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Camille Hoffman; Art, Cultural Identity and Polly Pockets

There is work and then there is play, or so we thought. Camille Hoffman—artist, arts educator and community organizer—is not afraid to do both at the same time.

As an artist, she does not let the intensity of her works’ messages stop her from having fun with her creations. Hoffman takes everyday materials—anything from the popular Maruchan ramen packaging to medical records—and creatively gives new meaning to each element by transforming the material on the canvas. Playtime takes on an entirely new meaning in Hoffman’s studio. By repurposing consumer products, her choice of substances carries a heavy symbolic weight. Many pieces echo a dark critique of the American values rooted in colonialism and capitalism.

Her creations, though serious in their message, are the result of the excited energy that radiates from dedication and palpable passion. From February to May of this year, Hoffman has been a Van Lier Fellow at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). Her passion has been put, quite literally, on display.

On a recent visit to MAD, I caught a glimpse of Camille Hoffman in the studio and the sight was inspiring. After meeting her and seeing, firsthand, the texture and intricacy of her pieces, I needed to find out more. Hoffman kindly agreed to an interview and what resulted was a flourishing conversation of art, creative upbringings, Polly Pocket dolls, and the undeniable need for good friends.

The Brightest I’ve Ever Seen Them, 2016, oil, acrylic, nature calendars, plastic, carving on wood panel.

When did you first get started in art? Were you always interested in it growing up?

I grew up in a house where art and thrift was embraced as a lifestyle and a mode of survival. Coming from a long line of stylishly frugal artists, our old Chicago bungalow was filled to the brim with family paintings and carefully curated chachkas. Everything we owned was made, traded, or purchased on a shoestring budget with a unique story to tell. As a kid, I didn’t always appreciate this lifestyle, especially when it came to comparing it to the “normal non-artist” houses and toys belonging to my friends.

 At the height of the 90’s Polly Pocket craze, this 11-year old materialist sentiment was especially fervent. Compact, but luxurious, Polly had every pretty plastic amenity her teeny tiny heart could desire—a pool, a veranda, a king-sized bed—all perfect and pocket-sized. Her mini crib in pastel pink represented the sleek and sparkly world that I so desperately wanted to own, but would never actually fit into. Of course I begged my mom to buy a Polly for me (the deluxe one just like Shannon’s), but mom wasn’t having it. After weeks of putting up with all my annoying antics, she proposed that I just make my own damn Polly Pocket. She reached deep into our cupboard for some plastic cups, and together we crafted a mini mansion shell in SOLO red. We took tiny glass beads and scotch tape from her jewelry drawer, and then made the most lit chandelier! My tiny king-sized bed was crafted with recycled fabric swatches and lined with the finest Maxi mattress pad (only the best in comfort for my Polly)!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, my homemade Polly Pocket housed my primary lessons in art-making as anti-capitalist agency. Through frugality and invention, my mom opened up a new and expansive world to me by empowering me to create my own.

Describe your art process from conception to creation.

Everything I make comes from a never ending (and almost fanatic) process of observing, playing and collecting. Whether it be walking down the street or engaging in conversation with my neighbors, I’m constantly picking things up or taking mental notes about color combinations, textures, and even smells. In my studio I have a ridiculous reserve of materials I’ve collected from the street and dollar stores over the years, such as plastic tablecloths, calendars, to food packages. Having these objects scattered about helps me to further conceptualize my ideas and my compositions when I’m working in the studio. I also reference a lot of printed historical and anthropological texts while making lots of sketches and writing lots of notes.

Eventually my experiences, materials and research coalesce into a clearer idea for a composition. Once I’m actually making the work, I’m engaging in a process of pure play with materials and layering. So much of my work involves intense research, and then a complete trust and letting go of my analytical and rational brain in order to create.

Sunset for Fred Church, 2016, acrylic, oil, plastic tablecloths, nature calendars, Top Ramen packaging, tiki party favors, plastic bag, and photos on board.

What stories are you trying to articulate with your mixed media work? What narratives do your materials express?

