AFTER OVER A YEAR OF SEARCHING AND RESEARCHING, THE VAM TEAM HAS FINALIZED AND COMPRISED OUR TOP 20 #VAMinfluencers – ARTISTS WHO ARE TAKING OVER IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND INSPIRE US TO BECOME MORE AFFLUENT AND DEDICATED TO OUR WORK.
Surrounded by fashion advanced family and friends since coming out of the womb, Elizabeth Margulis’s career choice was more a matter of destiny than decision. With a varied aesthetic spanning age, culture and creed from Eastern influences to underground Chicago, Elizabeth stresses the importance of modern art within her styling.
Taking cues from experiences in London, Paris, Moscow, New York and LA, her eye for design draws in collaboration with artists and publications such as CS Magazine and Glossed and Found. As a styling studio, Margulis takes a client’s vision and not only makes it into a reality but turns heads at the same time. This girl is killing the fashion game one editorial at a time.
Urban Photographer Todd Diederich considers himself as an alternative lifestyle documentarian. His photos capture the most vibrant and often harshest environments and neighborhoods to exhibit a thematic cultural relevance. Pseudo-street essences and candide shots are mixed with the neon buzz of the city, starlit skies and thump of the South Side drag balls. His collection of artwork shouldn’t be considered ‘voyeuristic’ but rather ‘participatory’. Todd throws himself into his art and aims to encompass all scenes not from an outside perspective but from the very heart of it all.
DJ Swaguerilla is a Chicago based Multimedia Artist influenced by the sounds of soul music, the golden age of hip-hop, future bass and the warm breezes of the tropics. His ability to read and feed his crowds when playing a set is flawless and will keep you on your feet until sunrise.
Swaguerilla is also a member of an artistic music collective called Banjee Report, focused on delivering musical stories of citizens from the #FUTUREHOOD – an all inclusive sound house of collective artists.
Mateo is an alternative queer photographer based out of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, whose work inspires and pushes the boundaries of social norms. Specializing in fashion editorials and intimate portraits, Mateo is always bold, raw and never without a sharp edge. His work aspires to capture the essence of his models and to break down gender roles, sexual orientation and social physical expectations.
Redefining the line between Pop and R&B, Daryn Alexus has been paving the way for leading female vocalists to take their spotlight in the Chicago music scene. Local implant from Washington DC, Daryn grew up from a young age performing in front of an audience.
Her largest contribution to the music scene is her recently released, fully loaded EP – GREEN – a pop-based collection of tracks investigating the “intricacies and power of love and relationships at the tail end of Summer”. Full of emotion and energy, Ms. Alexus’ work is an exciting narrative shared in part with frequent collaboration with producer Dee Lilly.
Zain Curtis is the Creator and Producer of TEEN WITCH, an underground teen arts magazine and collective comprised of all things nostalgic from our childhoods, the Internet, Nickelodeon, video gaming and anything sub-culture. With a heavy emphasis on praising the gay and transgendered youth in the underground art community, Zain and TEEN WITCH feature a wide variety of media from music mash-ups, to gritty photography, to brightly colored video collages that grind the teeth like a hyper-sexualized club kid pussy-popping down the rabbit hole.
There is very little we can give you on Contemporary Street Artist Leftyoutthere’s personal history- in fact, he’s so underground we don’t even know what he looks like. Chicago’s very own Banksy-esque public artist is known for his mind-warping anthill of maze-like patterns and unconventional mediums of paint on glass, brick, life size mannequins and even human skin. His work “examines the intervention of line and its ability to interrupt and transform spacial and temporal orientations.” Having exhibited at a number of galleries including the Mana Contemporary Gallery of FLATspace, and performed a number of live drawings at public events, Lefty is still protective of his identity and always comes toting an iconic face mask or bandanna. The mystery behind the man keeps us wanting more but his artwork speaks for itself and leaves a distinct cosmetic mark on the visage of urban landscapes.
Alex and Francis White have an advantage in the music production world considering this sibling-duo has been been collaborating minds since birth. The White siblings have released an annual album each year on 4/20 for the past 4 years. Each new record is available on Vinyl and CD and White Mystery tours world-wide relentlessly promoting their new material each year. This punk-rock team has vowed to each other, like monks of metal, to commit 100% to their craft for 10 years straight with the mantra “No Girlfriends. No Boyfriends. No Haircuts.”- to which they are just 3 years shy of being able to break. These carrot-topped cronies have gained support and attention from MTV, Vice Magazine, Pitchfork Music Festival and sponsorship from Levi’s Denim. Taking an oath to produce a new album each year, we look forward to seeing what White Mystery has to produce this next 4/20- behind the pressure of such a specific deadline.
Digital Media Artist and Musician Owen Bones has been making a name for himself in the Chicago Electronic Community and party scene. From exotic melodies and solid vocals to the chest pounding bass drops and face melting pitches, Owen Bones enhances his material with a new digital projection technology. Geometric chaos and otherworldly colors explode into digital avatars on the wall behind his booth and keep his crowds flooding in for a closer look.
