To speak to the “artistic self” aforementioned, before diving into a figure of my utmost, emphatic adoration: I experience, at every corner of this life, an incomparable connection to the visual — the fruits of design, of architecture, of fashion — the visual art around me, both intentionally and unintentionally artful. My observations have garnered me an insatiable yearning to cultivate the artistic potential of all that I could move myself to harness. I am bound by my sentiments to a lifetime commitment towards cycles of capture. I yearn to eternally commit to the exaltation of the communities of humanity in their rawest form. Cycles of capture and alteration — the work of documenting humanity in all of its forms — are my life’s work, or so I hope for them to be: the bold, harsh lines and colors of the editorial, meeting the cognitive abstraction it holds in the bizarre, never forgetting to look backward to the simple joy it gathers in the traditional.
It is precisely this fixation upon the visual that draws me to photography; this is why it is to the surprise of anyone who hears me speak of my idols that they may not be explicitly of a visual creed. It comes with shock to most, then, for me to claim my greatest inspiration in the field of visual art to be a musician.
There is no way in which I could overstate her eminence, or the personal regard which I hold for her— a subversive, disruptive, transgressive visionary. I must speak to the manner at which she has changed me so absolutely, as the world mourns the passing of a sculptor of contemporary music.
Sophie Xeon — known simply as SOPHIE — emanates precisely the illustrious brilliance her first-name status would imply.
A profile in 2018 for Paper Magazine describes her sonic delicacies as “swimming in a sea of mercury”, “euphoric hyper-pop”, “wildly ambitious — thematically and sonically — but [somehow exceeding her] impossible hype”. The anthologies of SOPHIE’s songbook and production prowess invoke immediate understandings of her innate ethos and connection to spirituality. There are undeniable strokes of immaculate conception in each of her works: from the hypnotic, nearly meditative narrative of Pretending, the bold, pounding shock of Ponyboy, the exquisite deliverance of devotion and truth in It’s Okay To Cry and the rallying call to self-celebrate in Immaterial, SOPHIE commands her audiences with her musical intellect. Her boundary-pushing complexity and multi-faceted, ever-changing point of view as an electronic artist signals a voice of sheer, uninhibited authenticity that rings as true to her diverse clientele of collaborators, including Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Vince Staples and Itzy.
I had been working as a photographer, styling traditional formal photography for a faithful set of clients for about two years — seeking a convicted artistic direction to embody my personal taste and severe avant-garde adjacency — when I heard Faceshopping for the first time. I felt like I had opened a trap door and had swept into freefall towards a refreshing, liberating sonic universe. The utility of noise material that SOPHIE encapsulated in her work was truly unlike anything I had ever heard before.
I immediately began to synthesize work that appealed to the same piece of my heart that felt indubitably bound to the gripping individuality which coursed through the veins of her productions.
I began to understand my visual constructions as reminiscent of scultpure simply by paralleling them to the sonic abstractions I perceived primarily in consumption of her anthology. I eventually came to find her process alarmingly similar and regarded this as a signal that the process was correct and organic. As she tells of her creative process in application to her Product singles Lemonade and Hard:
I’m always trying to encapsulate how we, as emotional beings, interact with the world and the machines and technology around us — being able to emote through those things. They’re not antithetical or mutually exclusive.
I continued to exert myself in my craft and as time progressed, I continued to derive, in [tasteless] excess, inspiration from the disruptive brilliance of her individual approach to sound engineering — she became one of the most influential artists on my own sense of identity and philosophy. My relationship to gender fell into question and plied as a result of my interactions with her work and the philosophy behind it.
I sought to unearth her strength and conviction in my own creative endeavors. I still seek it to this day — that which she has so graciously shown all of us.
I ache to know that the fruits of that insurmountable artistic presence will never reach my ears for the first time again. I ache immeasurably harder for the people that had the profound pleasure of experiencing her spirit more intimately, and hope for their consolation and their comfort with each passing minute. Too many people who have and have not met you will miss you, SOPHIE; we will forever cherish the radiance you interjected into a universe you were too good for.