Interview and photos by Juliann McCandless
Alexandra Marzella is a twenty-four year old artist, model, actress, sex worker and advocate based in Brooklyn, NYC. We visited and shot Alexandra in her beautiful Bushwick home. We caught Alexandra in a semi-manic state due to coping with marijuana and nicotine withdrawals as she is currently seeking balance in her life and trying to evolve as an artist. The result was the following, a very candid and real conversation IRL had with Alexandra - discussing her work, feminism, the internet and more:
How long have you been in NYC?
About two years and eight months.
How would you describe your practice?
A lot of computing in bed, a lot of working with friends. I am still very much evolving as an artist, but am at a point that I finally feel like I’m on the right path, swimming upstream still, but in the right direction.
Your work at times seems to be based around your sexuality, can you talk about that a little bit?
I’ve always been hyper-sexual but mostly in my mind. I am (unfortunately) very monogamous by nature. My heart and genitals are very connected. I do believe I am polyamorous however, and I believe almost all humans are. We’ve just been taught that it’s wrong so we don’t realize or understand it. I’ve been masturbating since I was a baby. My parents can vouch for this. I guess I say that to give you an idea of how intrinsic sexuality has been in my life. When I was nine or ten I told my parents that I wanted to be a stripper when I grew up.Then when I was twelve or thirteen I told my dad that I had figured out what I wanted to do in life and when he asked what it was I said, “Never work a nine to five job”. I think the human body is so exceptionally amazing. We are nearly perfect machines. The absence of nudity in society creates so many issues that most people aren’t even aware of, it breaks my heart. If we all saw each other naked all the time everyone would feel much better about themselves and realize that we’re all different and the same. That we all have perfect imperfections. I could really just write a book about this. This answer is way too long already and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Do you think the world is progressing in terms of how it views women and women’s sexuality?
Yes. The internet is amazing and is breaking down so many different walls.
Women are more free to express themselves sexually in this generation (via the internet and other outlets) with less judgement. Would you agree with that statement?
In my world it’s true. But my world consists of mostly radical creatives. It’s also a lot different for me because I am a white, skinny, conventionally pretty woman living in America, “the land of the free” *cough, bullshit*. Women of color and LGBTQ people don’t have it so easy. This is wrong and more people need to work towards correcting this. We need to work harder to enlighten the world and ourselves.
Yeah, I feel that on a large scale the women who promote feminism and getting attention are predominantly white skinny north american women, do you agree?
Yes I completely agree with this. This type of woman is considered ideal in the modern world. This is sickening to me when I really think about it. But if it takes people like me to spread this awareness to the largest possible audience then that's what it takes! There are so many things we can do to change this. I don't know if I am being repetitive but due to how and where I was raised I find myself with many white skinny pretty friends. I would definitely have to spend a lot more time and energy establishing relationships with women of color to truly get my ideas across. I am very lofty in my concepts of how the world could be a better place. I am just now at age twenty-four really starting to back up these concepts with loads of research and reaching out. I have so many wonderful people in my life willing to help educate me. This is important but again, most of them are white and conventionally beautiful! Obviously this goes along with the oppression of people of color and people keeping those people undereducated, under nourished and so on. There are so many ways we can work to change this. For me I can really only handle one step at a time. I love the idea of being a public speaker and spreading this awareness but I also want to be a successful artist, healthy, sane and am constantly working towards a more and more balanced life. I am selfish in this sense. My ego has yet to allow me to be a complete martyr. However, I wouldn't be at all surprised if I end up dying for this cause. It would most definitely be an honorable way to go. I think all people can help change the world by opening their minds and educating themselves. We have the most complex encyclopedia that is updated by the second at our disposal now. USE IT! (I'm talking about the internet. and p.s. remember to dim your screens because I don't do this enough and it's def not healthy). My final statement on this is.. World peace IS achievable but we all must work much harder and be much nicer to all of our brothers and sisters to do so.
Ya agreed, kindness is key. So, you see yourself as feminist?
Of course I do. I had to explain to one of my younger guy friends what feminism was recently because he kept calling me an “angry feminist” in arguments. He didn’t know the definition of feminism is literally "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Aka equality for all people with an emphasis on how women have gotten the shit end of the stick. Anyone who doesn’t want equality for all people in my opinion is sick, and it’s not their fault. It is much bigger than them and that’s why it’s terrifying.
Thanks for mentioning the definition of feminism, I think there are a lot of people who aren’t aware of the real meaning. Do you feel you face any negative stigmas from people regarding you or your work?
Of course, but I can’t really care because I know in my heart i’m using my powers for good. I have an amazing support system that I have worked hard at creating and have been blessed enough to continue to grow.
How do you turn the negative into positive?
