Le Bain

Etta Shon's Sunset Sketches

We chat with Etta Shon, the NYC artist behind the 2018 visuals of our Select Summer Fridays' sunset party series, as SSF returns to Le Bain's rooftop every Friday.

LE BAIN: What’s your connection to Jules Kim and Katie Longmyer of Select Summer Fridays? 
ETTA SHON: I’d known about Jules’ work for several years as we have had many friends in common, and several of whom had suggested that I meet her because of our fashion/art/events connection. I was already a fan of Bijules. When I was in Paris for Fashion Week last season, I stopped by her showroom for a visit and we just clicked. I found her to be ultra unique and unconventional. Once back in NYC, she hit me up about the SSF collab, which I was happy to do. 

What was your inspiration while working on it?
I was originally going to go for an Art Nouveau inspiration, but Jules suggested that I go for a Patrick Nagel direction which probably makes more sense for the brand and its crowd. I was stoked about the Nagel direction as it reminded me of the hair salon posters from the '80s that I loved as a kid. 

You were raised in California. How did it influence you as an artist? 
I was raised in an ultra conservative community in Southern California and I was considered to be a bit of a hellion throughout my youth. I went to a super high-pressure magnet school where everyone was training to become a doctor/lawyer and I was the one artsy weirdo. This paired with my family’s general lack of understanding of my artistic pursuits probably only pushed me further to do my own thing.

Do you consider yourself a California girl?
I suppose as I get older I embrace and appreciate the easygoing, laidback, and warm qualities that being raised in California instilled in me. We get a lot of flack from East Coasters for being superficial and fake, but in reality Californians are generally open-minded, welcoming, and civil people.

You have lived and worked in Los Angeles, Paris, London, and Hong Kong, but you’re based in NYC. Do you have an obvious reason for choosing NYC as a homebase? 
The first time I “quit” NYC seven years ago, I was very much over it and convinced I’d never move back. I was over its stink, people touching me on the subway, and the constant stress. My time in Europe and Asia really revealed to me just how great of a city NYC is for creative people. It’s still unmatched in its accessibility of like-minded artists and its risk-taking, innovative spirit. I don’t have to sell so hard when I’m here as opposed to any other city, especially when it comes to concepts that are unfamiliar to my clients. I currently split my time between NYC, London, and Paris. I think NYC will always be a big part of my creative life whether I like it or not. 

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You seem to work digitally primarily. Is that fun?
I think some of the success of my current work can be attributed to the fact that the technology is relatively new and therefore novel. People aren’t used to seeing it yet and there’s a certain wow factor. Truthfully, I have more respect for analog materials as they demand more skill and are much less forgiving. I do paint and draw with traditional materials, namely pencil, charcoal, watercolor, and sumi ink. 

Looking at your Instagram, there is this photo of a few of your belongings from your childhood, including The Virgin Suicides on DVD, a French book entitled Le Goût Des Femmes Laides, and a card by Yoshi Yamamoto. Tell us about those.
Remember Blockbuster? When I was in school, The Virgin Suicides was one of the DVDs that I never returned and I’d watch it on loop every time I pulled an all-nighter working on projects. To this day I can still recite every line of that movie. Le Goût Des Femmes Laides is a tale of a man who has been deemed physically unattractive by those closest to him and his cynical account of his love life and consequent rejection thereof. When I was a teenager, I’d perpetually have my nose buried in some twisted novel or philosophy book. My mom would always tell me to stop reading “such dark books” because men didn’t like that. This probably explains a whole lot. The Yohji Yamamoto lookbook was one of my treasures that I’d obsess over, as he (along with Helmut Lang) was my ultimate hero and reason why I wanted to become a designer. 

What do those three items tell us about your art?
Regarding any ties to my “art,” I’ve always been drawn to the complex, unconventional, and at times macabre. I’m very conscious of the fact that the commercial work I do doesn’t always encompass all of this, but I’m able to make a clean distinction without too much inner conflict. 

Le Bain presents Select Summer Fridays
Every Friday, starting Memorial Day Weekend
Opening party on Friday, May 25th,
feat. Stretch Armstrong, Bobbito Garcia, & Project Matt
The Standard, High Line | 3pm

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