Top Ten NYC Artists Now

A curated survey of this month’s “TOP TEN ARTISTS NYC NOW” from our Art 511 Magazine digital artist database. Coming soon, top featured artists from Los Angeles, San Francisco and more! Submit your work to be considered.

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Jalese Ayana or MFIN LEESY's latest single, Model: Jalese Ayana, photo by: Jalese Ayana, Set Design by: Kyemah McEntyre

LEES’ AYANA

Born 1996 in East Orange, New Jersey

I believe creating has always been a part of my life,” says LEES, who never really decided to become an artist, rather, “I never saw myself doing anything other than rapping, drawing and playing basketball.” Growing up, her studies were mostly centered around performing, art and music. In college at Parsons, AYANA majored in Photography and produced her thesis project “Pretty Girl Blues,” identifying her main mediums as “the voice and the lens.” Her works helps her through her anxiety, almost as a type of therapy, although it’s not necessarily purposeful. Womanhood and sexuality are consistent subject matters. Based in East Orange , New Jersey and New York City, time management and dealing with outside opinions pose challenges to her professional creative life. Translating something so personal as art into a commercial setting” doesn’t account for how much she might change through the process of creation. She’s currently exhibiting her thesis project “Pretty Girl Blues” and also working on a film which will be the artist’s official foray into performance Art. Moving forward, she’s looking to “bridge the gap between photography and hip hop. I want to be a part of the movement that’s changing what being a ‘shooter’ means to young kids. I’m also showing what it means to be a professional in a urban setting. I’m focusing on growing myself as an artist in order to make the work that I believe needs to be in the world.” She’s excited to see a children’s book cover she shot for Harper Collins, which will be released in 2019. Stay tuned for LEES’ AYANA’s performance for the 2019 Soul Culture Festival of Jersey City.

  • Model: Paule, Photo by Jalese Ayana 
  • Photography by: Jalese Ayana, The Museum of Modern Arts ITEMS: Is Fashion Modern ? Exhibition (Advertisement)
  • "Black Girl Home" Photo by Jalese Ayana, Model: Kyemah McEntyre, "Why Do We Like Girls?" photo series By Jalese Ayana 
  • Photography by JAlese Ayana, Model Shane Fuller 
Greem Jellyfish "Thriving" photo credit: James McColl

Greem Jellyfish

Born in Seoul, South Korea

Greem was named by her Grandmother, an artist who was also her caretaker at times. While her parents were busy, and often, in conflict with one another (in much the same way the country was divided North and South), Greem’s Grandmother stepped in to help with child-rearing. “She said I looked like a monstrous child when I was born,” recalls Greem. For a while, Greem had no name at all until one day her Grandmother, who kept a daily practice of painting and drawing, named her “Greem,” which means “picture” or “painting” in Korean. “It’s really bizarre that I became an artist because my dad was an accountant and my mother was a librarian,” she explains. “I wasn’t too exposed to artistic life. None of my family members were creative or brave as an entrepreneur. They were working a lot for [big corporations] and the government, and they often fought. I didn’t want to listen to them yelling at each other. I often listened to music and read blogs about art, movies, and fashion. I wanted to escape from the house.” At a young age, Greem would take herself to see contemporary art exhibitions in Seoul. One day, there was an opportunity to see the photography and a large installation by Korean American artist Nikki S. Lee. Greem remembers feeling “safe, welcomed and included,” and found solace in Art amidst all the chaos at home, a divided country, and the fast pace of city life which was all about economic growth and technology. Today in her interdisciplinary practice involving performance, sound, multimedia visuals, interactive art, costume and installation, she aims to proves a “safe space for misfits and outsiders.” Deeply influenced by club dance culture, music, energy and social gatherings — punk philosophy, d-i-y ethics, and LGBTQ politics heavily factor into her work. The core of her work deals with issues related belonging, disorder, confusion, loneliness and frustration. Greem’s inclusive, colorful and interactive artwork blurs the boundary between art and life. “I thrive in the realm of experimental, socially engaging, and environmentally conscious acts of creation” explains the artist. Searching for the supernatural, and offering a cathartic experience for both herself and the audience, Greem is influenced by fellow artist Nick Cave. “Like Cave, I use costume and performance to question the nature of reality, chaos, utopia, dream space and existence itself. I feel this process is related to my Korean heritage, and forms of indigenous Korean shamanism which view anger as a type of fuel for spiritual and ritual experience as healing.” Most recently exhibiting in a show at KARST in Plymouth, UK, Greem made a large-scale fabric installation and played music for the opening. What began as a sketch she made while on a hike took full-form in the skylight at KARST, hanging majestically from floor to ceiling. Time is one of her consistent artistic challenges, reflects Greem. “New York is filled with beautiful people who create amazing works of art, which is extremely distracting.” Add to that juggling work to pay bills and rent. Currently, she’s working with a dance archive organization focused on POC and LGBTQ artists called Dae Dham, which is a non-binary (gender neutral) term that imparts the meanings wild, bold, confident and assuredness in Korean. As a politicized group, Dae Dham focuses on creating an alternative to the many festivals and organizations dominated by white male DJs. In addition to working on an interactive music video website for her song, “Juicy Tender” with label Globally LTD and a stylist Sam Kim, Greem’s included in an NYU alumni exhibition curated by Chrissie Iles, a curator at The Whitney Museum

