Interview by Michael Bullock
Photography by Marcelo Krasilcic
Published in apartamento 8, 2011
So Marcelo, where did you grow up in Brazil?
São Paulo. I like to tell people I moved to New York because I wanted to live in a smaller place with fewer people, more nature, less crime and better air. São Paulo is gigantic!
I love São Paolo. It doesn’t compare to Rio in terms of beauty. Rio is a mixture of forest, mountains and the beach and São Paolo has nothing like that, but it’s a city that grew really fast and didn’t have much urban planning. You end up with a patchwork of every different style, which I love. You see crazy modern buildings next door to some shanty house covered in tiles next door to a neoclassical palace. It’s been a big influence on me.
Why, because you appreciate every style?
Yeah, and you can see the beauty in how two styles interact. I think on a poetic level it says a lot about how people interact with each other, ‘cos we’re all so different and here we are together.
Why did you move to New York?
To go to college. I went to NYU to do photography. I didn’t care about New York. I went to a left-wing high school in Brazil so we learned so much shit about the states. I mean I love it, but growing up I learned all about America’s involvement with Latin American dictatorships. I was never like ‘Oh New York!’ I came here because it was the best place to study. Although now I’m a proud American! I see the flag and my heart twitches. When I finished school, I started working and here I am. I love every minute of it. I love that my work allows me to travel so much. I like it because when you get somewhere, you’re there. It allows you to be present wherever you are because it’s going to change soon, so you learn to just enjoy it.
It makes you enjoy being home more as well.
Everywhere more, because you don’t have time to get used to anything. I love being home. A good place in New York is hard to come by. I was extremely lucky. I needed a place to shoot more than anything. When I signed the lease it was a mess and I was broke. That made renovation slow and difficult. I remember a friend of mine came to visit and she left crying. ’How can you live in this rat hole?’ she said. My parents were so sad the first time they came here. In Brazil it’s all about a building’s entrance, so coming in onto a staircase they didn’t know what to do. But now they love it. My mom tells everybody it’s very close to SoHo.
I was told that your parents were both involved in interior design?
Yes. My father’s side of the family were all furniture makers. He worked with his father for years before eventually opening his own store. My mother was an interior designer. She taught me how to position objects to create a sense of balance. I still think about that in my work today. So the importance of how things are placed has always been in my imagination.
What was your Mom’s interior design style?
She’s eclectic. She likes to mix tropical elements like floral prints and rattan furniture with leather pillows and Persian rugs. She was also influenced by Chinese art. She liked dragons, and she’s crazy about little boxes and tiny sculptures. She went through a fun period where there were little gold sculptures all over the place. Our country house was quite dramatic. There was a zebra room that was all black and white with zebra carpets, zebra sculptures, zebra pillows and zebra candles. There’s always something very passionate about her rooms.
Did she teach you how to think visually?
Probably. She has a beautiful sense of beauty – but she’s also very opinionated and critical, so definitely, yeah. My mom also loves to have parties and loves to welcome people. That’s something I got from her too.
Which of the parties you’ve had here is your favourite?
Once for my birthday I had a dinner for 50 friends here. That was fun. The way the space works, if you have less than 50 it feels empty.
The biggest was New Year ’s Eve 1996. I had over 300 people. At one point there was a couple having sex in the shower while people were going in and out of the bathroom. For years after people would meet me and say, ‘Oh my god, that party was so much fun! I think guests enjoy this place because it feels like a New York that doesn’t exist anymore. I’m due for another big one soon.
When did you get your place in São Paulo?
In 2006. My place in São Paulo is funny; it looks like I’ve only had it for a year. I don’t spend much time in São Paulo because my boyfriend Antonio lives in Rio. He spends more time at my place than I do. So it still has that new place feel. I put curtains in last year, a rug last month. It takes a bit of time.
What was the most important factor in choosing your apartment there?
I needed to look out onto trees like I do here. I like the privacy of having trees. I love looking at the trees and watching the seasons pass. It’s a luxury and it’s something I cherish wholeheartedly.
So when I was looking for a place in São Paolo, I looked in a neighbourhood called Higienópolis because it has a park. I live in one of the dirtiest neighbourhoods in New York, the Lower East Side, and in Brazil I live in ‘Hygiene- City’. Higienópolis is beautiful. It’s where a lot of the plantation owners’ European mansions were built in the late ’40s and ’50s. Most of those homes are now apartment buildings.
Is a loft unusual in São Paolo?
An original loft, like a factory space turned into a live/work space, is unusual. There aren’t many spaces like that in Brazil. So now, with the loft revolution, people build new buildings that look like lofts. When I moved in I got rid of as many walls as I could. It was very important for me to have this flow through the apartment. The idea of not having too many doors and being open was crucial. It’s also a live/work space. I shot a lot of the Brazilian issue of Electric Youth there, and some other projects as well.
Is the style of the furniture the same in both apartments?
Yes and no. Something amazing happened. My parents sold their apartment at the beach and I inherited a lot of the furniture, so my São Paolo apartment has a beach feel. I grew up with these Persian rugs they gave me, and my mom had this incredible table. The base is three giant gold metal leaves. Each stem comes up from the floor and the leaves bend so a circular piece of glass can rest on them. That table has always been in my mind. It’s not only beautiful but, when I was a teenager, I was waiting for a bus in front of a gay club and this guy came over and started hitting on me. The minute he said his name I panicked because I knew he’d designed the table.
Why did you panic?
