Showing posts with label Artist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Artist. Show all posts

October 18, 2019

'This Paintings Show The Fear in All Of Us': A Syrian Artist Speaks

Rashwan Abdelbaki. Title: Number 7. 31.49 x 61.02 inch. Acrylic On Canvas. 2016.
“Number 7″, by Rashwan Abdelbaki. 31.49 x 61.02 inch. Acrylic On Canvas. 2016.
While the portrait of Syria has been painted in the media mostly with images of war and destruction, Syrian artist Rashwan Abdelbaki has sought opportunities to challenge stereotypes and perceptions that ignore or disregard a country that “has provided much to enrich human civilization” and “represents a wonderful mosaic of more than 18 religions.”
Born in the southern Syrian city of As-Suwayda and now living in New York, Abdelbaki, 35, began showing interest in the arts from his teenage years. In 2003, he found his way to the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus, where he received a bachelor’s degree in printmaking techniques.
His works explore some of the most pressing issues of our time including immigration, racism, religion, and politics, with vivid colors and dynamic interactions creating an ongoing conversation and capturing the imagination of his audiences.
Last Supper, First Wall. 78.74 x 129.92 inch. Acrylic On Canvas. 2017.
“Last Supper”, by Rashwan Abdelbaki. First Wall. 78.74 x 129.92 inch. Acrylic On Canvas. 2017.
In September 2016, Abdelbaki received a one-year fellowship from the Institute of International Education’s Artist Protection Fund (IIE-APF) that led to his becoming an affiliated fellow at the American Academy in Rome. In January 2017, a week before President Donald Trump unveiled his “travel ban” restricting people from mainly Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, Abdelbaki arrived in New York to continue the IIE-APF fellowship, hosted by ArteEast and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts.
Since July 2018, Abdelbaki has been a member of the artist-at-risk program at the Westbeth Artists Community, which provides affordable live and workspaces. The program was created by the New York City Safe Residency Program and is led by a coalition of groups supporting freedom of expression.
In an interview with Global Voices in New York, Abdelbaki said that he uses painting, etching, ‎engraving, digital art, installation and video to express what he sees as the “negative effects of racism, religion, and politics that are all striving to divide us and destroy our faith in humanity.”
I had the opportunity to interview Abdelbaki in August 2019. Excerpts from the interview follow:
Omid Memarian: How have years of war in Syria influenced and affected Syrian artists, and you in particular?
Rashwan Abdelbaki: The war has had a negative impact on everyone, especially economically and security-wise, prompting many to leave the country in search of new opportunities. After my graduation from college in Syria, my primary interest was music, exploring the relationship between the musician and the instrument. At the time, my art was filled with music, joy, light, and theater. But in 2011, I started to feel the changes that war brought to my country. On a personal level and as an artist, the war confused a lot of ideas within me, and my vision of things changed. I began to think more about the dangers that threaten our common humanity. My focus shifted to questions regarding the negative effects of racism, religion, and politics that are all striving to divide and destroy our faith in humanity.
Emptiness, 2016 Acrylic On Canvas 120 x 150 cm
“Emptiness”, by Rashwan Abdelbaki. Acrylic On Canvas. 120 x 150 cm. 2016.
OM: What differences do you see in the body of work you created prior to migrating to the U.S. and after you moved here?
RA: Before I came to the U.S., my paintings were focused on human environments and the relationships between different groups of people, sometimes the full body in paintings like Wedding Night and Early Marriage. The first painting I created in New York was Last Supper, First Wall. This painting was in response to Executive Order 13769 [President Trump’s travel ban] that limited my mobility and later became worse by requiring me to either leave or stay. Jesus asked that we all act with and honor humanity. Our response has only been to continue to build walls between us. Then I began to focus more on the face, the open eye, and physical lines that represent our abilities and freedom in paintings like One Line, Crossed Line, and Safety Line. In these works, there is a clear, physical line above the human who looks like he is drowning but still holding on to hope.