Follow her on Instagram @greemjellyfish

  • "Thriving" Installation by Greem Jellyfish, KARST (UK), photo by James McColl
  • "Thriving" Installation by Greem Jellyfish, KARST (UK), photo by James McColl
  • "Thriving" Installation by Greem Jellyfish, KARST (UK), photo courtesy Alexandra Arts
  • Performance by Greem Jellyfish, KARST (UK), photo courtesy Alexandra Arts
  • Performance by Greem Jellyfish
  • Performance by Greem Jellyfish during the opening of I AM MY OWN PRIMAL PARENT, at KARST (UK), photo: Dom Moore
  • Greem Jellyfish DJ set, photo: Dom Moore
GAFFY Shot by Chloé Bonnard

Gaffy Gaffiero

Born in Brisbane, Australia

Despite having been born in Brisbane, “I am birthing and dying all day every day,” explains the artist known as Gaffy Gaffiero. Having learned to play three instruments and perform on stage by the age of six, creating always just came naturally to the queer artist. Gaffiero talks about breaking out on the arts scene at the age of 21 like “I’d forgotten how good this feels! RELEASE! I’ve been creating pretty much since I was born so why stop now!” Through performance, dance and music the artist shines, and is always open to learning new skills along the way. Gaffy’s main message is “Be wild, free, have no fear, follow your instinct, less machines, more action, more vibe, live in the moment and most importantly…BE YOURSELF!” Touring is a big aspect of the artist’s life, which includes many a collaboration with other queer, cosmic artists. Nine months in Europe (based in Berlin) and three in Australia dictate Gaffy’s creative flow creating and touring. “I have no limits sooo… FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT I say!” Current projects include a sick new Italo disco track with the homie Surf Dancer for Gaffy’s solo show, new material for the live project MEGA Ω MEGA (with the sista Ylva Falk), collaborations with super twin duo MY BAD SISTER, new videos, a new album and an on-going styling vision with Irish acrobatic comedy duo Lords of Strut. This October/November, watch out for Gaffy on tour in Europe before the artist leaves for Australia in January.

