Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village.



By James Maher
Name: Ellen Turrietta
Occupation: Bridal Shop Owner
Location: 7th Street between 1st and 2nd
Date: 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 20

I grew up in Las Vegas. I could walk to the Stratosphere. My dad was an electrician and my mother had 11 children. I lived in a very conservative household in the City of Sin, right by the strip. We used to drive him to work every morning and basically watch the strip get built.

I moved here six years ago in my teens. I was 19. I had a suitcase. I didn’t know anybody and I worked in a café and I slept there at night. It was called Net Café on 14th and 2nd Ave. It was an Internet café. It was in the hole but the owner wanted me to manage it and pull it out because he liked my personality. My home was a public space, so there seems to be this theme.

I came here for many reasons. When you want to do stuff you come to New York. We don’t even know what it means. New York is romance. I’m very attached to the romance of surviving in New York City, or thriving here, or just being here.

I was doing these, not really paint parties, but paint parties. I just started covering myself in paint. What was I thinking? I was having a hard time leaving the apartment because I’m a very private person. Then I started painting myself and leaving my apartment. I’ve known everyone since I started painting because I was able to leave my apartment. Everyone met me covered in black. I started covering myself in ink and coming outside. Then other people started playing with me. Everywhere I touched people you could see the inkblots. I started to see the way I was interacting with people was very informative. I was covered in ink all of the time and I had it dripping out of my ears so I could paint people and then people started coming and playing with me. It became almost like a church. Everyone came and would paint each other and paint the walls and cover each other. And everyone started looking like the same color and falling asleep in my home, stuck to each other with paint, and peeling it off. The latex and the glitter and the confetti would build and build. It was an incredible exploration.

I went from knowing no one to having interactions with people in my home. It was kind of like a family structure. We were all participating in each other’s projections — me as the mother figure and them as my children to some extent but also kind of like my siblings because I’m from such a big family. So many motherless obviously were attracted to the way that I host a home, which is that everybody is welcome, of course. Bring you and all of your perversions. It was the house of Satan. I was covered in toxic ink from my chin down to my toes. The more that people needed to me touch the more they let me consume them in toxic ink that dripped out of my ears. It was dark, like demanding that they participate in my depravity if they want to be friends with me. That’s to be friends with all of me. To have your bed be filthy with ink is to have me in your home.

It was dark and then we switched to paint, which was much friendlier. And then baby powder and now sand. Obviously we got kicked out, because what I started I couldn’t stop. People were coming in and out, bringing paint out. Paint on the floors. Everywhere you touched you could see. Everybody was here and I couldn’t clean it up as fast as they were coming in and out. It was beyond my control. I created something that I couldn’t control. And help… I can’t even control myself. I wouldn’t want anybody to ask me to control myself even in their home, so how could I ask my children to? Be free.

So it actually became out of control and they asked me to leave. I said yes because I agreed that we were out of control. But I always get asked to leave. If this keeps happening I’m obviously the problem, you know, so of course I leave. Perhaps I’m out of control or maybe I’m just smart. I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t believe in saying no to anybody, which can be destructive to my home, but whatever. I don’t know. This is what I believe.

There is something about 7th Street. All will agree. I’m running a bridal shop here. I make things for everyone. I had the street in my living room and then I had my living room on the street. I wasn’t paying rent and so people were bringing furniture from the block and I was creating a living room every single day. This started two weeks ago. It was first a free leather shop, then a free barber shop. I had the kids here making mustaches out of shaving cream, letting them cut my hair because I could just weave in more dreads, the way my hair is right now. I was shaving heads and legs. It was just a blast. And to touch people and to play with each other is just so much fun. I saved her [the pigeon] on the block. I found everything on the block. Everything I need is right here.

Then it became a bridal shop, because we’re all getting married, you see. Everybody is getting married. Will you marry us? We’re all going to marry each other because I love everyone. That’s why I was evicted, so I think that we should make it official, because we are family. The party is Sept. 6 — save the date. It’s going to be at the beach and anyone who doesn’t have a gown, come to me. I am open from 12 to 6 everyday. I’ve been making wedding gowns and tuxedos for everybody. I’m dressing everybody. It’s all materials that people brought me — black and white unused things. I’m using all recycled material and everything is free. I’m going to town boy. Welcome to the bridal shop. I look forward to marrying you.

