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CONTENTS


WHAT’S INSIDE 05 Artist Profiles

Meet all eight of the artists featured in our cover story.

55 A New Decade of Art

Learn about how these artists utilize social media to create loyal followings and to get their work sold.

63 COLLABORATIONS & SKETCHES

Enjoy scans of two sketchbooks that the artists drew in over the weekend they spent together.

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Shot By: Dioni Rodriguez Learn more about the photographer who shot the photos for this magazine in this exclusive interview.


ISSUE 002 WINTER 2020 Written & Designed by Adam Yarsinsky ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY DIONI RODRIGUEZ SPECIAL THANKS TO: LADON ALEX RYAN CONWAY NOAH KOCHER BENITO LONGORIA LUNA TURNER MCELROY Nicole parisian IDALIS REYES DIONI RODRIGUEZ BEN SCOFIELD REILLY STASIENKO JAKE THOMPSON ZACH THOMPSON TIM WALDRON john yarsinsky

COVER SHOT BY DIONI RODRIGUEZ & DESIGNED BY ADAM YARSINSKY

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @DOWNTOWN_500 AND INSTAGRAM: @500ARTISTS


PREFACE

In November 2019, Downtown 500 brought eight young artists from across the country to Philadelphia - all of whom we found over the past two years through social media. All eight of these artists are a part of the art community on Twitter and have interacted with one another online, but many had never met in person. We were happy to give these artists the opportunity to meet one another and work together for a weekend. We sat down with them to discuss how social media is playing a large role in their art careers and how it is reshaping what it means to be a working artist in our time. This new decade is sure to bring a large shift to the world of art, with these artists being at the forefront of a lot of that change. Before we get into their discussion, let us first introduce each artist and their work to you.

PLEASE ENJOY.


MEET THE ARTISTS


FROM LEFT: Idalis Reyes, Benito Longoria, Ladon Alex, Noah Kocher, Reilly Stasienko, Turner McElroy, Luna, and Zach Thompson. Shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


ARTIST PROFILE

LADON LADON ALEX ALEX FINE ARTIST & ILLUSTRATOR

LOCATION: LITTLE ROCK, AK

Ladon Alex is a fine artist and illustrator who hails from Dallas, Texas. He was first interviewed by Downtown 500 in March 2018. Ladon is currently attending university in Little Rock, Arkansas and has been gaining a lot of popularity online for his unique illustration style. Ladon has been pursuing a number of creative endeavors, including producing woven blankets featuring his artwork, and starting his own clothing brand ‘CRYBABY.’ He has switched his style up a number of times, with his latest work highlighted on the following pages. Ladon’s ambitions stretch beyond fine art, as he hopes to work for Adult Swim one day and illustrate his own comics. INSTAGRAM & TWITTER: @LADON_ALEX

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“Tied Up in Your Own Facade” by Ladon Alex “Tied Up in Your Own Facade” by Ladon Alex Digital. Digital. 2019. 2019.


“Lust Greed Gluttony” by Ladon Alex Digital. 2019.

‘‘Art is so internal...no one will be able to tell you that there’s something (Else) you should be doing.’’


“Caesarean Spirit” by Ladon Alex Digital. 2019. 11

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Ladon Alex, wearing his brand ‘CRYBABY,’ shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


Noah Kocher shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


ARTIST PROFILE

NOAH NOAH KOCHER KOCHER FINE ARTIST

LOCATION: NEW YORK, NY

Noah Kocher is a multidisciplinary artist from Tennessee who recently moved to New York City. He was the first fine artist interviewed by Downtown 500 back in October 2017. After creating abstract paintings and drawings, Noah had shifted his focus to collage work, with a lot of those pieces getting positive reactions online. These collage pieces were often accented by his own doodles acting as a backdrop for the abstract imagery placed atop it. Now, Noah is shifting his focus back to painting and sketching for the time being, hoping to refine his craft and create some larger works

TWITTER: @nolankosher INSTAGRAM: @NOAHKOCHERART

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“One” by Noah Kocher Mixed media. 2019.


“Matter of Time” by Noah Kocher Mixed media. 2019.

‘‘(ARTISTS) ARE in a constant state of growing. We’re never stopping. Well, some people stay stagnant and they choose to, but I don’t want to.’’


