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SYOTOS S E E

Y O U

O N

T H E

O T H E R

S I D E


“Art produces ugl frequently become with time. Fashion, o produces beautiful always become ugly


y

things which more beautiful n the other hand, things which with time.� - Jean Cocteau


Welcome, SYOTOS (See You on The Other Side) is a Philadelphia-based electronic publication that celebrates everything weirdly beautiful and beautifully weird. Enjoy your stay, Constante Quirino, Editor


CONTENTS We See What We Want to See, pg. 8 Welcome, We are Lost, pg. 16 William Lukas, pg. 38 Nellie Carnes, pg. 69


WE SEE WHAT WE WANT TO SEE words and photos by Constante Quirino

I ate a spider in my sleep. I should start from the beginning. A spider invaded my room the night before my graduation ceremony. I woke for no apparent reason at 3:32 am and looked up to see a round black mass roughly the size of a place used to serve appetizers move with some gelid grace across my bedroom wall right above my framed print of Bouguereau’s The Knitting Woman. For some strange reason, my eyes were fixed on the juxtaposition between the classically beautiful visual elements of the print and the strangely horrific biological design of the arachnid crawling around next to it. I believe I shouted, nearly fell out of bed, grabbed a blanket and spent the reminder of the early morning sleeping on the couch in my living room. For the next month, I refused to spend more than five minutes out of fear for my new eight-legged roommate. What was it about the spider that struck so much fear in me? I continued to think about this in the weeks after discovering it appreciating my wall decor.

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Eventually, sleeping on the couch and being exiled from my personal space started to warp my mind. The sun shined too brightly. The laughter of children attacked my eardrums. Conversations with friends wore my patience thin. My relationship with reality was contentious, as if I was experiencing a never-ending hangover. This, coupled with being a fulltime student and holding a part-time job were wearing me thin. The eightlegged terrorist in my bedroom had singlehandedly dulled my aesthetic appreciation for the physical world around me at the worst time possible. Several creative projects demanded my attention. Concurrently, I had taken to carrying my camera around with me on my daily commute to and from school and work where I blindly snapped image after image of anything that possessed a certain sense of deeper purpose and artistry, intentional or otherwise. I walked down the steps at Spring Garden Station on the El Line and saw these photographs taped to the underpass’ graffiti-covered walls. I continued to pass by the snapshots of people in cities around the world where the photographer had travelled


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to and thought little of them as most people do when clearing their minds of complex thoughts to deal with the present, nearly third-world state of Philadelphia’s public transit system. The photographer, Tom Hilsee, did something both candid and poetic. He bypassed the hierarchal urban gallery circuit and displayed what we deem “fine-art” in a place where rougher, outsider street art is more acceptable. Displaying images spaced a few inches to a few feet apart at various heights seemed at first random, then upon further thought, proved to be calculated. His images depicted places all over the world to locations in Philadelphia a few blocks over. There were tourists and locals of various places, street scenes in Italy and children posing on stoops in an undisclosed impoverished neighborhood. What this all boiled down to was a renewed sense of visual appreciation for the world I travelled through everyday as opposed to the imagined, escapist fantasy we all subscribe to digitally on the glowing rectangles that entertain us or in dreams. Philadelphia, much like many other American cities, has been host to these kinds of guerilla art installations. If one recalls, the “serial knitter” still lurks around the city, periodically clothing tree branches, bike racks, and street signs in brightly colored knitted yarn. Going back in time, the Toynbee tiles of the 1980’s 10


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and 90’s are still embedded in many city streets and still remain something of an enigma today. The fundamental question I asked myself in the underpass below the Spring Garden station was, “Does the venue decide what is art and what isn’t?” Take artist Jenny Holzer for example. Her work in the late 20th century provided the framework for subsequent urban art pieces that challenged the contexts in which we viewed art. Her first, and arguably most famous series, Truisms, contained one line phrases that were distributed all over New York City where she anonymously wheat-pasted them to buildings.

not a wh

12


heat paste piece by Jenny Holzer, but one by Philadelphia artist, Get Up. This can be found in the underpass next to the southside entrance to Spring Garden Station.

