That we meat-eaters met out of character at a vegan restaurant for dinner lent unintended poetry to our interview, all three of us aged-out but still awash in Williamsburg, the present identity-curation capital of the world. Identity manipulation is crucial to distinguishing Kalen Hollomon and Mae Elvis Kaufman from the rest of the Instagram pack, where they have recently made names for themselves.
Hollomon perverts the venue by holding porno cut-outs in front of oblivious strangers and snapping cell phone photos that are neither outright sexual, nor remotely unoffensive. Before altering live humans, he posted hand-drawn transsexual cartoon scenes -- comic balding ladies with bulging penises peeking out from behind their purses. The thread that connects his evolving work is deceptively alluring elegance. Something that looks harmless at first glance, but when you look closer, as Hollomon puts it, "something is way off and you hate yourself because you're attracted to it." Kaufman is more concerned with her own identity -- specifically escaping it. She has gotten in the habit of shopping for clothes she'd never wear and evolving them, and herself, into Cindy Sherman-style portraits of the characters who would wear them. "I feel so much sexier as someone else," she says, even when that someone else looks like an escapee from an Appalachian clown prison.
They are a classic odd couple. Not odd to each other, but to the world. So outwardly, deviantly inventive that you picture them in black and white, occupying a page more than a place. Their crass lightheartedness belies what is quickly becoming a significant body of work that speaks intelligently of a time when identity is more crafted than ever. Fart history in the moment. Art history in the making. The likes of Richard Prince, Vogue Magazine and of course, METAL, have already taken notice.
Tell us how you met!
Kalen: We met at the Gold Room in Echo Park. I spotted Mae standing in the backyard wearing tight white Levi's and a jerry curl, I fell in love right away.
Mae: At a bar in Silverlake, CA. Kalen kept staring at me.
Can you describe your current work in less than one sentence?
Kalen: Romantic (I hope)
Mae: New face, new place.
Tell us about your creative process.
Kalen: I usually give one of my assistants $45 and say do whatever, then I post it on Instagram.
Mae: I get home after work, slip into something 'more comfortable' and start shooting myself.
How does your relationship affect your work?
Kalen: It's nice to have someone close to me whose work I respect, it's very motivating.
Mae: It makes my work better. I have someone to help me make my final edits, advise on make-up and hair-dos, and to tell me I look cool.
How do the contents of your refrigerator reflect your work?
Kalen: When I grocery shop I choose products solely for their aesthetic value.
Mae: We work with what we have laying around. Kalen and I shop sporadically for groceries, so we end up eating a lot of 'dagwood dinners', meaning a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I think it's the same for my artwork, at least. I like using materials that I already have in an unexpected way.
Are you as weird as your art? If so, how so?
Kalen: I'm pretty sure my art is a true representation of myself, e.g. timeless, elegant, fabulous, gorgeous, hilarious, great at parties.
Mae: My characters are exaggerated parts of me, but in a way more normal than I am. My characters don't get OCD about dirty dishes and dust on the floor.
Do the costumes ever find their way into the bedroom?
Kalen: They start, and finish in the bedroom.
Mae: Only my birthday suit.
What are you working on? What's next?
Kalen: I'm working on three large oil paintings, incorporating collage using vinyl advertisements taken from the subway.
Mae: Painting backgrounds for some new characters. Hoping to work on some short video advertisements that involve my characters as well.
Follow Mae and Kalen on Instagram where their names are @maeelvis and @kalen_hollomon