Some people are new, some people are old. I believe that marriage is about love and I think we’re a family and I think we need each other because we’re not with our families. Maybe that’s why we were able to come to the island of Manhattan. Manhattan is the motherland and we’re the natives reclaiming the island. By abstaining. That’s how we’re going to get it back.

I guess what I would like to say is that I’ve found that giving things away for free and not asking for anything in return has been very sustainable because people feel loved by me and want to support me. Because they’re overwhelmed. I love it because I need that, obviously. This is sustainable, what I am doing here. Freedom is sustainable, it’s crazy! And I’m learning more about it each day, because I even doubt myself and I continue with the concept. So it’s been somewhat religious.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.

80 comments:

ahoy polloi said...

Whatever she is on, I'll take two.

John M said...

I just had a flashback to the Age of Aquarius. Next time anyone says the EV doesn't have any eccentrics or 'characters' anymore, point them to this post.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that she talks about mothering so many when, as one of 12 siblings, I doubt she got the mothering she needs herself. Reading this made me feel maternal and protective toward her. Rather than romanticizing all of what she does as "creative," however, it just made me feel worried about her. Sounds like she's perched on a very dangerous edge and verging on losing touch with reality.

Anonymous said...

I am confused yet delighted by her.

Anonymous said...

She is putting us all on a little bit, but that's OK — I like her and this performance.

I'll will second 8:38's "delightful."

uncle Pete said...

someone email this to Chloe

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering how people would feel about a neighbor dripping paint all over the hallways and floors of your apartment building and taking in dozens of transients to live in her apartment for "paint-ins" if she weren't a cute, 25-year-old white girl. I don't think you'd be calling it "delightful."

And when she's 40, you won't be calling it "eccentric"; you'll be calling it "mentally ill."

I do agree that she seems to be losing touch with reality and hope that she is all right.

Anonymous said...

She is clearly mentally and emotionally disturbed and I hope she finds a more secure outlet for her creativity rather than living on the street (doesn't it sound like she's homeless now?) and being exposed (at all hours) to people who could have bad intentions.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

That's a nice picture and a pretty trippy interview. Best of luck to Ellen.

Anonymous said...

Um, it's performance art people.

These responses are hilarious. "I do agree that she seems to be losing touch with reality."

LOL!

Anonymous said...

The kind of performance art that gets you evicted is the kind of performance "art" that means you're losing touch with reality. "LOL."

Anonymous said...

Ummm... no she is not mentally ill - she is young, creative, & searching. No worries in a few years - she will be in bushwick putting on shows (if lucky), or getting an MFA, or have given up & have a job in social media marketing.

weigone said...

She's on our block & we pass by her every day. She's set up camp next to the construction site at the Middle Collegiate Church, always surrounded by workers and passersby.. We often wonder about her safety...not sure what to think!

IzF said...

10:17 AM:
Ellen painted herself because she's shy and couldn't make friends on her own. Doesn't sound like performance art. I'm glad that it has turned out to be an artistic movement and that it has become a positive thing for her.

Giovanni said...

She's like a homeless version of Andy Warhol. Of all of her facebook photos, I'd say This One sums up the whole thing nicely.

Anonymous said...

As a therapist, I'd weigh in to say that even if she fancies herself an artist and thinks of it as performance art, it doesn't mean she isn't also mentally ill. Many artists live on that precarious edge between creativity and mental illness. One moment she's talking about "the house of satan" and seeing what she does as a form of religion. The next moments she's saying she realizes she's "out of control."

She sounds like quite a troubled young woman, and I hope she gets some help.

East Village Today said...

It seems like someone in the production/distribution of this piece would have thought about how voyeuristic it is.

DrBOP said...

"Man, the chick is twisted....oobie shoobie.....flip city" :+)

SHINE ON sister!

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:07

As long as she is not hurting herself or anyone else she's okay with me. Please give us more credit than to give her a free pass due to her skin color you just called most of us racist.

12:15 p.m. said...

