Categories
EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Art During Quarantine

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Art During Quarantine

NYC-based artist Mike Sullivan uses his time during the lockdown to create and give back.

04-21-20

Last month on March 7, a group of friends came over to celebrate my last moments of being 25 years old. In NYC the threat of the progressing coronavirus was certainly on our radar, but with no advisory guidelines to isolate ourselves we gathered like everything was normal. Looking back, it is truly jarring to think how quickly the situation with COVID-19 became so universal and serious. The thought of having a group gathering now, only just over a month later, seems otherworldly.

Shortly after my birthday, the city started to shut down. Restaurants, theaters, schools, and retail shops all began closing their doors in hopes of stopping the spread of the virus. Of course with that came the concerning result of many people out of work. During this time I was traveling to Ithaca, NY, to work on costumes for a production at The Cherry Arts. Like the work of so many other theater companies and creative outlets, the production had to be put on hold for the safety of the community. When I learned that the production and my job in NYC were no longer available, I went to my hometown in CT to stay with my folks. Throughout this past month I’ve been experiencing many polarizing feelings of fear, uncertainty, gratitude, and hope. I am beyond thankful for my parents and friends, those in the city working hard to keep the arts and queer community alive, and the many essential workers who are protecting the foundation of our society and keeping the vulnerable safe.

New York has been hit hard with the pandemic, and as a result I’ve seen many friends and peers leave NYC as I did. It is understandable many of us wanted to avoid the strain of the confining city; however, not everyone has the means or the access to a comfortable place to stay outside of NY. Although the circumstances of the virus are very concerning, I’m feeling incredibly grateful and fortunate to have my family to get through this with. While in isolation I’ve been feeling stuck regarding how I can provide aid to those who aren’t in a place of comfort. Thankfully there are places like the Ali Forney Center. The AFC is an organization that protects LGBT youth from the harms of homelessness. With the launch of their campaign “COVID-19: Caring for Homeless Youth,” they are dedicated to help those who are feeling the pressures of the virus and the quarantine.

With the help of my parents, we have photographed the masks I made throughout isolation. I am putting the photographs up for sale as 11 x 17 inch poster prints. Any print of your choice can be shipped to your address for a total of $40, and 50% of that purchase will be donated to the Ali Forney Center. Since accommodating for the pandemic, the center is experiencing financial strain due to providing additional meals, cleaning supplies, and essential care items for those in need. If you are able to, please consider donating and supporting AFC and other organizations that are providing aid. If you are interested in purchasing a print, please get in touch with me through Instagram DM or my email at mailto: 3michaelsullivan@gmail.com.

This is proving to be an unforgettable moment in our history. Despite our different personal circumstances, we have all been affected by COVID-19. It’s important for us to find our unique definition of peace and comfort while remaining isolated and safe. I have hopes that, although the start to 2020 has been unexpectedly difficult, we will have gained a greater understanding of what it means to push forward once this is over. We may be isolated, but we are not alone. Have trust in your personal strength, in the brave health workers fighting for our safety, and lastly, have trust that our future will allow us to embrace and celebrate human resilience.

Categories
Nightlife The Mixer

Photographer Mike Sullivan On Why Retro Factory Is One of His Favorite NYC Parties

THE MIXER | NIGHTLIFE


Photographer Mike Sullivan On Why Retro Factory Is One of His Favorite NYC Parties

This past Thursday saw another installation of one of my favorite NYC parties, Retro Factory.

This creative and unique event never disappoints. What makes this party unlike any other are the flash mob performances that happen abruptly throughout the night … with no warning or announcement, professional dancers flood the crowd and bring you a choreographed production.

The immersive experience turns partygoers into audience members in an instant. The energy is so inviting it’s hard to remain apart from the performances; I found myself nodding to the numbers despite squinting through my camera lens the whole time. The spontaneity keeps us on our feet – one always needs to keep an eye out not to miss another performance. However there is plenty of creativity to enjoy outside of the dance floor – many folks came sporting attire that reflected the Studio 54 theme.

The iconic club gave inspiration to the evening in more ways than one. The performances, the looks, and the essence of the night paid homage to the disco era, which fed our sense of nostalgia perfectly. Parties like Retro Factory remind me why I fell in love with nightlife in the first place – it encourages the freedom of creative expression and provides a palpable sense of adventure.

