by Maxwell Young

The EFFA Collection by Ebbets Field Flannels by Maxwell Young

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Ebbets Field Flannels, the heritage brand conserving mid-century athletic garments, debuted its fist-ever women’s line, honoring the women and girls who forged their own positions within America’s favorite pastime.

The EFFA Collection—named after Effa Manley—the co-owner of the 1946 Negro League champion Newark Eagles and only woman to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, encapsulates a time period when female executives, ballplayers, umpires, and teams were viewed as interlopers in the world of sport. Racial and gender divides attempted to exclude women from baseball, but the tenacity of trailblazers like the eponymous heroine of the collection erased stigmas and broke barriers for women to continue building their shared history in the game.

A civil rights leader, Manley set a precedent negotiating fair compensation for the rights of her players as they transitioned to Major League baseball once Jackie Robinson broke the color line, signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. She earned the respect of fellow Negro League owners and white executives within the majors due to her astute knowledge of business and sports marketing. Promotional games propping up attendance in the Major League, including the businessman’s special or “Disco Demolition Night,” are extensions of Manley’s genius. She instituted free entry for WWII veterans and sponsored an anti-lynching game, intersecting sports with socio-political conversations. “Effa is part of a much larger history,” said Lisa Cooper, Vice President of Ebbets Field Flannels on Late Bloom Radio in May—our co-produced show with Uptown Art House.

Women have been in baseball since the mid-1800s, forming teams at Vassar, Smith and Wellesley colleges, with the first recorded professional team, the Philadelphia Dolly Vardens, playing men’s teams in 1867. The collection immortalizes prominent figures from the early barnstorming days when women were tokenized for their pioneering contributions to baseball. Authentic jerseys pay homage to icons like Amanda Clement who, at 16 years old, became the first woman paid to umpire men’s baseball games and Edith Houghton, a ten year old shortstop sensation for the Philadelphia Bobbies and a couple of decades later the first (and last) female scout in the history of Major League Baseball. We can’t forget about Toni Stone, either. The first African American woman to play professional baseball with the Negro League’s comedic, showboating Indianapolis Clowns, Stone’s life-and-times defeating discrimination and sexism has been further amplified this year in a critically acclaimed off-Broadway production by play-write Lydia R. Diamond.

Although the materials and fabric are authentic to what players actually wore, the retro knits, satin jackets and hats, along with the graphic tees are a spin on what existed in history. “For a lot of the designs, all we’re going off is the team name,” Cooper said. “We can’t even find photos; there’s a nice freedom and playfulness to it.”

Channeling the legacy of crossover within baseball’s past—women creating opportunities for themselves in a men’s game—the collection’s designer Eric Johnson wanted to create a range of clothes that were non-conforming. “It was more about the quality of the designs. I didn’t go into this thinking about making this for women,” the Maryland-based creative said. “I thought about making really good shirts women would be interested in, making sure the border was non-binary.

Designer Eric Johnson at Late Bloom Radio broadcast via Full Service Radio at The Line Hotel. Polaroid by Maxwell Young

Designer Eric Johnson at Late Bloom Radio broadcast via Full Service Radio at The Line Hotel. Polaroid by Maxwell Young

Johnson and Cooper worked within a truncated timespan, executing the line over four months, when most collections can take up to one and a half years to develop. It’s a testament to their collaborative relationship, as the duo first started working with each other while Johnson was a creative lead in A$AP Mob. With hip hop being the introduction for the two and holding such a strong emphasis in vintage wear, Johnson and Cooper’s partnership has come full-circle. However, it’s the intention behind the collection that makes the project cohesive.

“The racial aspect of it, especially regarding the Negro Leagues…[The EFFA Collection] is how to have that conversation and take it away from race,” Cooper said.

For 31 years, Ebbets has served a niche clientele researching and re-producing the authentic apparel worn by athletic clubs we learn about through sports lore. Teams from Japanese baseball, the Pacific Coast League, The Negro Leagues, and now the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and National Girls Baseball League are tangible constructs in the 21st-century, thanks to Ebbets. The heavy, wool fabrics that adorned actors in Jackie Robinson’s biopic, 42, were made by the Ebbets team. Their mandate is uncompromising the quality, beauty, and craftsmanship of vintage athletic apparel to convey the context stitched through it. Such intention circumvents exploitation and facilitates transparent discussions of unknown histories in a public way. 

“I’m a white lady in Seattle and my business partner is white, so it comes up: ‘Why are you guys doing this?’ It’s an automatic distrust, but they don’t know the backstory. And the backstory is that we were the very first ones to bring about the history of [the Negro Leagues] and the awareness of it.”