Netcafe, at 246 E. 14th St, now Hotel Tortuga.

I don't see the case for mental illness in her. Eccentric? Yes. Mentally ill? ???

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:28 AM
Good intentions usually lead to bigger problems. How many Americans are on some kind of medication to make them "more normal" whatever that means? The only people recognized as artists today are famous people which happen to make pitch products for any corporation that thinks they make a good spokesperson. Like the all to normal Tayor Swift or the blond-i-fide Latina's like Shakira. You did hit on one point yet you fail to really understand it. "Many artists live on that precarious edge between creativity and mental illness" To see the world in a different viewpoint you cannot stand where everyone else is standing. Progress in all forms comes from those on the edge or "normal". Please don't be part of the medicating away art.

Anonymous said...

rich white kids slumming it. nothing new here.

Anonymous said...

Rain Man was on cable recently. Did you know that Dustin Hoffman wasn't really an autistic savant?

It is called acting.

Anonymous said...

Christ, I didn't call anyone racist. I AM white, for fuck's sake. White kids get away with things that POC do not. We do it all the time here when we talk about frat bros and Santacon.

Anonymous said...

@Ahoy Polloi, Thanks for the laugh!!

I couldn't even get through this interview, as it deteriorated into gobbledeegook.

There's something sad about romanticizing a place where studio apts are $3000.00. There's nothing romantic about that. Also, I wonder what sort of brides frequent her shop? The whole thing reminds me of that scene in Midnight Cowboy where they go to the trippy acid party and the colored lights are flashing, etc..

I agree with most here, I think she's lost touch with reality. "Performance art" or not.

Anonymous said...

I walk by her every day. seems a bit crazy to me, but harmless, other than getting paint on other peoples shit. also what's with the sand on the sidewalk now?

Anonymous said...

@12:23 pm. Thanks for telling me I don't understand the relationship between art and mental illness, even though as a psychotherapist I specialize in working with writers and artists of all types and am an artist myself. And where did I say anything about medicating away anything? I'm not knee-jerk against medication, but it's certainly not what I'd try first. I'm talking about good old psychodynamic talk therapy. And to romanticize the connection between creativity and mental illness is one of the oldest, tiredest cliches and myths there is. Guess what? You can get to know and understand yourself--and learn to get out of your own way--and in the process become more stable and more able to make use of your creativity. It's not an either-or proposition.

nygrump said...

She's lost touch? _SHE'S LOST TOUCH?__ She just needs room try living life the way she wants to. Nothing changes, it still makes people uncomfortable. Maybe y'all would prefer she was involved with dumping radiation in the Pacific Ocean everyday, for years, which is considered normal and sane by the current zeitgeist, no I guess nothing to see here move along.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Ellen, and I have never seen her. And when reading this, I was torn between rolling my eyes, and being charmed. There are so many cons in the world, playing the kooky card. But then, she is living on the street, and that would be taking kooky too far if it were not genuine. If you google her, you will see she has done some pretty high end fashion modeling jobs, and she is very good with that. She is also a very glamorous fixture on the fashion party circuit, where she is constantly photographed at some very fancy events, and with very fancy people. I can't imagine those people having the patience to have her around so much, if everything that comes out of her mouth is as abstract as what she says here. I am intrigued, I must say...

Anonymous said...

The girl is either out there for real or out there for fake, either way she is cool by me.

You ding-a-lings that have to make even this silly bizz a race thing are the ones that do need medication. Yeah 'she only gets away with being out there because she is white', thanks for the input Rev Al.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the bldg. She's a nightmare neighbor, extremely entitled, not at all delightful from this angle. After many tenants complained many times, she was asked to leave (not evicted) but she never did. She still lives in her apt and is not sleeping out on the street. And now her wish has been granted - evgrieve has finally paid attention to the Ginger Drama. She's been trying her hardest every day for a few weeks now! To those of you who think you enjoy the crazy, please get her an apt in your building, thank you.

Anonymous said...

This girl is like an old skool East Villager in the 90's. Right on.

Anonymous said...

She is indeed a model and sort of outre fashion person, a pretty good one at that. That's nice.

