Weaving through life in the digital age can be as daunting as it is thrilling, but what’s undeniable is the internet’s essential role in discovering and uniting bustling innovators. Whether they’re promoting messages through blogging, helming art collectives, cool kids working a 9 to 5, or simply figuring it out, this eclectic mix exemplifies the all-encompassing, magical melting pot of creatives. Below, we profile ten of our favourites to keep an eye on.
LULA HYERS (@LULAHYERS66)
A bastion of self-discovery and freed inhibitions, meet the indomitable teen artist missing from your repertoire. Lula Hyers, whose photographs have graced the cover of New York Magazine and materialised in the fashion alcoves of Vogue.com, is on a mission to deconstruct, empower, and amplify – one snap at a time. Hailing from a family of veteran photographers, the fresh talent is proving a promising flair in her own right. From her seminal explorations of queer identity to her keen sense of awareness, Hyers’s glimpse of young womanhood, sexuality, and the human physique have made her a fixture among New York’s brimming melting pot of emerging creatives. The artist’s Instagram, a cheeky blend of social commentary, body exploration, and digital mementos is sure to liven the humdrum of any timeline. Keep up with her projects here.
Tell us about the evolution of your work and creative process thus far.
Lula Hyers: Right now, I feel ever-changing as an artist, because to me, it’s impossible for an artist’s work to not reflect the way they believe the world to function. As I grew older, I began to reexamine the things I once believed were true and quickly found that I was basing my decisions and actions around these lies. Change in mindset and focus as an artist seems vital to me. When I look back on my old work, I can see the lens through which I saw the world at the time; what I thought was important, what I thought was beautiful and how I viewed the world and myself.
“The understanding of feminism I have now versus in my early years of making pictures changed the way I decided to use photography to speak. I understood how boring, shitty and angering it must have been to someone who wasn’t skinny, white and pretty to look at my old images that said ‘feminist’ and ‘girl power’ all over them” – Lula Hyers
The photos I was making the first few years of high school usually depicted what at the time meant “attractive” to me – which was a hairless, perfectly symmetrical, skinny, girl with big boobs, a big ass, pin straight hair, no pores, no peach fuzz and no razor bumps, that was what being beautiful meant. When I was a junior in high school I started learning about feminism. It sounds cheesy but it was addictive, I wanted to learn more and more because here I was, 16-years-old, just having scratched the surface of realising that I spent my whole life dedicated to preserving lies that were created so that I couldn't reach my fullest potential.
I learned that there was no universal experience of womanhood and I had to speak for myself and also listen more than I ever had before. This of course directly affected my work and the course it ended up taking. The understanding of feminism I have now versus in my early years of making pictures changed the way I decided to use photography to speak. I understood how boring, shitty and angering it must have been to someone who wasn’t skinny, white and pretty to look at my old images that said “feminist” and “girl power” all over them, as well as how detrimental it was that I was actively perpetuating Eurocentric beauty standards that as a result perpetuated racism.
TABATHA MCGURR (@TABATHAMMM)
Tabatha McGurr is the New York City gem serving comfort to perfection. Whether she’s dispensing advice to spruce up your bland sex life or gracing your timeline in lacy underpinnings, in the words of Future, “you do what you want when you poppin”. The writer, lingerie aficionado, and self-described vulgar intellectual, has no qualms openly embracing who she is, sharing: “My page is public – my parents can see it, my employers can see it, my boyfriend’s mom can see it – and I’m not afraid of that assumed judgment because I know myself, and they know me too. Once you know who you are, those external opinions truly don't matter anymore.”
How did your appreciation for lingerie first begin?