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the inside of a bathroom stall at Mad Mex


Other non-art-turned-artistic contexts Holzer used included billboards, interior walls, and bronze plaques. One particular phrase was displayed on a movie theater marquee: “It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender.” On another side marquee is the phrase:

of

the

“Slipping into madness is good for the sake of comparison.” Some time later, I woke up again some time before dawn and felt something scratching inside my esophagus. Without even having to think about it, I knew it was the spider. I think while I was halfawake, I whispered “I’m sorry” to it after swallowing.

15

I lied awake in bed, trying not to worry about the commonly-held belief that we all ingest at least eight spiders per year in our sleep. I thought about what the spider may have symbolized for me, at least in terms forcing me to see and analyze the world more for what it is rather than what I wished for it to be.


welcome we are lost a documentation. March to June, 2012 words and photos by Constante Quirino It only seems appropriate to write about this after 2:00 a.m. after getting in from a night out with the people in these pictures. In the previous four years of an undergraduate education, the fundamental thing that attracted us to one another was the seemingly innocuous, yet mind-numbingly horrifying question, “So, what are you going to do after you graduate?� It is a testament to our great privilege and financial standing that we can afford to respond with abject horror

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and aversion, as if the thought of life after graduation is some great, heaving spider. Because of this, what I documented was in every sense an alternate reality. It was a bubble of time and space set apart from adolescence and adulthood both, as if these days, nights, and places existed in a separate timeline that can only be accessed again through memory and scant, biased documentation. Documenting these people first started with a novella, an earnest artistic


attempt at dramatization of everyday life a la Tao Lin. It was a narrative without story, a first person, present-tense narration without a beginning or end, as if the reader was part of the book themselves, entering and exiting dimly lit bars, studio apartments, and classrooms seemingly of their own volition. Over time, it became apparent that conveying this sense of postadolescent “non-event” simply through written word wasn’t enough for me and

didn’t convey the unspoken nuance, the lexical gaps of feeling sublimely alone in a crowded bar or coming to understanding with one’s place in the world on a cloudless day on a beach in New Jersey. What followed surprised even me. Initially a bookish outsider in my more vivacious friends’ after-hours adventures, I eventually became a tertiary and supporting character in the unrecorded dramatization of our lives. I soon found myself living out the uninhibited


adolescence I never had in the 12 months of being 21 years old. Forming The Surrogate Family Claude Fischer, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkley, wrote of a simulated family experience concerning urbanites in his seminal work, To Dwell Among Friends. What Fischer analyzed was the social framework in which city-dwellers constructed for themselves. These relationships and surrogate kinstructures rely heavily on coworkers, cohorts, and peers. The “surrogate family” studied here happens to be my own. It may appear trite to document the muchdiscussed apathy and young adult ennui of the current generation of

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recent college graduates, but fullimmersion within a basic social unit is something universal to the human experience. We are all of us part of a “tribe” at one point or another. It so happens that my current one is indigenous to Drexel University’s Philadelphia main campus. My own origins and role in the tribe, in keeping with my personal standpoint view of the group, are easiest to document first. I came to this university seeking an education in Communications with a concentration in Journalism, but I also came to have the requisite 21st century, American college experience. Considering my background as a first-generation


immigrant and gay person of color, there was a specific connotation with the American college experience as a sort of salvation, a prescribed renaissance that was to absolve me after the combined banality and awkwardness of adolescence. As it happened, our personal narratives were eerily similar despite having lived nearly two decades separate from one another. We came to Drexel University in the late 2000’s from upper-middle class suburban communities. With themes similar or influenced by multitudes of Coming-of-Age fiction, film, and television genres, we all felt a requisite sense of detachment and isolation from peers throughout our teen years. This in turn, fueled a seemingly instinctive desire to

explore others as well as ourselves in relatively liberal, socially permissive urban areas. The six of us coexisted separately on Drexel’s campus without forming a cohesive social unit for some time. I knew Becca and Niall the longest. The three of us had been acquainted with since 2008, our freshman year. Becca, a design and merchandising major met Niall, who is currently studying graphic design, through mutual friends and both were introduced to me at a party in September of that year. The two became involved romantically, for the first time, within a short time of getting to know one another. Becca and I became closer towards the end of our sophomore year, having gone through similar social experiences


