Ink Magazine; Vol. 14

Page 1

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 1

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 2

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 3

4/29/22 4:49 PM


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR I BECAME A PART OF THE INK TEAM MY FIRST year at VCU in 2018 and since then, I have been through my own evolution as a creative human being and leader. Without my amazing team, Ink wouldn’t exist and all I wish to do as a leader is to cultivate a space where everyone can feel the confidence to tap into their potential. A slow and fast forward to 2022, I never imagined life to unravel the way it did but through my journey one thing remains true– to spread light and love, in any possible way, has always been the essence of who I am. I really believe that love travels in multitudes, far more than we can conceive. I believe the momentum of love will propel us into a more harmonious and Just world. Love is healing. Love is abundant. Love is expansive. Love is the genesis of all things beautiful about this world. Love fuels me to show up for the things that matter—human connection, creativity, empathy, kindness, joy, being a mover in social change. I will forever carry with me all of the memories, laughter, and connections that I’ve made with a greatly caring and talented team. Our previous Volume 13 issue was about the conception of spaces, who we are and what we can do when we are aware of both the tangible and intangible dimensions we move through. Change is innately constant and takes shapes in many spaces, places and forms. We decided on the theme of Metamorphosis as we were all navigating new ways to adapt to life with the lingering pandemic, experiencing it through different lenses and emerging as different people. We faced turbulent times collectively, but we made it through together. It became clear that through all the shifts and changes, we must continue together. Now it’s time to morph into a new paradigm intertwined with love, rooted in intention and a culture of care. The messages we spread and the stories we tell hold value, and what I wish to say in these ephemeral moments is that you have come so far; keep going, keep being you. While the world tries to limit you, know that it is in your power to radically understand your importance in being here. We all have pivotal roles in making a difference,

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 4

small or big. Embracing our endless evolving nature allows us to forge paths beyond what we can see. When we harness an imaginative spirit, we carve out a spectrum of possibilities and envision a better, more connected, flourishing world. There is no harm in being an optimist and visionary, but there is in never trying. While we face many choices everyday, it’s essential to unlearn the limiting social conditions we’ve been taught to follow and to transcend binary thinking that will create revolutionary shifts as a collective. We have to see life through a multidimensional lens and understand how interconnected we all are with everything. The more we realize this, the better we can celebrate our differences, reinvent power structures, and reimagine new circular, equitable ecosystems. There is beauty in our changing selves as there is in the natural world. Nature provides a space for openness, clarity, fluidity, inspiration, and connecting with ourselves. In these spaces, I hope you find joy because our collective joy can sustain the revolution to cultivate meaningful change. Whatever joy looks like to you, tend to it and nurture it because you deserve it deeply. Your joy is your power, don’t ever let anyone take it away from you. VCU Professor Laura Boutwell of the Sociology Department once told me, “We need more people in the world who live and breathe and love and make the world a better place from their own wholeness.” I hope that as you journey through this life, you are able to feel your wholeness and the simple truth that your existence is remarkable. We are immensely grateful to share our stories with you, and we hope you find pieces that resonate with you. Through the twists and turns, there’s always a chance to begin anew. We never really know what tomorrow brings, but let us all grow together as life unfolds and honor our power in being here, now. Remember your light. With kindness and love, Jess Som

4/29/22 4:49 PM


MASTHEAD

JESS SOM Editor in Chief

NOAH DABOUL Managing Editor

MIJIN CHO MAC WOOLLEY NOAH DABOUL Copy Editors

CLAIRE EVAN Web Editor

COVER Jess Som CONTRIBUTORS Jess Som Noah Daboul Caroline Jenkins Monisha Mukherjee Cecilia Nguyen Hope Ollivant Melati Maupin Kennedi Woods Mac Woolley Renn Trani Naomi Gordon Chloe Allison DESIGNERS Claire Evan Jayce Nguyen Sophie Nguyen Gabi Wood DIRECTOR OF STUDENT MEDIA Jessica Clary OFFICE MANAGER Owen Martin SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Dominique Lee CREATIVE MEDIA MANAGER Mark Jeffries

INK magazine is produced at the VCU Student Media Center. 817 W. Broad St. P.O. Box 842010 Richmond, VA. 23284 Phone: (804) 828-1058

INK magazine is a student publication, published annually with the support of the Student Media Center. To advertise with INK, please contact our Advertising representatives at advertising@ vcustudentmedia.com Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the VCU Student Media Center. All content copyright © 2022 by VCU Student Media Center, All rights reserved. Printed Locally Website: www.inkmagazinevcu.com Email: inkmagazine.vcu@gmail.com Instagram: @ink_magazine Facebook: www.facebook.com/vcu.ink Youtube: INK Magazine VCU Twitter: @inkmagazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 5

4/29/22 4:49 PM


TABLE OF CONTENTS

REFLECTIONS IN INK RETROSPECTIVE CAROLINE JENKINS & MONISHA MUKHERJEE Pages 8-13

EQUINOX

CECILIA NGUYEN Pages 14-19

THE POWER OF EVERYDAY THINGS MAC WOOLLEY Pages 20-25

RAQUETBALL RENN TRANI Pages 26-33

THERE’S NO SHAME IN LOVING FLOWERS MELATI MAUPIN & HOPE OLLIVANT Pages 34-41

OPEN CALL

SELECTED ARTISTS Pages 42-45

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 6

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INTERTWINED JESS SOM Pages 46-47

SELF-HARM TO SELF-CARE NOAH DABOUL Pages 48-53

WAVES

CHLOE ALLISON Pages 54-57

A FLOWER IN FULL BLOOM NAOMI GORDON Pages 58-61

ONE OF ANOTHER MELATI MAUPIN Pages 62-63

CHANGES IN A SECOND KENNEDI WOODS Pages 64-69

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 7

4/29/22 4:49 PM


A Retrospective Written byCaroline Jenkins and Monisha Mukherjee Photographed by Chloe Johnson

8

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 8

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

9

In evolution, there’s a series of chain reactions that consequently affect the next; a flip-book of people, places, and things that existed and were influenced by what came before and will alter what comes after. Evolution is about change. It’s about the way something can spring up as a result of its environment and continue to sustain itself; continue growing. It’s about little shifts that are so small you may not even notice them occurring. But it’s also about the big changes, the ones that propel and act upon a movement.

Evolution is about all of this at once, the cumulative revision and ever-moving advancement into the future. Our publication underwent this evolution, ceaselessly morphing and shaping itself in the 44 years since its creation in the spring of 1978. This newsletter turned magazine was initially created at Virginia Commonwealth University to give a voice to Black students, who had no prior space of their own to express the multitudes of

feelings that come alongside being a person of color in the late ‘70s. Hunched over the black and white newspaper in the archival section of the library, we were able to unearth each tiny fragment of this story. What we have found has been an absorbing reflection of the periods in which the publication existed; a tableau of events that are eerily similar to that which have happened within Richmond recently.

In sharing the history of our publication we hope to enlighten our readers as we have been enlightened and reaffirm how powerful a collective voice can be, how storytelling was expressed as a means to an end, a vital piece of the puzzle that would offer relief to those enduring a similar experience, an unrelenting preservation of black culture. It was an amalgamation of all of this. After hearing our story of Ink Magazine we hope you will be inspired by the monumental power of evolution, and how in times of struggle or strife, if change is not immediately found, it may always be fought for.