So: A beautiful model drags paint all over her building's hallways as well as public property, ruins an apartment with paint along with her friends, and speaks in giant incoherent paragraphs -- this woman is intriguing, eccentric, delightful!

If she were 10 years older and 30 pounds heavier you defenders would be calling her sad or crazy, especially if she gave that interview above.

moe said...

She seems to be having a good time doing what she does, so I am also a fan.

By the way, is there ANYTHING that leftists won't use as an excuse to try to stir up anti-white sentiments? I mean, this dizzy gal too is now a trigger?

Anonymous said...

Really, this is in question? Doesn't pretty much everyone of every color know that if it were instead a 25 year old black man doing this he wouldn't have made it two days without being removed? You don't have to be Al Sharpton to understand that.

marjorie said...

Thank you, 1:43PM! Let's not armchair-diagnose her from one interview.

Glad NYC can still have quirk and character. I also read this feeling maternal and both charmed and concerned.

If she is indeed in need of therapy and/or meds, I hope she gets them. If she's just a delightful oddball who can take care of herself and enjoys life, well, shine on you (bright and fabulous) diamond!

marjorie said...

Oh, and as ever, wonderful photo, James Maher!

Elliot said...

Also, I don't know if this is a coincidence or deliberate, but her initials are E.T., as in an alien/ from outer space/out of this world...

The more I read about and research her, the more I'm inclined to say that this is all just an act.

Beeeeeee... gooood, Ellen. Don't forget to phone home.

Anonymous said...

Well, there you go!

Makeout said...

Man. I can't get through this. Maybe the hangover? I'll try again tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

3:13, thank you for commenting. I was happy to hear from a neighbor of hers. She sounds just as bad as I imagined her to be (destroying your building with all that damn paint and ink, allowing others to destroy it, etc.). All in the name of art? Gimme a break. Your personal description of her sounds about right.

Anonymous said...

Well, most of the commenters in this blog are mentally ill. And yes that includes me, before some smart arse retorts.

I think I'm in love. Call me, Ellen, 976- Nut- Case.

Anonymous said...

This woman is a giant hippie. Punks hated hippies. EV old-timers war! Old vs. Super-Old!

Anonymous said...



Passed her by this morning on the way to work and she was doing her little sell to some young guys hanging out there, they were all agog lol. Artist my eyeball! Such a silly and affected person.

When I think of the terrific and truly interesting people we have read about here (and I love this colunm), I was surprised to read this drivel.

Anonymous said...

This concern for her well being is as sincere as cable news was about Miley Cyrus' mental state, "oh my she's almost nude in a video!"

Pamie said...

I notice that in her photo she is looking very clean and put-together, not dripping with ink or sand or paint. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

She is a fashion person, speaking fashion-speak gobbledygook. Her schtick has gotten her very far, and now EV grieve has fallen for her schtick too. I don't buy any of it. She is working it big time.

EV Grieve said...

@ anon 8:58

We need to read up on our fashion-speak gobbledygook!

And we knew who she was beforehand…

Anonymous said...

Ditto

Anonymous said...

Hahaha EV grieve. Thank you. Fashion-speak gobbledygook is instantly recognizable to anyone who has worked in fashion. She is talking that talk, but working a new angle though, the homeless thing.The publicity is everything with her, and this is certainly bringing her that. She is certainly a fantastic fashion model. Honestly, I do not think this interview belongs in this series. I am surprised she made the cut

Giovanni said...

Having witnessed so much mental illness, both in person and on this blog, I'd say she has a 50% chance of being 2 fries shy of a happy meal. When I passed by today she was talking to some guy non-stop, in a manic, stream of consciousness way, and you can see from the dirt and grime on her legs that she has been on the streets a bit too long, whether she sleeps out there or not. Her photos are amazing, but the street is no place to be for such a little waif to be for very long. Hope she makes it to the other side of this tunnel before the next train pulls in...

Anonymous said...

Wow. Look at what she did to that apt.

https://vimeo.com/97690874

Anonymous said...

So everyone would like her better if she was blasting Taylor Swift and wearing the same cookie-cutter mall clothes and talking about OMG brunch and hosting keg ragers in her apartment like all the other brain dead sorority-for-life members who seem to live here now?