and discussing shared values and perspectives over the course of many , often day-long conversations. She and I were both relatively laissezfaire with our love lives and pursued short-term “friends-with-benefits” agreements rather than what would be considered traditional, college monogamy. This, balanced with a complimentary senses of cynicism towards most aspects of school pride and career-centered educational goals cemented our friendship. At the height of a phase I refer to as our “bubble of inconsequence,” lasting the duration of sophomore and junior years when Becca and I convinced ourselves that the halcyon, semi-hedonistic liberal arts college lifestyle continued ad infinitum, I studied abroad in London. Before I

eft, she mentioned something about how Drexel’s ten-week term calendars fostered a constant state of flux and how “everything changes in three months.” She was right, and when I returned, I found her and Niall had rekindled their friendship after having a class together. The only exceptions to our shared narrative of adolescent ennui were Tab and Davis. Tab had lived her entire life in South Philadelphia and at present time still lives in the house she grew up close to the intersection of 16th and Porter St. I first met her while she was still enrolled at Drexel during a summer course on television comedy. Immediately, her first impression was intimidating. Perpetually clothed in dark, form-fitting garments and Doc


Martens, her outward appearance was marked by a distinct scowl and an asymmetric, self-maintained undercut hairstyle. Despite being perceived as abrasive and critical of other people, Tab always showed tremendous loyalty and etiquette towards her immediate friends Davis came to Drexel from Atlanta. Becca and I met him through Maggie as he was involved with one of her friends at the time. Studying Economics, much of his patterns of thinking and explaining himself were different from many of what we considered familiar having been surrounded by fine arts students for several years. In many ways, he viewed many things quantitatively rather than qualitatively, as the majority of us did. This was epitomized by continued discussions on topics ranging from In many interactions, his conversational style and the way he subtly and casually elicited information revealed something interesting in that he seemed to be observing me as much as I was observing the group as a whole.

Media Influences Despite my surrogate family’s general, unspoken sense of being “above media influence,” to exist as white, privileged and in one’s twenties and ignore the scores of dramatization that has come before would be living in denial. So, what of the inevitable comparisons and differences between ourselves and the ourselves we saw in the media we consumed? Who was the leading lady? Who showed up drunk on set threw a fit? Were we all friends after the nonexistent cameras stopped shooting? Understanding the media we’ve consciously and unconsciously consumed throughout our lives would aid in translating and clarifying the roles we may have ascribed ourselves and each other. So, while there is no shortage of multi-camera sitcoms that documented narratives of simulated urban families in the previous twenty years, the most iconic and emblematic of nearly-flat characterization was Friends.

adole mind Unit wher some ninet anym feelin some mani tackl

many derid conv the p class were were on B comp Girls


Despite its situating of a postescent urban professionals in the ds of millions of viewers in the ted States and around the world re reruns have gone into syndication, ething that the delightfully colorful ties optimism doesn’t resonate with more is the increasingly normal ng of economic uncertainty, ething that the current ifestation of zeitgeist ennui tries to le. My surrogate family and I, like y in our generation immediately ded HBO’s Girls and in numerous versations, distanced ourselves from perceived representations of middle s, liberal-arts educated privilege that e so familiar to us. It was as if there e some unseen pressure, specifically Becca, Tab, and Maggie, to be pletely unlike the characters on s.


Intimacy In an effort to observe basic aspects of collegiate intimacy, I turned to my own subjects for their own experiences. In doing so, Becca told me that she wrote her own account of a particular aspect of heteronormative courtship I’d never be able to fully grasp on my own. Some names were changed:

smartest and funniest men I have ever met in my entire life. Unfortunately, he is gay and that is just not an option. We constantly joke about how if I were male or he were straight, we would be the perfect couple. But for now, we exist in a strange sexless, pseudo-marriage as directed by John Waters. Constante understands me and I understand him.

“Now that I have graduated college, I can confidently look back on my experience and say that I know nothing. I knew nothing in 2008, and after a long journey, I still know nothing. However, I have observed. Observed makes me sound completely creepy and maybe I am. I make no apologies.