I’m currently working on a series of invented landscapes that respond to American Romantic landscape painting, such the Hudson River School, and the underlying messages surrounding Manifest Destiny in these works. As an American citizen and painter who’s been formally trained within the Western canon, I think a lot about the ways in which these beautiful and epic landscapes have warped my own ideas around nature, culture and the American dream, as well as my own understanding and acceptance of my Filipino and Ashkenazi ancestry.

In my work I am investigating how painting has historically projected an image of an American value system that continues to violently omit the cultural and economic contributions of Native Americans and immigrants. Considering the nuanced ways in which American colonialism affects my present day existence within a globalized and capitalistic society, I am riffing off of American landscape painting tropes while purposefully merging disposable materials that have been collected and accumulated in my everyday life. Some of these materials include papier mâché medical records, paycheck stubs and credit card offers, which I use to build dense and highly textured surfaces, along with dollar store nature calendars and plastic bags and tablecloths. I then blend these materials in with traditional oil paint in order to create invented territories that implicate my own body, history and presence in a critical and layered way.

Describe your typical day while working at the Museum of Arts And Design (MAD).

My typical day involved making my work in a studio on the 6th floor of the museum while inviting people into my space from all walks of life. Over the past 4 months, I’ve had the honor of welcoming literally hundreds of people from every age, background, country and community into my space, and watched them respond to my work. From preschoolers to scholars, first-time museum visitors to museum directors, rabbis to Buddhist monks, all of these invaluable exchanges have helped me to better understand the importance and responsibility of my role as an artist in conversation with the world.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist? What do you struggle with most?

Although it can be financially and emotionally trying at times, I appreciate having the agency to craft my life around the thing that I love doing more than anything in the world, which is making my art. Even when I find myself in the midst of banal chores or exhausting side-gigs, I know that it’s all for me and for my practice. Coming from a family with a lot of love but not a lot of money, I’ve learned to never take anything or any experience for granted.

Where is your artistic inspiration derived from?

So much of my inspiration comes from the ways in which I was exposed to art as a kid growing up in a creative and transcultural household. I come from a long line of artists in my family, including my grandmother, Shoshannah, who has been one of the most influential creative people in my life. She was a painter who became active in the 1930’s and 40’s depicting the human figure in urban settings around Chicago where she grew up.

Coming from a mixed-race Filipino Jewish family and raised in a Latino community on the Northwest side of Chicago, I am also constantly tapping into material experiences that stem from my own history of cultural contradiction and ancestral disconnect. One such example includes the recurring tiki party palm tree decoration that I plant in many of my works. On one hand it’s a fun tropical trope that has adorned on the patios of many parties I’ve attended and enjoyed, but at the same time, it’s cartoon gesture can be seen as a violent caricature of an ancestral land and culture seized, destroyed and minimized to the point of exotification and entertainment. I’m interested in how these layers of personal meaning and history can be extracted from objects like these through the repositioning of their site and context.

What is the best advice you could give to emerging artists and creatives?

Practice self-care and find friends who uplift you. Surviving as an artist, paying the rent, making and defending your art in this world is hard enough, let alone trying to please people who don’t fully accept you, waste your time or don’t reciprocate the support.

Develop a routine of self-care, separate from your art practice and from others that allows you to pause in your day to day and ground your mind. Whatever the practice is, see it as the regular replenishing of love and care that only you can give to yourself.

In addition to self-care, and despite the strong solitary studio rat persona that many artists project, there exists in all of us an inherent need to feel supported, loved, and appreciated at some level. It is therefore crucial to cultivate genuine connections with friends who believe in you, who will show up for you when you need them, and who’s honest opinions you can trust at critical moments. It’s important to unabashedly put yourself out there too, in order to identify these individuals. I’ve found that it has been at the most vulnerable and open moments of my life when the right friends have revealed themselves.

By Tatiana Gallardo | Paintings by Camille HoffmanPortraits by Adrián Bará


Vivienne Hu: The Effortless Fall Style You’re Looking For

Vivienne Hu stuns again with a flirtatious and bold lineup for her Fall/Winter 2017 collection. Hu’s erstwhile run as an investment banker did not last long as her passion and skills brought her to the world of fashion—and we’re blushing about the designer’s upcoming release.

