sneakers, brands, culture


sneakers, brands, culture

05/11/2016 Culture no responses



One name artists are intriguing.  Kasumi is a Cleveland based one, with original roots to Japan, whose background, story and rise as a globally recognized artist despite any formal education is interesting.  As the product of a mother and father who had respective professions as a musician and rocket scientist, Kasumi attributes her love for the arts and an organically curated skill set to her parents.  Shockwaves, a critically acclaimed experimental film as well as collaborations with Grandmaster Flash and DJ Spooky show her versatility in works which generally draw out abstract themes. Her imaginative and internationally respected work in film, video, music and live performance is supported by an extensive list of prestigious awards, grants and fellowships. Kasumi’s work recently shifted towards showcasing the rhythmic gestures and body language of iconic figures like Elvis, Rita Hayworth, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.  

The Process

“It all starts with a question,” she exclaims, when describing her artistic process.  This mantra helps me simplify the complexity behind the making of an obscure Marilyn Monroe neck gesture, which she morphs into a beautifully fluid and colorful media clip. Kasumi calls this a “loop”, a definite motif seen in her work and one repeats to the point where one can’t tell the beginning from the end.  She searches for the perfect movement from clips that exist in the public domain (Youtube and Archive.org) and through a technique described firsthand as “motion masking” she cuts it out with painstaking precision and multiplies the clip through a software interface all the way into a pattern that mimics the movement of an awesome wave. Her intentions as an artist help punctuate the originality of her work and for the sake of her brand she declares, “The language of my work are gestures.” Kasumi elaborates, “It’s these gestures and the communicative nature of body language that’s so strong and telling and maybe provide reason for why Elvis or James Dean became icons.”  By knowing how an artist thinks I’m able to gain insight into the genuine curiosity that drives Kasumi’s creativity and this makes for a much more enjoyable experience in viewing her art than doing so uninformed.


Global Appeal

A collection of impressive, video art works make up Kasumi’s “Perpetual Series”, is displayed in the lobby of the sleek and tallest skyscraper of Austria, DC Tower 1, in Vienna’s Donaucity. A number of the well known venues internationally where her works have been showcased include the Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, the Württembergischen Kunstverein Stuttgart, the Cleveland Museum of Art, EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center), Unpainted Media Art Fair (Munich, Germany), Museum of Contemporary Art (Krakow, Poland), Itau Cultural Center (Sao Paulo). Kasumi revealed to me, “My biggest following is in Germany, where experimental art is very popular.”  The fact that her film Breakdown, the 2010 Vimeo Remix Award Winner has 2,236,317 online total loads globally with thousands of views in France, Russia, Uzbekistan is testament to her art drawing global interest.  

Breakdown (geographic stats)


From spending time in her studio where I’ve witnessed her process and the work done to create a number of these multimedia pieces, my amazement is from the reality of her techniques and skills as an artist being completely self taught.  She’s resourceful and motivated to the point of using Youtube to practice and hone the skills relevant to any technique she’s eager to learn.  In our conversation she hinted that her intentions were not to prove anyone wrong nor did she use those who viewed her background to lack legitimacy as any motivation. Kasumi simply loves making art and has stayed the course throughout her career by continuing to harness her inspirations.  When prodded about the difficulties of being an artist, she alluded to the challenge of making money along with, “…being in abject solitude day in and day out.”  From attaining a degree(s) and the connections made within that process, Kasumi thinks it would be easier to sell and exhibit her work saying, “Friends take care of their friends.”

Mysterious background

Kasumi told me that her background of European, American and Japanese ancestry informs who she is as an artist.  When I prodded her about the name “Kasumi” she didn’t seem interested in talking about it.  I’m incredibly curious about how one can assume a one word name, curating a mystical identity such as hers and also, the point at which her surname ceased to exist.  She did concede, ” ‘Kasumi’ is just symbolic of the fact that I’m at one with my work.”

Is it tough being creative?

“I have more ideas than I have time to do.  Before I go to sleep every night I write down the things I want to get to the next day.  Sometimes I get to them, sometimes I don’t.  Those ideas inspire new ideas.”  The phrase, “What if?” motivates her to constantly evolve her work and presents endless possibilities for making new art.  “…What if I color this differently?  What if I stagger this differently?”


