There are few better ways to get to know a human really quickly than over a few drinks. Introducing “Three Sheets to the Wind,” a series in which we do just that.
Raised in Syracuse, New York, Rahm headed south initially to study at Parsons School of Design. In the decade since, they’ve made their mark on the city’s art scene, between being named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 “Art and Style”, to collab’ing with brands like Maison Kitsune, The North Face, and Instagram.
In honor of Pride Month, we invited Rahm to share their vision of what it means to be queer and Black in a public work of art next to NO BAR. The post-unveiling moment seemed fit for a celebration, so we invited them over to Café Standard for a few rounds on us (there were most definitely espresso martinis on the menu). We got into everything from style inspiration and TikTok algorithms to supporting queer art and the making of their latest piece - read Rahm’s takes below.
The Standard: Hi Rahm! You’re one of our first Three Sheets to the Wind interviews in a few years. We’re going to ask you a round of questions around each cocktail.
Rahm: Okay, that’s exciting.
The Standard: What are you sipping on?
Rahm: One of my favorite drinks is an espresso martini.
The Standard: Who are some of the creatives that you draw inspiration from?
Rahm: Some of my favorite creatives that I draw inspiration from are Grace Jones and Thierry Mugler. There’s an illustrator named Mel Odom whose work I really like. Also, sorry I’m drawing a blank - Carrie James Marshall! He’s one of my favorite painters.
The Standard: What would be your perfect day in NYC?
Rahm: So my perfect day in the city… it would include maybe a little workout in the park or at my favorite gym, Temple. Then getting some type of smoothie or a matcha latte, then going into some vintage shops, looking around, maybe finding a cute piece.
The Standard: What are your favorite vintage shops?
Rahm: Right now, I would say Second Street. Previously it was Beacon’s Closet. But Second Street is taking it.
The Standard: What are you wearing right now?
Rahm: I’m wearing a T-shirt that I made myself. I screen printed this. It’s something that I’ve been working on, a little passion project. And then some jewelry that I have that was gifted. One ring from my boyfriend, some rings from my mom, and then some jewelry for my grandma. I like to collect jewelry and personal artifacts.
The Standard: Were your mom and grandma really into fashion?
Rahm: Yes. My grandma is like the accessory queen. She has her ears pierced on both sides, all up to both ears. She’s always really eclectic with her fashion, very versatile. And my mom, well she’s a Libra, so naturally she’s really gaudy and it just rubbed off on me.
The Standard: What’s your sign?
Rahm: I’m a Gemini.
The Standard: Oh my god, me too. Happy belated. It’s the season. Switching back to the note of New York, what are your favorite galleries to hop between?
Rahm: I would say I really like Davis Werner. I like Davis Werner, and I like Jack Shaman. Those are two galleries over in Chelsea, and whenever I’m in that area, I pop in. They always have some really cool exhibitions.
The Standard: What’s your favorite music to listen to when you’re creating a piece?
Rahm: Sometimes I really get into just instrumentals .I don't want to hear any words. I just want to have thoughts flowing. And then it'll be like, maybe some of the Italian composers, like Pierre Emiliano. He makes, like, really vibey. It sounds like a cinematic soundtrack. And then also sometimes Kelela. I love Kelela. I'll listen to her whole discography and sometimes like, 90s rap. So it really ranges. It’s all dependent on, I guess, maybe what I’m painting at the moment.
The Standard: Has a piece of work ever changed direction based on the music that you were listening to?
Rahm: I would say that sometimes it does have an impact on the stroke. Maybe just the tempo or the vibe of the music will have me feeling a little more, like, up-tempo, too.
The Standard: There’s an unexpected ingredient in that cocktail… can you guess it?
The Standard: It’s dill.
Rahm: Okay, wait, maybe I do taste it at the end. It’s really good.
The Standard: What do you do to get yourself out of a rut when you’re feeling a creative block?
Rahm: I like to watch music videos. I love Hype Williams and his world that he created. There’s always some inspiration to find in it. And magazines, like flipping through magazines, looking through my favorite artist books, sketching. Sometime it’s just like getting my hand flowing and moving. That kind of helps me build new compositions for pieces. And sometimes just relaxing, honestly. Just relaxing and letting my imagination take a break. It helps me open up and let new ideas in.
The Standard: Where’s your favorite place to relax?
Rahm: My bed. Sometimes just laying in the bed, laying in the shower, taking a break, and going outside in nature.
The Standard: What’s your favorite music video?
Rahm: The one that comes to mind is Hype Williams’ video for “What’s It Gonna Be” by Janet Jackson and Busta Rhymes. They’re in these space body suits and it’s like this whole simulated world and everything is very shiny, metallic, and cool.
The Standard: They don’t make them like that anymore. I feel like your TikTok offers a window into your creative process. What made you want to document your work there?
Rahm: I decided to be a little bit more vulnerable and let people into my creative process because I don’t really do that that often. It’s something that I usually want to keep sacred. But I also know that people enjoy seeing it and sometimes it’s a learning experience for them. And I was like, ‘why not?’. Plus, I feel like I get attached to the process of making. Sometimes I really love how pieces look in progress and I wanted to share that, too. The piece may not be done yet, but I can see the potential in it. And I noticed sometimes I would share just stills of a piece of progress and people would be really attracted to that. Through TikTok I could elaborate on that more and show a piece from blank canvas to completely finished.