OM: In many of your paintings, people have one eye and in general, the face seems disfigured. What do these figures say about your understanding of the human condition and the important issues of our time?
RA: In the portraits, I am speaking to the fear inside us all that keeps us awake, even when we want to close our eyes and sleep in peace. But because of what we are witnessing now—violence, wars, and racism—we need to keep one eye open to know what’s happening around us, to be ready for any shocks or surprises. I put a circle around the open eye in my portraits to draw attention to the eye. These people, like all people, are also prisoners of their own beliefs, so I paint them with striped garments in empty cells. They cannot see beyond the space of their beliefs. This is the current state of our world and humanity today due to religious conflicts, corrupt politicians and their misuse of power, as well as discrimination.
Rashwan Abdelbaki. Title: Women. Acrylic On Canvas. 150 x 150 cm. 2016.
” Women”, by Rashwan Abdelbaki. Acrylic On Canvas. 150 x 150 cm. 2016.
OM: In many of your paintings and sketches, there seems to be a sense of curiosity and searching for the relationship between individuals and their surroundings. The direction of heads and eyes, and interactions with others in Love, as well as Last Supper, First Wall and Number 7 creates an overarching theme embedded beneath your use of vivid colors. What inspired you to create these works? 
RA: It's true, in the very beginning I was trying more to identify the character (one open eye, one eye closed) through physical relationships and empty spaces—to represent a scene, sometime, somewhere. You can see that in Last Supper, First Wall and Number 7, where groups of people are gathering as if on doomsday, enclosed in interior spaces and with transfixed gazes, as if they are staring outwards but at nothing in particular.
But in the painting Love, and the paintings Safety LineWhisper, and Hope, there is something specific: man and woman, in a moment of love, with lines and barriers. They both have just one eye open and the other closed, like all the characters in my paintings, but the special characteristic here is that together they have two open eyes, and the whole scene becomes clearer, like they are protecting one another.
The colors in all these paintings are impressionistic or abstract sometimes, like what's happening around the world. I use them to refer to different political parties or religions, and you can see that in these characters and their stripes. But I also use them to create a vision of hope that I am looking for and want to give to others.
OM: The color palette you use is appealing and inviting, but some of the concepts you deal with are unsettling, like Music on Paper 4 or Emptiness. What was your thought process in creating these situations?
RA: I understand what you mean by “unsettling.” In the prints that come from other concepts than what Emptiness came from, there’s an insistence on reduction of elements, so we are looking at a symbolic representation of the thing rather than the thing itself. Likewise, in these paintings there’s a strong stylization, a canonization of formal elements to essentialist tropes. There are always one or two figures in a room within a garish color palette that appears to suggest confinement and violence. I think I am personally not far from all this. In many cases, I reflect my “unsettled” state from that feeling I had back in the days when I was working on music, to process that unsettled feeling of fear that I’ve had in the last couple years. I want to understand the illusion created by this fear within me, and how to defeat it.
This is My Place. Acrylic On Canvas. 150 x 200 cm. 2016.
“This is My Place”, by Rashwan Abdelbaki.. Acrylic On Canvas. 150 x 200 cm. 2016.
OM: How has living for the past two years in New York changed you as an artist? Are there things that you see differently now regarding art and identity issues as well as geography and politics?
RA: Traveling and living in New York has helped me become acquainted with new civilizations, cultures, languages, music and so on. I was unable to learn about them in my motherland except through the internet or news. Here I learned more about my artistic mission by interacting with people in the U.S. and Europe. When they saw the face with one open eye and one closed eye, it touched them, and from their comments I felt their need for safety, peace, and love.