“Transfigure” by Noah Kocher Mixed media collage. 2019.


Noah Kocher shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


Benito Longoria shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


ARTIST PROFILE

BENITO BENITO LONGORIA LONGORIA MULTIDISCIPLINARY ARTIST

LOCATION: SAINT JOSEPH, MO

Benito Longoria is a multidisciplinary artist from Saint Joseph, Missouri. He was first interviewed by Downtown 500 in April 2019. After dropping out of art school, he decided to open an art gallery - QZ Studios - in his town with some friends. This isn’t your everyday art gallery, though, as the work displayed is brought to life using an augmented reality mobile app. The QZ Gallery app was developed by Benito himself, who taught himself how to develop AR and is constantly teaching himself more. Along with making this impressive app, Benito also makes paintings. His work makes use of both realistic and child-like elements that combine to create a very unique style. With each new painting he shares, Benito builds onto a world that he has created through his art. Benito plans to continue his development of both augmented and virtual reality technology, as he has big plans as to where he can take things and further integrate the technology into the art world. TWITTER: @BENITOQUAS INSTAGRAM: @BENITOGQLONGORIA

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“The Observers / (Who’s) Watching?” by Benito Longoria Oil on canvas,. 2020.

“‘you won’t be following people based on the size of their influence, but rather because of your connection to their images.”” - Benito on taking away ‘likes’ on social media.

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“The Twilight Gatekeeper” by Benito Longoria Oil on canvas,. 2019.

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“Thank You, The Show is Over” by Benito Longoria Oil on canvas,. 2019.


Benito Longoria shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


Luna shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


ARTIST PROFILE

LUNA LUNA FINE ARTIST

LOCATION: CHINO HILLS, CA

Luna, who’s birth name is Alexis Marie Cortez, is a fine artist based out of Chino Hills, California. She was first interviewed by Downtown 500 in April 2019. Luna is a newer face to the art scene of social media, as she tells us that she built up her following over the span of the last eight months. Luna gained popularity by sharing her paintings of nude female figures that were often accompanied by large fruits. Although these pieces got her a lot of attention, she did not want to fall into one style or get stuck in one spot. So, Luna’s recently been trying her hand at surrealist works, which she has been quite effective at. These newer pieces are very different from what originally got her noticed, but have been well-recieved by her followers. Take a look at both styles on the following pages. TWITTER & INSTAGRAM: @LUNACCY WEBSITE: artbyluna-c.com

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“Is This All You See?” by Luna Acrylic on canvas. 2018.


“Mania, The Ride” by Luna Digital. 2019.

“‘Knowing that other people get something out of (my art) makes it even more satisfying.”’


“Happiness” by Luna Acrylic and oil on canvas. 2019.

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Luna shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


Turner McElroy shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


ARTIST PROFILE

TURNER TURNER MCELROY MCELROY MULTIDISCIPLINARY ARTIST

LOCATION: OSWEGO, NY

Turner McElroy, formerly known as Charlie Alright, is a multidisciplinary artist from Oswego, New York. He was first interviewed by Downtown 500 in November 2017. Turner used to play football and suffered a traumatic brain injury that made him reevaluate his life. He decided to pursue art and began making colorful paintings featuring his own unique figures that created a signature style for him. After going to art school in Chicago for a year at SAIC, where he met Benito Longoria, he decided to take a break and refocus his art career. Turner wanted to dabble with different styles and is now at his most experimental - using found objects and putting them onto canvases, creating work with lots of depth and texture. Some of these unconventonal elements include old faucet handles, drywall, and moss. Recently, Turner has also started to work in both digital and film photography as well. TWITTER: @C_ALRIGHT INSTAGRAM: @RUNNING_IN_PLACE_AT_WALLS

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““The internet is seeming to switch from this free space to a space for propaganda. And it’s our job to be the propaganda disruptors. You have to break that flow of negativity and show that there’s still humanity in us.””

“Consumer Product” by Turner McElroy. Mixed media. 2019.


“Reaper” by Turner McElroy. Mixed media on a fence. 2019.


“Open House, Double Mortgage and Foreclosure” by Turner McElroy. Mixed media on canvas. 2019.


