R U Ready? Meet the legal alien taking over New York’s art scene.
Taken from the Summer Issue of Wonderland
“I wasn’t born on this planet actually, but I’ve been in New York for a while,” Torraine Futurum tells me. Regardless of how or when she got here, Futurum has conquered the art world. “I put into images [what has] been difficult for me to express verbally. Its intent is for my own catharsis and self care, but also to challenge the concepts of truth and convention. All my work, whether it’s photography, film, writing, or music attempts to challenge those concepts. I call myself an artist as this umbrella term. I think people get boxed into one thing.”
Everything exploded for Torraine Futurum about six months ago, after she lent her face to someone else’s art, modelling for esteemed portrait photographer Ethan Green, known for showcasing gender fluidity. “The first portraits Ethan did with me kind of destroyed the internet. He got me so much attention! It’s been the snowball effect ever since.”
After breaking the internet, she was noticed by photography’s golden child, Petra Collins, while working as an extra on a short film. The meeting lead to her biggest gig to date: a role in the music video for Carly Rae Jepsen’s insanely catchy “Boy Problems,” which Collins directed. The video, which quickly racked up over a million and a half YouTube views in its first week, takes us inside Collins’ pastel-coloured landscape. “When I think of Petra, I think of pale pretty colours and a dreamy aesthetic, which I think is beautiful,” says Futurum. When asked how as an artist, Torraine’s world would compare, she answers, “I’d say Torraine’s world is sharp, black and white, kind of severe, but also really glam. It’s old Hollywood glamour on Mars, basically.”
Planet Torraine, like all worlds, came from collapse, birthed out of a dark year that lead to transformation. “ was the absolute worst year of my life ever. Everything you could ever imagine went wrong. My best friend who I was living with died. I lost my job, I lost my apartment. I stopped talking to a lot of my friends. That year changed and decimated everything I thought my life was at the time. And so I had the opportunity to rebuild myself.”
During this time, in August of 2014, Futurum’s self-portrait series Transgression: A Self-Centered Art Project was born, as she herself began to transition. “I started working on the series as I began to socially transition, changing pronouns and presenting in a feminine way. That’s when I started to finally be comfortable with looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t know where I was going to end up or what I was going to identify with, I just knew I wanted to look more feminine. I just decided to document it. I definitely have become a person I didn’t ever intend to be.” The title is a nod to cruel words uttered from a friend, who called her self-centered during the difficult time, words she decided to transform into art. “I thought I was a pretty loving and caring person; I was really bothered by it for a while. Then I started thinking… well, if I’m not self centered, whose other life would I be centered around? When I decided to own that, it felt very powerful.”
To survive in the spotlight, one must make friends with their axis, finding true form within public persona, concepts explored in a short film Futurum recently directed and started in, titled Ready When U R, which might as well be her world’s welcome video. Shot mostly in black and white on an iPhone, her old Hollywood glamour from Mars is never more apparent than when Futurum stands in front of the lens, places a goth tiara on her head, jerking about the frame with a wild grace. “The film touches on the messiness of managing public image versus self esteem and self preservation versus personal fulfillment,” she says.
The final images for Transgression will be released this summer, and the next arrival on Planet Torraine is a photo project about death, in which she plans to challenge herself to explore new mediums. “Not to give too much away, but there will be musical elements, and film, and even the style of the ‘wall art’ will be a departure. I’ve really jumped out the window with the new stuff. In the best way.” As we finish our coffees, Futurum concludes: “You don’t get an award for conforming.”
Photography: Michael Bailey-Gates
Words: Sophie Saint Thomas