"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life" - Oscar Wilde
PORTRAITS. Käla grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and attended LaGuardia Music and Art High School. She auditioned for both the Art and Music departments and was accepted into both programs but ultimately decided to major in Art where she studied darkroom photography. She worked for fashion photographer and artist Sandi Fellman in Soho's art district and attended the School of Visual Arts to further her photography studies. She then attended classes and worked as Teacher Assistant for black-and-white darkroom photography students at the historic and world-renowned International Center of Photography on the Upper East Side. Over the years Käla Mandrake continued to document those who seemed to push the boundaries in society. As she wrote, "people who in some way go against the grain make the most interesting subjects to shoot." She found many of these individuals among the squatters and punks of the Lower East Side's artist collaboratives, such as ABC NoRio, Collective Unconscious, Gas Station, makeshift art galleries, at illegal underground parties and after hours hangouts. Talents from the Coney Island Side Show, patrons, performers, and go-go dancers from the legendary Don Hill's and Meow Mix (which was the only East Village girl bar at the time) introduced her to a wider pool of rebels and revolutionaries. Many became her friends. Finally a few select photographs and stories were published in her book, UNDERGROUND in 2010.
BURLESQUE. In the early 2000's, Käla photographed and documented the burgeoning world of the "new" burlesque with talents such as Cabaret star Bianca Leigh, performance artists MsTickle, The Maine Attraction, Melody Sweets, and later, Speakeasy host Nik Sin, and performers Peekaboo Pointe, Stormy Leather, and many other talents from Don Hill's, Meow Mix, The Box, Coney Island High, and hidden venues in the city. It was at The Box on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that she shot the behind-the-scenes movie for the making-of Melody Sweets' music video called "Slice of Heaven." In 2011, Kala created a Video Art Installation comedy piece for the "Burlesque Revived" Exhibition at The Museum Of Sex in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, highlighting burlesque dancer and singer, Melody Sweets, and continuing to document her career from New York City to Las Vegas. In 2012, she directed and shot her "Love Bite" music video at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada starring the cast of "Absinthe" from Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.
MUSIC. Starting off as a classical piano player as a child, with lessons and recitals at the famed Turtle Bay Music School in Midtown and creating a two-piece pop group with her best friend at eleven years old, playing on Bleecker Street, to then joining a Lower East Side glam rock band as a teenager, playing all the great venues of Manhattan's East Village at the time (CGBG, Continental, Webster Hall, Coney Island High, Brownies, Knitting Factory, The Pyramid, Spiral, No Tell Motel, The Bank, and many more) Käla had been immersed in the local music scene all her life. She befriended many local musicians and bands and shot live shows and backstage action at places like Limelight, CBGB, Babydoll Lounge, The Library, Meow Mix, CB's Gallery, etc. Her portfolio of musicians include mostly women in rock'n'roll, such as Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Lunachicks, LP, Spitfire America, Special Head, Wilma, Firegods, Sexpod, Lourds, The New Professionals, and more. She has often combined music with her images in creating various music videos and behind-the-scenes films.
EXHIBIT Käla's first photography exhibition was literally on the streets of New York. She went out late at night and wheat-pasted 13 x 19" printed photographs on billboard scaffoldings and the sides of buildings. Photographing at thirteen years old, documenting and befriending punk bands, squatters and runaways of the Lower East Side and Alphabet City at fifteen, gave her the motivation to make a career in pictures. She photographed musicians, models, actors, and performing artists. Her work has been seen in various publications, galleries, venues and art festivals in New York. Staying true to her vision of the "underground," Käla has most often sought out places that are artist owned and operated, or are simply part of the New York underground scene. In 2000, Kala exhibited 20x24" prints of her work at CB's Gallery (the gallery/live music space of the legendary CBGB club) with live performances by local musicians. In 2005, she had a solo exhibition at an artist-owned gallery in Brooklyn called Mother Jaguar where Lenny Kay (legendary guitarist of the Patti Smith Group) performed for her event. The proceeds of this event went to aid domestically abused women. Other local exhibitions included the Silver Whale, Rivington, MaxFish, BAG, aRAMONA, The Museum of Sex, and others.
ART FILMS. After going back to school for film and media studies, with a minor in music, Käla began writing and taking her photographs into the realm of moving pictures. She has worked extensively in television and film which gave her the inspiration to create art films and music videos and behind-the-scenes movies.
ART One Space
Silver Whale Gallery, NYC
Silver Whale Gallery
MaxFish "New York By Night"
Curated by Eric Bryant
"Keep your ear to the underground"
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