I thought he’d tell my parents I was at a gay club. Nothing came of it, but I was scared for a while. So, in Brazil I have a lot of sentimental pieces from my family. In New York I have a very specific take on what I like, but I also let things happen. I bought that desk which was designed by George Nelson. The kitchen table I bought from a friend. The computer desk is more about being sturdy, functional and comfortable.
What about your couch cover?
I never thought I’d go for a floral pattern like that because it’s so flamboyant – but it’s so pretty. Before that I had a floor to ceiling tropical beach background behind the couch. When that came down I thought some flowers would add to the space.
How did your pillow obsession begin?
I used to have this beautiful 14-piece sectional sofa. I could arrange it in a U or an L shape but my cats totally destroyed it. I kept the pillows because the fabric was amazing. So I ended up with this mountain of pillows. And I started moving them around, making shapes and photographing them. Then I went back to my furniture and interior design roots and started making my own pillows, ‘cos I wanted more options.
And now you use them for everything?
I like that you can build sets and structures very fast with many different patterns and colours. They’re so much fun, so playful. That’s why I started my blog. Now it’s become a diary of my work, but it started as an exercise with the pillows. I was so enamoured with pillow land.
And you make sculptures with them?
I exhibited the first pillow sculpture I made in a gallery and it sold! I was shocked! At first I was sad because with photography I can sell an image and I’ll still always have it. Suddenly, I couldn’t play with those pillows I’d made anymore. But soon I got excited and I started making new ones. They’re great for the cats. I make them buildings with penthouses, mezzanines and passageways. I’ve used the pillows in a lot of photographs.
So do you consider the pillows art, photo props or design?
From the beginning, actually, I’ve always liked the idea that they could be all of those things. They could be a sculpture in an art show or they could be a set for a fashion portrait. Fortunately I’ve never run out of ideas for the pillows. I either use them as the sea behind a surfboard or the twin towers of pillows that can fall and nobody gets hurt. This is new...(he points to an artificial tree by the door).
What is it?
It’s a planter that doubles as a cat litter box. It’ll look much better once it’s painted white. I ordered it online.
Speaking of online products, can you tell me about your brand Krazy Chic?
The name is a play on how nobody can really say my last name. So I just tell people it’s pronounced Krazy-chic. It’s basically a line of souvenirs of my work. It’s more of a conceptual line than a real one because I’m the only one who buys it.
How do you produce so many types of souvenirs with no customers but you?
I found this company that can take your art and apply it to many different products with no minimum orders. If you order a Krazy Chic beer mug online they will make one and send it to you. It’s easy, and more than anything it’s been fun to create a fictional line of products that has nothing to do with making money, but you can actually buy it. I can have all this creative output printed on t-shirts and underwear and bags. I’ve also created all these personal campaigns for the brand.
Most of the images are still-lifes you’ve made and photographed?
Yeah. It’s the Krazy Chic logos and still-lifes, and some designs using the pillows. I’m a big fan of the design with the number 69 made out of many key chains.
I inherited that key chain collection from my parents. ’69 is the year I was born, the erotic year and it all makes sense. I’ll get you a 69 T-shirt.
What are you working on right now that you are overjoyed about?
I’m really excited because I’m going to have a book out next year. It’s all work from the ’90s. Right now it’s titled 20s in the ’90s. It’s about being in my 20s in the ’90s. It’s also very much about being loving. I moved here in 1990 and I finished college in ‘92. At that time there was so much openness in photography and all these new magazines –Purple, Visionaire, Self-Service and Dazed– were looking for new, passionate ways of showing work. Being more conceptual with fashion was celebrated then.
You were shooting for all of them?
Yeah, that’s right. When I finished school I went from doing more conceptual work to being really passionate about fashion. So the book is all ’90s and film photography, which is part of what shaped me. I used to spend months in the lab printing my own photographs and loving every second of it. I was beyond broke, my credit card bills were ridiculous, but I was passionate about the work. My life was work and work was life. It was one thing.
What were you focused on at that time?
Coming from Brazil the whole concept of gay pride was new and very exciting to me. It was a time when I was longing for love and longing for intimacy. My graduation work in college was different men in bed with me. It was passionate but very hard because I had no money. So the book’s all about loving and being accepted. On one page there are pictures of me with somebody in bed, then the next page is my parents being affectionate with each other, and the next is my mom being affectionate with me. As much freedom as we have in America, and nowadays as much freedom as people have in Brazil, the idea of being gay and having a committed relationship is still foreign to a lot of people. It’s still a crime in some countries (looking through the book mock up).
And are there many interiors?
Yeah, I’ve always been interested in shooting interiors because they tell a lot about a person. I was really interested in chance and choice and how you make so many choices within a limited array of possibilities of things you can get with the money you have. At the time I asked, ‘How much am I in charge of it all? Am I really responsible for how this living room is?’ I have my choices but I have limited money, time and options for what I can put in this living room. I was curious about that challenge.
So do you have a conclusion on chance and choice?
It seems both have been good to you? Yeah, I love my everyday experience of working with creative people to make images that go out into the world and influence people in one way or another. It’s wonderful. And when you can do that and make money it’s really exciting. Putting the book together I learned that back then, even though I was as excited as I was, there was a lot of angst because everything was so uncertain. Every exciting moment seemed fleeting. It made me see how precious that time was and it makes me realise how precious time is today. In the sense that every experience, every photograph, every kiss is so profound and nourishing in itself. The idea is to enjoy whatever’s happening, because it’s great.