On Racism, Recovery, and Reopening

Among all of the arts and culture institutions that were hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. the Museum of Chinese in America had a particularly devastating 2020. On January 23, shortly before the city grinded to a virtual halt in March, the Mulberry Street building that housed MOCA’s collections and archives caught fire. As the pandemic unfolded, anti-Asian sentiment also rose rapidly. Statistics gathered by advocacy groups show that across the country, over 2,000 Covid-related anti-Asian-American hate incidents were reported between March and June.  More →

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Novelist Nell Zink Counts Ian MacKaye as a Fan, and Now a Character in Her Indie-Inspired ‘Doxology’

Nell Zink (Photo by Francesca Torricelli via HarperCollins)

Some writers grapple with grand ideas, while others compose devastatingly satirical works of fiction. Nell Zink’s got both neatly covered. Her latest novel Doxology spans several decades in the lives of its characters—notably Pam and Daniel, a young couple with a daughter named Flora, and their friend Joe, whose musical career takes off in the 1990s. More →

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Gregory Dillon’s Nostalgic Synth Pop Evokes Adolescence, Carnivals, and Love in the ‘80s

(Photo: @patrickdonovanstudios)

Gregory Dillon has the very specific ability to correctly V-step in crowded Bushwick backrooms. That’s because his mother once taught ’80s cardio step in New Hampshire, and he attended her classes in his formative years. At his show at Gold Sounds last Friday, he held the room: he has a rich, controlled baritone, and a radiating joy. The kind that pairs well with revitalized synth-pop, quirky time-capsule video projections (teased hair and silvery nylon two-pieces?), and nerdy, bygone dance moves. More →

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Why Trans Drag King Lee VaLone Would Never Go On ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

(Photo: Lee VaLone)

Lela Graham shares a spacious two-bedroom prewar apartment with his partner Evan Dahm near Prospect Park. In theory, the couple shouldn’t lack for space and yet, they sleep in a bed placed in the living room that seems to be drowning in piles of dramatic costumes, glowing colorful wigs, and fake mustaches that flawlessly match each wig’s color — all these are for Graham’s drag alter-ego, Lee VaLone. The whole apartment is for his drag character, even the bathroom and the kitchen, or as Graham puts it, “All of these are drag!” More →

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It’s This Neon Artist’s Time to Shine at Hester Street Fair

(Photos courtesy of Studio Sour)

Anahita Bradberry’s neon works have never been out under the sun at the Hester Street Fair before, but they’ve stood, bright and mysterious, under lots of other light sources: fluorescent gallery overheads, soft reading lamps, the natural afternoon rays that peek through windows. She began constructing glass neon sculptures a few years ago, a bit by accident. She had been assisting an artist in DC, watching him work with luminescent bulbs, when she became enamored with his chosen form.

She came up with the idea to barter: she’d do his paperwork in exchange for lessons. He taught her the art of blowing glass, bending it, and filling it with high-voltage electrified gas (it’s a rarefied medium, difficult to break into without direct mentorship like this). The rest is well-lit history. Her work—which tends toward the minimal, sleek lines and curves of illuminated color—has been shown in DC galleries and now in her new home borough of Brooklyn, where, for six months, she’s been running Studio Sour. The Greenpoint space serves as both a workroom for her and as a storefront for customers, those drawn in off the street by the glow.

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Joseph Scapellato On His ‘Existential Noir’ Novel, The Made-Up Man

Joseph Scapellato, author of the deft story collection Big Lonesome, brings his debut novel, The Made-Up Man, to McNally Jackson’s new Williamsburg outpost—which has been a long time coming. Scapellato’s genre mashup, which the marketing language calls an “existential noir,” concerns a young American who jaunts off to Prague to take part in his uncle’s performance art project, which promises to turn dangerous. NPR’s Gabino Iglesias calls it “a bacon-topped doughnut—a mixture of incongruent elements that somehow work well together.”

Originally from the suburbs of Chicago by way of an MFA in New Mexico, Scapellato teaches at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania—read: far enough away, just close enough—though he’s engrossed in the NY scene enough to contribute to both Electric Literature and the Brooklyn Rail. Scapellato presents his work in conversation with another Joe, Joseph Salvatore, who’s well known as the Books Editor at The Brooklyn Rail and the founding editor of the literary journal LIT.

Scapellato admitted to us via email that he’s never been to Williamsburg before, making his lack of nostalgia envious.

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Sasha Velour of Drag Race Reflects On Her First Theatrical Show, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’

(Photo courtesy of IDT Events/Ari New, Eric Broomfield)

When, during the ninth-season premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the contestants were challenged to channel a Lady Gaga look, Sasha Velour—the Brooklyn-based queen who would go on to win the crown—drew from the “Applause” music video. And she killed it: the stark contrast of a black corseted waist above wide-legged white pants, and the facepaint that recalls, in smeared candy-bright primaries, Pierrot from commedia dell’arte.

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After Stuff Hipsters Hate, a Murder Mystery Inspired By the McKibbin Lofts

(Photo by Kate Lord)

Bushwick finally has its own murder-mystery novel—and it’s a good one, too! Journalist Andrea Bartz, who established herself as a scholar of hipsterdom as co-author of mock-guidebook Stuff Hipsters Hate, has deftly placed a group of plaid-shirt-wearing characters in a whodunit set at the intersection of the media and art worlds. Set between 2008-2009 and the present day, her novel The Lost Night follows literary essayist turned head fact-checker Lindsay Bach as she tries to piece together what happened the night her impossibly beautiful and charismatic former best friend Edie was found dead by apparent suicide; the “Calhoun Lofts,” a dump-meets-arts-haven in Bushwick, is its sandbox-like backdrop.

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