Creative Community: Black Glitter Collective

The exhibition To Build and Be Built addresses the culture of the kibbutz—Israeli communal agrarian societies in which life, labor, and pretty much everything else is often shared. This series of interviews explores local collectives of contemporary artists and asks the question, is it better to make art together?

The collective and friends: Persia, Tori, San Cha, Keith, and Jessica Amaya
The Black Glitter Collective, with five core members is creating and producing art collectively and independently with one another. They are Persia, San Cha, Tori, Tyler Holmes, and Vainhein (pronounced “Vane Hane” as in "vanity" and "heinous"). So far Black Glitter Collective has created more art than income, so they all have day jobs. But it would be pejorative to say they are just friends hanging out. They each have separate projects that focus on different artistic directions. And they collaborate on shared projects. Black Glitter is involved in creating music, performance art, style, fashion, attitude, video production, graphic design, and building an active and engaged community.

Black Glitter formed organically; they started by throwing parties and realized they wanted to move beyond hosting and promoting events. They were being called the Black Glitter crew, which identified them more as promoters instead of artists. The name originated from the teen witch movie The Craft. As San Cha states,

"…we’re like the Mexican Craft, and of course we love glitter, and it came to represent how we don’t really fit in anywhere. [There is] a lot of glamour underground. We come from undocumented parents and we come from places that aren’t being exposed. We love pop music but at the same time love the underground scene. So it’s a lot of juxtaposition of ideals really…We’re hidden but we shine like glitter."

As of today, their music video Google Google Apps Apps has 126,000 views on YouTube. Last December, their lyrics were quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle in an article about the tech takeover in San Francisco, but they were never interviewed. Their words were used but their voices ignored. Their song was used as a footnote to make a point.

They began feeling like outsiders and created a small family which led to a small community which is leading to a broader community. Recently they played at fluxxfest, a queer arts festival in Tuscon. They are expanding beyond San Francisco, spending time in Oakland and Los Angeles. San Cha observes that they enjoy performing in Oakland “because Oakland is alive. People dance and whatever they do, roll around on stage, etc, they get a reaction.” 

Tyler, Vainhein, and San Cha

Describing themselves as being a weird queer family, Black Glitter Collective notes that they are beginning to see and connect with other queer families. San Cha remarks, “We’re not doing it all ourselves. We feel like we don’t have a place. We fit everywhere but we don’t fit anywhere. And so now we want to be our own little thing and there’s a lot of people out there that feel the same way…We’re malleable in the sense that we can integrate ourselves into so many other communities. We are open but we want to create that space that opens for others.”

There is no clear agenda for Black Glitter Collective; they exist to support one another. They strive to create a platform for everybody. Vainhein remarks that they “take everybody’s strengths and make them into a larger voice…And so we’re here to amplify each other.” They agree on feminism, human rights, and want “religious freedom, freedom from religion—a lot of us have a history of being oppressed...but the three of us come from really religious dogmatic backgrounds...As Chicanos, coming from parents who come from nothing is another thing, from Mexico and them not understanding anything that you do. And talking to them and they’re like do what you want...You should be on American idol.” Persia interjects, “the X Factor, girl.”

 Someone told Vainhein “I don’t make art but I come to everything and that’s my way of making art. I’m an audience member, I interact.” Being a viewer or audience member is just as much a part of the art because as they say, “it’s nothing if there is no one there to experience it. It always feels weird when we perform in spaces where people sit down and are not interacting.”

While Black Glitter Collective shares ownership of their collaborations, each artist owns their respective work. The five members are the heart of the collective but there are many others involved. San Cha says “we’re the people who are making it happen, but there are a lot of people on the peripheral, documenting, producing.” Eventually they want to make Black Glitter into something official, like an LLC, but for now it is a name that they can put on their albums and on other people’s albums that they help produce. “It’s a thing to put out in the universe. It’s a thing to us and it will continue to be a thing…Everything is under the Black Glitter umbrella.

Tori and Persia

“No one owns anything” is the mantra repeated over and over by the Collective. Clothing and food is shared. They call them the drag piles. “Take it from the drag piles.” They always borrow from Persia, as she is a professional drag queen and has the most immaculate clothing, costumes, makeup and wigs. During the interview they noted who was wearing whose clothing. All closets are interchangeable. Persia elaborates on her closet,

"There’s a fine line between being a drag queen and a hoarder.  It took me forever to get rid of all my broken heels. Until we did that art show I curated called It’s Gonna be Queer and I put all my broken heels on the wall and told how the shoes broke. I put them on the wall—it was the only way to get rid of them. On the other side were all my f’ckd up wigs. I wrote…about how they were destroyed…When it comes to my drag it’s hard to let go. It’s the beginning of hoarding. I [intend] to take these things to get fixed. How long have they been there? Since 2001?"

This tendency to hoard provides the other Black Glitter members with a larger communal closet to pull from. And everyone helps each other out when money is short. Black Glitter is split between two homes, San Cha, Tyler, and Vainhein live in one apartment, while Persia and Tori live together. They are ambitious, they want to create full time, travel, and want to confuse people. Are they a band are they drag queens are they freaks are they women are they men? Are they boys or girls? They are whatever you want. Black Glitter blurs the lines between gender and drag, and their collaboration is blurring the lines between their distinct performances. They support one another’s individual projects so the material might clearly belong to one of them, but you will be getting the entirety of Black Glitter Collective.

As San Cha said, “It’s so much more fun doing everything together than doing it alone.”

They recently performed their new single, "Stop Being Poor" at Incline Gallery in the Mission, and they can be seen next hosting Hard French at MezzanineSF on Sunday, June 29.

About the Author
Melanie Samay studied literature at Fordham University in New York and received her Masters in English literature from San Francisco State University. Currently she works in marketing for The Contemporary Jewish Museum. She spends her time reading, walking around the city, sitting in the park with friends, and hanging around dark spaces at night listening to loud music. Read more from Melanie on her blog about books and book-nerdom:


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