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Laurel Charleston Brooklyn dreams artist makeup New York
Brooklyn Dreams vol. 1Courtesy of Laurel Charleston

Brooklyn Dreams is Laurel Charleston’s colourful celebration of New York


TextDominic Cadogan

The make-up and drag artist’s debut zine charts their journey from a small town in Pennsylvania to living their dream in the big city

Looking at Laurel Charleston’s impressive body of work, you can’t help but smile. Their make-up and drag artistry is a constant celebration of colour and their recreations of famous artworks will have you questioning whether or not Van Gogh is actually dead. 

To take stock of their incredible back catalogue, Charleston decided to compile a zine entitled Brooklyn Dreams that features page after page of kaleidoscopic creativity. “Life is short. If there’s one thing this pandemic has solidified for me it’s that life can be taken from you without even a moment's notice,” they explain to Dazed Beauty. “As an artist I’m always focusing on what’s next, so to look back and piece together so much of my work into one zine is a cathartic way to celebrate what I’ve overcome and to catalogue my first year here. I want to be able to look back years from now and see where I was and what I was doing as a young artist. It’s like having a visual diary of my inner passions and creativity.”

As well as acting as a diary, the zine is a reminder of their journey from a small town in Pennsylvania to living their dreams in New York. “I experienced endless dark moments where I thought life would never go on; that I wouldn’t be able to escape or that if I could that I would never be able to support myself,” Charleston shares. “The slightest idea that I could move to the massive metropolis of New York City was so far fetched to me, it was always a dream… So now in 2020 I have been living in this great city for over a year and looking back at this time still feels surreal like it has all been one wild, Brooklyn dream.”

Unsurprisingly, the city – especially it’s unconstrained queer community – has been a constant source of inspiration for Charleston and their artistry. “I am constantly inspired by the resilience, persistence and vibrance of everyone living here,” they say. “The many artists and creatives around me that are able to keep their heads above water, thrive, and find a means to keep going and create with their entire heart and soul keep my fire going and inspire me everyday. The queer community here makes me feel so valid and allows me to thrive not just as an artist but as a trans individual that is still discovering their journey and to me that is just as inspiring.” 

But how does this creative journey and inspiration manifest itself? On one page you’ll see them recreate Van Gogh’s iconic sunflowers on their face, or resplendent and sparkling in drag. Their fave look though? “About halfway through the zine you turn the page and arrive at this massive explosion of colour where the first page is actually a very close-up photo of my eye. The skin is altered with a shiny, electric yellow and around the eye lays an intense striping of purple coated with a blinding gloss. When you look closer you see that the yellow is actually brought back over the purple in a high-velocity splatter that even carries to the tip of the purple lashes,” they muse. 

“I love this the most because it’s so far away from standard beauty: It’s not practical, it’s not accessible and it’s not predictable,” they continue. “It's all the things I love about make-up! Make-up never has to be standard or limited. It can be whatever you desire and whatever you dream of.” 

Brooklyn Dreams vol. 1 is available (shipping internationally) now via laurelcharleston@gmail.com. 

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