Her FW17 collection quickly debunks any negative notions you have about dressing stylish and staying warm during the coolers months. While Hu’s cocktail dresses charmingly dashed across the runway of her New York Fashion Week show in February, the standout attraction was her assortment of cozy pea-coats and parkas. The outwear pieces were garnered with audacious fur pockets, necklines, and sleeves. She makes you want to quickly ditch your boring winter layers and opt for one of her high-end pieces.

Olive green, mustard yellow, and cardinal red made a natural striped backdrop for numerous pieces, from swinging mini dresses to tailored jackets. Hu takes the guessing game out of getting ready for the fall and winter season. Now I’m not saying you should stick to one brand for all styling needs, but Hu does make the process easy with a collection of trendy jumpsuits, flirty gowns, and thoughtful accents of autumn hues.

By Yegide Matthews | Photos by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images/Courtesy of Vivienne Hu

An Insider’s Guide to 5 Breathtaking Manhattan Destinations

New York City, you are too good. You are endlessly beautiful, grand, and dare I say it, holy. I bow down to your immense, towering buildings. I walk your sacrosanct streets with a smile as I breathe in the passing halal cart, as I make eye contact with a fashionista parading down the street. I smile because you are too, too good.

Having lived here for over eight months, I have done some serious Manhattan venturing. If I were to think back to all my adventures and pinpoint the moments and excursions that left me most astounded and awed, then these five destinations below would be at the top of the list. If you find yourself on this glorious island, these should be your go-to’s.

#1. The Oculus
This is something you need to see in person. The Oculus structure at the World Trade Center has taken a standard transportation hub to another level. This is a first-class architecture masterpiece. As you walk through the Oculus, you are engulfed by immense whiteness. It’s magnificent.  As you walk around, awestruck by the brilliant construction, you can stop at any of the endless shops and food spots.

#2. Central Park
It goes without saying that Central Park is beautiful. Spend a day here. Get lost within its seemingly never-ending paths. You can rent a paddleboat, picnic in Sheep Meadow, or stop by the zoo. Watch the clouds or watch a game of community volleyball. Central Park is breathtaking in the way it brings everyone, from all different backgrounds, together in its incredible green space.

#3. The Brooklyn Bridge
Get ready to brave masses of tourists, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. Start in downtown New York and cross over the bridge. The journey will be beautiful. The intricate cables hanging above you make for the perfect photo shoot. Grab a friend and make it to the other end, where you can watch as the Manhattan skyline glows as you venture throughout the quaint, picturesque Brooklyn hotspot, Dumbo.

#4. The Whitney Museum
The Whitney Museum is a piece of art in itself. Its asymmetrical design stands out from the industrial buildings of the surrounding Meatpacking District. This multi-floor, expansive art center features incredible exhibits and outdoor spaces that overlook the High Line. Make it a day trip and walk the High Line after your enriching art adventure.

#5. Chinatown
Come hungry. Walking through Chinatown is like stepping into another country without even leaving the borough of Manhattan. You’re teleported to a foreign land filled with street vendors, amazing food, and cool people. Dine your way through the tiny streets while making quick pit stops to shop the markets or the tiny trinket stores.

New York City will never stop taking my breath away. I wish every person can experience this feeling of constant amazement and inspiration. Add these five must-sees to your list and be truly dazzled by Manhattan.

By Tatiana Gallardo | Featured Photo: Ferdinand Stohr/Unsplash; Central Park: Roberto Nickson/Unsplash

I Booked a One-Way Ticket and You Should Too

I did it. I am going. I have purchased my one-way ticket to Colombia and I’m not turning back—for now. In May, I leave for a two-month solo backpacking trip throughout South America. I’m nineteen years young and I’m doing it. I’m taking off and going on the trip of my fantasies. I’m excited, terrified, electrified, and hopeful. More than anything, I’m ready.

After I first tasted the thrill of travel, I was hooked. When my parents first took me abroad to Mexico, they did not expect that I would fall in love. His name was the World and I was undeniably enamored. I was unleashed into the colorful layers of culture and people and exploration. It was a place so different than my New Jersey suburban standard. I didn’t want to go back. The World invited me on the best date of my life.

