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The new, New York artists seeking the human touch

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As the world opens up, these artists are chasing connection and taking their sweet, sweet time to master a craft

Taken from the Summer 2021 issue of Dazed

When life comes at you fast, go slow: in NYC, a new band of creatives are taking their sweet time to master their craft and seek out human connection.

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ANATOLY KIRICHENKO

Born in Ukraine and raised in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, Anatoly Kirichenko grew up fascinated with Glenn O’Brien, an early editor of Interview magazine and founder of the seminal public access show TV Party, where he interviewed anyone and everyone that intrigued him. Disappointed to find that this same creative spirit was no longer a part of his New York City, in 2017 Kirichenko set up WHAAM!, a “book club that brings interesting creative people together to talk about art and literature”. In 2019, he opened a space in Chinatown which expands the scope of interest beyond conversations about books and ventures into the visual arts. Most recently, Kirichenko reimagined the space as an “isolation library”, that invites visitors to stop by and spend time with the books that guided diverse personalities – from Arca to Fran Lebowitz and Liz Johnson Artur – through lockdown.

SAJI ABUDE

Saji Abude once embroidered Kerry James Marshall’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self” on to a pair of giant black True Religion denim shorts. (He called the work “Truey James Marshall”, and recalls that the shorts were “iconic during his upbringing”.) Abude’s relationship with the chain stitch embroidery machine that has become essential to his work began serendipitously, after stopping by a factory to visit a friend that was getting clothing samples made and laying eyes on the machine. It was a love at first sight so intense that he immediately asked if he could sweep the floors in the factory in exchange for learning how this wondrous contraption worked. He finds the embroidery process “mildly poetic”, from the way the embroidery’s source is a single thread to the patience he has developed in order to service the machine and the way he can quickly pull a thread to undo a mistake. But perhaps his favourite thing is how you can see the work being made in real time, “with no loading or buffering process”.

AAYUSHI KHOWALA

AAyushi Khowala always wanted to be an artist. Spending most of her time in the creative studio of her textile designer mum, it was perhaps inevitable that fabric would become her source material; the Calcutta-born artist and illustrator knows how to weave, crochet, sew, knit, draw, paint, and even make jewellery. Although she grew up in her mother’s studio, she works best by herself in a space completely devoid of clutter: these moments of stillness, though hard to find in bustling New York City where she has lived for the last six years, are her sources of inspiration. She describes her work as “a line that marks a train of thought,” and, in thinking about herself, her relationships with other people and the things that surround her, the surge of emotions is inevitable. Another reason why she prefers to work alone.

MARILU DONOVAN

The harp is an instrument that brings to mind angels and ladies-in-waiting, but you should not be fooled. “There’s a whole world of harp porn out there. You should definitely Google it,” explains Marilu Donovan, a harpist and one half of avant-garde pop duo LEYA alongside Adam Markiewicz, who plays the violin. And they would know, as they composed the score that accompanied Brooke Candy’s recently released queer Pornhub movie “I Love You”, subverting the notion of what a porn film soundtrack can be. Despite the heavenly perception, Donovan’s devotion to the instrument isn’t the result of divine intervention. Offered the choice between learning the harp or African drumming in elementary school, she did what most kids would do: “I had more friends in the harp class, so here we are.”

hair SONNY MOLINA, make-up STEVIE HUYNH at BRYANT ARTISTS, set design MARCS GOLDBERG photographic assistant AMINA GINGOLD, styling assistant SEBASTIAN ACERO, hair assistant NIKA PEARL-EDWARDS, set design assistant FERNANDO CEREZO, production RYKER ALLEN at MINI TITLE