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.