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 9

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 10

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

This shift in 1994 changed the content to be a more local and interactive publication. Where many of the articles in Reflections focused on the Black students, a lot of content space was regarding news that was quite removed from the VCU community, like a focus on struggles in South Africa. With the arrival of the new name, the identity of the magazine tightened; putting a far greater emphasis on Richmond’s local scene. The articles shifted and broadened under The Vine, highlighting not only the struggles of the Black students but also the growing Latino student alliance, musicians and artists of color, and the evolving multicultural landscape of Richmond. However, while The Vine held its name for a good few years, the identity of the publication slowly shifted away from its roots. As it moved into the late 90s and early 2000s, the newspaper style was slowly swapped out for a magazine format; and with it, reports of the daily news on campus became diminished in the publication with most of the articles being profiles and perspective-type opinion pieces. Perhaps the most drastic change from the end of Reflections to the end of The Vine was that the aspect

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 11

11

of a strong support for the Black students fizzled out becoming more of a campus magazine. By the early 2000s, the extreme emphasis on the Black culture on campus had become relegated to only one or two stories per issue, and The Vine’s publication rate also declined with the magazine coming to a stop in 2008. During this time a few different staffers attempted to revive the publication, very briefly forming a magazine called Monument Ink, which then transformed to hold the final of the three names of this publication, becoming Ink Magazine. As the first publication of Ink rolled out, the editors briefly mentioned that the magazine was a continuation of Reflections and The Vine, and then moved on; leaving the legacy of these two aforementioned names in the past. Evolving out of the later days of The Vine, Ink Magazine became mainly a lifestyle-and-fashion-magazine from the early 2000s through 2015, with the origins of its Black history ending up in the backseat.

we can provide historical insight on events that were transpiring as these shifts occurred within the publication. It is essential to provide a historical frame to fully understand the urgency of the origins of the publication, and why maybe some of this urgency dissipated as the years went on. According to a JMU study conducted in 2016 detailing Richmond’s urban crisis during the Civil Rights Era, in the years between 1960-1970, Richmond experienced tremendous racial shifts in its population. Furthermore, it was found in a study conducted by UVA in 2015, that more Black residents moved into the city for economic opportunity as more whites moved into surrounding rural areas. This was also a result of the construction of major freeways through primarily Black neighborhoods, forcing Black residents to move into primarily white neighborhoods. The shift from a majority white population to a majority Black one led to the creation of the city’s first Black majority city council, majority Black school district, and Black mayor.

Although there are still many gaps to the story that have yet to be filled,

4/29/22 4:49 PM


The racial transition that occured within Richmond came about as a direct result of Civil Rights legislation working to undo the aftereffects of Jim Crow laws and segregation amidst the Civil War and Reconstruction. With this being said, racial tension was still very much apparent, even at a school known for its diversity. Reflections in Ink discussed many issues plaguing the Black student body at VCU, one repeatedly discussed was the school’s failure to provide the same racial diversity present in its student body within its staff. In an eerily similar fashion, VCU students all received an email on March 14, 2022 detailing VCU’s strategies moving forward, one bullet point contained this: “We can and need to do more to retain and recruit outstanding and diverse staff and faculty.” So 44 years later, the same issues of race within the university are being challenged. Other huge connections may be drawn from when our publication was first conceived. Racial tension hit its peak in May 2020 with the death of George Floyd, kickstarting the continuation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Richmond was a hotspot for riots and protests as it was home to a multitude of Confederate statues that memorialized a time during the Civil War cemented in anguish and suffering, largely by the Black community. Issues of equality and race have been and will always be a vital piece of Richmond’s identity, as well as the core of VCU. However, although Richmond was a focal point for tension amongst the Black community, it also remains an epicenter for Black talent and creative expression. It is essential to

recognize the continued pulse that beats despite so many attempts to muffle it, both in the past and now. Reflections in Ink sought to disrupt the apathy they believed the other publications within VCU carried, striving to pave a new history where Black culture was celebrated and continuously talked about. They sought to memorialize a collective history told in unity with amplified power. As the newspaper shifted into The Vine, similar objectives remained. However, the urgency began to waver as support from the university dwindled and conflicts arose within the publication staff. The main structure of the publication still aligned with that of Reflections in Ink, however, as the years went on, Reflections’ original ethos began to fade away. This can possibly be attributed to turnover within the publication, less Black students on staff, less passion in Black culture at the turn of the century, or it could have been attributed to the confining environment in which they were a product of. Although the entire story is unknown, we can only share what we have observed. The topics covered and articles written no longer contained the seriousness and gravity they once did. In thinking about this shift I am reminded of the William Yeats poem with the line “the center was not holding”. Joan Didion referenced this in her analysis of Haight Ashbury’s hemorrhaging hippie movement in the late ‘60s, and I feel as though this may accurately represent Ink’s metamorphosis as well. There was a dissipation of the original center contrived in the spring of 1978, for maybe a multitude of different reasons. But it is possible

the staff of Ink in the coming years formed a new center; a different set of values to explore that aligned with the people who immersed themselves in the publication. This shift led to a greater focus in a more art-based magazine; less culture and more conceptual pieces, less news and more entertainment-based material. The best thing about Ink Magazine’s third, and (hopefully) final, name is that it is still here and changing with every issue. Since Ink’s conception, the magazine has become far more digital than physical. While the original Ink staff rebooted the magazine into a fashion and lifestyle focus, its horizons have not stopped at those interests. In recent years, Ink Magazine has become far more niche, with pieces pulling away from fashion or lifestyle and pushing towards community, culture, and the unexpected angles and stories that surround our campus and its students. In 2022, the preservation of Black culture is extremely important, and although it was always important, maybe now the conversation will be far less difficult to make. We will still have to push, but maybe in that pushing our readers will be more susceptible to our ideas. The most important takeaway from all of this unearthing of our initial roots is that Ink Magazine will continue to find that first center committed to telling a story of its community, educating its readers, giving a space for the weird or different, fighting for change. Telling the entirety of the story is more important now than it ever may have been before, and our commitment to preserving the culture first existing in our publication will be reinvigorated with each passing year as long as talented, driven, and hopeful students continue to keep the publication alive.

12

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 12

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 13

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 14

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 15

15

4/29/22 4:49 PM


What a sick joke the afterlife would be if we arrived at Heaven’s Gates only to find a mirror. That’s how it felt when you cried in my arms what morning you wept to mourn the person you knew A flawed one Filled with oozingcracks and meaty lumps The high noon beams illuminating every inch You cried for the scars others left on your paper skin, and the blood you drew from theirs. You wept for the once-seeded hands turned pocket full of posies and cursed the clouds, asking why you couldn’t grow Sunflowers in a garden filled with tainted soil I held you Knowing, this moment, washed that dirt away to make way for the new.