Written byOmid Memarian

January 14, 2019

Lin-Manuel Explodes His Talents in Puerto Rico and It Also Shows How Fragile This Beautiful Island is

 By Peter Marks. Published from Adamfoxie's Subscription (paid by reader F.Wright) on the Washington Post
With Lin-Manuel Miranda once again as its star, the celebrated Broadway hit “Hamilton” opened for business in Puerto Rico this weekend — that business being the bolstering of the hopes and finances of a beleaguered U.S. territory mired in debt and still reeling from the devastation wreaked 16 months ago by Hurricane Maria. 
The first performance on Friday night of the Tony-winning musical at the Centro de Bellas Artes in the heart of the island’s capital city betokened one of the most extraordinary events in the history of the nation’s performing arts. Here was a show arriving not merely to entertain, but also to serve a humanitarian mission: raising money for the relief effort. But the quest was also to draw the world’s attention to an American outpost that has long felt neglected by the country that owns it, and especially so in the aftermath of a disaster that traumatized the island.
Lin Manuel Miranda returns to the stage as Alexander Hamilton in Puerto Rico
“Hamilton” composer Lin-Manuel Miranda performed in San Juan, Puerto Rico Jan. 11 as part of a three-week run of his show to raise money and encourage tourism. 
Miranda’s mission achieved an emotional crescendo as a new “Hamilton” touring production — the musical’s sixth incarnation — celebrated its official opening to the hurrahs of an exuberant sellout crowd. When the actor made his entrance, during the introductory number, “Alexander Hamilton,” it was the audience that stopped the show, with a prolonged, thunderous ovation. At the curtain call nearly three hours later, Miranda once again brought down the house, with a teary speech that ended with him pulling a large Puerto Rican flag from under his costume and holding it aloft. 
“I just love the island so much,” he said during a post-show news conference, “and I just want it to be proud of me.”
The special 23-performance visit of “Hamilton” to Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island of 3.5 million people that’s not a normal stop for Broadway productions, was indeed a labor of love for Miranda and his father, Luis Miranda, a Puerto Rican native who made a name for himself in New York City Democratic politics. They prevailed upon the producers and investors of the show — which brings in as much as $4 million a week on Broadway alone — to donate the entire proceeds of the San Juan engagement, after operating expenses, to a fund for struggling Puerto Rican artists and arts institutions. The fund, administered by the local Flamboyan Foundation, which also has a Washington arm, stands to receive $15 million from the “Hamilton” run, according to Luis Miranda. 
“I’m so happy that he brought us this art, which means so much to us as Puerto Ricans, not just as Americans,” said Roberto Ramos Perea, a well-known playwright and director here who heads the theater program at Ateneo Puertorriqueño, the island’s oldest arts institution and a repository for its dramatic literature through the centuries. “This guy,” Perea said of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “has made something difficult to do: to capture the attention of the whole world for us.”

Puerto Rico playwright and director Roberto Ramos Perea heads the theater program at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño, the island’s oldest arts institution and a repository for its dramatic literature. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/For The Washington Post)
It’s difficult to come up with a precedent for a Broadway musical undergirding a movement for disaster relief and political recognition of a problem in quite the way “Hamilton” has. As Luis Miranda explained, his son already had spearheaded the raising of $43 million in disaster relief for the Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit group that seeks to strengthen Latino institutions. Devoting an entire run to addressing the crisis raises the stakes in a way unheard of in commercial theater.
“He’s bringing to the forefront of the political agenda the issues of Puerto Rico more effectively than anyone else is doing,” Roberto Prats, a former senator and head of the Democratic Party here, said of Miranda. 
Or as Brad Dean, chief executive of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s nonprofit tourism organization, put it: “The grand opportunity is to turn Lin-Manuel’s gift into an impact that goes far beyond the three weeks of the visit.”
Some residents resent local authorities’ bending over backward for “Hamilton”: When a plan fell through at the last minute to stage the production in a historic theater on the campus of Luis Miranda’s alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico, the government immediately cleared a path to move “Hamilton” to the Centro de Bellas Artes. That left the university in the lurch, as the renovations to its theater — aided by a $1 million donation from the Mirandas — have not been completed.
“We haven’t seen support like that from any administration except now, for ‘Hamilton,’ ” said Aida Belén Rivera-Ruiz, a UPR professor. “I would like to see them flourish with support for local productions.” 
Still, the Mirandas’ efforts are being widely hailed in the arduous campaign to get the island back on its feet. Hurricane Maria caused the deaths of nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans and left widespread damage, both to property and to psyches. Last year, an estimated 100,000 residents left for the U.S. mainland, according to Edwin Meléndez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. And the talent drain is hitting hard in the artistic and professional classes.
The island’s enduring fiscal disaster — a $70 billion debt load that led to the imposition by Congress of a board, known here as “the junta,” to put curbs on government spending — has only exacerbated the sense of ongoing emergency.
“How can you have a recovery when your tax base is eroding by the day?” Meléndez said. “It’s important,” he added of the spotlight “Hamilton” is putting on the island, “because rebuilding Puerto Rico hasn’t started yet. The major reconstruction funding is trickling down very slowly.”
A shrine to a hometown hero
If there’s one thing the Mirandas know how to do these days, it’s command attention. A half-hour drive from San Juan, along the island’s northern coast, is Vega Alta, the hometown of the extended Miranda family, which has become a tourist destination for Lin-Manuel’s fans. In a sweet little plaza, or “placita,” on Luis Muñoz Rivera Street, the Mirandas have established a kind of homespun Lin-Manuel shrine. An outdoor cafe, some small food stands, a souvenir shop and a “Museo Miranda” (Miranda Museum) host visitors who sip smoothies while gazing at a giant mosaic portrait of Lin-Manuel, posed like a revolutionary hero. In the museum, several of his entertainment awards are displayed, along with other portraits.

