San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair is the world’s largest celebration of BDSM and leather subcultures. It takes place on Folsom Street between 8th and 13th, in the San Francisco neighborhood named for being South of Market, SoMa. The first event was held in 1984 in part to protest the redevelopment of SoMa which supported a thriving LGBT community, including many leather bars. The event was also conceived as a fundraiser, the donations taken at the entrance gates going to local and national charity groups.
My Folsom project began when Visual AIDS, a nonprofit supporting HIV-positive artists, asked me to set up a pop-up photo booth at New York City’s Folsom Street East in 2015. It was enlightening. I met and photographed so many incredible fetish enthusiasts in their gear. That experience inspired me to keep photographing and to explore the other iterations of Folsom, Folsom Street East, and World Folsom in Berlin.
My adrenaline always starts pumping when I near the entrance to Folsom and see all the fetish enthusiasts pouring in alongside me. I love to witness the BDSM and leather communities out in broad daylight, smiling, laughing, and flogging. The camaraderie between spectators and strangers is infectious. From Barbie to gas mask fetishists, and a whole spectrum of exhibitionism in between, it’s all there, and that’s why I love Folsom so much. By documenting Folsom, I’ve been able to explore my number one fetish, photographing people embracing their deviant side. I’ll definitely be back next year with my cameras in tow. …
A calm self-confrontation allows artist Jordan Ramsey Ismaiel to wonder at their own paintings, “Who can I be for myself? How much support can I get from a relationship with me?” They see the work as a mirror reflecting possibility — a way of imagining subsistent selfhood. From the outside of this triangulation, the work might seem to reify the evergreen queer themes of self-plurality or the binary, or even notions of doubled life — twins, clones, doppelgängers. But it isn’t similitude or arrogance that drives the artist’s process, but a perennial pursuit of self-love and self-care, without the customary deprecation of a comedic apology.
The poses for his figures are mostly developed from memories with friends and family, recasting themself in the position of the loved one. Ismaiel begins by making photomontages using Photoshop — staging two selves in quick digitally-painted plans for landscapes or splashy patterned backgrounds of flowers blooming and blossoming. From high noon to half moon, Ismaiel’s landscapes are vast expanses in dreamy Technicolor — perhaps informed by their time spent in the Great Plains of Iowa and Nebraska. In effect, the portraits feel soft but powerful, like a much-needed warm hug.
“And the track plays again and again” (2021).
“Wasteland Love” (2021).
“These little bits of paradise” (2021).
“Let’s stop here for some time” (2021).
“Hold your breath while we walk through this corn maze” (2021).
“When the curtains close on this tragic act” (2020).
SWEATER AND PANTS BY INSERCH, JACKET BY LEVI’S. …
More from the intimate celebration at the Public Hotel
We invited some friends to celebrate our most recent issue at the Public Hotel on the 17th floor
There are many ways to shut a lover up. You could, for instance, kiss them. But if you pine for drama, you might opt to plug the cosmic reach of their speech with that planet-shaped device called a ball gag — a sphere, typically made of rubber or silicone, kept in place with a strap that orbits the head of its wearer. Like many implements adopted by BDSM and fetish communities, the forebear of the ball gag is inextricably linked to several sordid, interwoven histories of torture, subjection, and animal “care.”
Deriving from the Old Norse adjective gag-háls, meaning “with head thrown back,” premodern iterations of the gag, or gag bit, were used by equestrians to hold up the sloping heads of horses from the insides of their mouths, as aid to teeth cleaning, balance lessons, showing off, and reining in. A more figurative usage of gag appears in the mid-16th century and refers to an implement used to suppress vocalization, as of a heretical Catholic or gossiping woman. Consider a 14th-century Scottish invention, the Scold’s Bridle, which encased the gossip’s head in an iron mask that came attached to a small metal disc to penetrate her open mouth. Early American lawmakers further perverted the use of the gag, expanding its speech-suppressing qualities to include unsurprisingly debased forms of civic disenfranchisement: a 1798 gag law curbed certain freedoms of the press; and the gag rule, instituted by the U.S. House of Representatives between 1836 and 1844, forbade the House from considering any petitions against slavery. …
In the fray of Paris Fashion Week, we found a few spare minutes to chat with up-and-comer Izzy Spears. Coming off the heels of supporting Yves Tumor on their recent European tour dates — and having released his debut single “FIST” only a few weeks prior — Spears’s inertia was palpable.
