Christina Kruse on Suprematism, Structure, And The Inspiration Behind Her Latest Exhibit

As one of the preeminent models of the nineties, Christina Kruse’s visage could be seen in every major fashion magazine, advertising campaign and on the international runway scene. The Teutonic blonde’s effortless cool garnered legions of fans in the fashion industry leading to a demand from photographers and designers that has endured two decades. I caught up with the model-cum-artist as she prepared to showcase her latest work in New York.

Tell us about your childhood.

I grew up in a protected nature area just outside of Hamburg, an idyllic place that is completely surrounded by forests and fields, which was great for my 3 younger brothers and I. We spent a lot of time playing in forests and fields…hundreds of tree houses later…

You seemed to take a pragmatic approach to modeling, understanding that it wouldn’t sustain forever. How does that pragmatism translate to your creative life?   

Modeling is clearly a time-sensitive job. I myself have thought of it as a summer job that has lasted 23 years. I am not sure if it was because of pragmatism or just a healthy dose of realism, but I was fairly prepared for each of the 23 summers to be the last one.

By nature, in my everyday life I tend to want to keeps things as practical as possible. I have found freelancers in general to be very pragmatic as work life is already unpredictable and at times challenging, so I think it helps to try to keep that at a minimum in one’s home life.

As a model you’re the object of someone else’s vision. Do you feel more or less vulnerable and exposed in front of or behind the lens?  

I don’t feel vulnerable or exposed by all means. If anything I think it is great fun being someone’s canvas for their vision.

What makes this job so great is that it is never the same. Mind you I also had the great luck of working with people that did a lot of high-end editorial work and not German mainstream catalog work, which I remember was a little less exciting with the exception of the salary. So either way I was eternally thankful for having been able to do both at times, and always with wonderful people.

Do you have a formal art education? 

I left school when I was 16 for modeling and tried to do my baccalaureate via post correspondence while living in Milan (there was no email at that time). That failed after only a few weeks, as I was constantly traveling. When I moved to New York, I took a good amount of SVA sculpture classes either in the evenings or in the summers as that was the only time I could be guaranteed to commit, since I was again traveling so much. I think I probably had an unusual education, but to me it was a pretty profound one because I worked with the best of the best in the photography and fashion worlds, and so what better education is there than being on set with Steven Meisel—the master of both worlds. Makeup begins on a blank canvas, hair becomes a sculpture, the set becomes a different world, the lights, the camera position…to combine all of that to create iconic imagery is pretty incredible.

What artists and artistic movements have had the biggest influence on you?   

Someone who always has and continues to move me greatly is Kazemir Malevich, who said sometime around 1915:

Under Suprematism I understand the primacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist, the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.

That about sums it up for me, and I relate to the minimalistic visual language.

Tell us about the process by which you work. 

Whenever I set out on something new, my initial question is what am I dealing with, what is it I want to see happening, and most importantly why.

Once the why is answered, all of it somewhat falls into place, and I will create the drawing, then choose a model and the materials, shapes, forms, and colors (if any).

And then I start building all of it and assemble it—this can be a very lengthy process as it is a construction and not only do all elements need to make sense and fit, and but they also need to be stable, dependent, and connected to one another.

As an artist, you work primarily in mixed media and photography. What medium do you identify with the most?

In recent years, wood. Very recently, metals have replaced my camera to a great degree. When I used to take pictures, I also enjoyed building the sets for it very much—they were part of the whole process, and over time I became much more interested in elaborating on these objects, eventually taking myself out of the entire process and only concentrating on creating that idea or feeling as an object or set alone.

What about structure compels and informs your work?

To me, everything and anything has a structure, whether it be a conversation, a garden, or a piece of art work. I simply see it at such— I don’t know why; it is just the way it is .

Naturally understanding structure is the essence of anything I do…it’s a bit like a house—without some supporting beams, it will fall apart. I like to see these beams and understand what they are about.

How has your current living arrangement in upstate New York influenced your work? 

Upstate has been really good for me on many levels. I have my studio up here, it’s quiet, and I am surrounded by trees—a perfect place to de-connect from a rather stressed city.

The other day I talked to a friend and said, “it’s odd: this whole place here feels like I am back where I used to be when I was a child. I renovated the house mainly myself, built a studio out of the garage, and organized the landscaping, all things I did in the forests when I was little except they were treehouses or apartments on the ground created by branches and tree stomps.

I am finding myself in the same scenario that I loved to be in 40 years ago, which is kind of brilliant, and I suppose my very own structure has remained the same.

Tell us about your latest exhibition at Seaman’s House.

The show was organized by the curator Helen Allen and is really a show between my friends, their friends, and Helen’s artist friends, which has been great fun. It started out to be much about a minimalist and very structured tight works but then evolved into a grander scheme with perspectives coming from an architect, an environmental activist architect, and two artists that are everything but minimal in any of their works. It all worked wonderfully well together, which was really beautiful to see, as it was a great dialog between very different positions and views.