16

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 16

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 17

17

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 18

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 19

19

4/29/22 4:49 PM


20

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 20

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

21

Written and Photographed by Mac Woolley

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 21

4/29/22 4:49 PM


It took both my roommates to get the tan corduroy recliner up the stairs. We had to move the chair upstairs to make room for a dance floor. They put it in the only spot it would fit, right in front of John’s bedroom door. It left only a small sliver of space that you could fit through if you turned sideways. We laughed at this big chair sitting directly in front of a door, but it was understood that we would move it back down in the next few days. Weeks went by, and the chair was still there. It stopped being funny and stopped looking strange. It just started being. It became a part of the architecture of the house. No one questioned it, not even John, who had to walk sideways every time he went into his room. One day, John came downstairs and said, “Look at this.” He showed us pictures of the tan recliner in front of his door. Some pictures were from behind, some in front, and some close up. He even took a video of the chair. It felt like he was trying to prove or collect evidence of a supernatural occurrence. He said he couldn’t believe he had been living like this, sliding past the chair over and over without a second thought. We moved it back downstairs after that.

While this could be reduced to a story of laziness and neglect, it reminds me of something else that didn’t mean much to me at the time. I was showing some friends around my childhood neighborhood just outside Baltimore, and we passed by my old friend’s house. I knew it well. I hadn’t seen it in years, but when we passed, I thought everything looked the same. I noticed something, however, this clump of bushes near the fence. They were wrapped in transparent fabric in the same fashion other people used that summer to protect their plants from the cicadas. The fabric is what drew my attention, but it isn’t what kept it. I couldn’t remember the bushes being there. I thought I would have remembered them based on all the times we had hopped the fence and all the times we looked for hiding places during a game of manhunt. I convinced myself that they were new, just planted. But part of me doubted my memory. I couldn’t be sure, and I started to consider that if the bushes weren’t wrapped in fabric, I probably would have paid any attention to them at all. Thinking of these now, I understand in a new way that anything can become familiar, and anything can become strange.

22

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 22

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 23

23

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 24

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 25

4/29/22 4:49 PM


26

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 26

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

27

RACQUETBALL

WORDS BY: RENN TRANI PHOTOGRAPHY BY: MAC WOOLLEY

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 27

4/29/22 4:49 PM


For me, racquetball started as a cluttered dodgeball game, to just whacking the ball around, and finally actually playing the game. It is a game from the tennis family, but played mostly inside and on a smaller court. A difference from tennis would be that you play next to your opponent as you both take turns whacking the ball against the wall. The ball is smaller and made of rubber, meaning it bounces fast and will likely hit you. I am by no means a serious racquetball player, I’m not in the clubs, I wasn’t raised on it, and I have no desire for professional play. But, I enjoy its ridiculousness, with its all-white uniforms, those skin-tight sport glasses, and the white box court with blinding lights you would only see in a hospital. It is almost so unusual, that part of me believes the game can only exist in some futuristic dystopia. Where racquetball has been named the ultimate determination for life or death. When I walk into the court I do feel as if I’m escaping reality, entering this white box floating across a black space. The lack of stimulation of the senses produces this unworldly feeling: The lack of color to see, as white dominates your vision. The quietness inside the room, only being able to hear your own breathing. All create this great calm that perhaps astronauts have felt orbiting in silence. The racquetball court alienates you with its Zen, where the court is calm and collective, our lives and minds don’t always follow example. How I’ve wished to embody

this mindset outside of the racquetball court, I’ve written stories about racquetball, the way I dress sometimes is like a racquetball player, I even walk around with a racket when I don’t even plan to play. Being a racquetball player has its own special characterization of tranquility but also callous. This game is ruthless, you don’t play but rather try not to die. Like a gladiator’s pit where instead you take turns launching rubber balls at each other with everything that you have. The amount of times I have taken a flying rubber ball to the face. I’ve slammed against the walls, fallen on my butt after huge leaps,and slid across the hardwood floors, all in desperation to not lose a point. Stemming from this feeling that to win is to leave and to lose is to stay, to never leave the racquetball court. This factor of the game is a trait that perhaps has been handed down from its supposive origins: In prisons during the 1800s, they would give prisoners balls and they would hit them against the walls calling it “racket.” Meaning racquetball is a game based upon cages and the people stuck inside. Creating this animal-like insticit to escape from a trap but within the trap: a barely visible flying object with a mind of its own is bouncing across the tiny cage-like court. To top it all off, a person who is squeezed in the same tiny cage as you is carelessly twirling their metal racquet around inches from your face, intent on winning this crazy sport. You play this game with constant fear for your damn life.

28

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 28

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 29

29

4/29/22 4:49 PM


30

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 30

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 31

31

4/29/22 4:49 PM


32

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 32

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

33 Is it better to experience the serenity of your own personal court but suffer the loneliness? Or better to experience the thrill of a cluttered challenge in your shared cage but live in constant fear? Perhaps there is a balance, in being a racquetball partner that contributes to the flourishing of both respecting mindsets. One night when I couldn’t find anyone to play with, I went to the courts for a practice set. Walking past the courts I noticed a postit note attached to the glass wall outside the racquetball court “looking for a racquetball partner” and they left their phone number. Half of me had the intention of calling the number as I also was in need of a racquetball partner. I went inside the other court alone and played casually with this on my mind. After my set, I walked out for some water only to see a lone racquetball player in the court opposite of mine, the one that had the note outside. The note was still there and it was obvious that this was the same person inside who wrote it. As I walked past I turned my head towards them, only from them to turn around towards me. They stood still for a semi second, seeing the racquet in my hands and then raised their racquet towards me, like an invitation or a challenge. Despite this I left them hanging there waiting for a response as I was still walking and had just turned the corner away from the courts only seeing them from the corner of my eyes. I thought about how naive it was to leave one’s number so openly to the public in a city, especially

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 33

in regards to a sport like racquetball. But, it is quite brave to be so open in your search for a racquetball partner when a lot of us shy away from such desperation. We were both in our own neighboring cages, closed off from the world playing our sport. I wonder if they found a partner, or just played alone in that white box.

4/29/22 4:49 PM


Photography: Melati Maupin, Creative Direction: Hope Ollivant and Melati Maupin, Interviewed by Hope Ollivant and Melati Maupin, Lighting Assistant: Caroline Jenkins, Production Assistant: Jess Som, Chloe Johnson, BTS: Jess Som, Model: Shana Cave, Layout Design by Sophie Nguyen

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 34

4/29/22 4:49 PM


INK magazine

35

There's No Shame in Loving Flowers Virginia Commonwealth University Fashion and Craft and Material Studies alumni Shana Cave takes us into her studio space and explains how her world came to be. Cave created her own home studio when the pandemic hit and fell in love with creating pieces for herself. Just when career insecurities started to take over, fate stepped in. Her colorful and playful pieces have drawn the attention of celebrities such as Dua Lipa, Bella Hadid, and Olivia Rodrigo. Cave shares her love for every part of the design and fabrication process, plans to merge her desires with her actuality, and the reality of being an independent creative. Hope: What was your major at VCU? Did you always know you were interested in exploring metalsmithing? Shana: My major at VCU originally was crafts and materials studies. So, In my second year, I started with a jewelry-making class along with fibers. Hope, you’re a Craft major right? Hope: Yes! I’m interested in metalsmithing as well. Did you decide to switch to fashion design? Shana: Yeah, but it took the next year to get in there because I couldn’t just switch within the year so I did a whole year in crafts. But then in the Fall I switched and did a year of fashion at VCU, and then the next fall I went abroad, and then when I came back Covid hit so I didn’t really even get that semester at VCU; then the next fall I graduated. So I only got 3 semesters in VCU Fashion.