Come travel, said the World, as he bestowed upon me the most glorious of gifts: wanderlust.

Since then I have buried my face in gooey cheese in Paris, France bathed in thermal springs in the Ecuadorian mountains, danced with the locals under the stars on Greek beaches. Each moment abroad has been a blessing.

Traveling has revitalized a spirit in me I did not even know existed. When I’m exploring a foreign land, my happiness becomes radiant. It becomes palpable. To chase that joy, I continue to travel.

I’m not alone in this journey to discover as much of the globe as possible. Within the internet lies a wonderfully immense travel community. It has become so easy to hook up with fellow-travel obsessed people on forums like Lonely Planet, for instance. You can meet new friends and find out the best local spots in a small village before even arriving to the new territory.  There are so many tips and travel guides at our disposal. The blossoming travel community is incredible and inspiring. When I peruse Instagram travel accounts, I can’t help but feel that nagging itch to hop on a plane and explore.

In the words of one my favorite female travel bloggers, Gloria Atanmo of The Blog Abroad, “If you get one chance to live on this big, amazing planet your entire life, however long that may be, wouldn’t you want to spend time exploring it? Learning about it? Challenging it? Loving it? Yeah, me too.”

Count me in.

This summer, I am going. I am doing it. That wondrous wanderlust glows within us all. Unleash it. Make that dream trip you have always been thinking about a reality and fall in love with the World. Be bold, book the ticket, and go.

Seriously; what’s stopping you? Check out my recent trip to Miami here. And of course who can forget last year’s #YHMTravels adventures? Share your spring and summer trips with us using the hashtag #yhmtravels on Instagram and Facebook. 

By Tatiana Gallardo | Photos: Unsplash/

Limor Ben Yosef: The Bridal Couture Designer Every Bride-To-Be Needs to Know

Limor Ben Yosef, an Israeli bridal couture designer constructs stunning custom-made wedding dresses. Embellished with hand sewn gems and draped with a touch of power, she designs from the heart. She is self-taught and spent many years crafting her skills in beauty and fashion. Her 2017 collection, “Goddess,” is a true testament of “practice makes perfect.” The collection exemplifies how her adolescent years as a budding designer can produce not only a work of art, but a designer who is inspired by other women more than fashion trends.

The “Goddess” collection began with the careful selection of high-quality laces and fabrics. The gowns are adorned with an array of hand-stitched pearls and crystals on chiffon and silk fabrics. Limor sketched each dress by pulling from late night imaginations to early morning motivations. “Goddess” deserves much applause for its pitch-perfect fairytale designs. Her dresses are made for strong and sexy women who have an affection for power and beautification; hence the name “Goddess.” “I took the name from [Greek] mythology. Many of them are women; strong women.”

Limor explains her work is a specialty in bridal couture. One look at the intrinsic details of beads, lace, and patterns of her gowns, there is no denying that. “All my life I thought of bridal couture. It’s unique; I’m thinking outside of the box. I was tired of seeing all the same looks. All my life I thought of doing something else.”

Limor Ben Yosef

Strong and independent women are the motifs for Limor’s designs. She dishes that she is inspired by the female body to create the delicately detailed gowns she is known for. “We are women, we always have a little belly or butt. When I design, I’m always thinking of how to see the waist or to hide the little body that we have.” Limor also looks to her dreams and the fabrics she designs with for inspiration. “I like elegant and sexy.” The women purchasing Limor’s pieces, she explains, are chic. “They are special; unique. They are looking for something else that’s not by the books. Something that is more than fashion.”

So where did this phenomenal designer get her start? Limor explains that she connected with fashion at an early age. “I was 14-years-old when I started drawing in my notebook; everything was in the form of a dress.” Her entrepreneurial spirit kicked off at age 15 when she opened a beauty parlor on her parent’s rooftop. During her humble beginnings, Limor styled family members, her mother’s friends, and neighbors at her beauty parlor. While you might think an at-home beauty salon would rub her parents the wrong way, Limor explains that wasn’t the case. “They saw that it was really in my blood.” She also mentions that her father pushed her to move forward and to work hard. And that’s exactly what she did. Before she knew it, Limor was branching out to new clients. She had a unique perspective on beauty and fashion to offer her clients at a young age. “It came from the inside; I climbed very far and worked hard.

