story / Tiwa Neo @tiwa.neo
A collaboration between two dynamic creatives, the opening of “Ocular” will take place at Bloda’s Gallery located on the enigmatic second floor of 75 East Broadway, NY on October 5th, 2023.
75 East Broadway is one of Chinatown, NY’s oldest and largest malls. But, inside the unassuming brick facade is an air of mystery and a culture of art and fashion that has made it a go-to spot for fashion-obsessed downtown kids, fashion students, and international models and stylists.
The first floor is occupied by Chinese-owned shops and a supermarket. But, explore a little further and discover the staircase where every step upward transports passersby and treasure hunters alike to a completely different universe.
The baby of downtown icon Anna Bloda, Bloda’s Choice can be found among gallerists and other boutique owners. Combining her authentic approach with her love for community and for fostering the next generation of creatives, pop-ups frequently take place at Bloda’s Choice where it also transforms into Bloda’s Gallery with the snap of a finger.
This Thursday, photographer Aqua Rose will be showcasing a selection of photographs wrapped in an avant-garde swirl of vibrant colors and storylines. Injected with her signature blend of abstraction and surrealism, these works will spiritually merge with the fashion magic that is Bloda’s Choice.
I got the chance to interview these two lovely ladies to dive deeper into what inspires them. Along the way, I discovered how this collaboration is a natural extension of their friendship and serves as a homage to the way they constantly empower each other.
Why the name Ocular? You tend to have recurring themes of eyes, optics, and identity.
Aqua: I don’t remember how I got to Ocular, but it obviously relates to the eye, and the eye is how you see and interpret life and the ability to use your sight. It’s a strong tool that I don’t think everyone consciously taps into on the day-to-day…what we are seeing, how we are seeing, and how it feels to see things. We talk about the third eye a lot and that’s your creative eye. I think once you open that, you can really open into the visions that are already within sight of you.
What inspired you to start hosting art exhibitions?
Anna: I think that it’s nice to mix all elements and make the place more stimulating and to extend it to different experiences.
In what ways do chapters from your life book live within these four walls?
Anna: The store became like my private room where anyone can come into my privacy and my kind of intimacy because I don’t have my own space right now. I live with someone and this is not my real home. So, I bring all my emotions and privacy here in this place and the energy accumulates. I think people just like my store for the cool vibe. It’s my baby.
What about Aqua’s art make sense to live in your space – here, in your privacy?
Anna: She creates beautiful images, which vibe with my vibe. Her positive energy is also going to influence this place.
What is the most fulfilling part of hosting pop-ups and exhibitions for other creatives?
Anna: I like to support young people, promote them, elevate them, and believe in them. So, I’m happy to use my space for others’ growth, and maybe for them, it’s going to be their first pop-up, but later they elevate. And maybe thanks to that experience, they will get inspired to keep doing.
How did you guys meet?
Aqua: I came to Anna’s pop-up in Bushwick at her old location. It was my second week living here and it was just down the street. I bought this very cool, super futuristic dress. I was just really drawn to Anna’s vibe.
Anna: And then we started to shoot together. I think we planned the shoot that night. Anytime I shoot with Aqua, she really captures my energy. I really like her.
Aqua: I feel like a lot of shoots I do are a mix of performative aspects and creating a concept and building a whole new world.
That makes sense because you get to fabricate a story with a set – it already has a novelty aspect.
Aqua: I feel like I relate more to the worlds that I create instead of the reality world that we exist in.
What about being in Anna’s space makes sense as a host for your art?
Aqua: Well, like I said, the first time I was in it, I was just drawn to it. Anna is super empowering not only to herself but she kind of uplifts the whole energy of everyone, which is definitely a magical power. And I think just embodying that superpower is magic to me, and it makes sense and alludes to the magic within the art that I create.
How did you curate this exhibition? As a collaboration, you probably curated it in a way that communicates your relationship with each other.
Aqua: Well, Anna suggested a few pieces and I noticed that she was more drawn to the more abstract, fashion-influenced ones. So, I got the vibe of what she was drawn to and I chose images from there that I thought were on the same wavelength.
Anna: It was honestly pretty intuitive. We love being dynamic and doing a lot of things, so why not just collaborate? And it’s not going to be the first or last collaboration. We’re going to constantly do something together.
What would make this a “successful” exhibition?
AQUA: I think just if people come and see the work and really resonate with it and appreciate it more than anything. I just want to have a really great experience and have people actually see it for what it is and feel something.
ANNA: This is so great. She said it literally so beautiful.
The exhibition is open to the public and all are invited to immerse in a fabulous fusion of art, vintage fashion, and positive energy.
October 5th, 2023
#203C 75 East Broadway New York, NY 10002
Exhibiting until October 19th