Make up, self-portrait artist and photographer – New York nightlife regular Ryan Burke is a creative wonder. His Instagram page captivates as he transforms himself into visual masterpieces and hosts nights alongside Susanne Bartsch and his flatmate Dominique Echeverria.
It’s make-up artistry and special effects a whole realm above Bobbi Brown and her “a little makeup can’t hurt” manifesto. At first, using these characters as a way of finding his own identity, it led him to explore his own uniqueness and talent. Taking between two to eight hours to complete, most of them are executed in the moment without much pre-planning. Here, he gives us an insight into his beautiful #nofilter world.
You’re originally from Virginia, do you find living in New York to be more inspiring?
—Yes and no. The seclusion I had in Virginia was very inspiring for me because it forced me to think without subconsciously always referencing pop culture and previous artists’ work. But New York is more motivating and the people and energy here are very inspiring. It’s a city that pushes you to work hard. It’s also a city that teaches you the history and lifestyle of your passions. I love the freedom and sense of community and support that comes from nightlife here.
Where do you gain most of your inspiration from?
—My inspiration comes from anything – from abstract designs and ideas to images I find online or in magazines. Most of the time it’s very abstract though… I will think of a colour scheme, texture, or materials that would be fun to play with and I just develop ideas on how to incorporate that into a look in a way that makes sense. I like a challenge so I’ll often work with materials that aren’t obvious or conventional.
You work with Susanne Bartsch hosting her amazing parties, how did you get involved with her?
—Susanne’s parties really impacted my development over the past two years. I not only felt inspired but also motivated by the people I’ve met. The venues she tends to work with also give you a sense of sophistication and sometimes opulence that you don’t get at normal gay clubs. That kind of atmosphere makes me want to feel powerful and grander with longer gowns, bigger headpieces, and extravagant but refined make-up.
Your flatmate is Dominique Echeverria, do you both feed off each other creatively or is it a bit chaotic living together?
—It’s a bit of both, haha. I mean, we are both somewhat intense people – artists like us tend to be a lot more in our heads than normal people so things can get complicated sometimes. We are great friends though and we definitely feed off each other’s energy. I feel a lot more motivated when we are working together. It’s easy to get lazy, especially in the winter; or lose inspiration because of everything else you have to deal with living in New York, but having someone around who is also involved in a career that is largely self-motivating is really helpful.
I love your series of people falling asleep on the subway. You exhibit your other work, do you have plans to do the same with that?
—As with my self-portraits, the sleeping commuter photos were never intended for anything other than just fun. I never thought my self-portraits would be something people would want to see in a gallery, I just did them for me. I also never thought anyone would want to look at a series of people sleeping on the subway because it was just something I was doing to pass time. I’d definitely show the photos but I am a little unsure of the legality due to having zero consent from the subjects in the photos. I think the coolest thing to do with them though would be to make wallpaper… or would that be creepy?
What can we expect in the near future for Ryan Burke?
—I have several editorials in the works. Some being moodboarded, some shot, some getting published. I’m pushing photography more this year. I’m less involved in nightlife aside from working with Ladyfag who’s been very supportive. I just had my birthday at 11:11 last week and it was by far the best birthday I’ve had yet in New York. I’m also working on a video project and a sponsored dance project with Olga Dobrowolska, and I’m going to be in a show at the MoMa which is all about people who transform themselves. I’m also working with an agency now, Kreative Kommune. This has been a really great year so far but I really need to find an assistant soon!
What is your ultimate goal for yourself and your work?
—I have so many ideas and most of them are beyond my means right now. To live comfortably enough in a large loft space with a built-in studio where I could execute these ideas and create the things I see would be incredible. I would love to work with artists of all genres and styles. I’d like to create short films, fashion films, art films, photo series, shows, books, etc. Life’s short; I want to be involved in as much as possible.