2017 Collection “Goddess”

Limor’s early development as a business owner helped her effortlessly navigate into the fashion industry. She opened a full-fledged showroom and studio for blushing bride-to-be’s and their bridesmaids to model off her dresses and create the perfect look. She explains that her youthful experience shaped her to be the well-rounded businesswoman she is today. “It prepared me to go outside of my country.” The designer has traveled from Milan, Italy to Utah, USA.

2017 marks the second year Limor’s gowns strutted the runway of an Israeli beauty pageant. She dresses all the women of the competition. She was blessed to send her dresses off as one young woman went on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant and another in Miss World. “It was really exciting. It’s people from all over the world seeing my designs.”

Limor’s next design adventure awaits her on the red carpets of Hollywood, styling some of the most sought after celebrities. “I want to dress women for the Oscars and other red carpet events; Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, and Beyoncé. It would be an honor for me to dress them. Beyoncé is a sexy and powerful woman.”

While Limor gets most of the face time for her brand, her husband, Gil Ben Yosef plays a vital role in making the company run smoothly. “He’s the one behind the scenes.” Their teamwork makes for the perfect duo. Weddings are a big deal and one of the most important days of a couple’s lifelong journey. Limor admits that she never feels nervous about her work because it comes from the heart. “[The brides] know I’m there for them.” Her gowns are limited editions and custom-made, which makes every bride-to-be feel even that more special when Limor shows them the final gown. “Every day you have a special moment where your heart burst into tears. Everyone who is in the bridal salon is blown away. We make people so happy,” explains Gil.

2017 Collection “Goddess”

Once all the toasts have been made and the dance floor is cleared, Limor receives the most warming touch of sentiments and praise from the women she dresses. “When I finish a dress—the hugs and kisses I get—it keeps me going.” She dishes that her favorite thing about weddings is a classic—“when the groom sees the bride for the first time.” Referrals never fall short in Limor’s studio and while she focuses on bridal couture, she branches out to pageants, galas, cocktails and hopefully red carpet events.

By Yegide Matthews | Photos: Courtesy of Limor Ben Yosef

Why Brownies Are an Essential Part of Life

When it comes to dessert, there is no shortage of sweets to grant us pure bliss. However, it is the brownie and the brownie alone that is not only capable of bringing us joy but is an essential part of being happy.

While other desserts are concerned with serving a purpose—ice cream to get over heartbreak, chocolate chip cookies to leave out for Santa Claus, you get me—the brownie is the only sweet that exists for no other reason than to satisfy the consumer.  It’s impossible to be upset with a mouthful of brownie.  At the same time, a brownie isn’t a food that is used only when someone is having a bad day.  A brownie can be used in a celebration, a day off, or even to complement another dessert. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen whips a delicious brownie and ice cream combo.

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches from Smitten Kitchen

Brownies are subtle, even a little shy.  They don’t demand to be the center of attention.  They don’t need to be linked with big events like birthday cakes or breakfast muffins; they just need to be brownies. Speaking of muffins, another editor made a case for why we need to make space on our Instagram feed for muffins. Now back to talks of chocolatey goodness. Brownies can even be a little healthy for you—just check out Minimalist Baker’s recipe for vegan brownies with chocolate ganache.

No Bake Vegan Brownies with Chocolate Ganache from Minimalist Baker

Brownies are there for us.  They are easy to bake and even easier to dole out.  They leave the dividing to us: a different sized brownie for a different day of the week.  Brownies want us to devour them on our own time, as we please.  Brownies just want to live contentedly in our bellies, making our mouths full of gooey wonder and our hearts forever warm.

Eager to try a great brownie recipe? Allow YouTuber and TV personality Laura Vitale to show you how.

By Taylor Engle | Photos: Courtesy of Brands