By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
FOR ALL THE FUSS about the tiny pictures that dance across glass furniture in our dens, barrooms, and airport lounges, few people devote much thought to what the outside of a television looks like. That is to say, one TV set looks pretty much like any other. Angelica Velez, who goes by the nickname Stripe, is the inventor of the "hellevision," which represents a rare effort to reconsider the basic appearance of that most popular of plastic-and-glass boxes.
Velez, age 29, has altered her own appearance in a radical way. A mazelike black pattern covers the right side of her face, and a tattooed line runs down the left side, ending somewhere below the neckline of her floral-print dress. Thus the name: Stripe. "I wanted you to see some of the things that I do," she says as we meet in the front room of the crowded Lyn-Lake house where she lives. Two girls, the daughters of a housemate, sit aloofly at the window. Stripe, in girlish spirits herself, pulls a special Barbie collection out of a bag to show off to her guest. Some are painted all blue, "Zombie Barbie" sports lacerations across her torso, and "Angel of Death Barbie" bares a prominent, newly implanted rib cage.
Next, Velez beckons down to the basement, where she manufactures "hellevisions"--old televisions that she stencils with skulls, devils, flaming dice, and other icons from the inferno. "I've always liked skeletons," she says, insisting that her fetish is more fun than ghoulish. Velez spent her own childhood bucking between foster homes in New York, moving here some four years ago to break from a life of, as she says, "pure decadence." "My father was Spanish, but I didn't know him really," Velez says. "My mom is Jewish, and I really dislike her a lot, so I took on the whole Catholic iconography."
Because Velez has given away the dozen-odd hellevisions that she's made before--to be used by various DJs around town for ambient lighting, or for window displays at Shinders where she once worked--she offers to create a new one on the spot. Velez starts by taking a 12-inch TV and placing it on a canvas spread on the floor. Next she glues the pictures of five skulls cut from gold paper onto the convex glass. One has spirals for eyes, another has an iron cross cut from its forehead. "I wish I had spray adhesive. Now I have to do it the hard way," she says, painting rubber cement to a stencil's back before pressing it onto the TV screen. "Actually it's the fun way because you can rub your hands together and get rubber-cement boogers."
She shakes a can of gold paint and aims, gilding the entire television and filling the air with noxious fumes. No one ever said hell would smell good. This hellevision, she says, will be dry in approximately 15 minutes. It's an art of instant gratification, made from material she usually finds discarded in alleys around Uptown. But when a hellevision flips on, the static from the broken machines quietly burns, lighting up merry images.
"Sometimes you can get one channel in," Velez says, "and then you can watch TV through St. Francis of Assisi's face." In about the time it would take to make a frozen strudel, Velez is ready to finish her work. Peeling off the stencils and dimming the overhead lights, she finally plugs in the tube. The static glows softly behind the skeletons' faces. "Every day should be Halloween," she says, sighing. "And I'm like Jack the Pumpkin King from Nightmare Before Christmas. He meant well, you know."