She’s recently made a fruitful connection with someone that makes media players.  Up until now Kasumi tells me, “there’s always been a little glitch somewhere in my loops.”  This contact has created a player that will show her loops perfectly, and now her loops are “…frame accurate, down to the molecule.”  This is an example of what she considers a very successful art/ technology collaboration. This breakthrough has allowed her to now make wall hanging pieces that are to her specifications and moving ahead she thinks it will drastically improve her work.  The aforementioned Austrian skyscraper still has a 35 foot video wall (pictured directly below) where her work loops indefinitely.  She’s on contract and in the process of making new work for that project.  Also, this coming July her art will be featured in Chicago at the Catherine Edelman Gallery.

proserpine in vienna full wall installation

Kasumi’s art is worth checking out and I recommend looking at the great content on her website and facebook page. Kasumi’s path, which defies the requisite degrees to attain prestigiousness and relevancy in the art world is empowering.  What turns some away from this industry is at times, the stodginess and condescending nature of gallery owners, artists and wealthy collectors.  Kasumi has a way that undermines any of these stereotypes and the authentic method she makes art as well as the her no-nonsense personality is what I like most. If one wants to learn more about her in Cleveland, she’s recently been on display at the Transformer Station and Spaces Art Gallery.

moca installation

Kasumi @ MOCA

03/31/2016 Culture no responses

Lebron, Narcissism and Twitter

Lebron, Narcissism and Twitter

The power of Twitter stems from its ability to output information on a global scale far quicker than any other media outlet.  When looking at events like the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony and the 2016 Oscars, which generated 9.6 million mentions and 440,000 Tweets per minute respectively, shows just how a great of a tool it at times can be.  The way Twitter can unite millions of people around these spectacles and allow for anyone to take part in the conversation who holds an interest in a common two or three hour event as it unfolds is spectacular.  On the flip side Twitter at its low point is rooted in the fact that the nature of a singular tweet serves no greater purpose than the equivalent of a facebook status update (LeBron is working out with DWade, LeBron is Batman).  Not only does following athletes or celebrities become an annoying routine, but just as bad is the wave of offline attention, analysis and ripple in the news cycle that’s created from the likes of a Lebron tweet.  

In short, even if you aren’t on Twitter and don’t succumb to following celebrities you’ll still be subjected to the media coverage from their foolish behavior.  Lebron has consistently tweeted some pretty stupid stuff in the past few weeks.  Whether it’s a cryptic message directed at Kyrie Irving in lieu of Steven A’s reporta showing of desire to partner with fellow Olympic teammates, or his sidestepping the media in response to the fact he unfollowed the Cavs directly speaks to Twitter’s power to broadcast narcissistic behavior.  The subsequent and consistent wave of news that always tends to follow stupid tweets of his like these show there’s less of a fallout, but more of a reward issued to temperamental superstars for the childish ways that they think.  It’s probably painful for Lebron to witness the commanding nature in which Stephen Curry has dethroned him as the league’s best player.  As I sat at a Cavs game with my brother last week I asked him what to make of all this Twitter nonsense.  He decided that Lebron can’t stand all of the positive media attention Curry gets and to compensate for it, he tweets the most asinine of things.  Anything short of Lebron delivering Cleveland a championship a ring I really can’t imagine following his Twitter account nor paying attention to his behavior on it.  

02/01/2016 Fashion no responses

Tinkering with Greatness

Tinkering with Greatness

Tinker Hatfield’s contributions to Nike constitute the most illustrious and famous run of a sneaker designer ever. As the architect of Nike’s first signature shoe line, the “Air Jordan”, his artistic skill would be equally matched from Michael’s brilliance on the court over time. Hatfield’s concrete speckle, infrared colors, translucent soles, and patent leather are just a few of the popular motifs seen repeatedly across his 26-plus designs to the extensive Air Jordan line.

