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Founded in the summer of 2003 by Alma Davila-Toro and Atiba T. Edwards, F.O.K.U.S. was created to form diverse communities and support the arts in various ways, including concerts, workshops, art shows, film screenings and our magazine, INSIGHT. We believe the arts enable people to rise above barriers in society as evidenced in the diverse audiences that attend our events. F.O.K.U.S. brings together art forms, both traditional and non-traditional, to expand the views on what is considered art.




Atiba is a perpetual visionary who likes to do art in the dark since it is easier to see the true light.


Maya is an Oakland, CA native that moved to New York last year to pursue her Master of Arts degree in journalism. She's a story teller of things unseen and voices unheard.


Jeff is a creative type whose favorite questions are Why? and What if...? In that order.


All rights reserved on entire contents. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Opinions expressed in articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of F.O.K.U.S. or its subsidaries.

Massa Mas, New York, NY

Photo by Maya Pope-Chappell at F.O.K.U.S.'s Aerosol Academics event

"Native American Style" STREET STYLE

Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine Chanel Kennebrew

Chanel Kennebrew

THE BIG DUFFLE (ABOVE) This over-sized duffel is handmade completely from upcycled materials, which are used or recycled items combined to create a new product with a higher quality or value. The upcycled materials used here are belt supplies that were gleaned from a defunct belt factory. IT’S COLD (RIGHT) This look is a group of my new apparel creations, all of which were handmade in limited edition. The Wool and Buttons coat, Peg Leggings, and Sidewalk Bag were all made from designer surplus fabric and upcycled materials. 6 | INSIGHT

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Chanel Kennebrew

HAIRY HAIR TEE This tee was created out of a need to let go. Too many of us, especially Black women, carry around unnecessary baggage about hair. Whatever you decide to do with what grows out of your head is your business, but I feel like a lot of the energy spent in 'hair' could be redirected into something way more powerful. Manage your efforts ladies. 8 | INSIGHT

Chanel Kennebrew

DO IT WITH GRACE TEE Who wouldn't do it with Grace? She's freakin’ awesome and she paved the way for many. This tee is an ode to Grace Jones and a reminder to do whatever you do with Grace and Style!




Hei sanoi lcanl eaki ngt hegi f tofhi smot her ' sspi r i t ,amessywast eofwantnot s. Shef al l si nt ohi scr ookandpr et endst hehol ei nhercheeki sabookmar kf ort henextt i me. Theywer eneveri nl ove.Theywer eami st aket hatcr eat edt hel eastamountofcar nage. Unt i lyou' vel ostcal l ousedski nandbonet oasyr i ngef i x,i gnor et hedensef unneli nyourchest . Shef al l si nt ohi scr ookandpr et endst hehol ei nhercheeki sabookmar kf ornextt i me. Herki ssi sneedl epr i ckper f ect ,acur vedcl aw f oot ,aspeckl edmar bl ef l oor ;home. Unt i lyou' vel ostcal l ousedski nandbonet oasyr i ngef i x,i gnor et hedensef unneli nyourchest . Thesouli sadi sf i gur edcl ef t ,i tci nderbl ockbr eaksl i ket hewi l lt of or gi ve. Herki ssi sneedl epr i ckper f ect ,acur vedcl aw f oot ,aspeckl edmar bl ef l oor ;home. Theywer eneveri nl ove.Theywer eami st aket hatcr eat edt hel eastamountofcar nage. Thesouli sadi sf i gur edcl ef t ,i tci nderbl ockbr eaksl i ket hewi l lt of or gi ve. Hei sanoi lcanl eaki ngt hegi f tofhi smot her ' sspi r i t ,amessywast eofwantnot s.

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It Takes A Village to Raise a Panda Helen Homan

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals When I was living in Kyoto, Japan as a student, I often visited this vintage kimono shop and lingered for hours digging through piles of used kimono. I was drawn to unique and nostalgic prints but could only afford scraps. Even if I didn’t buy them, I was still satisfied with looking and feeling. At that time, I had no idea that collecting materials would Laos Hmong A Hmong tribe lady handstitching some patches. These sort of traditional handicraftsare a main surce of income for these tribes Location: Laos Photo by Helen Homan

lead to an adventurous journey and passion for creating bags. Years have gone by since then and in the winter of 2007, I traveled to Northern Thailand and fell in love with the city of Chiang Mai, which is known for being a handicraft mecca where nomatic tribes come through to trade handmade items in markets. Here is where I began crafting bags