Turner McElroy shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


Idalis Reyes, shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


ARTIST PROFILE

IDALIS IDALIS REYES REYES CONTEMPORARY ARTIST

LOCATION: PHILADELPHIA, PA

Idalis Reyes is a contemporary artist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was first interviewed by Downtown 500 in September 2019. Idalis is a master of abstract linework. She can quickly create facial expressions through this rapid line drawing - just watch one of the many videos of her painting that have gone viral on Twitter. After first sharing her work on Tumblr a few years ago, Idalis has been able to build up a strong following on Twitter. Her work centers around the themes of mental illness, blackness, gender fluidity, and coexisiting. She puts her work on stickers, sweatshirts, and more, selling it through Etsy. She also makes jewelry that reflects the same kind of linework that can be found in her paintings and drawings.

TWITTER & INSTAGRAM: @KILOGNASH

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‘‘It’s always good to go out of your comfort zone...it’s nice to do something new for once and it shows your progress and development as a person and that’s what art is about.’’

“Save Your Heart” by Idalis Reyes. Digital. 2019.


“Laser Beams” by Idalis Reyes. Acrylic and marker. 2018. DOWNTOWN500.COM 40


“One Harmony” by Idalis Reyes. Acrylic and marker.. 2019.


Idalis Reyes shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


ARTIST PROFILE

REILLY REILLY STASIENKO STASIENKO FINE ARTIST & ILLUSTRATOR

LOCATION: DAYTON, OHIO

Reilly Stasienko is a fine artist from Dayton, Ohio. She was first interviewed by Downtown 500 in November 2018. Reilly began her social media presence by sharing her large oil paintings which were very well received for their level of detail and intricacy. Lately, Stasienko has been sharing a lot more digital work, which has a style quite similar to her aforementioned oil paintings. These digital paintings have an exceptional level of detail and offer a lot for the viewer to digest. Besides painting, Reilly is also a part of a music group based in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio called Loft 219. They are currently working on new projects.

TWITTER & INSTAGRAM: @REILLYSTASIENKO WEBSITE: STASIENKO.COM (COMING SOON)

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““You can’t be an artist if you don’t hav You can’t do it on your own.””

“We’re Getting Tired of Hanging Out Outside of Our Heads” by Reilly Stasineko Digital. 2019.

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ve other artists telling you what’s up.

“Who’s the You in 2 Lifetimes, Who’s the You in 2 Years, Who’s the You 2 Days Ago” by Reilly Stasineko Digital. 2019. DOWNTOWN500.COM 46


“Study of Self in Blue Turtleneck” by Reilly Stasineko Oil on canvas. 2019.


Reilly Stasienko shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


ARTIST PROFILE

ZACH ZACH THOMPSON THOMPSON PAINTER

LOCATION: DETROIT, MI

Zach Thompson, a painter from Detroit, has been a part of the Twitter art scene since 2012. His work has evolved over the years, with his most recent work being some of his most abstract. Last year, Zach worked on a couple cool projects including painting a bus for the city of Detroit and drawing miniature figures over the entirety of a white wooden chair. A lot of young artists look to Thompson for inspiration and see him as an example of someone who “knows what he’s doing” when it comes to his art career. Thompson hopes that in the future he’ll be able to make art while constantly travelling to new places.

TWITTER & INSTAGRAM: @ZACHTHOMPSONART

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‘‘I’ve switched my style up, I’ve switched my support me through all of that...what’s imp of people that really appreciate what I’m do

“Fire in Cairo” by Zach Thompson Mixed media on canvas. 2019.


direction up, and a lot of people still portant to me is cultivating that following doing.’’

“What Did I Ask From You?” by Zach Thompson Mixed media on canvas. 2019.


“Lazarus” by Zach Thompson Mixed media on canvas. 2019.


Zach Thompson shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


FROM LEFT, TOP TO BOTTOM: Idalis Reyes, Noah Kocher, Benito Longoria, Luna, Ladon Alex, Reilly Stasienko, Turner McElroy, and Zach Thompson. Shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


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SOCIAL MEDIA & THE FUTURE OF ART EIGHT YOUNG ARTISTS WHO ARE MAKING A NAME FOR THEMSELVES ON SOCIAL MEDIA DISCUSS building their followings, the pros and cons of social media, aND HOW THEY SEE THE FUTURE OF THE ART WORLD EVOLVING.

