Still from William Nixon short film. 

l.a.'s rising creatives stage an experimental art show

The group art exhibition includes work by Francis Bean Cobain.

by Safra Ducreay
|
09 March 2018, 12:04am

Still from William Nixon short film. 

To an outsider, Los Angeles arouses visions of sunny skies, wavy surfers, and palm trees that all make for a beautifully curated Instagram grid. It’s also a place of make-believe, where people, old and young, set their sights on “making it”. LA’s most prominent draw, for the celebrity-obsessed, is, of course, the Kardashians. For those leaning towards the edgier side of things, perhaps it’s more about seeing kids riding their skateboards while decked out in Supreme pieces paired with beat-up Vans. Or, maybe it’s flipping through the pages of a coffee table book filled with black and white photos of gang members LA’s rougher South-Central area, covered in full-body tattoos.

This is all true, depending on who you ask, but what tends to be left out of the mix is the city’s bubbling underground scene; a community of outcasts, if you will, who roam the streets of Downtown LA spreading love and being their authentic selves. In a place known for superficiality, this movement offers a refreshing alternative. “The thing that’s now lost in society is sincerity and genuity,” says Joanie Del Santno, a model and co-curator of LA's new initiative Other People's Children. "Jesse is so sincere. He’s been able to formulate a platform for artists to get involved in a way that is affordable. We’re giving them awesome commission opportunities that don’t exist if you go to Barney’s and trying to sell a line there."

David Friend, Photography William Nixon

Spearheaded by Jesse Simon, who fleshed out the concept with his colleagues Blair Green and Taj Alwan, Other People’s Children is a collective that champions LA’s underrepresented punk scene. Creatives with a unique perspective can benefit from being part of OPC. The team has partnered with the retailer Known Supply to produce tees that feature the name of the person they were designed by. Proceeds from the tees OPC sells will go towards the non-profile Urban Possibilities, which uses various forms of art to help the city’s less fortunate. "I believe art is therapeutic," says Jesse. "It gives people a way to express themselves that can help with PTSD and other traumas, which is important to us.”

Other People’s Children is punk, both literally and figuratively. The team firmly believe punk is not just a movement, but a way of life. “Our thing is punk as in not conforming down a specific line,” says Blair “It’s not about being pigeonholed into a jock or a this or a that – that fits our punk ethos. That’s what we’re about.”

Joanie Del Santo, Photography William Nixon

Jesse, who works as the Agency Director for LA Models, felt it was time to shine some light on the kids of the underground. “The name is derived from people asking me what I did for a living and I was like, I manage other people’s children,” Jesse points out. “It was a joke. And then, once we realized where we were taking this and how we wanted to tie in charitable aspects, and supply a platform for those who maybe didn’t have the money to get a space on Melrose Place – we were toying with how we could make that happen. We were joking around about how it was our version of child support, you know?” But all jokes aside, the possibilities to build stronger bonds and tighter communities run in abundance, even in a wide, often deserted landscape like LA. “One of the reasons I came to LA Models from New York, honestly, was because there was a change; business was shifting, and I kept seeing it specifically in Los Angeles.” Jesse then goes a bit deeper: “It’s important to help people build out their passions. What a lot of agencies think of as hobbies, we represent that; whether they want to be an artist or do design - like these Joanie and David. Most agencies weren’t aiming to help build on that. I came over here to find a space outside of the traditional agency.”

The team works with people from a variety of backgrounds, including photographers and painters to musicians and even athletes — offering them a platform to come together and delve into their passions. No matter how absurd their visions may appear to the outside world. “They give people a space to do what they want and express themselves without putting a lot of money in it or signing contracts or being out of a ton of money,” Joanie points out. “This is super rare. With Other People’s Children, Jesse was able to figure out a situation for us to do that and to give back to kids who just wouldn’t be able to get involved.”

David Friend and Jesse Simon, Photography William Nixon

“We are exclusively inclusive,” Jesse tells i-D. “You’re part of our community if you treat people well and authentic and all these things.” The collective’s young curators, Joanie Del Santo and David Friend are a vibrant duo who call themselves “freaks”. You wouldn't think so when looking at the chatty and bubbly David, who juggles a full-time gig as a fashion model (YSL is one of his clients), while designing his own menswear fashion line Worstok. “I was born in a hippy community called the farm in Tennessee," David remembers fondly. "And then we moved to the rural part of Florida, and I always liked being outside, we grew up on a horse farm.” Joanie, who works as a stylist, is even more explicit about what it means to be classified as a freak. “I often wear clown makeup to go karaoke with like [make-believe] blood on my face.”

If you've grown up in big cities like London or New York, the idea of being a freak probably isn't all that foreign. These cities are essentially capitals for non-conformists, but it's not a surprise that these forms of expression would be considered alien in a place like LA, where aspirations are typically chiseled abs, pearly-white teeth, and sun-kissed skin. "I've been told I was the Pied Piper of weirdos before. [During my days at] Ford we represented a very famous lead singer of a band," says Jesse. "He was releasing one of his music videos and one of the first things he said to me was ‘Jesse, you still making the freak school?' So, I based it on the people I always managed as individuals. If they were dressed a certain way and acted a certain way, [I was cool with it] as long as it was respectful and their message was one that’s positive no matter how they express it.”

This article originally appeared on i-D US.