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Green Warrior Logo Redpanda Village Location: New York Photo by John Jansen


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Laos Village A small village in northern Laos where I passed through in search of materials. Up in the mountains the ethnic tribes try to live a simple life, although things are not the way it used to be before modern development. Location: Laos Photo by Helen Homan

that merge ethnic beauty with contemporary design. I called them Redpanda Village, a bag project dedicated to local artisans within marginalized tribes. I stayed in Northern Thailand for a few months and then returned back to Brooklyn with a suitcase full of handmade materials and an uncontrollable desire to make bags. My mother and I bonded as a team. I created designs and made the patterns, and she 18 | INSIGHT

sewed the main structure of each bag. After that I applied the odds and ends to each bag. After about four months of being in New York, I was again restless with the itch to travel. This time I had a single vision to travel to old villages to look for rare tribal materials and witness the process of producing the bags in Thailand. I did some research and got on the plane to Japan because it was

Tribespeople Hmong tribal women in traditional dress celebrating the new year. Location: Laos Photo by Helen Homan

the closest landing in Asia and I could get some more kimono fabric from a vintage shop in Tokyo. After hanging with artist hippies and checking out the local traditions, I made my way to Laos. There I watched the Hmong tribe cultivate hemp by spinning it into yarn before being woven by hand or with wooden tools into fabric. Eventually, I was leaving Laos on a dusty van, making my way back into Chiang Mai

where I would make my first batch of Redpanda bags from all the materials I collected during my travels. There I met a woman named *Lady D who became my source of production and introduced me to a team of women that would help me produce the first batch of Redpanda bags. I worked closely with the women to cut fabric and create patterns, often staying over at Lady D's place, which was a traditional Northern-style

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RETROGURLCLUTCH Ret r ogur lhol di ngt he RETROGURLCLUTCH i nTr i beca,NYC. Locat i on:New Yor k Phot obyHel enWu


An Interview with Lance Fensterman by Kaz McNellie and Atiba T. Edwards

Lance Fensterman is the current Show Manager of New York Comic Con (NYCC). Started in 2006, NYCC serves as an annual convention held at New York’s Jacob Javits Center featuring comic books, graphic novels, anime, movies and more.

One unique part of the annual event are the fans, which provide a unique attraction at Comic Con as they dress in costumes from their favorite video games, movies and comics in what is known as costume play aka – cosplay. F.O.K.U.S. members Kaz McNelie and Atiba T. Edwards caught up with Fensterman for a quick conversation about NYCC, it's fans and comic based movies. F.O.K.U.S.: How did you get your start with Comic Con? Lance Fensterman: I originally began by selling books at an independent bookstore. Eventually, I became exposed to graphic novels, particularly the way Todd McFarlane drew Spider-Man. Afterwards I got a job with the BookExpo America. This eventually led to me becoming the stage manager of the New York Comic Con.


F: What do you remember most about a past Comic Con? LF: There are two cool memories. One was Stan Lee standing above the crowd at the morning opening and the crowd chanting Stan Lee, as if he were the Pope. The second was during a panel on Hellboy 2 when they turned off the lights to show a clip from the movie. When the lights came back on, they had four of the robots from the film which were brought in while the lights

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New York Comic Con fan


Lance Fensterman

F: In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of comic based movies in theaters. Why do you think movies based on comics do better relative to movies based on video games? LF: Movies based on comics tend to do better because there is more of a natural plot to comics, with a narrative arc naturally built in. It is also easier to find the characters more empathetic in comics than video games.

will depend on the comic, its following, and how marketable it is. I don’t think there is a definite answer but you will see certain films stay true to the comic books and others create their own story. Mainstream comics such as Spider-Man can be rewritten and retold. The main comics that stay true to origin may be ones with a niche dedicated following like the upcoming movies, Jonah Hex or Kick Ass. By staying true to the comics, the studios get a tangible reaction from their audience. This is the way to get such comics' hardcore fans excited.

F: With the success of comic based movies, do you think there will be more movies that remain true to their origin, like The Watchmen, or ones that tell their own story, like The Dark Knight? LF: It is important to distinguish niche comics from comics that can be blockbusters. As the studios do more comic-based films, I think it

F: Where does NYCC go from here? LF: The ultimate goal is to make New York Comic Con a citywide cultural happening each year. It will be bigger next year, but the challenge will be to stay true to comics. As we grow, there is increased interest from corporations to get involved and play various roles in what takes place at Comic

were out. The crowd of 3,500 people [were all] awestruck at once.