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hen describing Twitter’s art community, Turner McElroy put it best — it’s a “digital bohemia”. One could compare it to the art scene of New York City during the 1980s — tons of artists interacting with each other, inspiring one another, and continuously collaborating. Forty years later, such people are not reliant on a physical space to connect – there is no Andy Warhol’s Factory or any underground party for them to attend. Collaboration is now online, on a global scale, allowing these artists to create a community based solely on digital platforms. In reference to the

communication evolution brought forth by the Internet, Reilly Stasienko believes that culture and art are “gonna change with that and you’re just gonna have to accept that and find a way to make it positive”, which is what the new generation of artists are doing. They use the Internet to their advantage to network with others, raise awareness of their art, create their followings and eventually sell their works. Recently, social media became a goldmine for artists trying to make a name for themselves. Zach Thompson points out that in 2012, “the art scene on Twitter

wasn’t really relevant in a sense. It was a very small group of people”. Now, platforms like Twitter and Instagram are full of visual artists sharing their work and supporting the work of others. These apps have evolved into much more than just platforms for sharing images and following other users; they have become essential tools for branding and networking. As we enter the 2020s and look ahead to the future, it seems that social media will only become more significant for artists throughout the decade. Zach puts it best, saying that “now is the best time ever to be a self-taught artist”. He DOWNTOWN500.COM

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SOCIAL MEDIA & THE FUTURE OF ART -------------------------------------

Noah Kocher, Turner McElroy, Idalis Reyes, and Reilly Stasienko work on the group’s collaborative piece. Shot by Dioni Rodriguez.

follows this by explaining how kids can “become anyone with the Internet” as long as they have “a phone, and Wi-Fi, and the means to make art”. He says that this is “extremely special and rare, and it’s happening right in front of us.” At the very least, the benefit of sharing your artwork on social media is the ability to garner attention from your ideal audience. Reilly touches on the importance of people seeing and reacting to your artwork, stating that “you can see your works’ relationship with the public in a way that you’ve never been able to before because you can see the types of people who like your art, [and] things that they say about it.” “Without the Internet, some people may not have access to such feedback”, Turner points out. He 57

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mentions that even if you live in an area with little to no influence of arts and culture, “you can still find it every day [online] and you can find other creative people to connect with” that you may not be able to find within “the next block [over] from you.” Social media allows these artists to support one another and grow together. “It really does take the support of all the parties involved in art,” Ladon explains. “I would not be here without Noah and Zach specifically”. Noah agrees, noting how he watched himself and Ladon grow and experiment with different ideas and artistic methods over time. Reilly points out how she followed Idalis before she started working on her own art. “I think the first validation

I received as an artist, like, real ‘you can do this’ validation, was through Twitter,” Reilly explains. Idalis notes that, even if your friends and family may not support you, “getting those words of encouragement [online]...is really the moral support that you need.” Zach Thompson was one of the earliest visual artists to have a significant presence on Twitter, inspiring many of his peers. Turner explains how Zach was seen as an example of “the dude who knows what he’s doing.” Benito said when he was 15 years old, he sent Zach an email asking for advice. Thompson appreciates the kind words from everyone, while also explaining that he is learning from his followers every time he sees their work. “It’s full circle. We’re all learning


----------------------- SOCIAL MEDIA & THE FUTURE OF ART from each other,” Reilly agrees. When thinking about sharing artwork, one might initially think of using Instagram the most, as the whole purpose of the platform is to share images. However, the artists agree that Twitter is a much better interface for building a following, connecting with others, and having conversations. Noah points out that “retweets are how you get people to see your shit,” later stating that the ability to retweet “changed the game.” Idalis agrees, saying that Twitter is the best way to go viral, also because of retweets. When an established artist with a more substantial following retweets another artist’s work, it can bring many new eyes

to that artist and, in turn, gain them new followers. Additionally, Twitter allows for more natural conversations and connections. Turner compares Twitter to Instagram by saying that it encourages “valid discussion threads and [the ability to] actually talk about things instead of just having a comment section.” As a result, Twitter allows for better creation of specialized conversations based on a continuous sharing of opinions and ideas. Building a following seems to be simpler on Twitter than Instagram, but it obviously does not mean that it is truly easy. “It took years,” Kocher says. “Transparency, too,” Thompson adds. Most of the modern

artists with online popularity have spent a lot of time building their platforms to the point that they are at today, with the followers being the loyal fans of their work. However, it came quicker for some, like Luna. She says that the bulk of her following was built in eight months. However, for the majority of young artists, it takes years of daily work and online presence to gain recognition. The best starting point is just posting your artwork. It’s essential just to get your work out there, even if you don’t think it’s as good as others’. Idalis says that “even if your art is trash” you should still post it because “you have to start somewhere.” She be-

Shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


SOCIAL MEDIA + THE FUTURE OF ART ----------------------lieves that artists should push past insecurity and start creating; focusing more on improving their skills and creative visions regularly. Reilly agrees, saying there’s nothing to lose from it. Turner adds that, if you want to build a platform, you’re going to have to “fuck up”. Most likely, it will take a while to build up an online presence - and it can be just as much about showing off your personality as it is about posting your artwork. The artists prioritize the importance of showing off who you are as a person and staying true to yourself on social media. “It’s easy to go on the Internet and see people who switch up [their style] to follow a trend; [it’s important] not to pressure yourself [to do that] and to just have a presence that’s your own,” Idalis tells us. “It’s important for people to know that you’re a person and not just some robot making art,” Kocher states. Being yourself and showing your personality can lead you to find like-minded people who may not only make connections to your artwork but to you as a person as well. “You build a personality that can increase the value of your art,” Ladon explains. “It’s the same way how...if you’re a bad person, it comes across. If you’re too this or too that, the interest in your work is gonna decrease.” Turner puts it more simply by saying “you’ve gotta post memes from time to time...you gotta post stupid shit sometimes.” Making a personal connection with your followers will develop an additional “level of intimacy” with them, according 59

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to Thompson. He prioritizes the importance of focusing on trying to cultivate a following that is supportive and loyal, rather than simply building a large following. As the discussion goes on, there are a few reasons brought up as to why Instagram makes it harder to build such a following. First and foremost, the artists mention how Instagram’s algorithm - the one that decides which posts to show users first on their feed has become a mess. Idalis calls it “trash”, while Turner explains how it prioritizes more popular posts - ones that have already gotten a lot of attention. He says that this algorithm makes it difficult to start a following and that it can have a detrimental effect on one’s mental state. If someone were to post a piece of art and it doesn’t get many “likes”, it may seem as if people didn’t like the work, when in reality, they probably didn’t even get a chance to see the post. Ladon also mentions how Instagram’s image compression makes the image quality worse than intended. Idalis feels that posts look too small on Instagram’s feed. Another negative factor to note is Instagram’s blocking of “adult content” - even if the nudity is represented in an artistic and non-erotic form. Luna touches on how a lot of her pieces feature nudity, specifically topless women, and says that a lot of her posts are flagged and taken down from Instagram because they feature female nipples. Now, no one is saying not to use Instagram - it is still an excellent platform to expand

your following further and share your art with new audiences. It just seems that putting more effort into one’s Twitter presence may be a better use of one’s time, as more of a community and support system exists there. Social media can be potentially toxic for new artists attempting to seek validation. Artists should not view social media responses and comments as a measurement tool for the validity or quality of one’s work. Idalis says that “you might post something and it might not get as many retweets or likes, and you might feel like that reflects its worth, but it really doesn’t.” It does not reflect the worth of your art - but it could have an effect on your mentality moving forward. Noah mentions that this is something he’s struggled with, but assures that “just because your art doesn’t get noticed by as many people it doesn’t mean it’s not special.” He says that one should appreciate their work simply because they made it. Indeed, low engagement can occur due to several factors and does not always have to do with people not liking the work. Additionally, the artists say that getting too many likes can have a negative effect as well. If certain pieces get too much attention, an artist could get stuck on trying to recreate that style and overuse it until it becomes uninteresting for viewers. “The Internet and social media...can make you complacent,” Turner states. “Some people will get stuck in their ways if they see that it’s getting atten-


“ We’re not going to be the same young artists that we were before...we have to steer the ship now.” - Turner McElroy

Turner McElroy and Idalis Reyes working on the group piece. Shot by Dioni Rodriguez.


