It’s not hard to see why musician Marc Johnson would call Sylvia Rhone “the godmother of the music industry” as you look at the depth and breadth of her influence. In addition to the years she has dedicated to finding and cultivating new talent across multiple musical genres, Rhone is also known for the risks that she has taken for great gains.

Rhone started off her career in music by taking a massive pay cut, and leaving a position at a bank, for a secretarial job at Buddah Records. Although she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, she found that the banking industry was not for her. In an interview with Ebony magazine, Rhone recalled having done something as simple as wearing pants to work at the bank. It was 1975, and women were still making their way through the male dominated market. At that time, genders were living with different expectations. Women would dress in feminine skirts and heels, not pant suits. Rhone said that even though no one said anything to her directly, it was clear that pants were not acceptable for women.

srh2Rhone felt that she needed a freer environment. So, she took a risk,by leaving her job and starting a new career in the music business.

Rhone’s tenacity proved to be a guiding force for the music industry. She quickly moved up the ladder to become a nation wide promotions director. In just a short time, Rhone had gone from working in finance to being responsible for publicizing new artists nationwide. “I had to jump in the deep water and sink or swim,” said Rhone in an Ebony Magazine interview. She was definitely able “swim,” her success led to being hired as the director of national black music promotion at Atlantic Records.

Atlantic Records once boasting acts such as R&B soul giants Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, had been a big name in the record industry. But the company fell on hard times prior to Rhone coming on to the scene.

Rhone had a natural eye for talent by signing musicians such as LeVert, Miki Howard, and Gerald Albright.

Just three years after being hired at Atlantic, she was promoted again in 1988 – this time to senior vice-president of the company. . Rhone was credited with helping to revive the brand.
Years laterRhone continued to push up the ladder by becoming CEO of an Atlantic Records offshoot, EastWest Records America. Formerly, Atco/EastWest,. When it separated, EastWest became Rhone’s own label. She took the responsibility for all of the label’s recruitment, marketing and promotion. She signed diverse acts like the all female R&B group En Vogue and the heavy metal band Pantera. While continuing to Chair EastWest Records America, Rhone also became chair of Elektra Entertainment Group. Missy Elliot, awell known female artists of the past two decades, credits Rhone, along with musician Merlin Bobb, for helping her get her first platinum album while she was signed to Elektra. Recently, Missy posted a photo via Twitter of her receiving a platinum plaque with the following quote: “History!! Me & my 1st platinum plaque, thank you [Sylvia Rhone] & Merlin Bobb. Elektra, they pushed me!”

srh5Rhone continues to shape the music industry through multiple avenues. She currently presides as president of Epic Records which having artists such as Mariah Carey, Avril Lavigne, Fifth Harmony, The Fray, Ciara, Tamar Braxton, and Meghan Trainor. For her work with Epic, Rhone was honored by the Music Business Association with the 2014 Presidential award for Sustained Executive Achievement. Having been around since the 1960’s formerly as the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, MBA has been an important part of the music industry as a non-profit company focused on connecting and promoting professionals in the industry like Rhone.

srh3has always had a knack for spotting talent across musical genres and racial lines. VH1 included her in their black history celebration of female pioneers in the music industry. In a clip from VH1 posted to her Twitter account she speaks about how she sees art: “Art reflects life. If we don’t start sharing each other’s cultures, where do we end up? Color outside the lines, that’s where greatness is.” As she continues to shape the direction of the music industry, Rhone hopes that her positive influence, and the positive actions of others will ripple out across society. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times she commented on sexism and racism in the music industry: “…Thanks to my success and the success of others…, eventually, that sexist good ol’ boy school of thought will go the way of the dinosaur. It’ll take us a few years to accomplish it, but hey, I’m up for the fight. And so are a lot of other women.”