Tabatha McGurr: I’d say that it stemmed from my mother. She’s always been larger than life, an incredibly beautiful and vivacious blonde from St. Tropez. She’s super magnetic, and she has the best style ever. It’s almost like her aura flirts with you. Growing up I was always rummaging through her things, and amongst her shoes and accessories and clothing, the underwear drawer especially struck a chord with me early on. It was always enticing – frills and silky bits and lace in all these different colors. I’d steal them every chance I could, because in comparison my kid undies seemed completely inferior. I got my first “official” bra when I was 13 and I remember it to this day – gifted from my equally chic godmother, an ivory silk-crepe triangle Yves Saint Laurent bra lightly dotted with tiny blue hearts and YSL logos. I still own it too. After that, my mom would add something to the collection every Christmas, like little La Perla negligees or some tame accessory from Agent Provocateur. I’ve amassed quite the treasure trove since.
“Some people might not consider a dick pick an egregious offense, but that shit is technically sexual harassment. Would parading around the street in a sexy outfit justify some guy pulling his dick out, or worse?” – Tabatha McGurr
As someone who’s grown up in NYC, how has it played a role in shaping your interests and/or personality?
Tabatha McGurr: New York has shaped me as an individual enormously, but almost in a way that I can’t pinpoint or put into words exactly. I think people on the outside envision New Yorkers and assume that we all dress or talk or act a certain way, but beyond that kind of surface shit, I’d say it’s more that New York allows you to possess a certain confidence. And this is a place of paradox; our overexposure makes us highly tolerant, yet it’s not lost on us that we have a slight superiority complex about being where we’re from. Growing up here, you get challenged a lot, by life and by people, so you get conditioned from childhood to stride through it unscathed. If you don’t, the city can really bring you down. At the same time, it’s also the most inspiring place in the world. Every single block has its own personality and magic (even the shitty ones – especially the shitty ones!) and the mix of characters/muse-worthy individuals is unparalleled. Coming up in the public school system here was definitely major in shaping me too; like one long sociological experiment. But (and many people don’t know this), I was actually born in France, and my French half has been hugely elemental as well. In a nutshell, I’m a romantic realist.
Like many women online, you've lamented over receiving unsolicited dick pics or plain gross messages. Why do you think women who openly assert their sexuality especially find themselves susceptible to such interactions?
Tabtha McGurr: It’s super unfortunate that some men have to be such savages – assuming that free-spirited behaviour is some kind of invitation to their pathetic advances – but it’s not like I’m surprised by it. I’ve addressed these issues on my page before, and some idiots will churn out a braindead, mob-mentality response like, “I mean, you’re posting sexy photos of yourself on a public forum; aren’t you kind of asking for it?” But that’s a stupid ass, repressed (and frankly repulsive) thought process. Some people might not consider a dick pick an egregious offense, but that shit is technically sexual harassment. Would parading around the street in a sexy outfit justify some guy pulling his dick out, or worse? Absolutely not, and it shouldn’t be any different on the internet. It’s also just gross and lame as fuck; sometimes even laughable. Like what do you expect my response to be? Heart-eye emojis? Reciprocation? Get-all-the-way-the-fuck-outta-here. Instead of getting super heated or even reporting them now though, I literally just repost their DMs/dick pics (handle included) for all my followers to clown and laugh at. If you’re gonna throw your shit at me unsolicited, I might as well share the wealth. Or lack thereof.
AMANDA LITZINGER (@FEELIN.STICKY)
Get ready to wear your heart on your sleeve, or sprawled across your back, with the Brooklyn-based line spilling all the feels. Born out of an anxiety-riddled break from college, the saccharine collection – comprised of relatable, hand-sewn messages on vintage denim, bombers, and rompers – rings of unrequited love, adulthood angst, and far too much Lana Del Rey, in the most delicious way possible. While the sentimental line may transport you to familiar states of melancholy, designer-painter Amanda Litzinger is swift to note she's no one’s sad girl. “I would not describe myself that way. I think what artists do is identify those often painful truths and they use it to make something. In New York you can turn it into a commodity and you can sell it. I might be cynical but I am an opportunist.” Touché. Here’s to basking in your sadness and donning a good double entendre in style. You can shop the full collection of Stickybaby here.
There's great vulnerability in saying “I'm not okay” or openly identifying feelings of sadness and longing, as many of the pieces do. As we move deeper into adulthood, why do you think expressing this range of emotions and habits becomes more taboo?
