James Carpenter: Following the Thread

I was impressed with James Carpenter from the beginning. Not merely because of his body of work or that he brought great ideas to our project. Quality speaks for itself. It was because he was open and approachable. That he was free of the need to impress is what impressed me the most. At the time I was living in Qatar, working on a fancy urban redevelopment scheme with teams of accomplished architects, engineers, planners, and construction-related consultants of every stripe. Among this esteemed, designerly crowd Jamie’s approachability was a rare trait, which made it all the more notable. We only met briefly but this impression stuck with me. When we fortuitously crossed paths a few years later in a TriBeCa coffee shop I had no reservations about re-introducing myself. And when I pitched him on it, the fact that he agreed to take part in this new Deviation thing was testament to his openness.

Athena Soules Has an Occupation

Ancient myths are littered with tales of descent. Be it a voyage to the underworld or a debilitating injury, heroic figures customarily fell from grace. But to be heroic, one must overcome. From descent there must be a succeeding ascent. Otherwise, it’s only a fall; a story of death and disease. It is the very process of overcoming that makes one heroic, simultaneously grounded and majestic. Heroes are defined by their struggles.

N’Kenge: Firecracker

Singer N’Kenge is as radiant off the stage as she is on. I know a guy who calls her Firecracker. Petit, slender, and alive, her overflowing energy removes any doubt as to how she can channel such a powerful voice through such a small figure. She is not the rotund image that comes to mind when I think: opera singer. But this is just the first of my conceptions that will be challenged during our talk.

Francis Virella is a Righteous Man

I first met Francis Virella in the East Village. It was late at night and I was out having drinks with a friend. The two of us were standing on the sidewalk in front of a bar, talking with a girl who had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. That’s when Francis rolled up. He flashed before our eyes two samples of his work; rectangles cut from a shower curtain and adorned with erratic multi-hued smears of nail polish. He was skinny and his hands were dirty, as though too many hours had passed since his last shower or warm dinner. His nail polish paintings were on sale for twenty bucks. “I’m gonna be famous,” he told us.

Nikki Pope: Rocks

Nikki Pope rocks. It’s true. I’ve seen videos of live performances, heard songs from her latest album, we’ve met face to face… It’s intense, as though she herself is a physical manifestation of song. There is no question of who she is or what she’s about — she lays it out for you as plain as day. And now that I’ve got the in, I’ll soon be seeing her live and in person on a Broadway stage. I can’t wait.

Alex Smetsky: Loving Chaos

Sometimes it’s best to let a man speak for himself: “If you look at almost any one of my art pieces, one thing that I love to do is overlay a ton of graffiti. So if you look at the colors it’s just a bunch of graffiti overlaid, but it still can be found inside this compact little circle. It’s always been that way with me. I love watching chaos. There’s just something about my life, I love watching chaos. I looove watching chaos. I love watching chaos. ..."

Maria Neckam: The Silence of Sound

It’s been called different things by different people. Winston Churchill had his “wilderness years” and John Lennon had his “lost weekend.” Dylan disappeared for awhile, but as with all things Dylan, it’s hard to put a label on what that was all about. Churchill returned to political life to become an iconic World War II figure, Lennon’s lost weekend was actually a hugely productive eighteen months of solo and collaborative output, and Dylan emerged to write Blood on the Tracks following his first tour after nearly eight years of reclusion. Singer and musician Maria Neckam is returning from her own self-imposed exile, arriving with a new sound and a new approach.

Behroush Sharifi, New York’s Saffron King, Delivers Again

As with several millennia of traders before him, Behroush Sharifi specializes in moving spices across borders — specifically fine Persian saffron. Before the embargo was imposed on Iran, effectively closing off his supply chain by executive order, the famed Saffron King established himself as the city’s premier purveyor of this distinguished spice.

Bret Figura: Old Soul, New Emotion

Bret Figura’s home is one of those houses where the doorbell is always ringing, where neighborhood kids come over to see who’s around to play, and where a huge extended family gathers to celebrate holidays, birthdays and nothing in particular, too.?Bret seems to thrive off the energy, laughing easily and taking all the interruptions in stride. With a small, wiry frame and hair to match, he sits cross-legged on a stuffed chair covered with fabric in a musical instrument motif. His pug, Stella, snores impressively loudly on the chair behind him while Nanook, a giant white puffball of a dog, naps near his feet.

Rad Roubeni Is On Display

Rad Roubeni was born in Iran in 1978, the heat of the revolution. “And, being Jewish and being supporters of the king…” Weeks after Rad was born his parents sought refuge in Israel, then settled in West Germany where several of his uncles were established in life and in business. His father held no delusions about their circumstances, saying to Rad’s mother on the flight out that they would never be able to return. So Rad grew up in Hamburg.