Paintings, tools and murals line the walls of Vacancy NYC, the shared studio space model-artist Myf Shepherd co-founded in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. “My boyfriend (Eric Parisi) and I started Vacancy about 2 years ago. I have been making art my whole life but really started taking it seriously once we got this studio."
Vacancy NYC is represented by the atmosphere itself: chaotic. Though somehow everything that is out of place, still finds a way to make sense. Geometric cubes hover on strings floating next to the vintage adult magazines on the wall, and a pile of skateboard decks under a wooden plaque with an elephant skeleton carved in with the phrase “So apparently elephants don’t have bonez in their trunkz”. And that’s just from Shepherd’s corner of the studio. There are about 6 or 7 creative spaces, each with its own artist’s designs. Vacancy NYC houses a troupe of young artists whose works aren't necessarily collective or collaborative, but have very clearly blossomed from the enigmatic spirit of its inhabitants.
Sex is the converging theme in Ms. Shepherd’s artistic creations. It can be vulgar and in your face or masked behind animal cutouts. Her use of an array of mediums captures the many sides of sex: detailed, beautiful, ugly, frightening, puzzling, perplexing. There is not one simple way to look at sex and her artistic direction exemplifies just that.
In Playing Fashion’s first artist profile, Ms. Shepherd explains her creative process and approach, while giving us a look inside the studio that is Vacancy NYC.
I BEGAN MODELING AT 17
After being scouted I came to New York and immediately began booking big jobs right off the plane. After a while I left to Australia to go to university, but I began to miss modeling so I came back. It has definitely had its ups and downs, but I’ve decided I’m going to kill it this year!
WORKING AROUND FASHION HAS DEFINITELY INFLUENCED ME
I don’t think that my art is necessarily “fashiony.” Although right now I am trying to turn my collages into silk scarves which… is actually pretty fashiony (laughs). I don’t want to be a fashion designer though.
SEX IS INSPIRING
Having lots of different sexual experiences: boys, girls, whatever. I am however in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend! All of the work that I create is pretty sexual. I have collected a lot of old books and magazines that I go through to get inspired, especially vintage Playboys and Hustlers.
I DREAM ABOUT ANIMALS ALL THE TIME NOW
They’re the main focus in my collages, so I incorporate them as symbols. For example, a phallic animal like a snake emerging from a flower or butterfly. I try not to be so literal with them, but I do use a lot of snakes and butterflies. If you look at my work there are a lot of subtle dicks and pussies, but not obvious at first glance.
PYROGRAPHY, COLLAGES, SCULPTURE AND ILLUSTRATION
are all mediums that I’m currently working with. I never even thought that collaging could be a serious form of art, but a lot of work goes into them. I have all these old Zoology books I find around the world that I go through for reference and photos. Then after arranging the image for the collage, they are mounted up and put in these bags to dry.
TECHNIQUE IS AS IMPORTANT, IF NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN CONCEPT
I definitely challenge myself by working on pieces for long periods of time. I have pieces like the pyrography that is so time consuming and takes months that I’d have to take a break and work on creating something big and fast like a giant painting just to have something finished.
Photography by Jens Ingvarsson; styling by Bert Martirosyan; hair by Kristine Cruz; make-up by Colleen Runné using NARS Cosmetics; stylist's assistant: McLayne Ycmat; talent: Myf Shepherd / Next.
Opening Image: top, skirt and shoes, all by Marni.