Tourists and “Hamilton” fans Dave and Kathy Mullen of Madison, Wis., pose for a selfie in front of a mural honoring Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Miranda family’s Purto Rican hometown of Vega Alta. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/For The Washington Post)
“It grew out of being a New Yorker and living in small spaces,” Luis Miranda said with a laugh during a morning interview in the lobby of the Luis A. Ferré auditorium at the Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan, as the “Hamilton” cast was rehearsing inside. “We had the space in Puerto Rico, so why not store it there, in a display way?” 
Back in Vega Alta, while Luis’s brother Elvin and sister Yamila chatted up visitors and talked to vendors, a tour group 20 or so strong sat at tables in the museum, having lunch and peeking at the memorabilia. “I just adored his talent — I think he’s one unique dude,” said Roxene Pierce, a retired high school Spanish teacher from Iowa City who had bought a tour package that included stops in Vega Alta and at a Bacardi rum distillery, as well as a ticket to “Hamilton.”
Dave and Kathy Mullen, from Madison, Wis. — he’s a software architect and she advises seniors on how to downsize — drove out to Vega Alta on their own. They said their trip to Puerto Rico was occasioned both by a love of “Hamilton” and a desire to put their tourist dollars to work in a destination that needed help. “It’s very difficult not to respond positively to Lin,” Dave Mullen said. 
You sensed time and again in talking to visitors — 90 percent of the tourists are from the mainland — that people have indeed responded to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his family in a deeply personal way.
“I had plans to come to Puerto Rico,” explained Pierce, “because [the Mirandas] asked us to come to Puerto Rico.”
The power of art
It’s hard to calculate the extent of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fame: Puerto Ricans say that even here, his renown, as yet, is concentrated in cosmopolitan circles, rather than across the spectrum of island society. Still, with television appearances and his role in the new Disney movie “Mary Poppins Returns,” his visibility continues to rise, and his intention seems to be to harness that popular appeal for key causes, such as his foray into cultural diplomacy and humanitarian aid.
At the packed news conference Friday night, Puerto Rican reporters posed the kind of questions asked of political candidates: What did he think about the debt problem? What about crime? How did he feel about the Trump administration’s threat to take money away from Puerto Rican disaster aid to pay for the wall? Miranda, still reeling from the emotions of performing — during a number called “Hurricane,” he said, he’d had trouble maintaining his composure — seemed a bit overwhelmed by it all. 
“Lin has always been extremely cautious about choosing his political causes,” said Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater in New York, where “Hamilton” had its world premiere in February 2015. “He has taken Puerto Rico’s safety, health and social policy as a central political policy of his own.” According to Eustis, Lin-Manuel and his politically astute father “believe it's a cause that has no downside.”
Like other figures central to “Hamilton’s” development — from lead producer Jeffrey Seller, to Ron Chernow, on whose biography of Hamilton Miranda based the musical, to actors Leslie Odom Jr., Anthony Ramos and Jasmine Cephas Jones from the original cast — Eustis came to San Juan to witness this historic musical-theater moment. Questlove and Shonda Rhimes were there, too, on Friday night; Oprah Winfrey will soon be on her way; Jimmy Fallon will broadcast from San Juan next week; and a congressional delegation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is said to be arriving, too.
“If you can marry politics, government need and the arts, ‘Hamilton’ is the perfect scenario for that to happen,” said Prats, who is planning a run for governor in 2020. A die-hard “Hamilton” fan, Prats sees much to savor, and learn from, in the story of a Caribbean-born immigrant who helps lead colonies to financial independence.
“I’m going to quote a line from the show,” he said. “­ ‘Raise a glass to the four of us; tomorrow there’ll be more of us.’ We raise a glass to Lin-Manuel and hope that tomorrow, there’ll be more of him.”
My apollogies to Lin-Manuel Miranda. I also thought you were gay 😕