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 35

Melati: I’m curious, what is your favorite part of the designing and fabricating process? Shana: It comes in a lot of different ways. I don’t design everything I think in my mind because the function is a huge element, so I’ll have a lot of useless ideas that are really cool but the effort to make them is not there because it’s not functional or it doesn’t match with what I want. So the fun part in that is when I actually have an idea that’s design and fabrication worthy. Once I sit down, it’s constant anticipation that drives me to keep going.I love fabricating and soldering and anything that has to do with the risk that it could all be ruined in a second so I’m so deep working and focused and it just feels like so much is on the line that nothing else matters which I like that intense focus that it brings me. And then the

last part where I finally have it and can wear it and then there’s that conversation with myself in the mirror which is like a huge part of my design just my whole process looking in the mirror and seeing myself with something is just a really intense process of adornment and feeling a sense of identity and having this object now be part of this narrative of how I see and feel about myself it’s really powerful. Hope: That’s amazing. I love that. So your signature design is your flower design. Did that form at VCU? Was there a prompt or assignment connected? Shana: In class, since we couldn’t set stones, it very much became about self-reflection and making things from what’s around you so being able to be able to sit back with my past self and find the current of similarities that I had almost disassociated from out

4/29/22 4:49 PM


36

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 36

4/29/22 4:51 PM


INK magazine of my own desire to heal from certain things, but then coming back and being like, “this is what I was drawing when I was 4. This is what I was drawing when I was 8. This is the same person.” I struggle a lot with insecurity and doubt. I don’t think that people exist in these singular forms and I don’t want to think of myself as existing as a singular form, but then when I see aesthetic things being repeated over and over again, like colors being used over and over again throughout my childhood and the things I surrounded my room with. It was just really grounding to be like, I’ve always loved flowers like there’s no shame in that? So, I just kind of sunk into who I always was and the flower was just the symbol of all of that. Then also in a functional sense, I wanted to practice tube setting which is where you take a tube and you cut a little bit of it and you put the tube in it. It’s the fastest way to get the stones on the things, you know? I wanted to have the stones on me. I wanted to feel like a princess. It was just the next step, like if I knew how to do this why wouldn’t I do this? The flower in my mind was the most logical thing I could create to use the tube and make something that I would actually wear. The flower was the vehicle for the function because it was just a simple form that could be applied to almost anything, kind of like a heart. I use these shapes just as a way to get the stones together. Hope: You said you went home for Covid, did you set up a workbench and a dremel and

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 37

37 everything at home to continue? Shana: It took me like 3 months because I got really depressed and I wasn’t willing to accept certain stuff. After a while, I was like “why can’t I just get a dremel?” So, I got a dremel, got a bench pin and I put it against the desk. All I needed was a butane gas torch and you can get those from any smoke shop and then a tin can. I was making small, I knew the whole time I was going to make jewelry, I wasn’t even thinking “I’m going to sell this.” I’ve never been in my mind like I can sell this. I made it, I was wearing it, I was taking photos of myself wearing it, and it was becoming this conversation with me and the world and I was creating media and content which I love my media and consuming my own media, and consuming other peoples media, but being able to have that visual dialog not dialog, - I hate these words I’m using, but I look through my photos and it all looks the same if this makes sense. The aesthetic of my life is the same, not that that’s good or bad. I don’t know what’s good or bad but it’s that story; just being able to see it and as somebody who questions if my memories are real, because the nature of memories is fake but to see it all, again and again, is just a lot. Hope: That’s so amazing that art and creation were able to pull you out of your depression.

I think a lot of people can relate to that. Shana: Yeah, it’s a back and forth though, when you make this

escape you capitalize on the escape, which is what I did and now I have no escape from that. What used to be my way of feeling like I didn’t need validation from other people and now if you don’t validate me it’s nothing. Not nothing, because I’m always going to be who I am at the end of the day, and I’m going to love what I love, but it just is something that it wasn’t before. I think about it in a different way which is interesting. It ties into celebrity status. Of course, fashion and celebrities are always so intermixed you can’t ignore the celebrity if you’re interested in fashion, but I’ve always been very like “these are just people too,” while also fighting because I do idolize some of these people for their craft or their talent and even their sensibilities and taste but still not wanting to put them on a pedestal and then having someone’s recognition of you make a pedestal that is success, but like I don’t know… it was just never part of the plan. It’s just really interesting, it’s only been a

4/29/22 4:51 PM


year or two and I’m reading my old journals from this time last year before anything had happened. It’s just like, “oh I hope I move to New York in August and

helm of my own creation and my own everything, I don’t have the same anxieties that I used to. I don’t know how much control I feel in my life but I definitely

"I just kind of sunk into who I always was and the flower was just the symbol of all of that." that I do these jobs.” I just had no idea what was going to happen. Melati: You talked about being back at home during that time. Over these past two years during this Covid chaos, how have your studio practice and routine changed? Shana: Over the past year, working at home was really hard for everybody. Especially for me, my job is toxic chemicals and metal dust, and to know that stuff is getting on my body and then if I walk 4 feet I’m in my bedroom and that stuff can get in my bed. It’s really hard but it’s also what I wanted, I don’t set alarms anymore, I get up when I need to, I work diligently and I’m in the deep flow because I’m on my own time and I’ve never been someone who’s been good at doing things for other people. Knowing I’m at the

feel free, which can sometimes be a trap having so much freedom, but that’s what I wanted. I think I’ve reached a point where I have what I thought I wanted or a slice of this pie that I thought would be a good life. Being my own creative person and creative brand that’s fashion-based, like I said I had visions of grandeur as a kid so like studio practice is good but it’s still kind of like art school where I have projects that I complete, and then I kind of make my own schedule for what project is next. So I think I’m about to get into teaching and being a bit more grounded in my process and allowing my practice to be less of a focal point as my output as a jeweler and artist. Hope: You talked about your

childhood and the flower and sketches but where does your inspiration come from on a day-today basis? Shana: I think honestly my inspiration across the board comes from just life, mostly walking around the world whether that be nature or walking around the city and seeing which ways nature is interacting with this man-made world that we create. Nothing tantalizes me more than seeing overgrowth in one way or the other. Whether that’s nature over buildings or buildings over nature. You see a lot of broken-up cement and sidewalks from the roots of trees bulbous-ly overflowing and bridging and cracking the cement in Brooklyn. That’s been on my mind a lot. I guess for me inspiration is this constant dialogue about the world around us and how these things that are functional are also so beautiful and a part of the process. The gesture of life is inspiring. One might say awesome even, or epic! I’m super inspired by human nature as well, which is within this conversation of overgrowth and colonization of one over the other. The ways humans act and the way in which we are impacting nature and vice versa. Then, of course, my childhood and this mentality I have towards certain things, or just within my taste. They’re also just rooted in nostalgia and I carry that with me and I see the world within this lens of what I