Crying helps a lot! I suggest everyone cry a lot more! I try to think of negative feedback as a critique rather than insults. I really try to consider everything people say about me or my work. But sometimes I know certain people are uneducated on who I am and what message I’m trying to spread, or they’re hurting in their own way and it comes out as negativity towards other people. Even good people do this. But then again I believe that all people are innately good.
Yes, I feel you one-hundred. Speaking of crying, at Art Basel this past December you presented a performance art piece which involved you crying on a mattress. Can you talk a bit about how your personal feelings and emotions affect your work?
I tweeted the other day that I want to make a career out of crying. I could see this actually happening. Petra [Collins] asked me to be part of the show and presented it as an homage to releasing ourselves from the constricts of any man. Even if you’re happily in a relationship, you should always strive and want to be your own woman outside of that person. I have been in a difficult but amazing relationship for the past year and a half, well actually all of my relationships have been difficult so I very much related to this concept. Love is a very complicated drug. I mentioned wanting to use the song "Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” [by Wet] and she said that she had been crying to that song all week long! I knew I wanted to utilize nudity, movement and music to get the message across. It was my first live performance that I conceptualized all by myself, a stepping stone you could say. I got a lot of good feedback and actually made some people tear up. Evoking, embracing and encouraging emotion is very much what drives my artistic practice. I didn’t even consider myself an artist really until people started telling me I was one.
How long ago did people start telling you you were an artist? At what point did you decide to embrace that aspect of yourself?
My brain is pretty fried right now and I don't have the best memory but I want to say two years ago was when it started to trickle in, about a full year after graduating I guess. I mean I've always known I was an artist in some sense. But not the kind that could make a whole career and successful living off of art in general and not busting my ass a million hours a week in an industry I ended up finding to be totally corrupt (pointing my big foam finger at you fashion). As for the second part of this question, I mean, I'm still embracing myself. I learn something new about myself every day because I try to learn multiple new things about the world every day. I do this by using the internet, my friends, new friends, etc. When you put yourself completely out there you will be amazed at how much you can get back. It's kind of like it takes money to make money but more like it takes being completely open, genuine and willing to learn to get the same response back from all the people you take the time to do so with. Also, our physical forms have an extremely strong grip on our minds and emotions. You can learn to let go of this, I am getting better and better at this. My body is a tool and it's not broken but I can constantly make it better - like an iPhone or something. A balanced life will enable you to see everything including yourself much clearer. I recently read some article, that I'm way too tired to find right now, about how quantum scientists have found that our minds have fabricated the physical world that we know and love and hate so well. Our bodies let us know if we are balanced or not. Of course nature and nurture have a lot to do with this. But our minds are more powerful than we will probably ever really know.
That's so beautiful - fully putting yourself out there and getting it back from others. Your work has a strong basis in the “selfie”, how do you feel about selfies in art and your work as well as in other people’s practices? I know that various people see the “selfie generation” as being narcissistic where do you draw the line of self-love and self-obsession? Is there a difference to you?
I’ve talked about this a lot and there are also a lot of very well articulated articles about this. The show Body Anxiety at bodyanxiety.com has some really good writing by Jennifer Chan and Leah Schrager about this. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with selfies unless they are inconsiderate, for instance a selfie with a dead body or intentional black face etc. However, I do think some people do it for the wrong reasons, because they don’t love themselves. However, I encourage people to keep taking selfies until they do love themselves. I also encourage unedited gross selfies, obvi if you’ve seen any of my instagrams this is something I am a big advocate of. Doing this has helped me accept myself fully in a very real way.
Photos via @artits6666
Instagram is an outlet for your work, I know you’ve been banned from instagram a lot, why do you think that is? What are your feelings on censorship and social media?
I’ve been deleted like sixteen to seventeen times now or something... Currently using artits6666 which was deleted but I got back along with artburp6666, that one just got deleted again. Currently the people at Instagram are not emailing me back about restoring it again. I know it’s like one or two sad people that probably know me from my past and are just totally out to get me. Censorship is a joke. Children should not be shielded from the realities of our world especially nudity which literally hurts no one unless it’s the government or church (etc) that does the hurting. What really gets my goat is that violence is totally ok on almost all social medias but a NIPPLE is absolutely unacceptable. That makes no sense whatsoever and I really hope the world wakes up soon.
That’s true and SO frustrating. I think you grammed some Tinder screenshots a while back if i’m remembering right... Do you use Tinder for real? How do you feel about love in our generation? Do you believe in true love?
I’ve dabbled in Tinder, but for many different reasons. All social media is a part of my artistic practice. I usually only seriously use it when I’m heartbroken and/or extremely horny. True love is all around us all the time, it’s inside of us. I strive to be happy and feel love no matter what. If I die alone in a cave my goal is to be happy and filled with love even then.
Do you think the internet has changed art creativity and how we express ourselves?
