Sunday, March 18, 2012

Scorpio Rising | Kustom Kar Kommandos | Invocation of My Demon Brother

Written by St. Steven - 3.18.12

Scorpio Rising

Between a court summons and a blue Jesus-and-the-blind-man-miracle, a man lingers in a dark space. He wears only a tobacco pout and a biker cap tilted just so, casting a sideways glance before disappearing. The nature of his presentation is muddled, somewhere between rebellious and erotic, dangerous and performed. It could be that his performed strength attributes a carnality to him, a tough love. His gaze is alluring, even inviting, despite the threat he puts on.

The cap denotes him as a member of a tribe, but the specifics aren’t clear. Should we associate him with defiance and violence, or is it part of a costume? Aesthetics twins would come to stomp down Christopher Street, down Castro Street. We wonder how icons can lose weight or shift in their associations…


Kustom Kar Kommados (1970)

A man polishes his car with what looks like an oversized pink feathered powder puff in hand. The car, glazed with an impossible shine, is made precious, despite its imposing engine. It is a trophy, a tribute to masculinity, all the while cared for as if something more delicate. The material love of chrome and the curves of the car sit at the forefront. Soft pink light creates an otherworldly atmosphere, asserting even further how cherished this box of nuts and bolts is.

The man wears powder blue as if he has just evacuated the womb and loved ones have decided for him that he is to love cars, girls, and manhood in general. Yet with each hypnotic caress, he seems more sensitive, more nurturing. It’s not clear why the car must be in such pristine condition. Is the car a personal treasure? An extension of his own vanity? A statement to be made to other baby blue boys?

“My lover is more beautiful and more sleek than yours.”


Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)

A pale man’s torso is reflected against a deep red background. His arms are outstretched and echoed in the arms that extend out of him. The score of extremities call to mind Hindu goddesses, with snakes and swords in hand, but instead of an epic narrative or divine power, he only has his body. His body is a spectacle in itself, reverberating with both vitality and vulnerability. Looked at different ways, his pose can be welcoming, as if an embrace, or more militant. The dark hair that graces his shoulders confirms the mysticism we feel and highlights his milky complexion, which seems hyper-exposed.

Does he pose in this way, with muscles flexed, to arm himself just as his Hindu sisters do, or does this motion invite us into his composition of arms?

Scorpio Rising (1964). Dir. Kenneth Anger. The Films of Kenneth Anger. San Francisco, CA: Fantoma Films, 2007. DVD.
Kustom Kar Kommandos (1970). Dir. Kenneth Anger. The Films of Kenneth Anger. San Francisco, CA: Fantoma Films, 2007. DVD.
Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969). Dir. Kenneth Anger. The Films of Kenneth Anger. San Francisco, CA: Fantoma Films, 2007. DVD.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sit | Everything

In the midst of an early glimpse of spring I took a minute to enjoy the sunshine outside after an afternoon of teaching. Sunshine these days is scarce, so we enjoy it while we can. And better yet on this break, I learned that Jo Nilsson knew where it was at.

“From here you can find everything. Sit.”

She is right. And I did. Right there before me, as I followed the guidance of this quote, I found everything I needed.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Black Sheep | Sheer Swag | Just a Boy

Written by St. Steven - 3.6.12

1. Black Sheep

Wearing: Black blazer, black button-up, black skinny jeans, black motorcycle boots, black Alexander McQueen scarf with abstract bone print.

I wear a lot of black. I wear black on my body, I dye my hair black, I wear black eyeliner, I wear black nail polish. I love the color black. Last year I traveled to Eastern Washington with my family for my grandmother’s funeral. While deciding what to wear, my mother laughed at my insistence on wearing head-to-toe black. There’s something beautiful about the severity that tradition can have. Mourning is no exception. After service, I walked in circled and hoarded homemade cookies, avoiding all the people who remember me when I was “this big.” My cousins’ grandmother and I hugged and said hello. Seconds later, she asked in genuine curiosity, “Are you a goth?” I can’t help but to laugh. Frankly, I’m not sure what that means. I state the seemingly obvious. “No, I’m mourning!”

2. Sheer Swag

Wearing: Marilyn Monroe screen printed tank top, cutoff denim vest, sheer black harem pants over black briefs, a black bandana around a beehive, cat eye sunglasses, black wedge ankle boots with silver zippers down the side.

The sun is shining in Seattle and I feel hot. It’s only February. I change and walk to campus to enjoy the beautiful day. As expected, a number of stares greet me on the Ave. Now on campus, I walk past a group of boys skateboarding and one exclaims, “So much swag!” When they see my partially exposed lower body, more audible surprise is generated. I take it as a compliment and keep walking.