* {
box-sizing: border-box;
}

.row2 {
display: -ms-flexbox; /* IE10 */
display: flex;
-ms-flex-wrap: wrap; /* IE10 */
flex-wrap: wrap;
padding: 0 4px;
}

/* Create four equal columns that sits next to each other */
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 50%; /* IE10 */
flex: 50%;
max-width: 50%;
padding: 0 4px;
}

.column2 img {
margin-top: 8px;
vertical-align: middle;
width: 100%;
}

/* Responsive layout – makes a two column-layout instead of four columns */
@media screen and (max-width: 800px) {
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 50%;
flex: 50%;
max-width: 50%;
}
}

/* Responsive layout – makes the two columns stack on top of each other instead of next to each other */
@media screen and (max-width: 600px) {
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 100%;
flex: 100%;
max-width: 100%;
}
}

Categories
Ball Culture Events The Mixer Timeline

Icon Freddie LaBeija Presents: Ultravation Destruction Ball in Harlem, NYC

THE MIXER | EVENTS


Icon Freddie LaBeija Presents: Ultravation Destruction Ball, 2019

We’ve sent a voguing ball virgin Mike Sullivan to cover his very first Ball with the house of LaBeija, in the historic neighborhood of Harlem.

My First Harlem Ball

I’ve been adventuring around NYC for around 3 years now. It’s wild to look back at my first year, and to think of all the changes the city and the queer scene has gone through. Three years is a very short amount of time, and yet I’ve already noticed how quickly things can ebb and flow here. I’ve heard seasoned New Yorkers describe how it used to be, how the city has lost its unique shine. The individuality, the spirit, the essence of what makes this city incomparable. I must admit, hearing that breaks my heart. New York is just a watered-down version of what it used to be? I can’t, I won’t believe it.

I started rummaging around NYC in 2016, right when the election was taking place. I was bemused at how dreamlike the city was, and it quickly became a haven from the jarring state of our country. I immediately sought out the queer community, and like following a trail of candy I went from party to party, taking pictures and making friends along the way. How could people think that the city has lost its spark? To me, it seemed thriving.

However, with only 3 years under my belt, I can see what people mean. Venues close, parties end, and people decide to stay in. We feel the loss. On the flip side, we see new shows in different places. Old friends come through and new participants come forward. There is a constant shift in focus, and I can only imagine what changes this city will have gone through when I hit my 10-year mark, and beyond.

With all of that being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was gearing up for my first Harlem Ball experience. We’ve all seen Paris is Burning. Billy Porter was recently awarded an Emmy for his performance in the notable TV series Pose. These two impactful pieces of work give us a window into the lives of queer people of color in NYC in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Paris is Burning is a historic time capsule, capturing people at their most vulnerable. The documentary is rather short, only a little over an hour, but in that time we are exposed to an expansive and triumphant world. We get a feel of the community’s dynamic; the strong sense of family, the entrancing creativity, and the undeniable strength the community took to survive. Now, around 20 years later, I can only assume  the ballroom scene has been through massive changes. However, to my surprise, I stepped into a world that felt untouched.

The documentary and TV series do talk of change – they describe that shift in focus that we still see in NY today. Of course, there is no denying that the ballroom scene has gone through inevitable changes since the early ‘90s, but it is clear that icon Freddie LeBeija, the curator of this weekend’s ball, had a clear vision to uphold the essence of ballroom. I stepped into a well-lit school gymnasium, with tables lined up and scattered with snacks and decorated with colorful balloons. A stage at the back of the gymnasium had more tables set up for the judging panel. I got there early enough that the ball hadn’t started yet. Music was playing. Friends and family were mingling and eating the hot food that was provided…it felt like I had walked into a Thanksgiving dinner.

I must admit I felt a little self-conscious, being a cis white boy at a function predominantly attended by QPOC. The last thing I wanted to do was intrude…I was there to take pictures, and I did have a fear in the back of my head that I might be perceived as someone who was there to capitalize on a beautiful culture that I wasn’t a part of. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been photographing my friends and peers in NY for around three years now, which includes trans, non binary, queer folks of color. However this experience was already so different than the club, or a drag bar, where drinking and mingling with strangers is encouraged. Here it was well-lit, exposed, and the friendships were clearly already established. I was asked to attend the event thanks to Lexy who couldn’t come, so I ended up flying solo. I texted Lexy when I got inside and mentioned I wasn’t sure what to expect. They simply responded with “now watch and learn.”

A familiar scene started to take place…the crowd gathered and formed a runway in between the tables. The ball began with several prominent members of the community walking the floor, accompanied by cheers and applause. I quickly scooted my way to the end of the makeshift runway, kneeling to stay out of view but close to the action. The first category was virgin to the runway, someone who’s never walked a ball before. I was shaking in my boots, very tempted to walk…but I chickened out and remained a fly on the wall for the evening. The ball continued, and the energy in the room began to rise like water in a sinking ship. I quickly fell into autopilot and started to take as many pictures as possible. I don’t feel that I can describe the exceptional creative energy with any sort of justice, so I will let the captured moments speak for themselves. Frankly though, the photos I took don’t even hold a candle to the experience of actually being there. 