Amanda Litzinger: Many of the messages in my phrase jackets came to me by chance – something I overheard or saw that stood out to me. You can notice that some phrases have double meanings and that is quite important to me. My “Still Lost” jacket was inspired by a missing cat poster that read boldly and simply: “STILL LOST” above a picture of the cat. I noticed it was funny to be so forthright about something as melancholy as being lost (emotionally, spiritually, career) when applied to yourself. “Take Me Home” can read as “take me home with you” or “please, take me home, to my house.” I think we can become desensitised after so long, just to make things easier. I think all artists are in the business of feelings and taboo things and to be able to recognise them and embrace them as an adult is a special curse.
“I think what artists do is identify those often painful truths and they use it to make something. In New York you can turn it into a commodity and you can sell it. I might be cynical but I am an opportunist” – Amanda Litzinger
Who is the Stickybaby customer? What sort of emotions are you hoping to evoke when people wear or view your pieces?
Amanda Litzinger: Stickybaby is for girls and boys who care about being original. They exercise their power to choose their clothes wisely and therefore how they are perceived by others. The Stickybaby customer is very smart and does not automatically accept everything they are handed. They enjoy kicking ass and they are able to look great and have fun while they do it. When people wear or see Stickybaby, I hope they notice the sincerity of it and maybe they can sense the braveness that it takes to really be sincere. I hope my pieces help wearers feel more confident being their true selves and I’d like to encourage uniqueness.
CHELSEA ODUFU AKA CHEL$Y O (@CHELSTHEDIRECTOR_)
Opting to bypass the post-college funk and what-am-I-doing-with-my-life stage, upon graduating New York University’s esteemed Tisch School of The Arts, emerging talent Chelsea Odufu has hit the ground running. The rising filmmaker paints a riveting world of magnetic characters and unflinching voyages through womanhood, while artfully unpacking heavy matters like colourism, alcoholism and the stigma of Afro-Caribbean spirituality. As countless underrepresented people yearn to bid adieu to the days of one-dimensional depictions and offensive tropes – token best friends, caricatures of stereotypes, and dehumanised props – Odufu’s refreshing portrayals echo “me too.” Check out the trailer for her latest film Ori Inu: In Search of Self, which she’ll be discussing at Yale University on 12 February, 2016.
What kind of storytelling do you find the most fulfilling and why?
Chelsea Odufu: Although to my friends I may be one of the silliest people on the planet, I find myself attracted to writing dark and heavy narratives that focus on African Diasporian experiences. My stories are my way of healing, coping with my pain or working through the current mental and emotional space I may be in. The healing I receive through being so honest with self in my art is fulfilling.
“Black spirituality is something that has been so stigmatised my entire life but I refuse to believe my ancestors were anything but divine” – Chelsea Odufu
How has being of Caribbean and West African background influenced your work?
Chelsea Odufu: Being of Caribbean and West African descent by way of America has heavily influenced my voice as an artist and certainly my brand. My blackness has always confused me, as I was little too Caribbean or too African to be considered “just black,” but now I am literally obsessed with my culture. I love hearing Caribbean and African folk stories and learning about the untold histories of my people. It’s so refreshing to feel a deep connection to my culture so it’s only right I embody that in my work. As I am hybrid of three different black cultures, I want my work to create international unity and peace amongst people of the diaspora.
Why was exploring arduous themes like spirituality, colourism and alcoholism so important?
Chelsea Odufu: Aside from the fact, the themes I explore in my work often hit very close to home for me on an emotional level, my yearning to spark change and enlightenment in the community through my art activism is very important to me. Black spirituality is something that has been so stigmatised my entire life but I refuse to believe my ancestors were anything but divine. My rich chocolate complexion has also been stigmatised my entire life and all shades of melanin are obviously beautiful, so I wrote about it.