Noah Kocher, Benito Longoria and Turner McElroy work on the group’s collaborative piece. Shot by Dioni Rodriguez.

tion. So, people will continue to work in the same style instead of growing outside of [their] comfort zone”. Turner goes on to explain how it is easy to follow trends and get popular by appealing to a particular crowd but says it is important to challenge yourself and do something new and different. “If you’re really trying to make an impact with your art and you’re trying to say something important,” he says, “you’re not going to be popular for a bit. You’re just not going to have a large amount of likes and retweets because you’re trying to do something new. It might not catch on for a while, but you still have to have passion in yourself.” Benito then brought up the idea of taking away the “likes” 61

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system, stating that it would “cause more of an honest connection”. He thinks that people wouldn’t “be following people based on the size of their influence, but rather because of [the] connection to their images.” Besides the potential dangers of likes and attention, the artists elaborate on the importance of not becoming overly reliant on social media. Zach explains how he thinks that social media is “a great tool” and a “great train to the next station,” while noting that he does not believe it can “take us all to our final destination.” Social media can be viewed as a starting point for artists to develop their style and make connections which can then be used in real-life situa-

tions. “I don’t think anyone should solely rely on it for connections or for validation as an artist,” Reilly states. Turner mentions that although social media is a helpful device to “sidestep the gallery system” or the “old-school version of what art has been,” an artist still needs to exist within the real-world system to some extent. “Sometimes our phones can be too much if we really get sucked into it,” he says. The importance of taking breaks from social media is also addressed - a practice that is beneficial for everyone, not just artists. Zach says he encourages “every artist who operates on Twitter to also take breaks from it”. At the same time, he warns that a more extended break could be “detrimental to your


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“We’re not seen as just machines producing work as much anymore. There’s a person there, and this is the person that the work is coming from.” - REILLY STASIENKO following and support system,” especially when social media is generating a large portion of an artist’s income. Artists have almost always relied on galleries to help sell and display their work, but now social media and the Internet have created a new paradigm for artists, where they share their work without as much red tape. Turner explains how social media allows artists to stop thinking they have to “get [their] name through a gallery in order to be successful”. Reilly expands on this, saying that it “takes away from the elitist idea of art”. She says that artists do not necessarily need establishing gallery space or meeting certain people in real life because nowadays it is possible to “make these connections online”. Reilly explains that she has gained all of her art-based income through Twitter and Instagram - and she’s not alone in that regard. “I don’t think I would have

made the money that I’ve made from art to this day if I didn’t have Twitter and Instagram,” says Noah Kocher. Idalis agrees, adding that Etsy is also a good place to sell your work. The methods of art creation, distribution and selling have changed during the last decades, which explains why people’s views on art and artists have changed respectively. “We’re not seen as just machines producing work as much anymore. There’s a person there, and this is the person that the work is coming from,” Reilly says. People are becoming more and more interested in what these young artists are doing; proven by how their content has gone viral, leading to increased attention on the individuals behind the work. People are connecting with them and giving them the support to foster further growth. Social media now allows artists to be discovered and appreciated as

they move through their creative journey. These human beings are dedicating their lives to a craft that adds beauty to our world and shines light onto their truths. “I think that with the Internet there’s this welcome freedom of accessibility towards the arts that a lot of people never had access to. I think that this is where we can start to see art in a classless age” Turner says. It is time to give these artists their spotlight and recognize the great things they are accomplishing - and the artists featured in this magazine are just the tip of the iceberg. With each young artist who decides to leap into creating and committing to their own platform, another step is made towards bringing the arts into the forefront of culture while eliminating the pretentiousness of the traditional art world. This new paradigm is the future of art, and these artists will propel us into it. ◘

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COLLABORATIONS & SKETCHES

The following images are scans from sketchbooks shared by the artists during their weekend in Philadelphia. These include both solo pieces as well as collaborative works.


“Untitled” by Ladon Alex, Noah Kocher, Benito Longoria, Luna, Turner McElroy, Idalis Reyes, Reilly Stasienko & Zach Thompson. Mixed Media on 8x5ft paper. 2019.


Collaborative piece by Noah Kocher, Turner McElroy & Zach Thompson Mixed media. 2019.


Collaborative piece by Benito Longoria & Turner McElroy Mixed media. 2019.


Untitled sketch by Benito Longoria Mixed media. 2019.


Collaborative sketch by Noah Kocher & Zach Thompson Mixed media. 2019.