We are, in some ways, the perfect couple. However, one thing I don’t think I will ever be able to explain to him are some nuances of heterosexual interaction. Specifically, the role that hats play in social interactions between the sexes.

My best friend, Constante, a 22 year old journalism major, is one of the

This strange idea came to me one night during my sophomore year at a friend’s party. I had recently lost my

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virginity and the man in question was there. Let’s call him, Alex. He was ignoring me all night, and I had felt scorned. Looking back, I know I was being completely ridiculous and who really gives a fuck. But, at the time, I was hurt. So I did what any normal 19 year old girl would do, and I made the very reasonable choice to call up another man in my life. Let’s call this other man, Pete. Pete had been a fixture in my life from early freshman year all the way up until the end of my senior year. I was completely enthralled with him at the time I don’t speak to him anymore, however, I still value his strange presence in my life during those 3 + years.

We were chatting for awhile, and pretty soon I forgot all about Alex. I was completely invested in my conversation with Pete. Before I even knew what I was doing, I grabbed Pete’s hat and put it on my head. He laughed and I tried to giggle in my most charming drunk way possible. I put the hat back on his head. He looked up at it, paused, and placed it back on my head. Success. I was going home with Pete. I knew it. For the rest of the night, I kept that hat on my head. For those that are curious, I did in fact go home with Pete. But, the forward thinking woman that I am, I got completely shitfaced and just fell asleep on his bed. Really a stellar night. Later on in the evening, another man

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who had scorned me showed up to the party. (Yes, I know. I make really good choices when it comes to members of the opposite sex). I made sure he saw me. I was wearing another man’s hat and I wanted everyone to see. At this moment, I realized this hat meant more than just a tool of flirtation. It was in the most basic of senses, a mating call. This might seem like a completely comical idea at first. But think about it. A man presents his hat to a woman in the same way a male bird shows it’s brightest plumage to attract a mate. When a woman accepts said hat and keeps it for the evening, it is in a way, an acceptance of said man’s “mating call.” Even if the couple wanders off to separate areas of the venue, at the end of the night, they have to once again meet up so the woman can return the hat. Once this exchange is made, the man asks the girl to come back to his place. Or, if the girl is feeling bold enough, she can invite the man to do the same. It’s the perfect plan. And

it

works

100%

of

the

time.

Some may think that this over simplifies the male-female interaction. However, I personally love it. It makes everything so much easier. As a single woman living in a city, I don’t have time for bullshit. I’m not looking to live by this for the rest of my life, but as a girl fresh out of college, for now, this will do. At the risk of sounding like a slut, you either wanna fuck me, or you don’t. This provides not only the answer to my question, but it doesn’t waste my time, either. I’m sure the same is true of the male in question. I mean, does a dude really want to spend his entire night with a girl he has zero interest in? Probably not. Just like I wouldn’t want to spend my night with some dude I’m not feeling if there are other options. If you don’t wanna fuck me, that’s fine. But if you don’t mind, I’m going to go spend my night with someone else’s hat.”


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the weekend The most codified ritual we maintained throughout my observation was the timeliness of our weekend meetings. Our schedules rarely permitted social gatherings during the week, so much of our face-to-face social interaction occurred primarily between Friday evening and Sunday morning. Many of these outings were centered on drinking and discussing our personal lives. “The weekend� on first glance, seems to serve no functional purpose. The members of my surrogate family all possessed personal computers and smartphones, making face-toface communication superfluous. Conversations throughout the week could begin on one day and continue into the next and days after through various glowing rectangles conveying text messages. But what was missing throughout this never ending electronic communication was the feeling of social gratification from simply being in the company of others. The six of us gather in a specific place at an appointed time and drink rapidly while experiencing physical reality while lowering our inhibitions and decreasing our finite motor skills. Ultimately, the only real goal of the weekend and its immediate reward of collegiate stress relief is to experience enough sociability so as to convince ourselves that time and money weren’t wasted in pursuit of a good time. In this way, the two day stretch of social activity serves as conversational fodder for the rest of the week until the next Friday night, when the process resumes. Personal tastes sometimes created conflict. From my observation, typical weekends fit into three specific scenarios. The first, centered primarily on drinking and going to a bar or venue with persistently loud music was preferred mainly by Becca and Tab. In this scenario, face-to-face conversation between any number of us is rendered improbable due to the extraordinary amount of noise from both music played and other people. The second usually took place at bars or clubs