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Introducing Connor Newall

Connor Newall was plucked from obscurity and propelled into the upper echelons of the fashion industry after a serendipitous meeting with casting director Claire Catterson. Connor’s appeal is reminiscent of the wave of male models in the mid nineties when individuality was championed over convention. I spoke with Connor via email to find out how he’s adjusting to his newfound career.

Tell us about your childhood.

I was just a normal kid from Glasgow who loved playing and watching football and hanging out with my mates.

Tell us about how you were discovered.

I was discovered by a casting director who works in film. She recommended me to a modeling agency in Glasgow and they reached out to me and signed me immediately.

Growing up in Glasgow, had modeling ever entered your mind as a possible career?

Modeling never crossed my mind once.

You’ve expressed interest in an acting career. What parallels do you see between modeling and acting?

Modeling and acting are quite similar; both create a form of art and capture interesting images.

What would you be doing if you weren’t modeling?

If I weren’t modeling I’d be in the British Army.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The biggest highlights have been all the amazing jobs I’ve done, the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been able to travel around the world.

What do you hope to get out of modeling?

I hope to start studying acting and work in films.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m not fashionable at all.

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Rubina Dyan Is The Artist You Need To Know

Armenian-born Rubina Dyan spent her formative years in Barcelona, Spain where she cultivated her love of the arts. Currently splitting her time between Los Angeles and New York, Rubina balances her modeling career with her passion for art. I spoke with her via email to find out how her unusual childhood influenced her work and how she would describe her style to the uninitiated.

Tell us about your childhood.

My childhood was quite an adventurous one. My parents come from very humble beginnings, and they always strived to give my brother and I better lives. I was born in Armenia and brought up in Spain, and after my little brother was born, we moved to California, which was almost 6 years ago. I recently moved to New York, but I go back to Los Angeles for work and to visit my family quite often. I have been very fortunate throughout my life not only to be able to travel so much but also to be raised by such incredible and exemplary parents that made all those transitions as easy as possible on me and my brother.

How do you think your background influences your art?

I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Barcelona—even before I found painting to be one of my deepest passions—I was constantly surrounded by the incredible art and architecture of the city. From Miró’s and Dalí’s surrealist and modern art to Gaudí’s fascinating gothic architecture, it was impossible for me not to get inspired to create as well. The color palette I am currently most inclined to use and the style I have developed throughout the years are clear examples of the influence my background has in my art, like Picasso’s deep and cold blues or vivid reds or the city’s mosaic-like architecture.

Do you think social media has helped showcase your work or made you more self-conscious?

I think social media has had a positive impact on my work because I have never really seen it as a way to get affirmation for the work I’m doing, but rather as a way to reach out to those who see it on a deeper level. I hope my pieces can somehow resonate with them or even bring out the inner artist in them.

What movements in particular do you identify with?

It’s quite hard to pinpoint a specific movement I could identify myself with as an artist. However, I have always been very fond of the following movements throughout the years: the impressionist era, which always stood out to me because of its purity, intensity, and richness; surrealism, which always fascinated me because of its imaginative way of expressing itself by analyzing the psyche; and abstract expressionism, which is mostly about expressing oneself through emotion.

Describe your artistic process.

It is as simple as keeping my eyes open at all times and carrying a sketchbook with me everywhere I go. There is always something that will catch my attention, reminding me that even the littlest things can be inspiring, and that I will hopefully develop into a new piece or style later.

What do you do when you’re in an artistic rut?

I recently got in a major artistic rut where I felt like I had a bunch of ideas I could develop into pieces but could not get myself to transfer them onto paper or canvas. So, after a few weeks of writer’s block or painter’s block, as one would say, I realized the best way to get myself out of that rut was by using all the pent-up inspiration on another artistic outlet, which is film photography. It definitely helped.

How has modeling and fashion influenced your work?

The fashion and modeling industry was always such a distant and unknown area for me. I never knew much about it or paid enough attention until I started drawing portraits or illustrations of the models in magazines I found around the house. When I began modeling myself, I found a lot of inspiring moments when traveling and getting to meet and work with incredibly talented artists and being around large sets, interesting backdrops, unique clothing, and intricate concepts…There is a lot that can be learned and absorbed from the fashion industry and applied and expressed in any other form of art.

How would you describe your work to the uninitiated?

Ah, that’s always a hard one!  My current style of work revolves mostly a blend of abstract expressionism and portrait work.

How does traveling affect the type of art you produce?

It is always easier for me to have all my supplies in hand, enough space, and good natural light…luckily enough, I mostly travel between California and New York, and I have little studios set up in both apartments. When it comes to the style of my work, it naturally tends to vary every time I paint. Traveling doesn’t usually affect it much.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I usually paint while rapping to Nas.