38

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 38

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK magazine love because of my past. I’m not trying too hard to say something about something, but it is and it isn’t about me, you know? I think that’s the main element. These are things that will exist beyond me and I think that’s kind of the core, too. Being so fascinated by the things that are temporary and wanting those things that are temporary just to feel for a second. Hope: What were your career aspirations in college and do you feel like you’ve achieved them? I know you just said you have more to do that you’d like to accomplish. Shana: That’s a hard question. I changed a lot in college. I feel like I was at least three different seasons of myself. There was the first season, where I was vague and knew I wanted to be an artist. Those were mostly based on just what I saw and thought was good art from galleries and museums and exhibitions, or what my craft teachers had done in their lives. But I knew that still didn’t satisfy me, so I then figured out that I wanted to create media and be able to have a narrative and a story and to connect with audiences that aren’t just in the art world. My career aspirations changed to being a fashion designer. That’s where I saw this way to create that media and be collaborative. I wanted to work collaboratively and fashion allows you to have those photos, a set, and you just get to build a world and see it through so many lenses. Sometimes you want more than a white room and a podium. It’s a power thing too, in the number of people you’re able to impact.

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 39

39 But after going abroad and getting humbled and served a dish of reality, I realized it’s going to be really really hard to do that. I had a hard time creating clothing that I felt like I would actually wear. A lot of it felt really performative. I guess my aspiration turned to what was just happening before me. If I could make a living making things for myself, that seems like what I want to do. I don’t have to apply to anything or ask anyone to approve of me. I can take photos and make things when I’m ready and show them when I’m ready. In reality, I do still have to adhere to schedules and the realities of business. I think my aspiration now is that I want something that is rooted in longevity whether that be through education or I don’t know. I think the only way to have longevity is to be a part of a community and of course, I want to be able to share what I create, but I think genuinely to be constantly capitalizing on myself takes away some of the nuances of creation because I don’t create as much just to create. It all came from me, so I aspire to be a little more selfish. I aspire to be able to

work and support myself enough to the point where I don’t need to depend on exploiting my creativity. Melati: What were your emotional responses to the success that you’ve had recently with your current jewelry? Shana: It was really shocking to me. It all came at a really weird time, too. I had just surrendered to my own insecurities about not having a career in jewelry and decided to be an au pair in Turkey. It had just been my second day in Turkey and I had gotten a direct message from Bella Hadid’s stylist asking if I would send jewelry to him for Bella Hadid’s vacation. I was like, I’m in Turkey, but if you can get some stuff from people that have it in New York then I can ask them. I got a few rings delivered to him and at the same time, Olivia Rodrigo’s stylist messaged me the next day asking for jewelry. When I got the first one, I was like, “haha whatever, nothing’s gonna happen from this.” When I got the second one, I was like, “hmm… is this a sign?” I was supposed to stay in Turkey for three months. I was a bit shocked. Emotional-

"I aspire to be a little more selfish. I aspire to be able to work and support myself enough to the point where I don't need to depend on exploiting my creativity." 4/29/22 4:52 PM


ly, it was very confusing to me; whether or not it was real. I didn’t believe it would bring me anything, it was just under this guy’s ‘we’ll see,’ but then things were happening in the sense that like I subconsciously in my head I was like “what am I doing? This might be the beginning of something that I’ve always wanted. Did I not want more recognition for this? Is this not the way?” I eventually came home after a few days, because it just wasn’t right anymore. I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was privileged enough to be a jewelry designer and yet I’m choosing another career out of insecurity. Knowing if I just kept going nothing was going to stop me. I would see a lot of the other nannies there in Turkey that were taking care of children and they were much older than me and mothers themselves usually from other countries. Some of them even asked me, “why are you here? Isn’t there work in America?” It just really hit me that I was throwing a tantrum almost. Like I don’t want to do this anymore, let me go travel to another country, when really this is life. I have to pursue this thing and see it through even if it means I’m going to get rejected over and over again. Ultimately, I want to raise my own family and be somebody that can take care of my kids, and so, to see these women have to raise someone else’s child and not their own, and me doing it for fun, it just wasn’t right. So, I went home and within the next few days, Dua Lipa had messaged me asking

me to put things on my website so she could buy them. I think she’d seen ones from my Instagram. That was very wild for me, that personal exchange. To have somebody be so casual and to know they’re about to change my life. It just started to happen, but everything was online so it didn’t feel like a real thing, it was just more engagement. When you get more engagement, people start to regard you differently than in real life. I’m told things that I wasn’t told before. It’s both this superficial and surreal feeling at the same time. This is just one person on Earth. I don’t know how I feel. Hope: That’s okay! You don’t have to know. So, talking about this growth, how are you managing it? Do you ever want to expand your team and make this a bigger operation, or do you want to continue staying your own individual? Shana: I’m going to stay by myself. I have a vision of the lane that I want to occupy and it’s not one that is very prolific in the sense that I’m creating so much, “everybody have some!” It’s really hard. The more I make just for them to sell, it feels like it’s exploiting me. I don’t really know these people. So,

I think I want to go down a more personal lane of making jewelry for people that will actually be invested enough to maybe come into the studio and actually see it be done. More clientele-based, I guess. I don’t want to be a machine. I don’t want to have to hire so many people to keep pushing so much product and become a big conglomerate. That was never my goal. I’m currently in a synthesis of a plan of how to merge my desire with my reality. It’s like fighting the sellout pipeline.

40

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 40

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK magazine Hope: We’re always setting new goals for ourselves. What is the next thing you’d like to achieve? Shana: I think about this a lot. I have been very indecisive my whole life about what I want. The next thing I wanna achieve is to become more confident in my teaching skills and to increase my own skills within that of jewelry making. I’m about to turn 24 this year. I think sometimes about going to grad school just as a way to have my MFA and be able to teach. That feels like a solid career that isn’t rooted in fluctuation of the market. I also have other aspirations that aren’t rooted in art. I’m in a time in my life where it feels like everything that I’m interested in will come to me eventually even if I’m not active and looking for it. I’m not a big magical thinker, but I start-

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 41

41 ed to really just have faith that I don’t have to figure it out now or know. I’m going to be able to notice what I’m looking for if I keep interacting with the world around me like normal. Melati: We talked about it briefly when I visited you in New York and this kind of goes back to what inspired you as a kid. You said you were in love with jewels and the idea of being a princess. I want to talk about how your jewelry and really all of the art you make is representative of your identity in the context of being a woman. Shana: I never felt like I was trying to make a stance about being a woman or anything, or even myself. I was just looking at my old high school art the other day being like, “All of that is ass.” But I was looking through it think-

ing, “Damn, this is pretty good.” I see it and I see the strokes and the way I was experimenting with different techniques. It was always about playing with color, form, and texture. I was just using what was accessible to me, which was myself. That says something about what it’s like to be a lonely girl who likes to make art. You have to draw what you have, which is flowers and your hands and your face. In retrospect, I look back and I find meaning in my life and I know that a lot of it has to do with being a girl and feeling this access to girliness that is performative. When I was a kid I would put on a dress and literally pretend to be a girl, like “I’m going to play girl now.” But I could take it off and go outside and touch slugs and it wasn’t on my mind, but I felt like throughout time this idea of girl has been fused within the self. When so much of what I knew as a kid were individual moments. That’s how it feels when I look at my art, it was just myself. This is all girl as hell; it’s so pink. There are so many flowers. All of it is just so girly even when it’s trying to be grotesque because I love morbid things and I love grossness too. Looking back, I realize I am just expressing both at the same time. There’s so many unconscious biases happening. Society created a lot of the things we consider feminine. I think I’m lucky to like sunsets and flowers and pink, because a lot of people, if they’re not born women, can be criticized for those things and have to find sparkles within other shit.

