“Lady Gaga ruined my life!” Nyssa Frank giggles one afternoon in the backyard of the gallery and event space she runs in Bushwick called The Living Gallery. “People always say I get my style from Lady Gaga, but I’ve been painting my face and coloring my hair since 2005.”
Thus is the introduction to the kind, quirky and inspiring person that is Nyssa Frank. The type of girl who can pull off doll head lace tops and slashed vintage prom dresses as if she invented the wheel (and she probably did that, too).
Nyssa Frank is the founder of The Living Gallery, which she opened in April 2012 and she has been running all sorts of art, fashion and performance events there ever since. This includes the most recent and ever so thrilling Bushwick Fashion Weekend this past September.
Nyssa is originally from Springs, Long Island. “I came to New York because it frightened me; it is so big and fast and ‘cool’ – I wanted to be a part of it.” And she has very much succeeded in her goal, ingraining herself and The Living Gallery in the community via a continuous stream of events; from BFW to art shows, concerts, weekly workshops and film screenings, yoga sessions, and even children’s art classes. “I would definitely consider [The Living Gallery] more of a community center than a gallery,” said Frank. “Without the community’s participation my gallery would be an empty non “living” vessel.”
It was Frank’s interest in art, but aversion to the snobbery around the New York fashion scene that not only inspires her eclectic, mostly vintage wardrobe, but also the three seasons running Bushwick Fashion Weekend.
“I always liked fashion and art, but I never felt comfortable in New York during Fashion Week. I always felt judged, and it’s all about money,” says Nyssa.
In many ways BFW is the antithesis of NYFW. In keeping with the gallery’s larger ethos, BFW does not showcase the already rich and famous, but instead focuses on less-established artists in need of a platform. This weekend included five up and coming designers selected from an open call to showcase their wares in The Living Gallery. “I’m excited because they’re all very, very local, like around the corner,” Frank said. “And one of the best things is they’re buying from each other, so there’s not a spirit of competition. They’re supporting each other.”
Frank credits her mother, an artist, for teaching her all she knows about art and fashion. “I was always around art. That isn’t to say that I liked art; it took a while for me to appreciate how amazing my mother is and understand certain things about art.”
As for the garments that sheath the lady, her clothes run the gambit from leopard print unitards and leather jackets, to fur hats and lace dresses. These looks are sometimes accessorized with body paint, and always set off by her dramatic, blonde hair – sheared quite short on one side, with long rough waves falling past her shoulder on the other.
“Fashion-wise, I guess I always loved to dress up. I once had a replica of Judy Garland’s dress from Meet Me in Saint Louis made and wore it to my 7-year-old class picture with a fan and gold and pearl-rimmed glasses. I’m pretty sure everyone thought I was crazy.” Long Island elementary children may not have been able to appreciate Frank’s early knack for fashion, but here in Brooklyn her fellow Bushwickians have only respect for her stylish bad-assness.
Bushwick Fashion Weekend just wrapped up it’s third season on September 22. The designers featured Frank by Sines, Ozma Autonomy by ( Samantha Jo), Jazzabelss Boutique, St. Kenia, and Jakamo. The event occurs biannually, two weeks following New York Fashion Week.
Frank Ape by Brandon Sines
Art Behind Bench by Dean Cercone
Jacket & Tights: Urban Jungle
The Living Gallery is located at 1094 Broadway Avenue. Visit their website or Facebook page for information about upcoming events and shows.