Well, considering I think communication is the key to everything and the internet is the fastest and furthest reaching form of communication... DEFINITELY.
Do you think people’s perception of you on the internet is different than their perception of you IRL?
Oh, it is. I said this in another interview the other day but somebody said I was boring in real life.Ultimately I think that’s funny and great although it also made me sad because I don’t like being misunderstood... Sometimes I’m sure I do come off as boring, I’m probably tired, over it or deep in my thoughts.
Cool. You strike me as someone who is very sure of herself, is that the case? Have you always been that way? If not how did you get there?
Of course I’m not always that way. I am human like everyone else. But at the same time I kind of have always been that way. Very stubborn, very honest, open and communicative. I am always striving to be a better me especially since going to RISD [Rhode Island School of Design), graduation and moving to New York. My frontal cortex is much closer to being fully developed, Which is very exciting!
Oh yah, you went to RISD, I remember when I was at your place I mentioned that I dropped out of university and you were down. How do you feel about post secondary education in our generation, do you think it’s necessary?
No, not if you’re willing to educate yourself or seek education in different ways. I think the fact that I’ll be paying off my loans for the next 10-20 years is very sad. Especially because I basically went to school for sewing and now I’m not doing that at all, but I have no regrets. RISD was a challenging and invigorating school where I met amazing people whom I’m still close to and inspired by today.
Having been in New York for a significant period of time, you have been hustling for a minute... Have your goals or views of who you are changed significantly over that time period?
I feel reborn and like I'm finally starting to bloom. I feel like an incredibly different person than who I was two and a half years ago when I graduated. My goals, my beliefs and my knowledge have grown exponentially in ways I could only vaguely imagine back then.
Can we talk about your side hustle?
I model and I have a sugar daddy. I’m fortunate enough for it to be non-sexual. Whatever that means. He wants sex, don’t get me wrong and our relationship did spawn from him being a regular of mine at a pop up topless dancing spot. But mainly the friendship we’ve built and the emotional ties we have is what keeps it going. I am very willing to walk away if I feel he’s pressuring me or if I start making a lot more money via art and acting. However we will always be life-long friends, I know this in my heart. I think sex work is extremely beautiful, useful and important, it is like any other trade. I often think of my SD as a patron. Which I love and which he actually totally is. Sex work has a dark shadow looming over it, I think that has a lot to do with it being illegal. I believe that rape and sex slavery would have much smaller percentages if nudity and sex work were legal.
I feel like a lot of people see sex work as a way for women to be exploited, how do you feel about this as a sex worker yourself?
I think all trades that have good intentions at the base of their actions have the power to empower people, not just women. To me sex work is no different than buying groceries. Everything in this world is based on the trading of services. Although, Power and greed have heavily tainted this concept. If a woman has made her own choice to work in a field that falls under the umbrella of sex work and goes about it as safely as she can then yes, of course it is empowering, inspiring really. Women have been treated as objects for far too long. This goes for other people too not just women. Don't knock anything people preach to be good until you try it. Sex work has plenty of bad connotations but as a self proclaimed sex worker and as a friend of many other self proclaimed sex workers I know it, like many other good services, has the ability to bring complete positivity to the world if done the right way.
For sure, I feel like being open about it is a step towards taking away negative connotations, so thanks for sharing. As an artist how do you stay motivated to keep making work and keep hustlin’?
I'm currently trying to quit or cut down on weed. I’ve been a heavy daily smoker for the past ten years, I started when I was twelve. I started using it like a heavy drug. I couldn’t stop and I started smoking up to a pack of cigarettes a day in addition. When I don’t smoke a lot I feel like I could rule the world. I am naturally very motivated. Reading articles, researching and constantly educating myself about things I believe in as well as surrounding myself with wonderful people helps drive this.
You have a dance background, how important is dance to you as a form of self expression?
Oh my god. I mean, even with the weed withdrawals, sometimes just shaking my body and getting up and doing a little jig or a handstand makes me feel worlds better. Dancing is medicine for the soul, it is everything. EVERYONE SHOULD DANCE MORE! I sure don’t do it enough.
Same! Are you happy with where you are at in your life?
Hell no, and hell yes.
Do you have any advice for young creatives?
Use your powers for good. Never stop loving.
What’s coming up for you? What are you doing next?
More performances, more acting and I’m and currently conceptualizing and planning what I want to be a VERY big solo show that incorporates (at the moment) over 100 artists that I do and want to work with.
Do you have any specific goals you’re trying to reach in the next little while?
Healthy body, healthy mind. Make more money from my art—I hate money but unfortunately I need it to better the world.
Thanks so much for being real with us and for all the insightful words. Anything else you wanna add?
The light within me bows to the light within you. Aka Namaste (shoutout Maia Canter aka @retnacaiam)