where music was more ambient in nature and not loud enough to interfere in interpersonal communication. Maggie and Davis preferred these settings more regularly. The third scenario was the hardest to pinpoint, as it took place at no set location and was more dependent on a certain degree of chaos, lowered inhibition, and willingness to simply be by ourselves without the backdrop of a typical bar. These scenarios were not so rigid, as spontaneity and individual suggestions could easily change the tone of any particular weekend evening. A quiet night in among the six of us would morph into us traveling to a dance party in Fishtown or an impromptu bar crawl in Old City would lead to deep, interpersonal group conversations in a friend’s living room until the early hours of the morning. The last night of my observation was a Friday night dedicated to celebrating Tab’s 21st birthday. This night happened to fall under the third scenario. I met up with the surrogate family in Northern Liberties, a few blocks away from my apartment and we proceeded to PYT, a bar located on the ground level of the mixed-use

complex, The Piazza. PYT, so named for t Michael Jackson, is infamous throughout th divisive, tragically hip watering hole perceived be intentionally obnoxious with its neon oppressively loud music. In our terms, the res bar is a poor man’s Studio 54. The only parti for us going to PYT was the promise of a fr champagne from a friend who was a bartender

Applied to a more traditional fram understanding collegiate leisure time, the dua a “good” and a “bad” weekend correlates to th question of having stress relieved. If the week more stress than relieved, it would be clear t weekend unsuccessful. But if we were left wit togetherness and satisfaction both emulat reminiscent of media depictions of youth weekend would be considered a success.

Though elusive, college leisure has been studied and analyzed qualitatively in depth. A the 37th volume of the Journal of Leisur


the song by he city as a d by many to decor and staurant and icular reason ree bottle of r there.

mework for ality between he very basic kend created to deem the th a sense of ted by and leisure, the

n something An article for re Research

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studied college students’ drinking habits in relation to stress relief and students’ perception. Though the study was concerned with many adverse effects of “partying hard,” the author concluded that not all leisure was associated with costs and that “as long as they do not harm others, youth must be free to engage in the activities they enjoy, even if such activities are subversive, for they, too, have their benefits.” What these benefits are, my surrogate family will have to see and seize for themselves. On one particular “third scenario night” that ended with simply listening to an ipod in Davis’ bedroom, I foolishly told Tab, “I’ve seen the future and this all works out for us.” What I meant by that statement was that by the strength of our personal desires for intellectual, spiritual, romantic, and financial fulfillment, our surrogate family would beget our own families and lives as “adults” who, like members of every other surrogate family in fiction or in reality, were shaped by the duality of peer influence and one’s inner convictions.

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WILLIAM LUKAS by Constante Quirino “I picked up my first digital camera when I was in eighth grade - one of those 6.0 megapixel Kodaks with a crappy zoom,” William says, “I began fooling around with different lightings, textures, compositions and colors. I saw photography as an-opportunity to connect with people and nature and capture time and emotions and perhaps create new worlds.” William is going into his third year at Drexel, studying Sociology and this September, will be copresident of FUSE (The Foundation of Undergraduates for Sexual Equality). He says, “I actually knew nothing about Philly until the spring of 2010 when I was trying to figure out what to do post-high school. I was visiting Drexel. It was the last place I thought I would end up when I was applying to schools. HOwever, when I came here that weekend, I found myself captivated by the city’s music and murals and was drawn to the racial diversity and political climate.” “There’s something just really raw about Philly. I couldn’t think of a better place for a college student with a passion for art and social justice. Philly is my home now.” In his photographs, William seems to capture an innate magic looming in the mundane, cement-hued urban landscape. “I think a few common themes that have remained present throughout my work is emphasis on color and composition, and capturing the human spirit, or absence of.” 38