June 15, 2018

MRSHLL, South Koreas' First Openly Gay Artist

We're really starting to run out of "First Openly Gay" people. (That's a good thing). But just as American poet Cassie Ventura once declared, we've still got a Long Way 2 Go — especially as we shift our attention outside of the Western Hemisphere.

Over in the East, the push for LGBTQ equality is steady, but slow-moving. Within South Korea specifically, the concept of coming out is still regarded as mostly taboo — but attitudes are evolving, especially within the past decade. While there are no outright laws made against homosexuality, and one's gender can be legally changed, there's also no official recognition of same-sex unions of any kind. As of a 2017 poll, 41% of the general public approved of same-sex marriage. (By comparison, 61% of the U.S. population showed support in a poll from 2016).

Having out-and-proud pioneers in our communities is key in breaking down misconceptions and unfounded phobias in every part of the globe, especially in terms of pop stars. To date, however, the number of openly LGBTQ Korean artists can be counted on one hand.

When MRSHLL made headlines for being the "First Openly Gay" Korean musician a few years back, friends warned that the rainbow-colored cross to bear would be "social suicide."

But the world kept spinning. And over a year later — following the debut of Holland, an out-and-proud performer on the idol scene — MRSHLL is ready to exhale with Breathe, a collection of sexy, slinky electro-R&B infused songs about the various forms of love he's feeling in his life.

It's a set of songs that proves that while his very existence is vital in advancing the cause in a territory in dire need of visibility, MRSHLL's got plenty more to offer than just that title.

I'm heading up to Boston Pride right now. Korea's Pride is in July, I believe? Are you going to go to Pride this year?
Yeah, we're a month behind. They haven't released the details of who's going to be there, or the exact dates just yet, but I'm definitely going to go to the parade and all the different events that they have. Who knows? They may even hit me up for a performance. [Laughs]

Is Pride important to you? What does it mean to have Pride in Korea?
Pride is still very important to me. I think there are many parts of the world that are not so open to people of different genders and sexual orientations, and there are still a lot of countries where you can't live freely as yourself. There's still a lot of work to be done, although there's been great strides. Pride is still a very important event for people who may not know that we exist. Even in Korea, there are still people from my parents' generation who still believe that the LGBTQ community is more of a Western thing, and not really a global thing.

That's really interesting. And kind of horrifying.
Yeah. They think it's something that came about in the past 30 or 40 years.

Here in the West, we're lucky to have acts like Sam Smith, Troye Sivan, Hayley Kiyoko and MNEK making moves. Apart from yourself, do you see any other openly queer pop artists breaking in the East?
Not necessarily those who are completely out and open. There are some indie artists, but none that I'm aware of who are actually out and open, other than Holland and me. They either play with the concept or it's more of an artistic thing, or there's a music video concept where they toy with the idea, but nobody's really gone full force. They dress up in drag and wear makeup and heels, but nobody actually takes the extra step forward and says "Hey, I am... blank." Nobody actually makes a definitive statement. So, not that I know of!