ISABEL HENDRIX (@ISABEL_HENDRIX)
Meet Isabel Hendrix, the candy-haired internet darling you wish you knew. A walking medley of psychedelic and grunge, rainbow tones, and self-love, the plus-size model and blogger is the perfect remedy for any drab feed. “It’s a place where I can try to encourage people to feel ok and happy with themselves. A lot of stuff is super colourful, I really enjoy bright colours, I try to express myself in ways that I’d actually say it – and connect with people in ways that everyone can understand; laughing at the fact the world is super messed up, using humour or sarcasm, and just the general things we all experience.” You can keep up with Hendrix and view her blog here.
How has your relationship with self-love evolved in the age of the internet?
Isabel Hendrix: When I started my first blog years ago, I don’t want to say I was naive, but a young person who hadn’t seen much of the world yet. I hadn’t really learned much about who I was or who I wanted to be. During the first year of college, I developed an eating disorder, it didn’t have anything to do with fashion but it coincided, and I’ve dealt and still do with depression.
“I got to a place where I was tired of trying to fit into boxes so I just put them away” – Isabel Hendrix
For a while, I was having a hard time with self-esteem and how I looked, etc. I did a lot of therapy and reflection. I got to a place where I was tired of trying to fit into boxes so I just put them away. I started trying to figure out what was interesting to me and gained my voice. The self-love component to my blog wasn’t thought out at first, I was just kind of living my life that way. And then I realised as I spoke about it more, people would have really encouraging responses. I want people, especially women, to know it’s okay to like yourself and enjoy whatever you enjoy. You don’t have to put on a show to be successful or enjoy life. I’m a big supporter of the internet and making friends and connections through it (I love supportive brands like Tunnelvison), all of my closest friendships have been made via internet and social media. You can really find people who are attuned to your interests and values. It’s so helpful to people who otherwise wouldn’t have support or an outlet.
LAURA CALLAGHAN (@LAURACALLAGHANILLUSTRATION)
The offbeat illustrations of Laura Callaghan are anything but bland. A vibrant visual feast of idiosyncratic girl worlds and intricate motifs, laden with hints of character backstories, all with a “slightly sinister” overlay – indulging in the vivid creations are a ball of merriment. Utilising watercolor, indian ink, and isograph pens, the London-based artist has constructed a widely recognisable style, sharing: “It took a while. All through my arts education I was concerned about making work which would get me jobs once I'd left so I was mainly focusing on children's book illustration, I thought that was the avenue I'd go down. But then I graduated and started working full time doing admin for a biscuit factory just so I could afford to stay in London. I didn't have much free time to draw so anything I did do was just for me, the kinds of things I actually wanted to draw, which were much more adult, fashion based pieces. I found what I really enjoyed was working on complex watercolour illustrations so my style developed from there. People started commissioning me off the back of personal pieces I'd posted online and that gave me the confidence to keep going in the direction I was going. I think my style is still evolving. I want to keep improving, I'm still really bad at drawing feet!” You can keep up with Callaghan’s work here.
“It’s great when people relate to an image or see themselves in an illustration” – Laura Callaghan
What themes do you most enjoy pursuing?
Laura Callaghan: I mostly make narrative, character-driven illustrations about women and modern life. I've been working on commissioned pieces nonstop for the past few months which don't really leave much room to dictate the themes or issues surrounding a drawing. But I'm taking time out to work on some personal pieces at the moment for a solo exhibition in June, I'm going to make some big, brash and trashy pieces based on the commodification of our lives – so that's exciting!
What do you hope people take away from your work?
Laura Callaghan: It's great when people relate to an image or see themselves in an illustration. I'm making work about people, so any kind of reaction from a human being is good, whether it's positive or negative! As long as it's not “nice,” nice translates as “I don't care enough about this to expand on that statement.”
SIGNE PIERCE (@SIGNEPIERCE)
Enter the neon-doused world of artist Signe Pierce. A mesmerising mélange of hyperrealism and electric hues, juxtaposed with a Miami-Barbie-meets-galactic-motel aura, Pierce aims to scrutinise systems like patriarchy and capitalism through the lens of a fluorescent dreamland. Currently on view at Columbia University's LeRoy Neiman Gallery as part of the LOVE 2016 exhibition, is Pierce and fellow collaborator Alli Coates’s viral sensation, American Reflexxx. The powerful short – garnering over a million views online and subsequently igniting a massive discourse surrounding transphobia, degradation, and mob mentalities – remains painfully on par with the reality of interactionism in modern society. You can pop into the exhibit until 17 February and view Pierce’s MoMA performance in the BOOKLUB 10 series on 18 February. Soak up more of Pierce’s dreamy realm here.