Though presently based in Los Angeles, Spears lived in his hometown of Atlanta for much of his life. Through his teens and early twenties, Spears worked primarily in fashion, casting and on-set production, while occasionally making music under various names. During these early years, his moniker “Izzy” was coined, an allusion to the gawky-looking mascot for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The addition of “Spears” to his stage name came later, an homage to queen Britney.
Spears’s recent burst of momentum started in 2019 when he connected backstage at a fashion show with Shayne Oliver, the founder and creative director of both the fashion label Hood by Air and cross-disciplinary collective Anonymous Club. Later freestyling together in Oliver’s studio, the pair played off each other’s energy to produce the singles “Bleedinout” and “Hollywood Meltdown” (on these 2021 tracks Oliver is credited as LEECH). As these releases gained attention, Izzy prepared to launch his solo career.
SPIKED JOCKSTRAP BY TOI ANO.
In 2021, Spears began production on his debut EP Monstar. The largely autobiographical project, which KRO records put out in November, blends rap, punk, horrorcore, and grunge. The sound, lyrics, and accompanying visuals together build an image of Spears that’s raw and uncensored, expanding on the geist of the early singles Spears made with Oliver. …
Glenn Martens had a big year. The 39-year-old Belgian designer tripled up on responsibilities in 2022. Already the creative director of Y/Project and Diesel, he became the second-ever guest couturier for Jean Paul Gaultier, starting the year off with a slam-dunk presentation in January, hailed a master class on corsetry. Then in February, he debuted his first runway collection for Diesel (which he took over late 2020) doubling down on their denim legacy and stunting with giant, record-breaking-big inflatables, cementing it one of the buzziest shows of the year and accomplishing a total brand revamp. The Antwerp Academy grad’s years being experimental at Y/Project seem to have finally paid off with Martens proving he can make his structural vision accessible to a wide audience. With everything on his plate, the toast of the fashion industry found some time to catch up with Silvia Prada, sharing about his path to designing, his Paris uniform, and what he’s looking for in a boyfriend.
What was your first memory about creating something as a designer? It was very late. I come from this small town, Bruges in Belgium. There’s a movie called In Bruges. Colin Farrell is the main character, and every other sentence he says, “shithole Bruges.” So I grew up there. It’s very beautiful, but it’s only medieval architecture. So, it’s a bit of a museum city. They call it the Venice of the North. You don’t really get confronted with any new design or architecture. It just doesn’t exist in your life. …
No astronaut has been publicly out in outer space. Brian Murphy, however, is hoping to be the first. Juggling astronaut training while working on a PHD in astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, the 22-year-old who identifies as gay and non-binary is embracing being a queer role model in the space sciences, the kind they didn’t have when they were growing up in rural Maryland. Last year Murphy was named 2021 Out Astronaut by the nonprofit of the same name focused on empowering LGBTQ+ individuals to be ambassadors within the STEM disciplines (an estimated 40 percent of LGBTQ+ people in STEM are not out). This past year Murphy graduated with an honors degree in planetary sciences from Florida Tech, which is about an hour’s drive from NASA’s shuttle launch facility in Cape Canaveral and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Mackenzie Calle captured Murphy during some out-of-this-world training exercises and also interviewed the astronaut-to-be. Their conversation spanned very large telescopes, the dangers of euphoria, and the pressures of orbital and suborbital representation.
Brian Murphy photographed in a flight simulator at the Florida Institute of Technology Center for Aeronautics and Innovation in Melbourne, Florida. February 2022.