You made headlines as the first openly gay Korean artist to debut, and then Holland came around as the first openly gay idol in early 2018. Can you talk about the "idol" concept for those unclear of what the distinction is?
In terms of the idol concept, I am still kind of figuring out what that exactly means. To my understanding, an idol is usually either in a boy group or a girl group, and they're kind of…what's the right way to say this? I don't want to say "manufactured," but it's kind of like the pop boy band factories of the 2000s, like NSYNC or Backstreet Boys, where they have songwriters and producers and stylists and makeup artists and people who create a concept and characters for each member and whatnot. In a way, the artists themselves don't really have a say in what their concept is. It's kind of given to them, which is in and of itself its own genre. People love it. I love it — it's fun! That's what I think the idol concept is, in my understanding.

Did you see his debut? If so, what did you think?
I think it's incredible that there's another artist who's catering to a different group of fans out there. I think the more the merrier! There needs to be visibility. With just two artists out there, it's not enough. There should be a Korean openly gay opera singer. There should be a Korean openly gay... country singer. Who knows? I'm all about it.

Public support from allies also seems to be getting louder in the East, with acts like Jolin Tsai showing support in Taiwan, Ayumi Hamasaki performing for Rainbow Pride in Japan. BoA was already performing at Pride stateside years ago. Are you seeing this represented in the K-Pop industry today? Do you think it's helping to shift public attitude?
I believe so, especially in the past few years. There's been a lot more support publicly from different artists in the K-Pop genre. For example, there's an artist Lee Hyori — she's one of the original K-Pop idol stars. She's been bringing awareness to the community. She had a song "Miss Korea" that she put out a few years back, and she used a lot of local drag queens in her music video. I believe when she was asked about it, she was very open about, like, "These are some of my friends, they're super loving and open and honest about who they are." There's also Uhm Jung-hwa. She's like the Korean Madonna. She uses a lot of dancers from the waacking community, which is a form of dance that's based in the gay community. She's super cool. And then there's Yoon Mi-rae. She's an artist on my label, and someone who is kind of legendary in the hip-hop scene out here. She's been very supportive of me — AKA, signing me to her label along with her husband Tiger JK, who's kind of like the Jay-Z of Korea. Just the fact that they're even behind me and supporting me in me being open about my sexuality in and of itself is a statement. I think more and more it's opening up, and hopefully in a few years, more people will be vocal about it, and not be afraid to be who they are be supportive of each other.
You told Billboard a year ago that your friends considered coming out "social suicide." How do you feel about it a year later? Has there been any significant backlash?
I mostly hang around with musicians and other artists, and they're more on the open side from the get-go. I haven't had any backlash personally within my social circle, but there are comments made about me. If anyone searches, you'll immediately see "MRSHLL, openly gay!" It's not hard to find that. But at least in Korea, the media hasn't really talked about me being the "first openly gay" — or anything gay-related — quite yet. They've only focused on the music, which is good I guess, because that's what I want to be known for. It's a part of my identity, but it's not all of who I am. I haven't gotten anything crazy so far, but who knows? As I get more known in Korea, I'm sure the question will pop up. Who knows what'll happen? I'm kind of gearing up for it, or preparing my heart and body for whatever's to come. But so far so good!

The more known you are, the more backlash you'll get regardless, so brace for it anyway.
So besides gay stuff, let's talk about the things you'd like to be known for beyond just that.
We love gay stuff, but onto the next! [Laughs]

We love gay stuff! I'd love to talk about the EP. How long did you work on it, and what does it sound like, in your own words?
I began working on it earlier last year. There was a different album that was supposed to come out that summer, but ended up being pushed back. I went through a bunch of different things and ended up creating more songs. I titled the EP Breathe because I was kind of trying to figure out when to release it, and ended up kind of just letting it go, like breathing. I had some really incredible conversations with my mom and some really close friends of mine. The songs on the EP encompass love in general, and the different types of love I've gone through in my experience, whether it be in relationships, or acceptance, or self-love. It's a little sampling of what I offer as an artist. It's just the tip of the iceberg for me, musically.