Anonymous said...

I can think of several residents of the EV whose contributions to the neighborhood and the city would be more compelling than this woman's story, but nonetheless, was interested to read it.

The video is something... am surprised that she is still in the apartment per the neighbor's version.

There are so many versions of mental illness that it's hard to label her without labeling them all!

Anonymous said...

Yes, because the choice is between living next to a Taylor Swift fan in Zara, or living next to a bunch of fashion dildos throwing a 30-day "ink party."

How anyone can defend this bullshit after that video is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

I like her energy. She reminds me of the old East Village's eccentric charm.

I'd rather see more "characters" like her in the hood than your typical frat bros and sorority sisters.

While I do feel for her neighbors- I don't think she's harmful.


Anonymous said...

Pretty sure the innocent cat stuck inside that monthlong ink fuckery found her harmful, if the poor thing is even still alive. I also feel for the workers left to clean up her mess after she's finally kicked out.

but let's keep on making this a "better than the frat bros" thing

Anonymous said...

Also can't believe no one has mentioned the fro-yo in the picture up top. Isn't that the EVG smoking gun for poserdom?

Anonymous said...

That video is a horror show. I hope someone rescues that cat. The video is Exhibit A, proof this chick is sick and not just eccentric, kooky, or a "character".

I don't blame the ink party peeps or think they're crazy. I get it. They're bored/boring and think the ink party is getting them closer to something real and creative. Hate to break it to them but they're going to have to keep looking.

The Fro-yo in the photo is Exhibit B of poser doucheness (probably the dude's Fro-yo). Thanks for mentioning it, 10:38 (I noticed it too).

ahoy polloi said...

wow...that video is something else. favorite part had to be when the blonde and her guy show up at the door. the look on their faces ("what in the fuck?!") is priceless.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that such a sanitized version of this woman appeared on EVGrieve. She just seems like a harmless kook in the pic and interview here, but this is a more accurate depiction:

Ginger Mama

She's also originally from Orange County, CA, not Las Vegas.

Anonymous said...

The tsk-tsking comments from the armchair therapists and detectives have eclipsed the entertainment value of the actual post.

2:39 said...

Sorry my html is rusty. Here's the link:

Ginger Mama

2:39 said...

sorry, wasn't trying to be a detective. just googled her name, didn't even click past the 2nd page

Anonymous said...

This comment feed makes me think her performance art is like Christo's The Gates - getting people to talk about mental illness, performance art, lifestyle choices the art/outcome she looked for :)

Anonymous said...

Given that she operates so close to van leeuwen, it's probably artisanal ice cream as opposed to fro-yo. But still.

Anonymous said...

I live in the building where she used to live. She is no longer there, but staying with a friend a few doors down on the same block.

Granted, I'm not too interested in getting paint on me, but she is otherwise harmless, and conversations with her are utterly pleasant if a bit disjointed.

The line between eccentricity and performance art blurred here, and she'll admit as much if you talk to her long enough.

The most interesting thing is to watch children play with her. They (the children, and her) absolutely light up.

I don't see much of a point in criticizing her based on where she grew up or her lack of NYC cred. Was the point of that to somehow dismiss her because some people are more important than others?

Anonymous said...

If she moved out, that's very new. I also live in the building. The complaints I know of were not just about the growing paint and shredded paper mess she was making in the halls but about the insane noise all night and going up on the roof which isn't permitted and the constant people up and down late and shouting on the stoop at 1AM and her painting her intercom button so the front door stayed open and buzzing all night long, which is not entirely harmless. Regarding levels of importance, she sure seemed to think her needs were more important than her neighbors'.

IzF said...

I LOVE that this lil shithead's got us all riled up.

Anonymous said...