The current offering of The EFFA Collection is merely an initial snapshot of the vast history of women in sports. Future iterations of the line will touch other heritage, such as that of hockey and Canadian women’s rightful place in the sports pantheon. Shop The EFFA Collection here and listen to the full radio interview below for an exclusive glimpse into Ebbets’ upcoming NFL capsule.

It's Never Too Late to Have a Quinceañera, Especially in the Name of Art by Maxwell Young

Ashley Llanes’ self-portraits will be on view today at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters.

Photographer Ashley Llanes abhorred the idea of a Quinceañera, but eight years later it became the inspiration to her thesis project. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

Photographer Ashley Llanes abhorred the idea of a Quinceañera, but eight years later it became the inspiration to her thesis project. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

La Quinceañera—a coming of age celebration in Latin American culture when a young woman turns fifteen, transitioning to a mujercita. The extravagant ball along with the pomp-and-circumstance is akin to Judaism’s Bat Mitzvah ceremonies, except closely aligned with Catholicism.

Eight years ago, Ashley Llanes rejected her Quinceañera opportunity. A Cuban-American growing up in Miami, Florida, she was surrounded by the tradition and the lineage of women in her family who embarked on the ceremony. Portraits of her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother adorned her living room while her older sisters, who each elected to have Quinceañeras, memorialized their rite of passages, too. Through the task of being a mujercita, there are cultural and gender expectations that Llanes felt misrepresented herself. Wearing makeup and shaving was counter to the girl with the pixie haircut, challenging stereotypes.

“I wasn’t interested in conserving my culture,” the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design alumnus reflected back to her 15-year-old self.

At 23-years-old, however, the D.C.-based photographer has made peace with her “punk-ass” adolescence, and her self-portrait series, La Quinceañera, is a retrospective take on the aesthetics of the tradition. “Now is when I’ve been able to appreciate the tradition and the actual priviledge,” her hindsight is 20-20. “You don’t do this unless you want to look back at your ancestors and say, ‘They did this. Why not me?’”

Personifying the conservative ideals of the celebration and the femininity her parents wanted to see, Llanes’ portraits emulate stereotypical Quinceañera photoshoots. There’s the casual beach shoot and the studio shoot, everything mindful of the cultural notions. I stopped by one of these photoshoots in February to find her hair slicked in a bun, secured by a plentitude of bobby-pins and an encrusted tiara that accentuated her cinderella dress—she was quintessential Quince.

“I shaved everything for this. I became hyper aware of body hair, which was such a weird thing, and for months because I did this project for a year,” Llanes spoke to the vulnerability in the level of vanity she forced herself to maintain; a type of method acting she endured as she considers each of her self portraits performance pieces. “It was torturous because I subscribed to this character for so long.”

Relieved to return to her edginess, septum piercing and all, there is a stark contrast between the Ashley we see in the images and the Ashley who will share her work today at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters for The Latino GLBT History Project’s Voices of Pride exhibition. Come and view her series and stay for the artist talk to learn more about her work with identity.

Voices of Pride

5-9pm (Artist Talk 7:30pm)

1640 Rhode Island Ave, NW

Washington, D.C.

In Retrospect: Seung Hyun Rhee's 'Homesick' by Maxwell Young

Through manual and digital collage, photographer  Seung Hyun Rhee  conveys his love of K-Pop and the culture of South Korea. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

Through manual and digital collage, photographer Seung Hyun Rhee conveys his love of K-Pop and the culture of South Korea. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

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At least in America, there is this esoteric following of the Korean Pop music genre that is now bubbling to the mainstream. Platforms like League of Legends, the multiplayer online battle that catalyzed the era of E-Sports; the arcade favorite Dance Dance Revolution; and MySpace ushered in K-Pop as a niche, bubblegum amalgamation of popular sounds. Psy’s massive, more than three billion-times-viewed hit “Gangnam Style” that reverberated around the planet in 2012 elevated the genre to the surface for mainstream music listeners such as myself. But even then—back in my high school days—did I know a handful of people who could name me any other K-Pop song.

Photographer Seung Hyun Rhee was trying to show me concert footage of BTS, the it K-Pop group of the moment, while we met to talk about his thesis project for NEXT, Homesick. Although the boy band has not yet conjured a song as iconic as “Gangnam Style,” the septet is internationally recognized: heart-throbs recently emulating The Beatles’ legendary, American television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, with a cheeky rendition of their single “Boy With Luv” on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The dense architectural makeup of George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design caused the video to buffer. “The death circle,” is how Rhee referred to the spotty cell phone connection. “I don’t see that in my country…my country has the fastest internet in the world.”