Looking back to when their partnership began in 1988, this union seems mystical. Together they’ve catapulted Nike to its position as the most dominant global athletic apparel brand ever and just last year the Jordan brand sales exceeded $2.6 billion. The Air Jordan III commemorates their first collaboration. Maybe it was a good luck charm of sorts. In this shoe, Michael made his 1st All-Star appearance, won the Slam Dunk Contest and earned All-Star MVP honors. Flush with the Jump Man logo, clear air pockets, and elephant print, these elements established an identity for the Jordan Brand simultaneously to the unveiling of Tinker’s skillful artistry to commemorate his very first design.

Tinker’s creativity came to life in the drawings he created for each release. He channeled his inspiration taking aspects of Michael’s life into and integrating them as design elements. For example, the heel tab of the Jordan VI was symbolic of Michael’s Porsche and that same shoe features a vibrant neon, infrared shade. Tinker used influence from World War II with a part of the Air Jordan V’s makeup. Mimicking a design element of the mustang fighter plane, he used similar “teeth”, which appear on the shoe’s midsole. Tinker pushed innovation and technology to revolutionize basketball shoe design and in the process distanced Nike heights above the boring, status quo styles seen from the competitors (Converse, Adidas, Avia). He used non-traditional fabrics, such as a connected aqua boot, lightweight mesh lining, perforated leather, cris-crossing velcro straps, tongues constructed with square holes, and air padded soles. Similar style elements that Tinker has created also power the current designs of Nike’s other wildly popular Air Trainer, Air Max, Roshe, Huarache and Air Vapor Tour (Federer) lines.

Throughout the countless designs Tinker created for the Air Jordan line, there was never the slightest hint of a dud. The sheer volume of work and sustained quality, which he devoted to the Jordan brand makes Tinker one of the best shoe designers ever.  From looking at all of his subtle, futuristic, bright, bold and sleek designs it’s rewarding to see his creative appetite, and vision manifest itself in the shoe’s aesthetic.  MJ and Tinker’s  relationship encouraged each other’s best work. Aligning with Hatfield’s inspirational design efforts, the fruits of Michael’s labor garnered 6 rings, 5 MVPs and 14 All-Star appearances.

Hatfield’s vow was to make a sleeker and better performing basketball shoe with each new release of the Air Jordan. To basketball players and sneaker fans the Air Jordan XI ‘Concord’ is regarded as one of the best shoes ever. Michael would voice his feedback for various improvements before any of the upcoming models were released. Tinker’s Concord design fulfilled Michael’s request for a “shiny shoe”.  With its final design Tinker created the first basketball shoe ever to incorporate patent leather along with a carbon plate in the shoe’s midsole.

Any figure relative to the magnitude of Michael Jordan, whose shoes have sustained such popularity, even 16 years after retiring is a reality that’s unfathomable for any brand. For Nike and the Jordan Brand’s sake it helps to have a figure comparable to MJ endorse a brand from the onset, be overwhelmingly successful throughout their career (to the point of “greatest ever”) and continue with the promotion brand afterwards. If Tinker didn’t possess an insatiable appetite for creativity it’s speculative whether the Jordan label would achieve such notoriety. The success of the Air Jordan was influenced by the monster of a marketing machine created to promote it by leveraging filmmaker Spike Lee for several commercials. Lee’s inclusion of the shoe in the film Do The Right Thing was seen a seminal moment for the integration of brand endorsements into mainstream and hip-hop culture. For these reasons I don’t think the Jordan brand simply sells itself.

Nike follows a calculated schedule for the retro Jordan releases. They are made with the slightest material and color variations from the original drops. When Nike launches a new pair Air Jordan’s it’s very difficult to secure a purchase, despite their typical sell price ($190). These drops around the world attract crowds of crazed, sneaker heads.  Usually the inventory sells out in a matter of minutes.   It’s safe to say the body of work put forth by Michael and Tinker marks them as the best of their craft in basketball and sneaker design. Today, royalties Michael has on the Jordan Brand generate him an estimated $60 million annually and Tinker holds the Vice President of Special Projects/ Design title for Nike. Of course it’s exciting to have been part of the Air Jordan generation and to have watched him play, but I feel just as lucky to have witnessed the Tinker Hatfield’s designs.


MJ and Tinker collaborating on the Jordan VI


The Jordan XI Concord