WWW.GAFF-E.COM

  • GAFFY Shot by Elvis Di Fazio, Wearing Doodad & Fandango, Makeup by Mat Hornby
  • Shot by Tanja Bruckner, Wearing Doodad & Fandango, HMUA by The Makeup Wardrobe
  • Styled by Alexis Knox, Wearing DANE 3001, Makeup by Stephanie Stokkvik
  • Shot by Tanja Bruckner, Wearing Doodad & Fandango, HMUA by The Makeup Wardrobe
  • Gaffy performing in Paris
  • Shot by Paula Palazon in Lille
  • Shot by Claudia Brijbag at Fusion 2018
John Rohrer, “Untitled (DSC9100)”, 2017, Lightbox with Archival UV Print Transparency. From the Series Fibers of Light, 60” x 40”

John Rohrer

Born 1989 in Boston, Massachusetts

Prone to finding metaphysical treasures in the subtle details of the mundane, John Rohrer became an artist to share his vision. It is one which allows John to “transcend the pragmatism of the everyday, providing ethereal clarity.” In his works, he aims to afford relative sensory experiences which alter the spectator’s mode of perception. “Ideally, I want people to feel the underpinnings of life that give me strength and joy. My goal is to use my vision to elevate consciousness to elevate peoples’ lives,” says the artist. Working in Photography and Digital Media, his work creates uniquely phenomenological sensory experiences in liminal space. Like many artists of the New York area, he currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, and speaks to creative challenges revolving around financial viability and space. Right now, he has three series in process titled Fibers of Light, Latticial Interference, and Post-Rave. Fibers of Light is about creating an embodied experience of light. The artwork, actualized as lightboxes, actively illuminate the texture and color of the refraction conveyed in the UV print transparency. “This experience of light overwhelms all of the viewer’s senses; grounding the radiance within the body while simultaneously elevating the viewer towards a state of physical transcendence.” Meanwhile, Rohrer’s Latticial Interference bends the light and shadow of lattice forms found in the urban landscape to create optical interference patterns. “The detail in tandem with the bold color and stark tone of the photograph attempts to both excite and exhaust the spectator’s senses. Therefore, these photographs no longer serve as artifacts of the past captured but as apparatuses that actively create maximal optical sensory experience,” explains John. His third project in process is called Post-Rave, and is a portrait series focused on Brooklyn’s queer techno music community, capturing the most raw and intimate moments a lá “after hours” vibes. This series, with its behind-the-scenes photos in which ravers literally “let down their hair,” suspends societal norms and champions freedom of expression. “My intent is to capture the raw, beautiful essence of my friends in the techno community after the night’s cathartic release,” remarks John, a regular fixture of one of Brooklyn’s prized queer subcultures. Moving forward, he intends to use photography to demonstrate changes in the physical body and electromagnetic field of his subject. I am influenced highly by electronic music’s use of resonate frequencies and visceral beat structures to heal and elevate people,” says John, who aims to keep probing the medium of photography in an exploration of energy transmutation, elevated states of consciousness and the otherworldly.

  • John Rohrer, “Untitled (DSC2681)”, 2016, Lightbox with Archival UV Print Transparency. From the Series Fibers of Light, 60” x 40”, Installation at Chasm IV exhibition at Refuge Arts. June 2018. Photo by John Rohrer.
  • John Rohrer, “Untitled(DSC4066)”, 2018. From the series, Latticial Interference. Archival pigment print. Various dimensions.
  • John Rohrer, "Untitled (DSC6994)", 2018. From the series, Latticial Interference. Archival pigment print. Various dimensions.
  • John Rohrer, ”Lindon”, 2018 From the series, Post-Rave, Archival pigment print. Various dimensions.
  • “John Rohrer portrait in front his artwork”, during the opening of the 2018 CHASM IV exhibition. Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Aubane Berthommé Martinez