Rhee emigrated from South Korea in 2007, right as the K-Pop industry hit its apex abroad. “I felt like I was going to get homesick. How was I going to connect to my country?” He looked back on his 12 years in the United States. “Everything is slow, the technology does not match. And what kind of food is this? It’s so oily!”

Initially, Rhee’s aunt shipped physical copies of K-Pop albums overseas, stimulating his affection toward his native country and providing the ultimate spark for engrossment in the genre. Now, however, Rhee buys his own albums, boasting about his royalty status on the online shopping site, Yes24. “I’m getting three or four more albums when I go to Korea this month,” he said. “I’m a collector…K-Pop [albums] have six to eight pages of photo-books in there with lyrics together and random things. But here in America, an album is just plastic with one book and some picture.”

The byproduct of such fandom has yielded an archive of over 200 album covers, collectible merchandise, trading cards, and personal concert photos that became the source material for a series of portrait collages that juxtapose a sense of alienation in America with Rhee’s longing to return home.

Images of K-Pop stars from Rhee’s favorite groups including TWICE, Miss A, and Wonder Girls inform five androgynous figures that were fit to glass above backdrops that represent his American experience. “It shows more depth and separation between the two countries that I feel,” Rhee said of his collaging methods. The figments have overlapping masculine and feminine facial features with both dainty and boyish physiques in alternating photographs. The dynamism of these characters symbolize the fervor of fanatics like Rhee and the growing culture they embody worldwide, yet the blandness of the backgrounds, such as his living room, bathroom, and United States Capitol building, create a disconnect between the ambivalence the genre has received in America and its pandemonium in Asia.

Adamant to return to South Korea to join the public relations side of the K-Pop industry, Rhee is skeptical of its growth in America. “I think K-Pop can grow here, but everything has a limit,” he said frankly. The differences in fashion taste along with the investment of time and money that goes into developing K-Pop groups (some training for three to five years before they even debut a song) is a risky gamble to make for a nascent genre. Personally, the nationalism with which these entertainment companies (basically music labels in Korea) amplify acts internationally may not be strong enough to gain traction in the United States either. Music is about identity. Listeners relate to a certain sound or visual aesthetic that is a portrayal of their own existence, and right now, the American fabric is largely white, black, and latin-x. And although the K-Pop industry is forming multi-national K-Pop squads, like NCT 127, and is being infiltrated by international writers, including new jack swing creator Teddy Riley to increase the exposure of the genre, the population of K-Pop fans, South Koreans, and other Asian ethnicities just might not be large enough to sustain the industry in the United States. As more groups cross the Pacific to tour North America, time will tell how frenzied the American demographic will become.

Ever Vigilant, Uptown Art House Curates A Weekend of Music by Maxwell Young

On Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1, let your pursuit of pleasure lead you to “Neighborhood Watch,” Uptown Art House’s two-day curation of music performances at artist Joseph Orzal’s exhibition Hedonist Buddhist.

Flyers by inimitable  Globe Collection and Press at MICA

Located at The Shay, a new, boutique condominium development in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C., embodying the hyper consumptive landscape that’s transforming the city into culturally divided spaces, Hedonist Buddhist subverts the gentrification process. The local community holds sentimental value to Orzal who’s grown up in D.C. and experienced the pressure of rising rent prices and removal of developmental ecosystems. As Martha’s Table, a prominent non-profit promoting access to high-quality education, healthy food, and family support moved further away from its 14th St. roots, it was Orzal who shared childhood photos of Barbara Bush doting on him and other pre-schoolers at the kiddy table. Decades later—now a bourgeoning printmaker—he frustratingly spoke to the Washington City Paper of losing his atelier, Open Studio D.C., to developers’ more commercial interests.

Collaborating with Washington Project for the Arts, Orzal is confronting such social dynamics in the heart of the battle being waged between the transplants and the natives. The exhibition space full of art and literature, amplifying political activism and awareness of civic manipulation, is directly below the resident who complained about the noise level of go-go music being played at the nearby Metro PCS store. Perhaps you’ve seen or participated in the public outcry of this intolerance through the massive #MOECHELLA/#DONTMUTEDC protests, trending on Instagram and Twitter.