4/29/22 4:52 PM


LIGHTPAINTERR (Isaiah Mamo) Political Science, Graduating 2024 The summer of 2021 was a deeply transitional period for me. This photo is from a self-portrait series I shot in my bedroom, while I was in the midst of healing from the preceding year. This photo represents transformative energy that reminds me of the death card in tarot, which signifies rebirth. This rebirth for me consisted of stepping into myself and being protective of my art, time, and energy. This photo depicts a departure from the previous version of myself, as well as the beauty and confidence that my new one embodies, as I am depicted glowing.

Brendan Kavanagh Fashion Design, Graduating 2024 As change creates, it destroys. We morph into something new now. Drifting, suspended in light. Wondering, which way is up?

42

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 42

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK magazine

Brianna Cappelli Craft + Material Studies, Graduating 2023 ‘Biomorphic 1’ explores the direct connection between the human body and nature through a biomorphic lens and in the language of jewelry. Abstracting and combining forms found in nature with the human spine, wearing this brooch reinforces the idea that humans are fundamentally connected to and are a part of nature. When one is feeling disconnected from life, the work inspires metamorphosis through an appreciation for nature as a place for connection, solace, and as a tool for healing.

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 43

43

Metamorphosis Open Call

Sophie Copeland Craft + Material Studies, 2021 Graduate

As a grand gesture to myself, I constructed a wearable ceramic corset to commemorate my loss of self during a restricting relationship. I became my true self through the process of making an object of care to cradle my healing body. The ribbons are made from sordid, sweatstained bedsheets I shared with an ex-partner. They went through their own meticulous transformation by way of me cutting up the sheets and embroidering a love letter to myself on them. This act of altering gave the old bedsheets a new identity as delicate ribbons that pull together loose ends. Through my metamorphosis, I evolved into a version of myself that takes time to be devoted to my own being.

4/29/22 4:52 PM


Brinnaria Schmiedicke Graphic Design, Graduating 2024 I created this piece from excerpts I scanned in from my art journal which I have been adding to for years. The coming together of each piece of art included in this digital collage presents my journey thus far as I continue to evolve during these uncertain times. This piece is a timeline. I was a completely different person when I made some of the elements of this final piece, and that’s what Metamorphosis means to me: changing and growing fundamentally to ever more deeply become all of who I truly am.

Regina Guerrero Perez Painting + Printmaking, Graduating 2022 ‘Siendo Río’ is about inhabiting pleasure. Over these past years, I’ve realized how freeing it is to not have to accommodate or change myself for others. Slowly, I’ve started to let go of notions of what I should feel, look, or do and allow myself to just show up authentically. This practice has become a sort of reclaiming of my body, that has helped me make peace with my sexuality and pleasure. I painted “Siendo Río” to explore what it would look like to embody this tingling, calm, and expanding feeling that reminds me of a flowing river. 44

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 44

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK magazine

Cassidy Arrieta Art Foundation (declaring sculpture), Graduating 2025

Clare Teegarden Kinetic Imaging, Graduating 2022 ‘Everyday And’ represents the lingering subconscious instinct to remain in control in contrast with the overwhelming yet cathartic process of breaking seemingly eternal cycles and admitting powerlessness. Consisting of archived notes, drawings, and photographs, it is a cacophonous depiction of healing with an emphasis on imperfect patterns serving as an ode to old habits.

Metamorphosis Open Call

“This painting represents me pulling myself out of a past me, and the different people I was throughout. Before the pandemic I was struggling with mental health issues; and school, work, and relationships made it all the more difficult to handle. Quarantine gave me time to heal and the space to think of myself. I have grown more over the last two years than I ever have before. There are things I miss about the old me, but now she is gone and I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.”

45


Intertwined

​​ are endlessly on the path to becoming (our authentic selves) as we constantly evolve and We adapt to our ever changing lives. We are all greatly intertwined with the natural world and morphing into our true essence collectively. Deepening our connection with ourselves and tuning to the rhythms of nature allows us to awaken to our innate beings and see through illusions of the societal structures that attempt to make us forget who we are and our power in being here. Through self expression, awareness and love we tear through boundaries, honor our growth and envision a healed world.

Creative Direction, Photography and Writing Jess Som Production Assistance: Sophie Nguyen and Kale Simmons Photo and Lighting Assistance: Sophie Nguyen Clothing Design: Jeanie Barratt Models: Jeanie Barratt Jess Som

46

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 46

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK magazine

47

i turn to nature and am reminded of the essence of who I am. nature does not rush me to grow, she lets me be, as she renews herself and flourishes naturally. emerging effortlessly, through the ebbs and flows. dancing in ephemeral moments, in between simplicity and intricacy, it’s a beautiful entanglement. the branches that make up the tree, are the same as the intertwinement of you and me. delicately weaved, rooted in love, standing tall, touched by the sun. together we shine, here and now. bound by the breeze, be not afraid, to be gently swayed, as we find our way, at our own pace. let us be intertwined in light.

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 47

4/29/22 4:52 PM


PHOTOGRAPHY KAILI FOX

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 48

CREATIVE DIRECTION NOAH DABOUL

MODEL NOAH DABOUL

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK magazine

49

SELF-HARM TO SELF-CARE;

WRITTEN BY NOAH DABOUL

HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE SHAVING INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 49

4/29/22 4:52 PM


50

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 50

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK magazine

51

“MY FATHER TAUGHT ME THAT THERE’S ONLY ONE SHAVING CREAM WORTH USING.”

W

hen I came to Virginia Commonwealth University, I was faced with a new beginning; a blank slate. I had faced countless body-image issues and hardships throughout middle and high school, and after losing 60 pounds from walking four miles a night - even during Norfolk’s 2018 blizzard - I was ready for a new beginning. No one knew what I had looked like prior. The other side of that coin was that I had no idea what I would look like or what I even wanted to look like. When I came to VCU, I found myself surrounded by the archetypical Richmond guy. Twig-skinny, dangly earring, long hair, lots of Mac Demarco-esque hipsters everywhere.