-Tabi Lawson

Most children’s parents display their best artwork on the refrigerator or in their office. For Kira Plastinina, her father took his pride in her work a little bit farther. At just fourteen years old, Kira’s father, Sergei Plastinina, made her artwork into her own self-titled fashion line, Kira Plastinina. Although he had no experience in fashion, he studied the fashion industry and discovered that being current and having a newsworthy edge is what makes a person thrive. Kira has proven to be both.

kira3Who isn’t interested in how a fourteen-year-old becomes a business owner and designer? Or how  she became an international sensation within a year. Kira proved that she wasn’t just a gimmick. Sergei launched his daughter’s line in March 2007 with an independant fashion show, and opened their first store in Evropeisky shopping mall in Moscow. That same year, she won Breakthrough Designer of the Year from Glamour magazine’s Russian syndicate. The following year, her international debut in Rome landed her the title of “most talented and young designer” at the Alta Roma Alta Moda show during Milan Fashion Week. She continued to appear at shows around the world and now eight years later, with two separate fashion lines, and over 300 stores internationally, the designer has shown that she has more than an extremely supportive father. Her designs have garnered the attention of celebrities such as Paris Hilton, who attended the debut of her Spring 2008 collection during Moscow Fashion Week. Other noteworthy fans include Nicole Richie, model Georgia May Jagger, Britney Spears, and American super model Karlie Kloss. She also released a limited edition collection for Lindsay Lohan in 2011.

One of the things that makes her clothing line so popular is the very thing that started it all, Kira. From the beginning, the young designer did not put anything out that she wasn’t comfortable wearing herself. Her design team is relatively small, consisting of her and her assistant designer. After every design is finished she tries them on herself to see how she feels about them and how they fit. Her goal is to make clothes that exemplify the lifestyle of girls just like herself: girls “jet setting all over the world, always busy, living interesting lives.” Jet Setting is not only a part of Kira’s lifestyle, it is also where she gains inspiration for her work. Having traveled in parts of Nigeria and northern Africa, her Spring 2010 Lublu collection, “Dreams about Africa,” combined African motifs with rock style. In 2014 she traveled to Brazil to gain inspiration for a future fashion line.

kira1Across both of Kira’s clothing lines are evidence that she puts her life into her designs. Kira Plastinina, what she calls her “fast fashion” line, is playful with a hint of flirtation. Floral prints dominate, paired with natural but vibrant colors. One dress from the summer 2015 collection has a tailored to fit top ending at a natural waist. From there, it flares out all the way to the floor. In a pale pink, this piece exemplifies the style of the collection. The colors and lines are truly girly. Unlike other brands, there is a sense of innocence in the line that avoids cuts or fabrics that are too revealing. Kira has also tried to steer clear of anything “too adult.” The line is specifically geared towards the younger generation of fashionistas that Kira herself belongs to. However, she has always had a more sophisticated side.

Lublu, which means “I love” in Russian, was launched one year after her “fast fashion” line as a higher end collection that could exhibit the more refined side of Kira’s designs. According to lublukp.com, the line “celebrates the independent spirit of today’s dynamic female.” For her pre-fall 2014/15 collection, Kira imagined that the women she was designing for were from a mystical garden paradise, but were living busy lives in the big city. With these colorful images in mind, she creates styles that are cutting edge, yet still fun and full of intrigue. Kira manages to blend these creative, high-fashion qualities with clothes that are everyday comfortable, and wearable. Of the collection, one deep blue, printed frock stands out, paired with a thick overcoat with a matching blue interior liner, a black outer shell and gold buttons. The skirt, just a little longer than the overcoat, has just a slight flare to highlight the fitted waist. While Lublu is more mature in its style, it is still distinctly feminine. Also, included in this collection are some things that Kira feels that she designs the best: cocktail dresses and evening gowns.

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As Kira has come of age in the fashion world, she has not slowed down on her dreams. A new store featuring her Lublu line is recently opened in Dallas, Texas, which is close to where she is working on her MBA. While she is completing her degree at Southern Methodist University, her company’s headquarters are in Moscow. So, still spends a lot of time “jet setting” back and forth between the two, and to other places around the world to gain inspiration. At twenty-two, Kira Plastinina still embodies the dynamic, stylish women that she designs for. Her father may have boosted her start, but Kira has proven that she has the imagination and dedication to produce fashions that are truly unique.

-Tabi Lawson

 

The Snow Dance, sensual and artistic, mesmerized all who watched it. Adorned in a glistening white kimono, Sayuri graced the Japanese stage slowly, her arms reaching for the life she believed would never come. The snow, falling effortlessly around her, symbolized her transformation. Once soft like the rain, she had now become cold like ice. All was laid bare on the stage: her wounded past, her uncertain present, and a future that relied solely on hope. Portraying the character so passionately, Beijing born actress Zhang Ziyi illustrated part of her own story during the film. Though she was never a geisha, Zhang was more than familiar with her character’s personality. “There are only two sides to one’s personality: it’s either tough or soft,” she told Time Out Shanghai. Like her character in Memoirs of a Geisha, she too has developed  tough skin, but has maintained a soft spoken demeanor, generous heart and feminine grace.