Orzal has enlisted a number of compatriots to elevate his exhibition in the name of D.C.’s artistic heritage, and this weekend, Uptown Art House will offer an array of music performances that remain vigilant to the city’s underrepresented creative communities.

This Friday features sound selections by P0STB1NARY, a collective of DJ’s and vocalists spearheading the non-binary movement of gender and genre through heavy techno and house sets. If you haven’t caught them at Studio Ga Ga or The Line Hotel, this is the night to do so. InTheRough will also be present through an ethnographic lens, sharing Polaroids and music that inform the District’s contemporary cultural scene.

Saturday is a strong showing of the city’s esoteric rap community. In his latest project, Tribe Ties, Thraxx King harnesses a cadence and spiritual energy that resides in occultist teachings. Jamal Gray as Black Noise Filter—the eponymous name to a long-awaited sound collage—recontextualizes his family lineage of music and impact in Chocolate City, meditating on social and universal constructs. And Sir E.U, the great, with The First Church of Back, debuts a live rendition of his most recent collection of songs, REDHELLY/Twin Towers, complete with a post-grunge aesthetic. Let’s rage.

Neighborhood Watch

Friday, May 31 & Saturday, June 1

1921 8th St, NW

8-12am


Soon-to-be Corcoran School Alumni Poised to Infiltrate Art Industries by Maxwell Young

Performers in Yacine Fall’s thesis project,  Un Lien , rehearse for “NEXT,” Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s thesis showcase. Polaroids by  Maxwell Young

Performers in Yacine Fall’s thesis project, Un Lien, rehearse for “NEXT,” Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s thesis showcase. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

Washington, D.C.—Two bronze-cast lions lay await in front of the entrance to the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. Protectors of the realms of imagination and creative skill—they size-up the foreign body approaching. I am a George Washington University alumnus all the same, but there is a difference between the School of Business degree I received in 2017 and the Fine Arts/Photojournalism/Art History/Interior Design/Theater/etc. degrees that will be awarded to the graduating classes this coming May.

For 150 years, the Corcoran name has been “dedicated to art and used solely for the purpose of encouraging the American genius.” That was the mission of the oldest and largest private art museum in the District of Columbia, when banker William Wilson Corcoran endowed the Gallery in 1869, and it still rings true today as its graduates and undergraduates prepare for their thesis showcase.

“NEXT” is a 30 year-old tradition for the arts and design students. A public display of the art world’s future stars, it’s both an exhibition for employers and art enthusiasts to see fresh perspectives in contemporary art as well as a culmination of the skillsets burgeoning artists have acquired throughout their education. On Thursday, April 25, the collection opens, amplifying work of varying mediums across disciplines.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of previewing select compositions and installations from several undergraduate seniors. Artists Yacine Fall, Ashley Llanes, Seung Hyun Rhee, and Layla K. Saad explore themes of shared and personal identity in their thesis projects.

“I had never seen Muslim artwork on the walls of a gallery,” Saad admitted to me as we observed her seven-piece installation, United States of Being. Elements of wood-work, 3-D printing, quilting, and print making inform her project. The New Mexican-born artist’s Muslim heritage is intertwined with Native American culture as well as Egyptian-Lebanese lineages. When the Corcoran’s mission was written centuries ago, I doubt the encouragement of the “American genius” included the work of people who looked like Saad. “What about the Muslim kids who are interested in artwork? They don’t have this imagery to reference. They have Michelangelo. They have Picasso…all of these other artists who are interesting, but they don’t have something relevant to their identity.”

This re-contextualization of culture is evident in the respective work of all four artists. In addition to Saad’s installation, Yacine Fall debuts a performance piece, Un Lien, that uses burlap rope, clay, and the physical presence of eleven other bodies to connect histories and individual experiences together. Ashley Llanes’ La Quinceañera seeks to find the balance between her teenage self, who wanted to challenge stereotypes, and her current self, who values the conservation of culture, through a series of self portraits that evaluate the aesthetics of quinceañera tradition. And Seung Hyun Rhee’s Homesick uses manual and digital collage of K-pop stars to juxtapose his described "militant” music interest against his daily routine of American life as reflections of his desire to return home to South Korea.

Keep your eyes peeled to InTheRough pages as we dig deeper into these topics in individual articles. We will unveil more insight into the artists and their work while the “NEXT” exhibition is displayed until Monday, May 20. Admission for “NEXT” is free and open to the public. Don’t miss the opening Senior thesis show on Thursday from 6-9pm.

“NEXT” Senior Thesis Show

April 25, 6-9pm

Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

500 17th St, NW

Washington, D.C. 20006