Aubane Berthommé Martinez

Born 1994 in Barbezieux, France

Aubane always yearned to become a journalist, imagining how information sharing could improve social and political realities. As a teenager, she studied art and began to develop her creativity. Although Art was certainly a passion, it lacked the urgency of the political convictions she believed she could share via investigative journalism. As time went on, she zeroed in on the hugely complex potential of art as a tool to improve our society. Attempting to represent the world with her own language, her visual art questions the audience, interrogating their given realities, perceptions and ideals. Working primarily with photography, Aubane also dabbles in video, installation, ceramics, performance and drawing. Why and how is the private political? Does gender really exist? What are the codes and symbols of masculinity and femininity? Is the erotic political? Is the couple political? Can we really get rid of social norms? Is identity always political? In which contexts can we show a nude body? These are just some of the important, stirring questions she asks in her provocative practice. As an artist, Aubane aims to engage her audience directly and reveal the constructed-ness of identity given societal norms. Fascinated with the way in which cultural and social environments influence intimacy and sexuality, her work deals in perceptions and norms governing the gendered body. Playing around with notions of “The Gaze,” her compositions flip the script to turn the lens on the male figure. Her visual language of contrast, ripe with flashy colors, plants, flowers, and a strong collage aspect characterize her works. While traversing the realms of collage, ceramic and installation, the final result of the artist’s creative explorations usually lends the sensibility of photography. Based at present in the Netherlands, Aubane recently completed a Masters in Photography. Her creative initiatives include creating a residency program for French and Dutch art students focused on political and sociological theory and an interactive space where people will share knowledge through art, lecture and debate. “My main goal is to question a maximum of people on their vision of [gender] identity, to try to break some walls, even at a small scale,” explains the French-born creative. Her current project, a continuation of her research on masculinities and their expression, will premiere in 2019 during an exhibition in Amsterdam. Framing masculinity as a role – consciously or unconsciously – assumed and shouldered by men, Aubane sought out expressions of masculinity which appeared to be in their most raw, or uncontrolled state. For instance, masculinity during and after the practice of a combative sport, and during and after sex. “Paradoxically, sexuality and sports are recurrent fields where most of the individuals try to perform, answering to gender expectation,” reflects the artist. Ultimately, the artist will compare the two test groups in an art piece which will take the final format of video, combining photography and moving image.

Follow her on instagram @aubane.bm

Portrait of Cornelia Singer by Armin Bravo

Cornelia Singer

Born 1993 in New York, New York

Art was always in Cornelia Singer’s nature. Luckily, she was always encouraged to pursue it. “It’s the only thing that keeps my head straight, keeps me excited about the future…It’s my way of release, expression and solitude.” Having grown up learning-disabled, Singer didn’t feel she was good at much but Art. She spent her time drawing and painting before diving into Media Art about a decade ago. It was a medium that transcended the verbal, and as she grew as an artist, Singer came to adopt Digital Collage, Photography, Electronic Illustration and Installation as primary mediums. “I want my work to look and feel like music. What I love about Abstract Art is that you mold it to mean whatever you want it to do. It’s complimentary, vague, but the color helps it stand out,” reflects Singer. She names neon lights and modern technology as definite influences, as well as finding beauty in the everyday. In addition to her multi-genre practice, Cornelia also freelances as a model, promoter, host and works additional odd jobs. “Chaos” is a strong element both of her work and personality, but the artist is looking for strategies to help her calm down and ease anxiety. “I need to break out of that comfort zone, to benefit my mental health. I also need to stop telling myself I’m not good enough and just produce nonstop and care more about what I think of my work than what others think,” explains Singer, reflecting on some of her biggest challenges. Currently, she’s making a painting in the same style as her digital pieces. She’s hoping to one day break into videography, and has a vast array of visions for music videos. Animation feels like a key ingredient for some of her pieces: “This would look so cool if it actually moved,” jokes Cornelia.

  • Between One Fern
  • Happy Ending
  • Lost Connection
  • Water
  • Wave
"Jesamine" Acrylic, foam, and fabric on panel 24x6x12 inches 2017

Calli Moore

Born 1991 in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa

“I don’t think I was ever not making work in some capacity,” says artist Calli Moore. She waxes poetic about the feeling of being deeply influenced by her former professor at the University of Iowa, John Dilg, who demonstrated that being an artist can be your life and career. Working with expandable foam, acrylic, resin and fabric in her Broadway Junction studio, Moore’s forms lean toward the grotesque yet beautiful, other-worldly yet ineffably alive. She admits that one of her artistic challenges is finding a healthy live/work/work/work balance. “I have a full-time job, curate art shows regularly, run an online art auction and make my own work. It’s a lot to juggle in this city; I’m not really sure how I’m doing it to be quite honest. But it’s what keeps me going.” Moore recently wrapped up co-curating an interactive sculpture show and music event at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg. On the curatorial horizon are group shows at Deanna Evans Projects in late October, SRO gallery in November and 0.0 Gallery in Los Angeles come February. Meanwhile, amidst all that, “it’s also high time I spend some serious hours in the studio and focus on making my work,” concludes Calli.