William says whether he’s photographing perfect strangers or close friends, he tries to establish an intimacy between the subject and himself. “It can be a very personal experience for both of us. Allowing someone to come into your home or photograph you nude is very intimate. I hope the subjects feel trust and empathy. Throughout my very short career, I’ve watched some of my subjects evoke really powerful emotions and feel truly alive behind the lens. It can be really beautiful and cathartic. As a photographer I aim to tap into that kind of energy.” As for nonverbal elements William looks for, he says, “Sometimes when I’m biking in Philly I will stop on the side of the road and stare at a wall of graffiti and get a bunch of ideas. Or I’ll be doodling in class and think of naked women covered in blue paint and feathers or something peculiar like that. For a lot of my fashion-oriented pieces I like to mix the real and the surreal.” He says that regardless of where he ends up, art and photography will play a large role in how he operates and promotes social justice. “I’ve been pretty consumed with classes and work for the past few months and have not made time to contemplate future photo projects, which is a shame. However, Sept. 17 will be the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. There’s bound to be some great photographic opportunities.”

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American Tourister models Nellie Carnes Davis Bacon

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He wears a vintage blue linen jacket from Philly Aids Thrift


She wears a vintage blazer, stylist's own.


She wears a buttown-down by Lanvin and a pullover by Lad Musician


He wears a vintage Western button-down from Philly Aids Thrift and sunglasses by Cheap Monday


She wears a shirt by Issey Miyake


He wears a vintage silk smoking jacket and vintage linen button-down from Philly Aids Thrift

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He wears an army surplus sweater from I. Goldberg and a blazer by Dries Van Noten.


she wears a button-down by Lanvin and a coat by Maison Martin Margiela


he wears a vintage Hawaiian shirt from Philly Aids Thrift


She wears a blazer by Oscar De La Renta.


NELLIE CARNES words by Constante Quirino

C

"Children posses the amazing quality of being complex individuals and also being completely reliant on others for their basic needs which is part of the drama I am investigating,” Nellie says. She tells me this and I recall a story she told me a few years ago about candidly photographing children with their mothers on South Street. Nellie epitomizes the modern Renaissance woman. She started out majoring in Chemistry at Drexel, transferred to Temple’s Tyler School, and currently educates preschool children while working as an artist’s model. This doesn’t include her array of artistic endeavors including having her work featured at Old City bar, Lucy’s Hat Shop and Vox Populi, just north of Chinatown.

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I first met Nellie four years ago during the first day of our freshmen orientation at Drexel. It was a time in our lives when a sense of subconscious herding due to similar aesthetics or appearance would form herds of roving would-be freshmen that many of us have seen in recent years as reminders of our previous social inadequacies. Nellie and I were, at first, complete strangers who happened to sit next to one another on a Drexel shuttle bound for Macallister Hall for the opening ceremony. I introduced myself. She didn’t tell me her name. She was never one for small talk.That would have been the end of what would be our friendship if it weren’t for our mutual apathy toward “ice breakers” or pep rallies. We were in line to enter Buckley Field for either one of these events when we both caught sight of a t-shirt gun. For some strange reason, this was the straw that broke the school mascot’s back. She looked at me and asked if I wanted to leave. It took me a millisecond to say “yes,” and we darted off toward Center City with no destination in mind. Four years later, we’ve remained friends and collaborators on several creative projects. Most recently, she modeled for me in the adjacent spread, American Tourister, and two years ago, photographed another shoot I styled and edited for my first magazine, Faucet.


She says the children her current work is based on take little notice in what she does when she’s sketching them. “They tend to not be able to recognize what I am drawing until later on in the process so they think I am just scribbling. I love this. Some of my favorite people are children that I get a chance to talk with. I hope they appreciate my company in the same way.” On one occasion, I asked her what she thinks her subjects think about when she captures their expressions. She says, “I usually portray them when they are in deep thought or dreaming.” As for future projects, Nellie says she’s working on a series of ink drawings and paintings. “I’m investigating an evolutationary past of beasts and culture in America through dinosaurs and trees.” Nellie’s work will be shown at 3 Little Pigs in West Chester this October.

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BYE, THANKS FOR STOPPING BY.


art by Niall Quinn


SYOTOS - Issue No. 1