Poet, musician, occasional cross-dresser, and wildly frenetic multimedia performance artist Michael David Quattlebaum, Jr. makes no secret of his ambition. In fact, he mutters his personal affirmation—“opportunities, prosperity, notoriety, and an abundance of cash money are mine”—to himself close to 80 times each day. “I say it any chance I have a moment to myself,” says the 25-year-old California native who moved to New York City three years ago. “It’s my way of taking control.” Such self-possession is required for an individual who inhabits so many disciplines, identities, and social media accounts as effortlessly as Quattlebaum, Jr. In some ways, he is striving to be a Patti Smith for the digital era. His turbulent, free-of- gravity work has been found in art spaces such as Terence Koh’s ASS gallery, where he created an homage to the late Yves Saint Laurent (which, incidentally, included a receipt from a YSL t-shirt Quattlebaum, Jr. purchased in San Francisco with money he made from a jerk-off video), as well as online on his various Vimeo, Tumblr, and Twitter accounts. Most recently there’s his new book, From The Silence of Duchamp to the Noise of Boys, a poetry collection released by the culty art-world imprint OHWOW. Quattlebaum, Jr.’s impassioned and sometimes illicit poems chronicle his spiritual reckoning amidst a New York City landscape filled with Adderall-induced highs and lows, hazy run-ins at the Jane hotel, or simply “sharpening the zen implications of sitting in the park mid-afternoon.” The book serves as a companion piece to the artist’s upcoming five-track EP of his poems with his group, No Fear. But perhaps what most qualifies Quattlebaum, Jr. as a one-man spectacle is his ability to morph from a young, gay, black urbanite reciting lines about discrimination to a cross-dressing firecracker named Mykki Blanco. Quattlebaum, Jr. says he defines himself as embodying both female and male spirits, but he does not want people to think of Blanco as just some drag alter ego. “People have a hard time understanding that there is no difference between Mykki and Michael,” he explains. “My art stands alone.” Despite his blurring of conventions, Quattlebaum, Jr. is unambiguous about his professional image: “I am definitely the art world’s post-Generation X pomo baby.”
Photo: Michael David Quattlebaum, Jr. in New York, July 2011. Pants: Topman. Boxers (vintage): Marmalade. Hat: The Leather Man. Sunglasses: StÆrk By James Grillo. Jewelry: Artist’s Own. Styling: Sarah Ellison. Grooming: Belinda Zollo. Special Thanks: Fast Ashleys.
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