Mallory Bulman
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DenimSkin Review Inaugural Reading

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New literary and art review sets out to give a voice to today's underground artists

If I could pick any time to live in New York, it would be the 60s. Don’t get me wrong, I like all the perks and conveniences of modern city living, but there’s something so romantic about imagining what it was like when the people playing chess in Washington Square Park were gentlemen in hats and overcoats, or what it was like to look up books at the New York Public Library instead of reading Wikipedia. I imagine 60s-era New York as a more culturally vibrant time, a time when the city possessed an enigmatic combination of metropolitan beauty, endless opportunity and yet a visceral grittiness.

Expressionist painter Grace Hartigan once said of the artistic and literary scene in New York in the 60s, “There’s a time when what you’re creating and the environment you’re creating it in come together.” Hartigan was one of many artists integral in the rise of the underground avant-garde art collaborative the New York School, in which poets and painters converged to create an artistic urban collective influenced and supported by a synergistic relationship between artists.  Poets reviewed art, and painters were inspired by poetry in this harmonious underground society. Without the confines of traditional media, the artists during this time were free to create, be inspired and share their work in a vibrant artistic milieu.

DenimSkin Literary & Art Review Logo

via DenimSkin Review Facebook page

In a generation where the virtual reigns supreme, it’s refreshing to see a group of people dedicated to creating an artistic project that bucks the concept of conventional publications the way it was done in the era of Ginsburg and O’Hara. A forthcoming art and literary review, DenimSkin is the kind of collaborative project that would have been celebrated by the likes of the New York School. The publication recognizes the imagistic relationship between art and poetry, and is seeking to collect the works of like-minded people in an imaginative tribute to the creative culture of the city. There is an apparent sense of reverence for those who are brave enough to expose their passions to the world. DenimSkin is, inherently, a product of passion, and no one represents the passion behind the project more than editors Michael Demyan and Brian Van Remmen.

At the review’s inaugural reading on March 21, Demyan was clear about the purpose of the project – a platform for artists who may not have credentials or previous publications but talent and passion instead. The event, described as an evening of “no bullshit pretentiousness or awkward cliqueishness,” had a lot to prove as the first showcase of the talent DenimSkin has to offer. Set at the Stanton, a longstanding Lower East Side venue that looks more like a church than a poetry salon, the event drew in an offbeat crowd of locals with the promise of an open bar. In an unconventional format of alternating music and poetry, it was immediately clear that the publication is starting off with a solid network of creatives to support the goals of the quarterly publication. Musical acts included vocalist and ukulele player Jillian Bordeaux, pop/rock outfit Esta Coda, and standout folk duo Milk & Honey. Poetry was read by several open mic participants, including  DenimSkin’s own editors.

 

The tentative release date of the print publication is slotted for May 2nd, and Demyan has expressed surprise at the volume of submissions already received. Noting that they have received submissions from as far as Paris, the editor chooses content based only on its quality, not to “focus on where you’ve been published previously or where you went to school.” The review is being published in collaboration with an independent publishing company called Hip Pocket Books, but is still raising funds with a campaign on indiegogo.com to support this year’s four issues. DenimSkin accepts submissions of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, visual art, excerpts, essays and reviews on their website, DenimSkinInk.com.

The boundary breaking review poses an exciting call to action for the underground art scene. As Demyan describes it, the “bombdeath of bourgeois art in the back pocket of the city,” is a throwback to collectives of years past, and it promises the evolution of contemporary art as it is now. Expounding on the ideas of intellectuals of the past from the surrealists and the Romantics to the Dadaists and the beats, DenimSkin is the sanguine resurrection of the romantic New York history that’s still alive just beneath the surface.

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