“Neons and bright colours represent futurism and hyperreality to me. I want my colour palette to feel like a lush apocalypse” – Signe Pierce
As of late, what kind of themes inform your work?
Signe Pierce: “It’s All About Meme” ~aka~ the ways that we commodify our realities to become memes/clickbait/more “like”-able
Digital colours/radiant light (iridescence)
Hellscapes ~aka~ the sensation that occurs when you’re immersed in moments of capitalist-fueled dread and the beautiful privilege that’s attached to it (traffic jams in parking garages, cracked iPhone screens, shopping in the rain, tangled wires, etc)
Neon Classical ~ employing symbolism and imagery from art history with colours and technology that are explicitly “now”
Electrotexture ~ digital cream/liquid pixels/synthetic cum
You love your neon! Tell us about its integral role in your art.
Signe Pierce: I’m obsessed with neon lights because they make the streets glow in a rich, cinematic way. When I work in the studio or on film sets it can take hours to replicate the glow that a neon light produces naturally, so I really find a satisfaction in capturing that quality of light authentically. Neons and bright colours represent futurism and hyperreality to me. I want my colour palette to feel like a lush apocalypse.
YARIS SANCHEZ (@YARIS_SANCHEZ)
In an age still rife with limited narratives of women, Yaris Sanchez is a gust of fresh air. She endeared us last year with her whirlwind journey to self-acceptance and fulfillment, while championing broader representations and celebrations on all fronts. In a nod to friendship and reclaiming ownership of self, Sanchez has teamed up with bestie/photographer Cheril Sanchez for a major visual treat: A curated photo collection chronicling an introspection of womanhood and her personal evolution. Packed with nostalgia, transatlantic excursions, and whimsical NYC landscapes, the intimate photobook is slated for release later this year.
Celebrating the evolution of self remains a prevailing theme in your life and projects. Why is that such a vital driving force?
Yaris Sanchez: I believe evolution of self is so important in the search for happiness. Happiness to me is the ultimate life goal. In order to remain happy, for the most part, we should be flexible and embrace the many experiences we go through, how they add character, and help us find new versions of ourselves every time.
MARILYN RONDÓN (@CALIENTECHICA)
Finding catharsis within the boundless limits of art, Marilyn Rondón’s emotive orchestration of her world will assuage the insatiable craving for something real. A Venezuelan-born multidisciplinary artist, she exudes a repose in her skin and steadfast commitment to sincerity we can’t get enough of. Harnessing everything from a bad breakup to an endless barrage of dick pics, it’s no surprise Rondón has enamored thousands online and IRL through her work. “I've always been the fuck up of my family, I got sick of being the fuck up, I got clean, I got sober, art gave me life when I was really depressed, and people reacted to it really positively. I realised I should focus on that instead of destructive behaviour.” Catch Rondón at the LA Art Book Fair with her popular Dat Ass zine series among other treats 12 February-14 February, 2016 and keep up with her work here.
Naturally, your tattoos garner a lot of attention. What's the most important lesson having them has taught you?
Marilyn Rondón: Basically, being a heavily tattooed woman, they’ve taught me that people are just naturally judgmental. I got heavily tattooed over time, it was never a plan, had I told 19-year-old me that 29-year-old me would have tattoos on my eye lids I wouldn’t even believe it. People naturally judge you based on whatever, it’s never really on you. We're all mirrors to one another, and I ask myself whenever I see something in someone that makes me uncomfortable, why? So I’m assuming for whatever negatives people get based on my outer shell, it’s on them. I hate to say it but people are intimidated by me based on my appearance. I wish I could change that but also I’ve grown to get used to it, it helps weed out the idiots and the jerks. I do get a million questions a day whenever I’m out and about, and every Uber driver I meet literally hits me with the “So how many tattoos do you have...do you have them everywhere?” It gets exhausting, it makes people also forget that I’m human and sometimes just don't want to talk about it. Tattoos have somehow made me a robot that's constantly answering the same questions over and over and over again...
