By Karen Rempel | Fashion Editor
My fashion sense was influenced by the ’80s glam metal scene, which was fomented by the punk rock scene in NYC in the ’70s. The Velvet Underground was Andy Warhol’s house band, spawning Lou Reed’s shattering Rock n Roll Animal in 1973. At the same time, Jean-Michel Basquiat was blazing a meteor trail to stardom in the art world. Junkies and dealers were in every doorway. This was the exciting, sordid scene of the ’70s in the East Village. For a taste of this time and place, check out my YouTube video “Heroin Trip on East Fourth.”
I missed the gritty ’70s by decades, alas, but on my first trip to NYC—in 2014—I wandered around the Bowery, feeling into the reverberations from that time. I was startled to see concert posters for Mötley Crüe slathered on a hoarding. Whoa! At Madison Square Garden! The posters ignited a searing link to my teenage metal years in Vancouver. I rushed back to my room at the Washington Square Hotel, bought a ticket online, and the very next night I head-banged like the old days at the Crüe’s 33rd Anniversary farewell show. (Neck injury, ouch!) I was a bit disappointed that the beer-swilling bikers in their sixties sitting next to me at the Garden were very polite and said “Excuse me” each time they passed me to get another beer. Not the tough New York crowd I had anticipated! But Mötley Crüe rocked the Garden even harder, tighter, and fiercer than they did in the ’80s. Truly one of the most exciting concerts of my life. The band has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. After the recent release of their nasty Netflix biopic, The Dirt, they tore up their “Never tour again” contract, rolling out a stadium tour for 2021. No NYC dates are planned yet, sadly.
When NoHo photographer Philip Maier suggested we do this month’s shoot at the Basquiat plaque on Great Jones Street, the confluence of punk and metal style moments came together in a flash in my mind. I gathered inspiration from Nancy Spungen, Wendy O. Williams, and the master himself, Lou Reed, and then added the Crüe concert tee to tie it all together—with a poignant message—“All Bad Things Must Come to an End.” May it be so! (Plagues, police clashes, presidents.) To honor Jean-Michel, I designed my eye make-up using colors and shapes from his art.
Basquiat began as a Lower East Side graffiti artist in the duo SAMO, in the late ’70s, and by the ’80s, his neo-expressionist paintings were exhibited in galleries and museums internationally. Andy Warhol—Basquiat’s friend and mentor—let him live and work in this former stable on Great Jones Street. Despite attempts at sobriety, Basquiat died tragically in 1988 of a heroin overdose at age 27. In 2017, his 1982 painting of a black skull with red and black rivulets (Untitled) set a new record high for any American artist at auction, selling for $110.5 million.
This graffitied doorway shows some of Basquiat’s work and pays homage to his unique visionary language.
For more details and brilliant Philip Meier photos, see karensquirkystyle.com.
Black-and-white art mask. Engineered by Andrea T, 147 West 35th Street (by appointment only).
Mötley Crüe concert tee. Cut up by Karen. Madison Square Garden 2014.
Black lace half-slip. Macy’s Herald Square. 151 West 34th Street.
Karen Rempel has been contributing to WestView News since 2017. She is a photojournalist, technical writer, model, and artist. Her words and pictures have appeared in the literary journal Room, TV Week Magazine, Vancouver Sun, and many other pubs. Her artwork has exhibited at New York’s Salmagundi Club and Revelation Gallery. Visit her blog at loveaffair.nyc and her YouTube channel.