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 51

Despite my recent weight loss, I remained unsure and curly haired, still not confident in my appearance. Part of all of this boiled down to my heritage. The Syrian and Lebanese genes of my father overpowered the delicate poise of the Irish, English, and Scottish Mayflower genes that my mother had passed on. Coincidentally, the neighbor I had in the dorm room next door was fully Lebanese. While we shared some similar physical traits like curly hair, thick muscles, darker toned skin, broad shoulders, what differentiated us was also very physical; he stood tall at above six feet and I was maybe 5’4 on a good day. We also shared a geographical difference. While his family

came from Muslim Lebanon, my family came from one of the few Christian villages in the country; a small village in the mountains called Bane. He had a much stronger connection to Lebanese culture than I did. However, one thing that was and remains constant between my neighbor and I is body hair. There’s a really funny trait between the men in my family: we all have one part of our body that’s super hairy. For me, it’s my legs. For my cousin, it’s his chest. My brother, it’s his armpits. Sorry if that’s TMI. In addition to that, we all grow thick beards. With freshman year came a deep rut of depression as well. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and felt that I had to hide my true

4/29/22 4:52 PM


feelings from everyone. Straying into some self harm too, shaving was an action that I wanted to avoid so that I wouldn’t have to hold anything sharp. Me, now a frail shell of what I used to be, still had to shave a thick beard in the 7th floor bathroom of Johnson Hall. I found myself surrounded by no one else who grew facial hair the way I did, and it felt like a grueling chore to maintain the upkeep. On top of that, I found that no one shaved the way I did. My father taught me that there’s only one shaving cream worth using; an Italian brand called Proraso. It comes in a small green cup, and you have to dampen a brush and apply it to your face. In the rare time I would see someone else shaving in the mirror, it would be with cheap Gillette foam and disposable razors. I assume that anything other than that was electric razors in each person’s respective dorm room. Naturally, because of this fear and shame, I let my facial hair go wild and only shaved when I felt like it was getting out of hand, which it often did. As I continued through my freshman year, I fell into shaving with cheap disposable razors at my girlfriend’s apartment. This carried on for the next two years. While living with roommates, it’s challenging to take up the bathroom for

enough time to shave thick facial hair, too. This was yet another deterrent. I cut my hair about two or three times per year. I like to let it get long so that my natural curls have the chance to form and show off. However, I have always loved the ritual and comforting, communal aspects of going to the barber. When I began going to Richmond’s High Point Barbershop, I fell in

love with it even more. It made me want to step up my appearance. I began to learn more about how to care for my face; began experimenting with aftershave and different products. I realized how much I loved getting a shave at the barbershop and wanted to bring that quality into my own bathroom. This new mindset of self care allowed me to retake a ritual that used to be a chore and that

I feared because I didn’t trust myself to harm myself with razors. I began to use old-school safety razors rather than disposables. I’ve tried to make my own shaving creams with different gins and liqueurs (however, these did not pan out like I had hoped; only made a sticky, burning mess). Now, I am able to relax in the process of shaving. I drink my second cup of coffee while I lather up my face in hot water. I whip up a thick, fluffy foam out of my shaving cream. I apply pre-shave oil that I mix with lemon extract. And as soon as I go in for that first shave against the grain with a new razor, it’s like starting a new chapter. It takes only 15 minutes, and I’ve now conquered the learning curve of using a different style of razor. When I finally get the last few strokes of my razor in, I wipe off my face and reach for the aftershave. It seems that every time I apply it, I always say, “Weird, my aftershave doesn’t burn as much anymore!” only then to have my newly-bare face ignited with acetone pain. This doesn’t last long, as I reach for an aftershave balm to soothe my skin. Then it’s time to go out into the world, reflecting upon how my relationship with my own facial hair and razors has changed; confident in whatever the day may bring me.

52

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 52

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 53

53

4/29/22 4:52 PM


WAVES 54

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 54

4/29/22 5:13 PM


O CHL E A LLISON

INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 55

55

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 56

4/29/22 4:52 PM


INK INK magazine magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 57

57 57

4/29/22 4:52 PM


D

w o l f er a NAOMI LILAC G

m

o full blo

i

n

ORDO N

efghefghefghefghefg INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 58

4/29/22 5:04 PM


INK magazine understood the taboo, and said no. This is the first memory I have of lying. I realized from then on, that a lot of my life had to be lived in fantasy. I’d play pretend, and always, always be the girl character. I’d idolize the image of flowers, of female cartoon characters, of anything I could find that was dainty, delicate, and feminine. I used to sit in the backyard for hours, running my fingers through the grass. Looking at flowers and imagining them turned upside down as dresses. I’d look at trees and see tragic heroines, search the forest for fairies. I idolized my mother. To young, impressionable me, she was the pinnacle of feminine beauty, but what I truly coveted was her closet. When I was young, I’d try on her shirts, which were dresses on me, dance around the house, living my delicate, glamorous fantasy. I was a budding trans youth, and I didn’t understand what drew me to such things, but drawn I was. As I grew older, my mother tired of me playing with her clothes, so I had to do it in secret. When she left, I’d try on her dresses, run around and twirl in them, but when I heard her pulling up on the driveway, I dashed to put her dresses away before she saw what I’d done. I never looked and sounded particularly masculine when I was younger, even back when I

was trying my hardest to identify as male. In middle school, I had a lot of experiences where people would read me as female, and refer to me accordingly, and I had to go and correct them. Most teachers were kind and apologetic when I corrected them, to a point where it was clear that they assumed I was a female-to-male trans boy, and feared accusations of transphobia. Other teachers, however, would carry on, and other students sometimes had a hard time reading me as male. It was a strange feeling. On one hand, these students were rude, they were hearing me state who I was, and deciding it wasn’t good enough for them. They’d ridicule me or refuse to believe my identification. On the other, being gendered as female, having people look at me and see a girl? I can’t lie. It felt really good. In my first year of high school I had a few different guys ask me out, none of whom were queer. I’m sure they knew intellectually that I was a guy, but I suppose they had a hard time rationalizing my appearance with that. There’d be guys who’d see me, read me as female, and have to rationalize their attraction to me with my male gender marker. I used to joke with my friends that my superpower was sexually confusing straight guys. I’d come

D

espite being assigned male at birth, and being raised under certain societal constraints, from my earliest memories of the self, I saw myself as a feminine essence. When I walked, I’d strut, and when I closed my eyes and pictured myself, the image would change quite a bit. Sometimes I was older, sometimes I was younger, my shape and size and features would change often. But always, always, I was a woman. Of course, I learned very early on to repress that part of myself. If the gentle but stern pushes of my parents towards more masculine toys and games would not do it, starting school would. Entering the American public school system in full would make sure that I had heteronormativity drilled into me, and I learned very quickly that I needed to hide certain parts of myself. I have a distinct memory, somewhere in kindergarten or first grade. I can’t pinpoint exactly when. It’s of my mother, a South Korean woman who’d come to America to be with my white father, tucking me into bed. She ran her fingers through my hair and sang me a lullaby in her native language, and then she asked me if I wanted to be a girl. It was a simple question, but it was one that brought with it great distress, and despite being so young, I