Collaborative sketch by Noah Kocher & Idalis Reyes Mixed media. 2019.


Collaborative sketch by Noah Kocher & Turner McElroy Mixed media. 2019.


Untitled sketch by Turner McElroy Mixed media. 2019.


Untitled sketch by Benito Longoria Mixed media. 2019.


Untitled sketch by Noah Kocher Mixed media. 2019.


Untitled sketch by Idalis Reyes Mixed media. 2019.


Untitled sketch by Zach Thompson Mixed media. 2019.


Untitled sketch by Noah Kocher Mixed media. 2019.


SHOT BY

DIONI RODRIGUEZ Dioni Ridriguez is a photographer based in Paterson, New Jersey. He too has gained a strong following on his social media pages and was first interviewed by Downtown 500 back in December 2017. Dioni shot the cover of this magazine and all of the photographs of the artists that you have seen within it. Please enjoy our interview with him about his work, his relationship with the digital world, and his future projects. To stay up to date with Dioni, follow @saintdioni on Twitter and Instagram. Photograph by Jake Thompson.


--- INTERVIEW --I found your work through Twitter and first interviewed you back in 2017 - how would you say your work has evolved since then? I say my work has opened itself up to the world compared to 2017. If feels more honest and purposeful, it has matured with me as I come to understand myself and the world around me and it will continue to do so. My older work was more fashion-oriented. I wanted the high fashion magazine covers, the glam, the flashy beautiful women - all of it! It’s turned into something that I can’t really explain, but I know it’ll find it’s place in this world on a more significant level eventually. How has social media helped build your career as an artist? Obviously it connects me with people across the globe, gives me job opportunities from people coming across my page, possible new friends and inspirations - but most importantly, I get to meet likeminded individuals and help form somewhat of a community. I know a bunch of people follow me not only for my art, but because I spread [the work of] artists of all kinds and of all following sizes on the platform. But social media has also been something of a curse for me lately. I actually have a whole project I’ve been working on based on the diconnection I’ve felt from real life because of how the digital world is something of a void that

people find themselves stuck in. It’s some of my most abstract work. It feels almost as if it’s a lifelong project [laughs]. So I currently have a love / hate relationship with the internet. Touching on the project you’re working on - how do you go about visually displaying the emotions you feel toward the digital world? And do you plan to share this project soon? The internet is an essentially digital plane powered by the physical world, it’s about balancing the concrete and the abstract. It’s a mix of familiarity of what we’ve come to know so far and the complete void that’s ahead of us. I have a few ideas of how exactly I’m going to do this, but I won’t sayanything until it’s further along - probably within the next year. It’s still evolving, but there are a few pieces I’ve done that are out there that can give you a taste of what I’m thinking about and the headspace that I’m trying to put everyone in. I do want to drop a few things [in 2020]. I’ve kept things to myself a lot and as part of opening up to the world, I need to give it things it can hold onto. Going back to what you said earlier about sharing others’ artwork often, were you already familiar with any of the artists involved in this magazine prior to shooting them?

I knew some of them - like Noah and Turner. I’ve been following them for some time now, but had never met them in person. So it was great to meet and shoot with them. I’ve also seen Ladon’s work floating around the internet before, too. In our first interview, you said that you were inspired by the people who “aren’t afraid to risk stability and comfort to make something of themselves.” Why is this important? The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. You can’t obtain something new if you don’t go out and let go of the old, let go of the comfort. I know the last few years of the 2010s brought a lot of changes to your life. Looking back on these years and looking ahead to the future, what hopes do you have for this decade? All I hope for in this decade is clarity, creativity, and being able to give more than I recieve. This past decade shaped me in ways I wouldn’t have even imagined and, in this next one, all I can hope for is to build upon the foundation of what I am now. FOLLOW @SAINTDIONI ON TWITTER & INSTAGRAM FOR MORE.

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500

ISSUE 002

Watch the full interview now ON YOUTUBE.


Shot by Turner McElroy.

Profile for Downtown 500

500 Magazine Issue 002  

Downtown 500 presents 500 Issue 002 featuring eight young artists from across the US. We sat down with them to discuss how social media is a...

500 Magazine Issue 002  

Downtown 500 presents 500 Issue 002 featuring eight young artists from across the US. We sat down with them to discuss how social media is a...

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