There are a bunch of collaborations! How did some of them come about, and why did you choose those artists?
Lydia Paek, pH-1, Sumin and Ja Mezz are all featured, and I also worked with different songwriters and producers — one of them being Lee Hi. All of these people that I worked with are people that I'm actually friends with and who I admire as artists in their own right. It was very organic... I didn't actually seek anyone out. There's a song called "Hold Me" that I wrote earlier last year with my friend Amy [Kuney] and my friend David. Amy and I attended Biola University, which is like a private Christian university. We both went through our own experiences with coming out. She's now writing for Kelly Clarkson, Akon, Tori Kelly — all these incredible artists, and she's had her own musical journey. It was just natural that we came together from experiencing similar things with our families and our faiths. Lee Hi and I have known each other for the past couple years. Lydia, I've known since like junior high. There's longevity to everybody. It was just so natural. I'm happy about how everything turned out.

You've hung out with lots of awesome acts, as evidenced on your Instagram. Any dream collaborations still on your bucket list?
Oh my God. I mean, you mentioned MNEK earlier. I love MNEK. I've been following his career since he was writing for Madonna and whoever else. He's just really incredible. I'm all about what he stands for, and I think his voice is just pure magic. I'd love to do something with him. I love the music that he loves as well, because it's the music I grew up on back in the day. I love Kehlani, I think she's incredible and her voice is wonderful. In terms of K-Pop, Dean and Crush are friends of mine and singer-songwriters and producers I admire. SOPHIE from the UK, who is one of the few openly trans female artists and produced for Charli XCX, Madonna and Vince Staples, and whose beats are just out-of-this-world. I'd love to work on a record with the legend, Miss Janet Jackson-if-ya-nasty. I'd love to get into the studio with Julia Michaels who, along with Justin Tranter, are literally the best in pop music songwriting right now. H.E.R. Her R&B vocals. The songs from her album earlier this year were, and still are, on rotation on my playlists. And since I grew up on pop music, I think Britney would be an incredible person to work with. One of my favorite albums from her is the Britney album from 2001. That album is when she was like, "I'm done with the 'Oops!...I Did It Again' and now here's my 'Slave 4 U' with Pharrell." And that, like, ruined me in the best way ever. She's a dream collaboration. There's so many — I'm open for business. Girl, I'm ready.

Glad that you referenced Britney. True stans know that's one of her cooler records.
We can talk about Britney forever. Her whole Blackout album — a dope-ass album. "Gimme More," all those songs.
Of course. Will you be heading out on the road to promote your music?
Summer's kind of the season where everyone performs at different universities in Korea, but I'd love to do a tour in the States or in Europe, that's definitely a possibility. My goal for 2018, for the most part, is to continually release music and get out all the actual meat of what makes up a tour. I want to get as much music out there to the people as I can, and then really focus on touring and performing next year. I still have different shows, parties and events that I'll be performing at for this year. I'm super excited to be out on the road, on the stage and getting my life for the people.

For the K-Pop fans who might have stumbled on you from their love of K-Pop in general, are you into any idol groups or singers? And for people who might not be familiar with other Korean acts, are there any Korean artists they should also know about that you recommend?
I really love this band called Hyokoh. They border more on the indie-rock side of things, but the lead singer's voice — his voice is just, it's like... husky, scratchy and reminds me of bluegrass, but with a rock edge to it. The songs that he writes and the music that he puts out with his band, it really hits a part of my soul that I'm like — oof. Guttural. He has a song called "Wanli," which actually is in Chinese, and the music video is in Mongolia and there's all these crazy horses — super epic stuff. In terms of the more mainstream stuff... I like BLACKPINK, sorry not sorry! I think they're beautiful, their songs are hella catchy and they can dance their asses off. They're fierce as fuck. I think they're fabulous. I love Lee Hi as well, obviously, but she's a friend of mine. Her voice is unmatched.