I also live in the building where she used to live. She's no longer living in her apt. She was kicked out 2-3 weeks ago which is what prompted her to set up shop in front of the building. They've had to do a lot of work on her apt in order to get it livable again. She very well might not be hurting anyone physically but she put all the tenants saftey at risk when bringing in strangers off the street during all hours of the night. Sure she is pissed that she got kicked out but that's what happened when destroy your apt. Now she's trying to piss off the landlord but he doesn't live here. So shes just pissing off the tenants. I don't think she loves everyone because if she did she wouldn't be so inconsiderate to the people who live here. I could have ruined my clothes when I almost ran into her black chair with paint all over it blocking the stoop/sidewalk. She is not living out there. She lives in the building where Van Leewen is now and apparently pissing off people there too. I appreciate some people think she's fabulous but you don't have to live with it

Anonymous said...

So much misinformation and propaganda being spread here. She left on her own when the lease was up on July 31. She was not evicted.

And for the love of please stop with the internet diagnosis of her mental state! You all sound so stupid. You don't even know her or have spent any time with her. Get up from your computer and go talk to her yourself.

Not that you can! I'm assuming most of these negative comments are left by trolls who don't even live here.

Anonymous said...

The first rule of mental illness is that if you have to think about whether someone is or isn't then they probably are. I once had a roommate who acted the same way as she is acting now just as he was descending into a manic state.

At first everyone thought he was just charming or eccentric, with his newly found Jamaican accent, then he shaved his head, started burning things, moved out on the street and then started living in Washington Sq Park, until his parents found him and put him away for many years of treatment.

It is a slow descent into such madness, often unrecognized as such by everyone else around them, and everyone just brushes it off, until it's too late. Just hope she's OK.

Anonymous said...

@3:41 did you read the article? Have you ever spoken to her? She's the first one to say she was asked to leave . Or maybe she's lying because that wouldn't be a surprise

shmnyc said...

Many people are just misanthropes. They glamorize and make excuses for people who suffer from mental illness or drug addiction, but don't really care about the person. It's the same as when they romanticize the heroin addicts who used to live here in greater number. They say it was a good thing because it kept out "middle America," but who paid the price for this?

moe said...

Regarding her intentional destruction of her apartment, I wonder if that would not be a criminal charge. For example, if I were to have a go at someone's parked car, for example, with a hammer, a baseball bat, and paint lets say, surely I would be arrested and charged for such actions, no?
And surely the landlord should bring a civil claim against her, it is an easy win and even if she may or may not be judgement-proof at the moment, those judgements have no expiration dates and down the road a screwball like this might well wind up flush, one way or another.

Those damn white people!

Anonymous said...

Hey Moe, the girl has enough probems, you trying to get her in even more trouble? If there are damages the landlord can send her a bill, and she already said she will probably lose her deposit. Obviously he didn't call the cops on her, she left and moved next door, so there's really nothing criminal here.

She probably moved just her little playhouse out onto the street because her new roomate wont allow her to spaltter paint and ink all over the place in her apartment. Plus it sounds like she has way too many guests according to her former neighbors.

Anyway it won't be long before Calvin Klein puts her on one of those giant billboards on Houston St., then she can fly around the world and splatter ink and paint on rich peoples mansions and private jets. Isn't that every East Village girl's dream?

moe said...

The proper charge would be Criminal Mischief in the 2nd Degree. That is a Class D Felony by the way. Even if they plead it down the conviction pretty well assures your success in the civil action. Thats when you get your hands on some of that Calvin money we all see in her future.

Trixie said...

"Anyway it won't be long before Calvin Klein puts her on one of those giant billboards on Houston St., then she can fly around the world and splatter ink and paint on rich peoples mansions and private jets. Isn't that every East Village girl's dream?"

Not this girl, no.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why people are so adamant that she has left the bldg. Not true. Maybe she also stays part-time with a nearby friend, but she has been in her initial apt all along (though quietly since August began, which might be why some think she left). I heard her talking in there yesterday afternoon as I passed. I saw her in the hall on her way back out. It's been this way all along. So why is everyone so sure she's left? Because she said so?? Her homeless thing is a pose that has worked for her. Having said that, for all I know she could leave today since it’s the 1st and I know her lease is up sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

@5:14pm did you see her in the 52 east 7th building or the building where Van Leewen is on the other side of the church? I live at 52 east 7th and have discussed directly with our landlord that she is no longer living there. So if she's been in the building then she isn't supposed to be. If you are speaking of the building where Van Leewen is then that is where she is allegedly staying with a friend.