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Top Models Join Forces To Host a Panel On Female Empowerment For Foster Girls

On June 20, 2017, Select World and The Lions Model Management teamed up with Project Glimmer to create a day of empowerment for young women with the nonprofit’s community partner, Ticket to Dream Foundation, which serves foster kids in need.

This marked the first time Project Glimmer and Ticket to Dream partnered to celebrate and honor 2,000 foster girls nationwide who graduated from high school and college. Graduation is an exceptionally big milestone for these young women since statistics show that less than 50 percent of foster children exiting the system will graduate high school, less than 3 percent will earn a college degree, and 1 in 5 will be homeless within one year of aging out.

In New York, this partnership is poised to help foster youth take their first steps toward success after graduation. The day included a panel discussion with a group of successful women and a career development workshop. Project Glimmer, The Lions Model Management, Select World and Ticket to Dream united to give these young women useful tools, actionable advice, and support to help them reach their goals.

To promote Project Glimmer’s mission, Select World donated services to create a PSA campaign with the theme, “Share Your Glimmer,” featuring models from The Lions Model Management and graduating women from Ticket to Dream. GLAMSQUAD, the on-demand professional team for hair, makeup, and nails, was a beauty partner for the event, and donated the services of its beauty professionals who provided work-appropriate beauty tips during the career development workshop, and provided styling for the PSA photo shoot.

“For so long I used to hide and be ashamed of my past. But every mistake you’ve made – use it. Don’t hide it…No one has a perfect life. When we share our stories it creates a space for everyone to exist. I think that when we start sharing our diverse narratives and our stories, there’s going to be a place [for everyone]. Don’t feel ashamed,” model and activist Ebonee Davis stated.

The panel included Sabrina Yu, Managing Director, NY, Select World, Kelli J. Bartlett, Director of Makeup Artistry for GLAMSQUAD and Octavia Yearwood, artist, author, and motivational speaker, and was moderated by Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker, Deputy Editor at Billboard. They talked about career paths, challenges, and gave advice for the young women of foster care who are embarking on their next step post graduation.

Introducing Kouka Webb

Globe-trotter Kouka Webb spent her formative years in Tokyo before settling in New York and signing a modeling contract with The Lions. Whether she’s in front of the camera for Anna Sui or covering the Cannes Film Festival as a correspondent for ELLE Japan, Kouka balances her modeling responsibilities with her studies at New York University, and if that wasn’t enough, she fills her spare time with travel. I spoke with her via email as she made her way across eastern Siberia on the Trans-Mongolian Express.

Tell us about your childhood.

My formative years were spent in Hong Kong running around on the Star Ferry and eating dim sum for breakfast. My family then moved to Tokyo, where I went to school and spent time running cross country and eating sushi (running and eating being the recurring themes in my life). After graduating high school, I moved to New York at age 17 and signed with The Lions.

How you were discovered?

I was discovered in a flower shop in Japan when I was 12. I didn’t start modeling full-time until I was done with high school, but I’m still with the same manager who scouted me, and her son is the cutest.

How do you balance modeling and studying at New York University (NYU)?

I am always much more productive when I’m busy. Having worked in Japan from a young age, I find that I learned to juggle my commitments early on and the crazier my schedule is, the better my grades are. Although striking the right balance in work and play is difficult sometimes, I cannot complain as I really enjoy what I am doing right now.

Why did you choose to major in Nutrition and Dietetics?

Nutrition allows me to combine my love of food with my favorite subject. It is a fascinating field that is constantly evolving and is important because it applies to all of us—we all need to eat to stay healthy. I love reading the food labels in supermarkets and understanding what I eat. I truly believe that we are what we eat. The adage I live by is: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

A lot of the forums online praise your personal style. How would you describe your aesthetic?

My love of colorful clothes was instilled in me by my mother, who never liked to dress me as a child in black, gray, or navy. I would say that my aesthetic depends very much on my mood. Some days I like to pair my Nike sweatpants with my best grandad sandals, but other days I adore getting all glammed up.

What’s on your radar at the moment? 

My upcoming semester abroad in Ghana with NYU. My plan is to intern with a charity working with HIV patients in hospitals. I am looking forward to going to Africa for the first time and immersing myself in a completely different culture and environment.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am currently writing this piece on a cramped bunk bed aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express from Irkutsk in eastern Siberia to Ulaan Bator in Mongolia. It is admittedly very shaky, but there is nothing like the open steppe to get over the stress of my finals.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to complete my 4-year degree at NYU and become a registered dietician. I would love to continue working in modeling alongside this and traveling the world in between. Another goal for me is to climb Kilimanjaro, as I have been bitten by the adventure bug.

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