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There’s something magical about water. Every time I got to a beach or a lake, I can’t help but marvel at the majesty of massive waves or serene ripples. Water is, after all, the source of all life so it’s only natural to have reverence for it. Photographer Christy Lee Rogers, for instance, transforms her fascination of water into artwork. Her work is breathtaking—literally. She merges human and aquatic forms by photographing her subjects as they move underwater. Through her works, she has revamped traditional photography and developed a signature flair.

As a native Hawaiian, Rogers has always had an affinity for water. She grew up in Kailua, a beach town on the island of Oahu, and was enamored of the Pacific Ocean. When she was a teenager, Rogers took up photography as a hobby. Her high school boyfriend, a photographer, gave her an old film camera as a gift. She then started snapping pictures of her friends as well as assembled objects. Rogers also posed for hundreds of photos and took self-portraits. Eventually, she decided to incorporate her love of water into her photography.

clr2“The beauty and tranquility of water led to my first experimentations with it as an artistic source,” Rogers told Astrum People, an online success story magazine. “Metaphorically, water stood for purity; and a body immersed in it, free from of gravity but trapped by the inability to breathe, was a huge dichotomy that consumed me.  Pain and suffering all mixed up with freedom and purity.” For Rogers, water is an inspirational element. Her photographs reflect the nature of the universal solvent; sometimes it can be tranquil and at other times, tempestuous.

While Rogers has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunications and Film, she has no formal training in photography. All of her experience comes from exploration and independent research. Her artistic approach stems from the refraction of light. Light shifts from a lower optical density in air to a higher optical density in water. The movement from air to water causes light to bend and this creates a blurred effect. To capture her photographs, Rogers uses a Canon 5D Mark II or a 1DS Mark III camera. She usually conducts nighttime sessions at local pools in Hawaii and remains poolside to snap shots. Since her subjects are immersed in water, she only has brief intervals to operate. For example, when she photographed “Black Moon,” a piece from her Reckless Unbound collection, her subjects stayed underwater for approximately 15 to 20 seconds at a time for an 8-hour session.

Remarkably, she does not digitally alter or manipulate her images. The confluence of light refraction and movement in varying water depths give them a distinct look. Her photographs more closely resemble paintings than photographs and have been often compared to Baroque art. In an interview with Frame Publishers, a company specializing in publications for creative professionals, Rogers detailed her process.  “Water can become quite chaotic, especially with choreographing many subjects together, so we [practice] one by one. I teach each person my style and how to position themselves in relation to me and in relation to the lights. There are key points that they have to [practice] and hopefully master. Posing is not something that I feel works for real expression so I have my subjects stay in constant movement.”

Rogers has produced several photographic series. Her most notable collections are Celestial BodiesÉlanSmoke and GoldReckless UnboundOdyssey and Siren. Many of her works have also been included in publications such as Harper’s Bazaar Art China, Eyemazing, The Independent, Casa Vogue and Photo Professional. In addition, five of her photographs were featured as cover art for The All-Baroque Box, a 50 CD-box set distributed by Universal Music Group, and Deutsche Grammophon, the world’s oldest surviving record label.

Élan, a 2014 collection, has a festive, carnivalesque motif. The models in this collection wore flamboyant costumes while moving through the water. One piece that caught my attention, titled “Fantôme Du Coeur” (Phantom of the Heart), depicts a man smiling with outstretched arms as he breaks free from entangled bodies. The ripples of the water, the lighting, and the subjects’ attire create an image reminiscent of an anachronistic French painting. Visually, it’s the incarnation of a sunken soiree.

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Her 2015 collection, Celestial Bodies, came to fruition because of a technical error. Rogers emailed a photo to a friend and discovered that the original image was duplicated in reverse. She was inspired by this mistake and integrated it into the project. “Celestial Bodies” is an apt description for the series because the subjects look as if they’re drifting weightlessly in the void of outer space. At the same time, Rogers captures each person’s fluidity by conveying them as astral projections.