Lance Fensterman

Con. As Comic Con becomes a stage for the studios, there is a risk that studios may try to exert more influence on the event. F: What aspect of Comic Con do you find most rewarding? LF: The most rewarding aspect is with the fans. If they are happy I'm happy. On the first day of each year’s show, there are thousands of people lined up outside. I love Saturday morning when the doors are opened.


By the Pen of Thor

An Interview with Thorbjörn Ingason by Atiba T. Edwards

Somewhere in the middle of the summer, I had the strange desire to go to Iceland. I met someone who was born there and also had people tell me how great a place it is and the various photo opportunities to have there. Strange because I planned to go in the end of September rather than heading to somewhere warm with beaches, bikinis and fruity drinks with umbrellas in them. I picked Iceland because it offered something new and different plus I’ve never been to Europe but had a lifelong desire to visit. In preparation for going, I found all the vegetarian eateries and all the artsy people, places and things – both were to prevent me from becoming famished. I came across a guide to Iceland with a cover designed by Thorbjörn Ingason. So I looked him up and eventually reached out to him to learn about the arts offerings in Iceland and also to setup an interview with him for INSIGHT.

Atiba T. Edwards: Introduce yourself to the INSIGHT readers. Thorbjörn Ingason: My name is Thorbjörn Ingason. I’m an art director, graphic designer and illustrator. I was born in Sweden but grew up in Iceland. I studied Sociology & International Marketing and started my career in 1998 at the advertising agency, McCann-Erickson. I spent over a year [as a graphic designer] at Winkreative [a global design and branding company] in 26 | INSIGHT

London 2000-2001 and ran my own design studio, Fabrik, in Copenhagen, Denmark for two years. I then worked for the strategic design company e-Types, mostly on the jewelry brand Georg Jensen from 2003 to 2005. I’ve been doing art direction, illustration and graphic design for a variety of clients, both commercial and editorial in both Europe and the U.S since 2000. I reside in Iceland. AE: How would you describe

ThorbjÖrn Ingason

your art? TI: I’m flattered that you regard my works as art, but then again the notion of art is such a malleable concept. I guess my “art” can be described as being simplistic and graphical. AE: You have done a range of pieces from works with Dockers and Georg Jensen to CD covers and personal illustrations. How do each differ in the way you approach them? TI: When I do personal projects I don’t have to take into consideration [the] clients’ expectations. I can do whatever I feel like without thinking about its purpose. There are no constraints and then there is room for discovery. For a period of time I was so busy that I didn't have time to do personal projects or pro bono work and when I look back that was the most "uncreative" period in my career; I got bored and lost interest in what I was doing. So for me it is imperative to keep a healthy balance between personal projects versus commissions. 28 | INSIGHT

Working for a brand like Georg Jensen you are working towards an outcome that symbolizes and communicates the spirit of the brand, so in that case it’s a more structured approach. Brands with [an] unclear idea of itself tends to struggle with its brand identity, and it can also be hell to work for them. Georg Jensen had a very clear idea of what the brand stood for, which made it much easier to develop concepts that expanded the idea behind the identity into different directions, giving it some elasticity so it comes alive on multiple levels not just the on business card or envelope. AE: I noticed a good amount of works in your portfolio, including your Paper Cuts illustrations and Kron Kron, are done in paper. Is paper your favorite medium? TI: It’s probably what I’m most excited about right now, as it combines graphic design, illustration and my love for still life photography. Some

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people don’t understand why I bother spending all this time cutting out paper forms and constructing paper sculptures

to photograph, while I could probably get away with doing something similar by using Photoshop, but you can never