Hey Brian! How are you doing? What’s new with you? I’m doing really well. About three months ago I came to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and I’ve been working on my PhD in astronomy. I’m working with the VLT, which is what we call the Very Large Telescope. …
Who is Dina Martina? I like to think of myself as a comely lady who wants nothing more than to entertain the pants off of everyone.
What lipstick do you use? You’ll have to excuse me, but no true lady ever divulges her beauty secrets, just as she never reveals her age. I will, however, tell you my horoscopical signage. I am a proud Aquarium.
Are you single? Yes, due to a mutual unspoken agreement between me and men.
When did you begin singing? The first time I sang in public was in the Little Miss Las Vegas Pageant when I was five, and in the talent competition I sang a lovely piece by Beethoven.
Who or what inspires you? During the holiday season I find inspiration everywhere, especially in the simple things. I find inspiration in the glint of the snow, you know? Smiling at a blind person on the street. Things like that.
Where is your favorite place to perform? I loved playing in a little town in Southern California called Ensalada.
How do you come up with the material for your shows? It’s basically like drawing names out of a hat, only instead of a hat it’s a urinal.
What has been your favorite moment or memory from performing? Performing on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I got to do in 2019.
How did you begin working in Provincetown? The Job Fair.
What’s your favorite color? …
A show of new paintings by Oscar yi Hou is on view at the Brooklyn Museum for nearly a year through mid-September of 2023. East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the exhibition’s title, refers to a poem by the artist that riffs on the feeling of in-betweenness and the innumerable stereotypes of East Asian people in Western cultural imagination. In yi Hou’s brushy, expressive portraits, the artist costumes himself and friends as a spectrum of characters — from Bruce Lee’s role of Kato on the 1960s television show The Green Hornet and anime Dragon Ball’s Son Goku to Old Hollywood “geisha-girls” and Spaghetti Western cowboys. He then builds painterly frameworks around his figures, centering them against a spare architectural scene. The compositions, reminiscent of symbolic quincunxes and coronas around saints, are then embellished with an intersectional mix of floating icons and symbols (including references to Japanese and Chinese artworks from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection.) These marginalia feature creatures like butterflies and cranes, sometimes swooping to overlap Chinese calligraphy or graffiti tags, motifs like Internet symbols and Taoist taijitu, stars from flags or sheriff’s badges. The illuminations contextualize their sitters as much as they obfuscate them, pointing to the rich complexity of the painter’s relationship with each subject and the ways in which constructed, long-standing identities may be adopted and rebuffed.
The show developed from a detailed 3000-word proposal yi Hou wrote, gathering many of his ideas from previous exhibitions and emphasizing the importance of pairing text with image, a central touchstone in understanding the re-appropriation at play in his work. …
Artist Linus Borgo is no stranger to periods of incubated change — over a decade ago he was involved in an electrical accident, resulting in the amputation of his left forearm and hand. In the hospital, he remembers the feeling of being a mere body, passed from one doctor to the next. Now, years later, he paints from his home and studio in Brooklyn, dissolving and reconstituting memories into potent compositions. These heightened visions and flashbacks exist somewhere between the corporeal and metaphysical, between dream and nightmare.
The painter credits his dance background and artists of the Italian Renaissance as having paved much of the territory on which he treads. “There’s a lot of choreography in paintings of the Renaissance,” he laughs, “and all those muscular bodies painted in the Sistine Chapel — many people were there to have a religious experience, I was just turned on.” Using thickly lain oil paint, Borgo extends the humanist traditions of Renaissance painting with an elegant attention to form and by grounding the work in his own personal experience.
“Sometimes I worry I am making trauma porn,” Borgo confesses. Memory is reductive; in our minds it flows, without bearing the broad monotony of time and place, charged by the lingering effects of elation and suffering that militate even our smallest experiences. As many of Borgo’s paintings are laden with the anguish and upheaval he once felt, they also might empower the viewer, reassuring them that the passing of time, no matter how slow it may feel, will inevitably change all circumstances. …