https://www.callimoore.com/

 

  • "Jesamine" Acrylic, foam, and fabric on panel 24x6x12 inches 2017
  • "Queen Conch" Acrylic, fabric, shell, and foam on panel 16x6x12 inches 2018
  • “3 Tetons" Acrylic, fabric, foam, and faux fur hanging from chain 38x12x38 inches 2016
  • Calli Moore
Colonized Women 1, 2, 3, 4 Digital Prints on Silk, Calligraphy ink, Graphite 32" x 44", 2018

Fran Flaherty

Born 1973 in Manila, Phillipines

“Being an artist was not a choice. I fought it for a long time, changing majors many times in undergrad. I was called to be an artist, so I am,” says Flaherty, who works in all mediums and likes to throw technology into the mix. Traditional mediums, calligraphy, digital printing, clay and 3-D printing are all products of her creative practice. Generally, her work focuses on feminism, specifically maternal feminism, disability aesthetics, and diaspora. Working out of her studio in Pittsburgh, PA, Fran strives to maintain a balance between her art practice and personal/family life. A member of the Pittsburgh-based #notwhite Art Collective, Fran is one of 14 women artists that gather together to address the escalating events of discrimination in the U.S. The collective recently received a grant from the Carnegie International to develop their core mission and work, and will present their research findings at Keyword: International Symposium. “I am deeply invested in looking at one’s roots: history, ancestry, and experience with colonialism and imperialism, power, slavery and subjugation. As a deaf Filipina Chinese artist who currently resides in the United States, I am researching the effects of the Spanish Inquisition and the eradication of indigenous Filipino culture and customs,” explains Fran. The artist’s series of work entitled “Colonized Women,” comprised of silk paintings of indigenous women of the Philippines copied from 16th century colonial drawings documenting Spanish contact with the Islands, showed in the recent Art 511 Exhibition in Chelsea EMINENT DOMAIN. “I plan to continue to use these images to reclaim ownership of how my people were depicted for centuries, while negotiating that this act of colonization is also my inheritance,” says the artist in her own words. Meanwhile, she’s also using her background in CAD (3D modeling and printing) and traditional Filipino materials to create intersectional pieces, including a 3D model/print of a Tugbuk at Sakra – a device created for sexual enhancement eradicated by the Spanish colonists during the 15th century. Check out the #notwhite Art Collective in Keyword: International Symposium during the Carnegie International on Oct. 20th and at Carlow University on Oct 26th. Flaherty’s work is included this month in “Common Threads: Faith, Activism, and the Art of Healing” at the Community Engagement Library, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

https://franflaherty.com/

www.notwhitecolletive.com

  • Organisms a series of images derived from unused breastmilk donated by nursing mothers. Breastmilk was scanned and turned into 3d images. Organism 1 Digital Archival Prints on Hanhnemuhle, 13" x 19", 2018
  • Organism 2 Digital Archival Prints on Hanhnemuhle, 13" x 19", 2018
  • Organism 3 Digital Archival Prints on Hanhnemuhle, 13" x 19", 2018
  • TugbukatSakra (in progress) 3D rendering of an extinct sexual enhancer of Filipino Origin to be 3D printed 4.5" x 4.5" x 1"
  • Fran Flaherty
Lia Mice, photography by: Chris Turner