No matter where we go, especially in New York, we are painfully conscious of the present, the state of the world. However the people attending the ball danced adjacent to that pressure, protected and timeless. It rings true to the roots of ballroom, a community that gathered to remain above the criticisms and adversity of the white straight normative. Although balls are competitions, the event felt collective, celebratory, and inspired. My favorite environments to photograph are ones that are victorious. Not victorious as in a win over a loss, but as champions of self-expression and achievement. This event honored the pioneers, the legacies cemented in the ballroom family tree. They are an integral part of the foundation of our community.  We must attend these events, pay the cover fees, tip our queens, uplift their stories, and keep the tradition alive. I’ve heard New York City has lost its flame, but this weekend I photographed proof that the torch is ablaze, patiently waiting to be handed to those who follow.

* {
box-sizing: border-box;
}

.row2 {
display: -ms-flexbox; /* IE10 */
display: flex;
-ms-flex-wrap: wrap; /* IE10 */
flex-wrap: wrap;
padding: 0 4px;
}

/* Create four equal columns that sits next to each other */
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 50%; /* IE10 */
flex: 50%;
max-width: 50%;
padding: 0 4px;
}

.column2 img {
margin-top: 8px;
vertical-align: middle;
width: 100%;
}

/* Responsive layout – makes a two column-layout instead of four columns */
@media screen and (max-width: 800px) {
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 50%;
flex: 50%;
max-width: 50%;
}
}

/* Responsive layout – makes the two columns stack on top of each other instead of next to each other */
@media screen and (max-width: 600px) {
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 100%;
flex: 100%;
max-width: 100%;
}
}






























































Categories
Events Festivals The Mixer Timeline

Bushwig: The Future Of Drag And Queer Expression

THE MIXER | EVENTS


Bushwig: The Future Of Drag And Queer Expression

Bushwig 2019 just happened this past weekend! So bizarre to think of this being my fourth time at the festival. It goes without saying, that this weekend was just as amazing as the years prior. I’ll always have a soft spot for this festival, since Bushwig 2016 was my first ever queer NYC experience. I’ve met so many of my Brooklyn friends and family that year… 

The festival rattled me to my core and had me contemplating life, love, and everything in between. I had been playing around with drag and design for a couple of months at that point, but seeing so many queers in one space is some inexplicable shit. We can only try to put the experience into words, but at the end of the day, a person needs to see it, hear it, and feel it for themselves.

This was the first year that I was able to go both days to the Festival, which I would fully recommend. I had two days and plenty of time to connect with friends and capture the bountiful creativity around me. Bushwig had an interesting dynamic this year because it was on the same weekend as DragCon. Which epic drag event does one go to?!

For me the choice was obvious, but of course for our talented queer friends the choice might not have been as effortless. I sympathized with those who decided to go to both events, because that must have been exhausting. There were many creatives roaming the Knockdown Center. I couldn’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the events didn’t conflict. Would the Knockdown Center be even more occupied? A part of me wishes they were on different weekends, as I always have a sense of FOMO. It would have been cool to check out DragCon this year, but there was nothing that could keep me away from the nostalgic and magical feelings that Bushwig stirs.

Regardless of the conflict in events, the freedom to be your unique self was quite palpable and unwavering at the Knockdown Center. Not only did that uninhibited energy come forth in everyone’s personal presentation, but especially in the thriving and captivating performances. The one thing stronger than everyone’s individuality is the strong sense of community. Moments that especially reminded me how beautiful the BK family is, was watching artistic icons like Charlene and Juku crown the current reigning Mx. Bushwig Serena Tea. I’m thankful to have witnessed this moment. Not only because it was entertaining as fuck, but because its history in the making!

Bushwig is growing, and to be a part of its timeline and family tree is exciting and memorable. This festival exhibits the future of drag and queer expression, while also withholding the authenticity and importance of our community’s history. Sometimes it is hard for us to celebrate when we remember our community’s ongoing struggle. I am reminded on weekends like this, that family and friendship is the best fuel to move you forward. We are far from finished but we will not move forward alone. Thank you, Horrorchata, for creating such an important weekend for many of us.

* {
box-sizing: border-box;
}

.row2 {
display: -ms-flexbox; /* IE10 */
display: flex;
-ms-flex-wrap: wrap; /* IE10 */
flex-wrap: wrap;
padding: 0 4px;
}

/* Create four equal columns that sits next to each other */
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 50%; /* IE10 */
flex: 50%;
max-width: 50%;
padding: 0 4px;
}

.column2 img {
margin-top: 8px;
vertical-align: middle;
width: 100%;
}

/* Responsive layout – makes a two column-layout instead of four columns */
@media screen and (max-width: 800px) {
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 50%;
flex: 50%;
max-width: 50%;
}
}

/* Responsive layout – makes the two columns stack on top of each other instead of next to each other */
@media screen and (max-width: 600px) {
.column2 {
-ms-flex: 100%;
flex: 100%;
max-width: 100%;
}
}