Owen and co-producer Dev Street are also underway of launching a new outreach agency- ‘League’ that helps to unite and connect independent artists with financial backing and business connections to maximize positive impact in the community.
Self-stylist and phenomenal fashion icon Rhea Carter is never afraid of pushing the envelope with her image. With purple and pink ombre’ waves, or black and white curls to an explosion of blue locks, her hair alone has captured the attention of Vogue Magazine at this year’s New York Fashion Week. Not to mention her color-crazy prints and bold accessories make this Chicago native the most enviably dressed woman on the streets- no matter what city she’s in. With over 13 thousand followers on her Instagram alone, Rhea Carter (AhreDakar) is inspiring us all to take our wardrobe to the next level.
Since their original artistic collaboration in 2008, Sarah and Joseph Belknap have had a huge line of successes in the Chicago Fine Arts community. Having both received their MFAs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, this duo’s interdisciplinary art has been commissioned and exhibited in such places as the Arts Club of Chicago, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Comfort Station and Western Exhibitions, as well as the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Their work and studios span from Chicago to Brooklyn, Detroit and St. Louis.
The Belknaps’ work invokes an interstellar aesthetic as if their pieces fell from space and landed perfectly mounted and lit in some top-notch gallery. Their creations draw inspiration from the history of science, popular imagination and their shared sense of wonder for our true place in the cosmos.
Samantha Bailey is a renowned Chicago Actress, Writer and Producer of the web series “You’re So Talented” premiering in March of 2015. Her endeavors in theater and film span from The School at Steppenwolf to the Theater Department at Columbia College Chicago. Candide and honest, Samantha’s acting and writing abilities shine is this series. Through “You’re So Talented”, Samantha is working to empower actors and actresses from all walks of life to question who they want to be as artists and revel in a narrative to which all twenty-somethings transitioning into a new chapter of their life can relate.
The androgynous ‘Bougie Banji’ Miss Shea Couleé is one of the fiercest gender-bending performers in the Midwest. With an insane collection of self-designed and hand-constructed costumes, Shea is proving herself not only as an unstoppable queer live performer but also as an inspiring drag fashion artist. Head hostess of the weekly drag show #FACE at the Hydrate Nightclub in Chicago and multiple winner of local competitions, Shea Couleé is an unbeatable force working her way to the top with every click of her slick-ass knee-highs.
Audra Jacot works in the mediums of ceramics, sculpture and electric neon art. She celebrates and embraces the empowerment of sexuality through phallo-centric yet androgynous characters called “Breasticles”. Through her lighthearted characters, she reflects on the idea of Woman as a functioning vessel, perversely elegant and covered in a semen-esque high gloss glaze. This, in combination with a variety of exhibitionistic, sacrilegious and non-apologetic neon pieces, ties her work together to reflect on the symbiotic relationship between technology and pornography.
Anti-body Corp is an arts organization that specializes in the integration of both the mind and the body -the coordination of processes in the brain, including diverse sensory information and exhibits that challenge the spirit and the heart. Founded in 2009, The Corp collaborates with artists to create interdisciplinary works that span dance, performance art, film, video and music.
Thriving from a musically inclined family and upbringing, Saba Pivot (also known as Tahj Chandler) is an R&B and Hip-Hop Rapper from Chicago’s West Side, whose work originates from an early age inspired by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and other influential Midwest artists. Saba’s first autobiographical album “ComfortZone” was released in July of 2014 with hard-hitting narrative and innovative production meant to make sense of an environment that can be so rich in culture yet still so troubled. With the belief that all sounds can be music and the overall positive outlook and mindset on his surroundings, Saba Pivot has grown from young artist to undeniably talented emcee and producer in a matter of a few short years.
There’s little to say in praise that we haven’t already said before about Po’ Chop. She has constantly been inspiring as both a strong queer performer and powerful black female artist. Creator and choreographer of the experimental dance production “Black as Eye Wanna’ Be” which premiered at the 2014 Chicago Fringe Festival and teacher at Vaudezilla’s Burlesque studio, Po’ Chop is so tasty even vegetarians want to take a bite.
The imaginative photographic dreamscapes by Elise Swopes (SWOPESsodope) take an audience on an adventure through mind-bending, super saturated, upside-down and even underwater urban terrains. Both a graphic designer and photographer, SWOPES never limits her imagination and fantasies to a simple photograph. Her artwork will transport you to new horizons.
Founded in 2011 by designers Kristi O’Meara and Audrey Victoria, The Pattern Base is a textile design studio focused on providing both the resources and space to inspire pattern lovers around the world. The Pattern Base materials and prints are utilized in a plethora of artistic mediums to educate and advance the creative process.
Working as more than just a singular entity, duo-Production team Jeremiah Chrome and Brandon Boom have created a thriving and pulsing music label producing some of Chicago’s sickest experimental electronic music and self-christened “druggy R&B”. As a collaborative effort, the pair not only produce work as the independent group JODY but has also recently launched their larger based label Lo Motion, where a team force of artists combine heads to give birth to revolutionary ambient and neo-soul sounds. While there is no way to clearly assign genre to their repertoire, the low-lying, dark and ever-haunting tracks of THE DRUM will remain as nothing short of influential.