t’s no secret that as women our skills and talents are considered frivolous and unproductive. If there is one gift I have its that I can find and create beauty in anything. Hell, the entire point of this blog is for me to have an excuse to put out pretty graphic design and typography on a consistent basis. I am feminine, frivolous, unproductive, and proud.
So is my friend Nina. She is dedicated to living a life of pleasure, leisure, and beauty. “The idea of the cinematic moment is so important…[I try to] make my life as pretty as i can. You can literally cultivate your life.” This attention to detail is what makes life worth living and enjoying. In my opinion, on our complicated, doomed planet, our responsibility is to spend more minutes feeling good than we spend sad. That’s all that we have the power to really do in life. A simple task that Miss Sumac prioritizes.
Nina is telling me a story about growing up in “Exotic Connecticut”, as she calls it, with her mother. They would spend time together sculpting tiny nests out of her shed waist length hair to gift to neighboring birds. A truly poetic image. Relatively new to Chicago, Nina is focused on nesting herself right now. She’s in the middle of crafting a real home for herself and her bargain-bin senior cat, Giovani, who was a steal at a whole $13. “I want it to look like a summer beach home in Latin America. They’ve got nature inside the space and then leave and you’re in nature…Its kinda wild to have the time to decorate my home and say ‘Its my home now!’” In an industry where everything can be negotiated and commodified, the importance of home is paramount. It’s your own private slice of the universe to make your own.
Sumac is a self-identified “mysterious femme fatale”, but at risk of blowing up her spot, as someone who knows her, I’m honestly struggling with this assessment of self. She’s goofy, giggly, and relaxing to be around. This projection perhaps comes from her addiction to 1960’s film sex symbols. We reclined on my bed gushing about Bridgette Bardot and Marianne Faithful. I made sure she sought out one of Faithfull’s later roles in which she was perfectly cast as God on sitcom Absolutely Fabulous
. Nina introduced me to a few new select choices for future viewing including a Japanese New Wave film called Pale Flower
Women of this era of film are unique because they are on the cusp of sexual revolution. They were powerful and glamorously brooding. Still seen and not heard, but not afraid to make their presence known. They are intimidating, tense, and above all, they know how to fuck. While Nina in reality is far too personable and geeky to give us the full Fellini woman fantasy, we’ll cut her some slack. We can all agree that women don’t brood like they used to.
These films have made an impact on her sense of presentation as well as her work as a photographer. She actually shot a lot of the photos in my gallery
. My first shoot under this new persona and name. When preparing for a shoot, I always construct a short story in my mind of the dates that I want to go on and then act out in the photos. So when she told me “I like when photos look like they’re screenshots of a film”, I knew we’d be on the same page creatively. This approach and New Wave influence is most obvious in her visuals when you spot the New York Herald Tribune short sleeved turtleneck from Breathless
in one of her self-shot internet nudes. But where is she finding all this inspiration? A mix between the Criterion Channel and Pornhub. “Pornhub has a lot of great movies! I’ve watched a lot of art house films on there!”
Then there is the topic of her chosen surname, which is not a reference to French philosopher Camus spelled backwards, contrary to popular belief. That was a complete accident and coincidence despite her being a massive fan of his work. The name actually comes from the song Nina
by 1950’s Peruvian singer Yma Sumac. The name translates to “How Beautiful” in Quechua. She chose it to not only show off her proud Latin American heritage, but also to assert her mission statement for life and exactly how she wants to live it.
“Aesthetic pleasure is something that everyone should have access to” she demands and I agree. Nina is currently touring in New York City, but as soon as she returns to Chicago, she should fully expect me to hunt her down for the Criterion Channel log-in info I was promised. I have some aesthetic pleasure of my own to catch up on.