ThorbjÖrn Ingason

create the same effect as with lights and paper. There is something that is so rewarding about it. I can definitely say that it is my favorite thing at the moment. AE: What influences your works and how much does Iceland impact your style? TI: I find it hard to narrow down what influences me. Iceland must influence me in someway – the environment we live in is usually reflected in our work. I have lived and worked in Scandinavia and in the U.K. and that has influenced me as well. Then you have the internet as an influence. There is so much inspiration to be found online; so much you can burn off a whole day just browsing through visually pleasing imagery of all kinds. I have been influenced by Swiss graphic design, a bit of cliché I know. The strict grid systems and mathematically perfect balance between elements floats my boat. It’s a very practical way of approaching design,

which I like. The Paper Cut illustrations and my “Office” still-life series that I did are all heavily influenced by [the German artist] Thomas Demand. His work looks simple but complex at the same time. AE: Speaking of the perfect balance between elements, your style seems to be very simple, clean and clear. Would you agree with this?v TI: I agree – I hardly ever do stuff that is busy with all kinds of elements, dense with typography and visual noise. It’s a matter of taste I guess. I try to please myself with the works I do – and I guess that is very important, and the type of style I like is simple, graphical and clean. AE: Complete the sentence "Art Is..." TI: Art is all in your head.



Jamie Tollefson ‘Out of pain comes art.’ Though a statement I’ve always believed, that notion became real last year when my youngest brother Ben was killed while fighting in Iraq. Not only was Ben a solider in the U.S. Army, but he was an artist. He was also my biggest supporter when it came to my own art. I was inspired to create this piece called “Broken” in honor of him. I called this piece “Broken” because I am currently struggling to put all the pieces of my life back together. My family has been splintered by divorce and death in the last two years and the eye with a tear represents the pain. The piece is a fractured montage of images reflecting the many prisms of this pain and hurt. The collage images I chose represent artists that also have spoken to my heart through their words, and struggles. There is blood on the brow, tears in the eye, song in the heart, and poetry on the mind.

The World in Focus JAHSE


The beauty of creation exists in all things from the subatomic to the universal. This is what I seek to share with the world through my lens. My work over the years has been primarily dedicated to the study of people. This year however, I have done quite a bit of traveling and the work I have selected reflects some of those travels. My photography of far away places shows that while other parts of the world may be very different, they are illuminated by the same sun. JAHSE has been creating art in the form of photographs for 17 years, he lives and works in NYC. You can check out more of his photographs at


INFINITE PLAYLIST: Chapter 2 For Every Sunset, There Is a Sunrise Atiba T. Edwards

I think this may be one of the saddest years I've witnessed in the sense of the tree of life – particularly the death branch afflicting people from my own family to famous folks. The theme behind this chapter is that we can't let this branch fall upon us to the point of crippling our lives due to grievance. We tend to let death and the passing of loved ones overshadow the wonderful miracle of birth and the celebration of new life. I'm not saying one shouldn't grieve nor am I saying live each day like its the last (that's just silly and tiring). Instead, we should find the balance between life and death and make the most of what's in between. 1. Jason Mraz – “Life Is Wonderful” (Mr. A-Z) “It takes a night to make it dawn /… / It takes some cold to know the sun / … / It takes a loss before you're found / … / It takes a toll to show you care / It takes a hole to make a mountain / Ah la la la life is wonderful / Ah la la la life goes full circle” 2. Donny Hathaway – “Someday We'll All Be Free” (These Songs for You) “Keep on walking with your head held high / Your dreams to the sky” 3. Harold Melvin + The Blue Notes – “Wake Up Everybody” (Wake Up Eveybody) “The world won't get no better / If we just let it be / The world won't get no better / We gotta change it you and me / … / Wake up all the builders time to build a new land / I know we can do it if we all lend a hand / The only thing we have to do is put it in our mind / Surely things will work out they do it everytime” 4. Lenny Kravitz – “What Did I Do With My Life" (Baptism) “Did I see all the beauty?! / Because living is an art / What did I do with my life? / You can live any way you wanna / All you have to do is dance / Achieve anything you though of / You just have to take the chance” 46 | INSIGHT

Phot obyAt i baT.Edwar ds


ThorbjĂ–rn Ingason Medium: Paper cut-outs

The vintage travel posters from Europe known for the simplicity in their composition, color palette and bold graphics was a big source of inspiration while working on this project. This paper cut-out illustration was originally intended for the cover of an in-flight magazine for Icelandair. The cover was supposed to feature a skincare product made out of Icelandic wild plants and herbs. To make it interesting, I made this paper sculpture to be used as a background or a universe I could photograph the product in. The client told me that I could do whatever I want, which is actually the worst brief you can get. So I presented it to the client and they hated it and the whole thing got rejected. But I was quite happy with the outcome.


INSIGHT | Volume II | Issue 4  

This is the final issue of Volume II. We feature a Q&A with Icelandic artist Thorbjörn Ingason, who also lent his hand to this issue's cover...

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