59

efghefghefghefghefg INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 59

4/29/22 5:01 PM


out as gay during the back end of eighth grade, and my friends were largely queer, but in a lot of ways, I felt commodified. My best friend at the time was a cishet girl named Shrina, and in a lot of ways, she used me as her “gay best friend,” parading me around like a spectacle, a pet, almost. I loved her like a sister at the time, but looking back, it’s clear to me that I was being used. My gender variance was something to behold, whether it be bullied or gawked at, and I remember so many cishet white girls who were nice to my face despite their boyfriends calling me slurs in the hallway or ridiculing me in class. At one point, I received a message from a classmate that he knew where I lived and that he was going to break into my home, rape me, and make my “trap dick feel good.” When I became more comfortable with my femininity, the more I freely expressed myself, the more cruel ways my male peers found to discourage that. Because of this, for a long time, I didn’t feel safe around men. I viewed the existence of a man in my presence as a threat to my safety, and if

a guy was nice to me, I viewed it as a joke at my expense. Because of this, I allowed my cis female friends to deploy me as their “Sassy Gay BFF™”, because even though it was degrading, my safety wasn’t at risk.

all queer people, were mostly there for me. Some, like Shrina, had a hard time adjusting to my new name and new set of pronouns, and so we drifted, but the majority of my peers left me alone. Most of the terrible things said about me were behind my back, not to my face, a marked improvement to the harassment I’d received prior. In a lot of ways, me being trans, despite being a huge transgression to the gender binary, was seen as more socially acceptable than my being a hyperfeminine male. It was more palatable to my cishet peers. In March of that school year, the pandemic hit. Any momentum I’d built up in my day to day life was gone. My parents had me stop working, and for the most part, I was stuck inside with them. Being deadnamed and misgendered on a daily basis wasn’t exactly great for my mental At the start of my junior year health, and with the pandemof high school, I came out as ic, any chance of me medicaltrans. I’d come to the realiza- ly transitioning was placed on tion that if I didn’t come out I pause. I grew increasingly dewouldn’t make it through the pressed, and I’d honestly say year, and so I did. My friends, that it was the worst my mental

efghefghefghefghefg INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 60

4/29/22 5:08 PM


INK magazine as Naomi, thanks to my legal name change, and though it had taken them a bit, with my parents full support, I started hormones soon after. I had a summer job lined up and I was going to college in the fall. Everything was turning up for me. The budding flower I used to be had finally bloomed in full, and it was beautiful. This was my happy ending. I’d gotten through it all. The funny thing about life, though, is that it goes on. I love VCU. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been able to come as I am, and be taken as such. I don’t have to live with the weight of the person I used to be on me at all times. I’m just Naomi. People here are nice, much nicer than they’ve ever been to me. I get compliments about my outfits and my makeup pretty regularly, it feels good to feel pretty, but I also recognize the faces. The forced smiles, the glances up and down, the microaggressive little comments. Though it’s not exactly the same, I’ve found myself yet again playing a character for cis peoples’ comfort. Holding my tongue through transphobic microaggressions, forcing myself to be nice to people who are clearly uncomfortable with my presence, performing femininity 24/7 for the comfort of cis people, swallowing all the shit that was forced my way.

It was on my mind a lot since coming to VCU, and as the second semester started it’s something I started noticing more and more. The ways I would make myself smaller for other peoples’ comfort. The ways that I’d continually do this, without regard to how it made me feel, and it’s something that I’ve been working against. I recently cut my hair. That might not sound like a big deal, but it was for me. Realizing that I didn’t need to have long hair to be feminine, that I was valid in my gender regardless. I’ve started being blunt too, in my everyday life. I’m not here for cis people’s comfort. I’m here for myself. I’m reminded of one of my favorite tweets. “I am no longer shrinking to be digestible, you can choke.” For me, being trans isn’t about standing still. It’s not about me discovering myself and then being happy as my new self. It’s about constantly moving, growing, changing. It’s about my multitudes, about never being just one thing, about being me and letting the idea of me change through my experiences, surroundings, and personal realizations. In five to ten years, I have no idea what kind of woman I’ll be. All I know is I’ll be someone radically different than I am today, and that’s more than enough for me.

health had been in my life. I felt completely alone, and things were happening to my body that I had no control over. It felt like an alien entity was turning me into something else, and I could do nothing to stop it. Body horror always freaks me out, but nothing I’ve seen on TV has compared to how that felt. When the real world was too much for me, I sought refuge in the indefinite spaces of the internet. Reality fell to nothing behind men as I found people online that understood me, and got me through a really tough time in my life. I was also very insecure. My mental health and dysphoria peaked as I was stuck inside, with no end in sight, no possibility of medical transition. I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror. One of the people I grew closest to had this boyfriend who’d from time to time, jokingly flirt with me. When the flirting happened more and more, I let it. It felt good to feel attractive. It felt good to know that a hot guy was into me. I felt like it gave me value. My friend got hurt because of it. Eventually, the world opened back up, and I got to see a lot of my friends in person again. I graduated; went up on stage and got my diploma, though plenty of my peers in the audience made sure to gossip about me when I did. I graduated

61

efghefghefghefghefg INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 61

4/29/22 5:08 PM


WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MELATI MAUPIN

M

y perception of my parents is morphing. I think a lot of parents pray that their children don’t see their flaws, because it’s heartbreaking when they do. But as I grow older and I begin to see them not only as parents but also as people, I cannot help but discover who they are as individuals. When I was thirteen, I sat in the backseat of my mom’s Toyota next to my sister. My dad made a joke and chuckled the way he does, shoved my mom’s shoulder to tease her, and then he got out of the car. My

mom watched him walk away with her cheek turned to the two of us, and she said, “I think your dad loves me more than I love him.” When I try to reimagine this day, I can’t quite seem to hear anything. I just see her mouth moving and I hyperfocus on that monotonous expression on her face. I think that they are both lonely but in very different ways. Her friends became his friends. He only seems to go out when she’s there to encourage him to. She cooks. She cleans. She manages the finances. But he dominates the spac-

es within the house, and I don’t see a lot of her reflected in her home. I entered this project with the intention of documenting both independence and codependency in my parent’s relationship as a means of understanding as my perception of them evolves. Though, after spending hours staring at these photographs, I am finding that my subconscious was hard at work. These photographs illustrate my father’s dependency on my mother and my mother’s inner independence from him.

62

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 62

4/29/22 4:53 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 63

63

4/29/22 4:53 PM


CREATIVE DIRECTION, STYLING - Kennedi Woods PHOTOGRAPHY, EDITING - Cecelia Nguyen MODELING - Alexiana James PRODUCTION ASSISTANT - Jess Som

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 64

4/29/22 4:53 PM


IN A SECOND, WE CAN EXPRESS pain, pleasure, struggle, excitement. Some changes happen too fast to appreciate. Our brains would be too overwhelmed to process anything else if it dissected every infinitesimal movement, emotion, or decision we make. Instead, we focus on the dramatic transitions - the beginnings and ends; the lightbulb

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 65

moments - and discard the details. The true markers that create and inspire change are created in the millions of imperceptible moments. All metamorphosis has a beginning and end, but it’s the moments that get lost in between that make all the difference.

4/29/22 4:53 PM


66

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 66

4/29/22 4:53 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 67

4/29/22 4:53 PM


68

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 68

4/29/22 4:53 PM


INK magazine

INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 69

69

4/29/22 4:53 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 70

4/29/22 4:53 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 71

4/29/22 4:53 PM


INK Layout 2022 - GW.indd 72

4/29/22 4:53 PM


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.