Lia Mice

Born in Cairns, Australia

An artist working in sound and electricity, Lia Mice really likes “exploring sound” and is “kind of addicted to it.” Keen to working on many, many projects at once, she’s just finished her latest album The Sampler As A Time Machine, due out in November on Optimo Music. “It’s a studio album about time travel. I created it through a series of studio experiments where I used the sampler to interpret various ideas of time travel that I came across in science and science fiction,” explains Mice. The artist is currently working on a PhD in Media and Arts Technology with a focus in instrument design. “The instruments I am designing are about the way we perform music.” Mice has created an instrument from a hacked chandelier, called The ChandeLIA, which synchronizes gesture and sound. She meanwhile created an instrument from an electric violin called The One-Handed Violin, forwarding a movement toward accessibility and inclusion in instrument design. The One-Handed Violin was a collaboration with the One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust, a UK- based charity pioneering the development of accessible instruments. Currently living and work in London, Mice splits her time between composing and producing in the recording studio and working at Queen Mary University, where she researches and designs instruments. “Finding the balance between the ideas and the sound and the engineering elements of each of my projects and bringing them together into a coherent whole,” is one consistent challenge of her creative practice. With her European album release scheduled for November, Mice is working on an audio-visual live set to perform while on tour. She’s developing live versions of the tracks on her album using samplers and some of her new instruments. They Said They Saw (Iqono) has been creating some of the visuals for her live sets. Other than that, Lia’s going to “Keep exploring the mysteries of the sonic universe.”

  • Lia Mice, photography by: Chris Turner
  • Lia Mice in the studio with One-Handed Violin
Sketchy Weekend Cast, photo from Jessika's most recent onstage performance for Wrong House Productions. Photo credit: Shannon McInally and Brendan Byrne

Jessika McQueen

Born 1991 in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada

“The women in my family have always had secrets…The women have had things they had to hide. For their family’s sake. For their safety’s sake. For the sake of their reputations as women. For a long time, wanting to be an artist was one of my secrets. It was not a responsible idea. It didn’t follow the plan. It was not realistic. It would get me nowhere,” begins artist Jessika McQueen, whose creative passion led her to drop everything and move to NYC to attend theater school. After training for three years, Jessika started a production company, and hopes to, as a carrier of the “secrets” of her female lineage, restore a sense of dignity and freedom to her foremothers. First and foremost an actress, McQueen also produces, writes, directs, and plays piano. All of these mediums she considers “very serious love affairs.” Conceptually, her work is about finding common ground. “Whether it is between myself and my character, my character and the other people in their world, their world and the audience’s world, different views, different beliefs — it is about bridging that gap. Finding what is shared. Finding the connection. There always is a connection, and sometimes it is so, so, so hard to find.” One of her favorite ways to achieve common ground is through humor, through the medicine of laughter. Having worked frequently in both Toronto and London, today she makes her home primarily in New York City. Her major creative challenges include self-doubt, not trusting her own voice, and trying to do a million things at once. “I need to remind myself quite often that sometimes it is better to do fewer things exceptionally well than to do as many things as humanly possible somewhat well.” McQueen’s production company, Wrong House Productions, has had two major theatre projects as of late called “Sketchy Weekend” and “The Winter Play.” Sketchy Weekend, an all-new, all-original sketch comedy show, fully written, directed, produced, and acted by Wrong House ran this past September at TADA! Theater in Manhattan. Meanwhile, their evening length “The Winter Play” is a collective project penned by McQueen and two other women at Wrong House. “We are all very adamant about representing women in a way we don’t often see on the stages and screens.” You can see this production from November 28th through December 9th at Teatro Circulo Theater in the East Village. McQueen is also playing the lead role, Ally, in an independent film titled The Monk Shop, starting production end of the month.

http://www.jessikamcqueen.com

www.thewronghouse.com/sketchy-weekend

  • Onstage in a sketch from Wrong House Productions, Photo credit: Kenneth Shook
  • Onstage as Cecilia in Fefu and Her Friends, Photo credit: Kenneth Shook
  • McQueen onstage as Grace in Really Really, Photo credit: Kenneth Shook
  • Onstage as Grace in Really Really, Photo credit: Kenneth Shook