The piece titled, “Reflected in the Stars” is stunning. The sparse lighting and surrounding bubbles project a cosmic atmosphere. It’s symbolic of a graceful, interstellar ballet. The woman is essentially drowning peacefully as the water envelops her entire being. Rogers creates a mirrored effect by juxtaposing the original image with its inverted counterpart. This is a masterfully crafted image that showcases Rogers’ ingenuity.

I was very impressed with Christy Lee Rogers’ collections. She has an intuitive perspective and her technique is innovative. Underwater photography is a nuanced art form with an imaginative style.  An aquatic ambience permeates her photographs which makes her work so exceptional. Her methodology is unorthodox, yet it can be appreciated by photography enthusiasts and art lovers alike.

-Elijah Yarbrough

Map Painting by jasper johns; Map Art Print for sale
Map Painting by jasper johns; Map Art Print for sale

At first and quite possibly the second and third glance, nothing extraordinary catches your eye. The all too familiar color, subject matter and title cause you to wonder what exactly is it that makes the painting so valuable. But in 2014, it sold for $36 million. At only 12 by 18 inches, the piece does not grab attention because of its size. But painter and print maker Jasper Johns offers up a slice of history in his art. Born in 1930, the 85 year old artist enjoys intertwining Abstract Expressionism with the beauty of concrete subjects. Admitting he wanted to be an artist at a young age, Johns told PBS, “I think I thought it meant that I would be in a situation different from the one that I was in.” Perhaps, that’s what makes Johns’ artwork so appealing, his ability to illustrate so many different situations in such a simplistic, minimalist way.

Besides the bright orange, yellow, red and blue color palette, the first thing one notices in a Jasper Johns painting is the familiarity of the subject. Whether flags, targets, numbers, letters or maps, everyday items are almost always portrayed. They are comfortable and mysterious at the same time. “Map,” an oil on canvas depiction of the United States of America, draws viewers in deeper into the Johns reimagined depths. The map is both old and new at the same time, mimicking the feeling of a renovated home, vaguely familiar yet “new.” State names, stenciled onto the painted canvas are like cosmetic upgrades resulting in a kind of new value for the piece.

john3Whether intentional or not, Johns’ paintings seem to flow together, intangible ideals bound together by tangible creations. Guided by the “Map,” viewers often come across “Target with Four Faces,” another famous painting by the legendary artist. Like “Map,” this painting blends commonplace items with unexpected elements of surprise. Viewers, comforted by the fact that the bull’s eye, the goal, is within reach, are left wondering about the role of the blind faces. Regardless of the reason for the eyeless faces, the painting is a tangible illustration of people aiming for a target, whether their goal be mental, spiritual, physical, emotional or simply for sport. “False Start,” a colorful arrangement of colliding colors and words, reminds viewers that life is comprised of both the expected as well as the unexpected.

“My experience of life is that it’s very fragmented; certain kinds of things happen, and in another place, a different kind of thing occurs. I would like my work to have some kind of vivid indication of those differences.” Johns’ statement with PBS is exactly what happens in “False Start.” In some parts of the art, colors clash with other colors. In other parts, the word “yellow” is painted in blue on top of a red patch of paint. The mind, left to play puzzling games, undergoes false starts, constantly renegotiating and re-imagining that which seems normal. In the end however, the viewer’s mind, like life, grows stronger as it recognizes new patterns within familiar color schemes and words. In fact, that seems to be Jasper Johns’ message as an artist: pop culture reappropriated for social and personal growth. That is, in Johns’ world, simple flags, are reimagined as badges of personal patriotism, shooting targets become mirrors of life goals and mismatched colors depict the evolution of individual people.

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Born in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns grew up extremely aware of difference whether it was race, class or gender. Those lessons have helped shape him into an amazing artist that uses and reimagines familiar things in unfamiliar ways. In fact, Johns readily admits that good artists must be willing to give up everything, especially the desire to be traditional. He has done that, leaving the University of South Carolina after studying for only a few months. Moving to New York, he embraced the different pace of life, craving even more the freedom of artistry. For him, his work is about “relations between seeing and knowing, seeing and saying and seeing and believing.” But these relations can only be accurately understood through new eyes, reimagining everyday items and everyday circumstances in new ways and that is worth far more than $36 million.

-Sharita Gilmore