The Standard: Are you on ArtTok? What’s on your algorithm?
Rahm: I’ve gotten into so many different little algorithms right now. I was seeing the TikTok art scene for a while and I've seen a lot of people that really inspired me to take that leap and just do something on my own.
The Standard: In honor of Pride month, what are some ways that the art world can better support queer artists?
Rahm: The art world can better support artists, I think by being more transparent. I feel the art world can sometimes be closed off and far removed from so many different industries. Even coming from art school, it took me so long to know what I know now, and that’s not even a lot. There are ways where the art world can be closed off to queer artists and marginalized artists in general.It's kind of like a boys club in a way, where there are still standards that are in place. And I feel like just maybe providing more information, like having more engagement with emerging artists would be helpful, because there are already communities within social media where emerging artists share information. So even if one learns a piece of information, I'm sure there will be a trickle-down effect, you know?
The Standard: I remember reading about an event where your work was being exhibited and entry ticket prices were higher than you anticipated - you posted on social media encouraging people to push back.Rahm: That was just an instance where I feel there wasn't enough transparency... It’s New York, everyone is maneuvering within the system of money and all that. But I feel like for me personally, I like to allow the viewers who I'm making work for have a chance to engage with the art. And sometimes that doesn't call for it being commodified.There wasn't enough transparency with the people who were hosting me at the show. And I'm all about being transparent and providing information. If I'm selling something to people who I am making the art for, I'm very transparent about it. I think that was the miscommunication. And then it came time for people to come view the work = they had no idea that they had to pay to view the work and I had no idea they had to pay to view the work. I felt the best thing to do at the moment was to remove myself because there was a lack of respect. Even in person, there was a lack of respect. But it's so funny that that question is asked in this context because there's now a mural of mine that people can literally walk down the street and view.
The Standard: So tell us a little bit about “Beyond the Horizon of Time”.
Rahm: The inspiration came to me at the beginning of this year while I was at my aunt's house. She has this piece in her house that's one of the really notable pieces that a lot of black homes have. I feel like anyone from my generation would know the piece,so I kind of wanted to draw inspiration from that. Not directly, but something very similar in composition.
I feel like symmetry is related to cycles in a way. And so the time aspect comes from that - the sunrise that’s going to be there later represents a background of time, which reminds me of traditions and culture that get passed down and how things mirror things from the past. The pride that I feel being Black and being queer is reflected through the colors - it represents distinct undertones within the diaspora.
The Standard: One question that we’ve always wondered about murals… what happens if you make a mistake?
Rahm: I made one mistake that I had to go over because the paint is so opaque. It's like exterior paint. If I was to go over a part that had to be covered with a lighter hue, I would have to do multiple layers to cover it. So say, like, I got a little bit of black paint on where the yellow should be, I would need to do multiple layers of white or yellow to cover up what was mistakenly painted.
But I've been painting for almost, like, ten years, so I’ve made a blueprint for myself in my mind, it’s like PEMDAS. When you're doing math, there's a set of steps that I like to do to alleviate mistakes.Yeah, I would say one of the notable mistakes was a little bit of paint getting in a place where it shouldn't have been and then me having to go over it. But I've also learned to paint with a lot of confidence. When I first started painting my first year, there were really small brushstrokes on the piece. And now I'm a lot more freer. And I feel like that confidence comes through and it allows for you to just do and then if you happen to do something that is out of whatever you feel is alignment, you work around it and so it just becomes a part of the style.
The Standard: How long did it take you to complete?
Rahm: I did it in just about seven days. Yeah…I kind of still can't believe it, on that same note.
The Standard: What would be your dream location to paint a mural?
Rahm: I haven't thought of that. Not to sound cheesy, but I feel like this is really close, honestly, because it's very close to where I went to undergrad. I used to walk down to St. Marks to get my dollar slice of pizza when I had my last pocket full of money. So many memories are brought up here, so I feel like this is very close. I would say maybe one in my hometown,too, just so there's some mark that I leave behind there. But it feels really good to have this one here, I would say that for sure.It's very full circle.
The Standard: Are there mediums that you’re excited to explore outside of painting?
Rahm: I am, a very beginner sewer, so that's been a hobby for now. I'm really looking forward to expanding my wearables collection and getting more into designing clothes. I consider them wearables because they still feel like art pieces to me, but I like designing wearables, clothes, and things that people can have as keepsakes that remind them of a painting or the pieces. I more recently got into airbrushing this past year. So, yeah, those are two new mediums that I feel like will help me really flesh out and expand the world.
The Standard: In addition to your work as an artist, you also double as a model. Are there any parallels you see between the two?
Rahm: I look at modeling as a form of art. I know it's a little controversial to say to artists or people who make art, but I feel like it is a form of channeling and you can really learn a lot from modeling. I took away lessons of composition, really forming the body and being aware of the frame in a camera. I feel like that helps when I make compositions for paintings, it's like, where do I want things placed in a space? And I was really heavily into photography before I started modeling, too, so I feel like that really helped me have a stronger appreciation for it. But I would say, yeah, modeling definitely has parallels to art.