“We’re all mirrors to one another, and I ask myself whenever I see something in someone that makes me uncomfortable, why?” – Marilyn Rondón
Tell us about your initial aversion to self-identifying as an “artist.”
Marilyn Rondón: Basically, my entire life I denied myself of the fact that I am a creative. It would irk me to have to refer to myself as an “artist” because I felt like there was an arrogant stigma attached to it. Over time, I made the biggest mistake any artist can make and I stopped producing work. I can never get those years of my life back, and it still kills me. I'll say this to any creative out there: do not deny yourself of what you are and your true potential. Never stop making work. The only way you become the artist you want to be and admire is by constantly making work, and evolving in that. I feel that millennials are all so eager to be “famous” or recognised at a young age, but if you're an artist and have artistic abilities, you will grow and change your style and make work that you love and work that you hate throughout your entire life. Not just in your twenties.
You don't have to be this kind of way, or that kind of way. Give yourself the freedom to suck at everything until you become good at it. That’s the beauty in being a creative and denying yourself of your true potential over fear of judgement is flat out dumb. I really wish I didn't do that. I don't have much regrets in life but the ones I do have are: I wish I produced more work and I wish I took more photos when shit was really bad. I wish I never stopped producing work. Never ever deny yourself the opportunity to be whatever the fuck you want to be, someone will always like your work, and someone will always dislike your work. Art is subjective! Just do what feels good and have fun...and basically I had that conversation with myself over and over and over again while painting murals to get over my own stigma of the “artist” label...but it's what I am, amongst many other things. I'm a friend, I’m a fighter, I’m a bartender, I’m a trainer, I’m a DJ, I’m a painter, I’m a photographer, zine maker, cook, lover and that's ok....so yeah.
STELLA BLU (@BYSTELLABLU)
Prepare to get lost in the celestial interpretations of Stella Blu. Unearthing her passion for the arts in first grade, the LA-based artist made the precarious leap toward her dreams as a teen: “I started taking it seriously in high school, when I realised I couldn’t really see myself doing anything else and when I realised I couldn’t live my life with the same routine every day. I dropped out of high school and I had a few random 9-5 jobs for a few years, they eventually became so soul draining to me. One day I stopped everything and started making and selling paintings online.” Oozing ardor and tender anecdotes, the striking creations spring to life upon viewing. Peruse the trove of goodies, upcoming projects, and personal blog here.
“I wanted to see paintings of women painted by other women, not men. We paint ourselves differently than men do. I couldn’t find it, so I did it myself” – Stella Blu
How has your upbringing shaped your subjects and technique?
Stella Blu: I grew up in so many different places. I was born in Luton, England. Then my family moved to Texas for a few years, Connecticut, and then California. Now I’m based in Los Angeles. Every time it was such a drastic move, from the weather to the people. Before I came to California I always stood out, I was so different looking than anyone around me, I never felt like I belonged. The feelings of being an outcast for years influenced the things I paint today. I like to paint women of all different backgrounds and colours. I want to make art in which girls like me can see themselves. I know I’ve looked for women like myself represented in artwork many times, but have never seen it. Also, I wanted to see paintings of women painted by other women, not men. We paint ourselves differently than men do. I couldn’t find it, so I did it myself.
Tell us about some of your influences throughout the years.
Stella Blu: I’m not really easily influenced by many people. I’m mostly influenced by my parents and my boyfriend. They all work so hard and I see them reap the benefits. I’ve seen my parents create such amazing lives for themselves from nothing. I strive to do the same, but in my own way. Also, Beyonce. I just love her, and she’s a Virgo as well. She works so hard and she’s fantastic. I admire a woman who is trying to be her best. That’s why she influences me.