3. Just a boy

Wearing: Black velvet dress with gold zebra-print sleeves, torn black nylons, black high-heeled Chelsea boots.

The party has gotten dull, so I go outside and sit on the porch. A guy I met earlier sits next to me and casually asks, “So…transvestite or transgendered?” In my mind, it’s a reasonable question, though a bit brusque. Makeup and high heels are typical part of my day to day appearance, but I’m perfectly content with the anatomy I’ve been given. I also find labels a constant frustration. I shrug and say something like, “Neither..? I just like wearing dresses sometimes.”

Sunday, March 04, 2012

COUNTER-COUTURE | Hippie Scholarship

When my brainstorms started running wild and my travels unearthed an amazing slurry of clothes, stories, personalities and histories, the teacher in me wanted to immediately find a way to bring it all to my students. Stories untold are stories lost, and what better venue than the classroom as a home for new ideas, for sharing and learning?

After a few cold calls to departments on campus, it was Professor Phillip Thurtle in the University of Washington’s celebrated CHID program (the Comparative History of Ideas) who opened his office door to me and welcomed a conversation about what I had in mind. Several meetings and proposals later, a new course was born!

Spring Quarter 2012 at UW will feature the debut of my new course, Counter-Couture: Fashion and Style of the American Counter Culture.

To offer you all a taste, below is the course description that I hope leaves prospective students yearning to enroll:
This course will explore the artistry, politics, historical context and ethos of America’s 1960s and 1970s counter-culture through the lens of the era’s fashion and style. Decades of thinking and writing have identified clothing and fashion as a means of marking larger patterns and concepts related to the development and growth of a community or culture. Celebrating and mining the complexity of this particular era with our modern voice of interdisciplinarity, this course will amass the stories, the garments, the archives, the history and the artistry of central figures in the era to create a clearer sense of the cultural trajectory they were part of. Drawing from a comprehensive list of topics that investigate clothing as an art form, as political expression, as a spiritual vehicle, as a transformative tool in performance and other related angles, students and the instructor will team to create individual projects to facilitate research and create a thorough intellectual response to the material at hand.

And as fate should have it, day one of class falls on my birthday, March 26. I can’t help but think that the timing is perfect. I welcome my new year with the birth of this new course!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Introducing St. Steven | the real deal

Written by St. Steven - 3.1.12

The person I am today might look and feel a great deal different had I not developed an interest in the 60’s and 70’s in high school. The interplay between fashion and sexuality during that time made for a significant portion of that interest. The shifts in fashion that happen in moments of sexual liberation have been interesting to me as long as I have known both worlds.

It is interesting then, that my discoveries of fashion and sexuality came nearly simultaneously. Two dear friends opened me up a world of glossy magazines and less glossy do-it-yourself fashion shoots. I had previously avoided that world, as an interest in fashion was and is considered “feminine.” After coming out, that issue was resolved slightly and I began to find myself sexually. The Sexual Revolution of the 60’s and 70’s was an exciting lens to re-envision the otherwise bleak interaction between sex and my surroundings. The sex-positive ideas that emerged with The Pill and women’s liberation were far more attractive than the seemingly puritanical values that surrounded me in school and suburban society. Self-expression, in any form, became an obsession, as suppression had been the standard for too many years.

Getting dressed is an exercise in self-expression. In my mind, it should never be too serious nor should it be limited by social norms. In fact, style should be limitless. I enjoy the idea that one can explore various personality traits and aesthetic interests and then radically change the very next day. The beautiful reality is that one can also choose to eliminate themselves from the equation and find beauty in fantasy. Escape is possible through fashion. My style has its consistencies: an element of rock ‘n’ roll, a flagrant sexuality, androgyny, but it’s always exciting to explore new things or even to redefine those consistencies. Heaping on jewelry feels glamorous and oddly comforting. Putting on a bulky jacket or drowning myself in swaths of fabric makes me feel protected. The truth of the matter is that appearance plays a large role in both the way people perceive you and how you choose to see yourself. I’ve always put more stock in the latter.

After a great deal of growth, experimentation, and exploration, I eventually found myself at the University of Washington, where I study Journalism and Art History. Michael and I briefly met at a local fashion event that I was volunteering at. I hadn’t been living in the city very long and even meeting fashion designers felt like a dream. Through sightings on campus, getting acquainted with his boyfriend, writing an article about him, and taking his workshop, Wearable Art and the Body, I began to actually get to know the creator I met two years ago. I often have trouble trusting anyone’s pursuits in fashion (especially in Seattle), but there was something about Michael that felt like the real deal. I hope that his choice to take me on as his intern says the same about me. In any case, here we are, with this journey before us, ready to burn a hole in the road!