Introducing Sixtysix Issue 06, available worldwide now. As the world shifts into its new normal, we talked to creatives and designers doing the same, either by practicing an untraditional craft, questioning the way they work, or exploring new methods and creative processes.
Opening this issue is Mr. Flower Fantastic, the anonymous multidisciplinary artist turning pop culture icons—think Nike sneakers, KAWS, a Kobe Bryant jersey—into elaborate floral sculptures. But what we didn’t know before we met up with MFF—besides his true identity, which we still don’t know—at his Queens studio is that some of his most well-known creations were born from trauma. Now he uses flowers as a way to communicate happiness. “I take great joy in knowing my work is appreciated by someone who grew up in places where flowers don’t grow,” he says.
This issue also took us into the DUMBO apartment of Saturday Night Live cast member Heidi Gardner, where we talked about SNL’s grueling creative schedule, how the pandemic halted it, and how Heidi has benefited creatively. “A lot of the writers I collaborate with, who are women, are like, ‘Hey, do you want to meet to pitch ideas around noon rather than midnight?’ Yes! I’d love that!,” she told us. “I don’t think I’m a genius when I’m dead-tired, and I’m just better when I’m on my natural rhythm. I’m not trying to be Jim Belushi.”
Meanwhile Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Sympathizer, thrives on repetition. (In Heidi’s defense, Viet’s creative practice doesn’t involve leaving work at 4am or later.) For Viet, each morning starts with two slices of cinnamon raisin toast before heading to his home office. He credits this process—getting down to work—with being able to endure the many rejection letters writers and other creatives often face. “Talent is obviously important, but I think it’s less important than persistence and endurance,” he told us when we visited his California home. “People with less talent who are more stubborn, who are more willing to sit there and endure and write, they have the potential to become writers.”
Then there’s Magnus Walker, who has become somewhat of a celebrity in the car collecting world. Magnus’ cars, a spread of vintage Porsches from the late 1960s to mid-1970s in red, white, and blue, are an homage to his British-American roots. He soups them up not for work but for pleasure. “I’ve never had a real job. I’ve never worked for someone else. The things I’ve been able to excel at were things I really had a passion for,” he says.
Passion is what led musician Bartees Strange to leave his last job as a “climate change communicator” for a nonprofit. Quite frankly, he was miserable—but the time he took after that period to find himself ultimately led to his acclaimed 2020 album, Live Forever, and a spot on many Best New Artist lists. We talked to Bartees about taking risks, feeling alive again, and the future of his sound.