Bearing the "Gay Pop Star" title is difficult — I don't blame you for not wanting to be the representative of an entire community. How would you like to be known?
First and foremost, I want to be known for my music and my performance skills more than anything. Everything else is just an extension of who I am. The music is the most important. Otherwise, I'm just a gay person. [Laughs] I'm a musician, I'm an artist, I'm a performer – everything else is part of who I am. It's the many different factors that make up a person. I think I'm blessed enough to be in a position that I can make a positive impact on the world. Granted, I'm human. I'm going to make mistakes and say things I don't necessarily mean, but I'm allowed to make mistakes. I'm blown away by the different experiences I've had so far, and the talented people I've met. I can't wait for the next step and the next part of my journey. I can't wait to release new music, do crazier collaborations — Britney, MNEK, call me boo. I hope people are excited what I have to offer in the future, and I'm excited to show them what I can do.
Photography: Hannah Gweun

By Bradley Stern

February 4, 2018

Holland from PRAN,1st openly Gay K-Pop Artist [Lack of Support After Coming Out]

 In a recent interview with YouTube channel PRAN, the first openly gay K-pop artist Holland shared his experience on coming out and how hard it was. 

He starts off the interview by revealing the first time he came out, "I first came out to my friend who I thought I was close with and someone I liked when I was in middle school but rumors spread quickly and as it did, my school life started to become very difficult. I was bullied all the time without a single day off and wanted to die every single day. At the time, there was no one who told me 'you didn't do anything wrong', nor was there anyone who supported and comforted me."

Afterward, Holland also spoke about his debut track "Neverland" and its MV. He said, "'Neverland' is about a boy who couldn't be honest about his love and was discriminated, thus desiring to move to another place where he can express all the love he wants. Neverland in 'Peter Pan' is a dream-like place - a place where no one says anything about my love life. It isn't like I can get married just like everyone else and even though I don't know what will happen, I wanted to say it's going to be okay."

He continued, "I was at first on the side of not necessarily putting in the kiss scene in the MV. However, after hearing that same-sex kiss scene is considered 19+, I decided to do it. I put in the kiss scene because I thought if the song happened to do well, people would be curious to know why it's 19+. I think it should change."

Holland wrapped up the interview by giving words of encouragement who are in a similar position as him. "I believe many people are still troubled and worried about coming out. It really isn't wrong, and I sincerely hope no one makes poor decisions due to other people. I would like to say that we need to be more confident in order to speak a bit louder of the love we experience."
  1. Holland

October 23, 2017

Agent of Young Actor "Of Stranger Things" Fired For Sexual Abuse Claims


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APA agent Tyler Grasham has been fired from the Hollywood agency following a sexual assault claim made against him, EW has confirmed.

“Tyler Grasham’s employment with APA has been terminated, effective immediately,” Manfred Westphal, head of communications for APA, said in a statement to EW.

EW has learned that earlier Friday, Stranger Things and It star Finn Wolfhard fired Grasham and parted ways with the agency. The 14-year-old actor’s decision to leave the agency comes a few days after multiple accusations were leveled at the agent by former clients, including Blaise Godbe Lipman, who has appeared in episodes of Weeds and Hawaii-Five-O.

Wolfhard wasn’t alone in his actions; Descendants star Cameron Boyce also fired Grasham, EW has confirmed, though his future with the agency remains to be seen.

Originally, actor-turned-filmmaker Lipman (a.k.a. Blaise Embry) joined in on the #MeToo movement to share his story of assault at the hands of a “prominent talent agent from the firm APA” when he was 17. Then, according to Lipman, after he came forward, he received a “poke” on Facebook from Grasham, which led Lipman to pen a follow-up social media post outing Grasham as the assaulter.
The allegations against Grasham come two weeks after the initial New York Times exposé detailing “decades” of sexual misconduct by producer Harvey Weinstein. Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale, Heather Graham, Rose McGowan, Cara Delevingne, and Mira Sorvino are among the women who have come forward accusing Weinstein of assault, harassment, or rape. Last week in a statement through a representative, he denied claims of sexual assault: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”

“The positive thing about the attention the Weinstein scandal has had, is it’s no longer about Harvey,” wrote Lipman. “The conversation has moved on to the size of this epidemic and how to dismantle the system that protects these predators. And it’s given space and courage for victims to speak up, against their abuse. This is bigger than Weinstein.”

The Wrap first reported Wolfhard’s exit from APA, while Deadline broke the Boyce news.

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