The creative powerhouse discusses James Baldwin, Frank Miller's ‘Batman,’ and why the most inspiring books are those you haven't read yet.
Document’s contributors are compiling summer reading lists with a twist. We’re asking writers, authors, artists, scholars for their old favorites and anticipated releases.
Over the past decade, Tremaine Emory, aka Denim Tears, has thrived in a multitude of creative avenues, from radio shows and podcasts to fashion collaborations. He has also produced his own physical and audial material through his collective No Vacancy Inn alongside longtime collaborator Acyde. His impressive roster of partnerships includes brands like Stüssy and Converse, not to mention his capsule collection for Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and No Vacancy Inn’s recent rendition of New Balance’s 990v3 sneaker.
Emory’s literary preferences consist of strong stories of perseverance and humanity, with an eye on racial identity, popular culture, and the New York arts scene. Emory also looks to Ulysses, a book he still hasn’t read, but feels strongly drawn to.
Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, edited by James Allen
These lynching photographs were often made into postcards and sold as souvenirs to the crowds in attendance in a sense they were considered art, even as dark as it was; that was America not too long ago. My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived/survived through all of this. All of my storytelling I do is based on the human condition and navigating the pain that brings a lot of the times, such as the images in this book which link directly to my culture. These images are like horrific road signs reminding me of some of the stories I need to tell through my mediums of storytelling to help get past that fork in the road that we are ‘all’ stuck at in America.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
This is the first piece of art that made me question the thin line between good and bad. Who’s a villain and who’s a hero, what is the law and what is justice. The artwork is crude yet beautiful, and I have been stuck on Lynn Varley’s (the colorist) color palette ever since reading this in the ’80s. Still read it once a year. Frank Miller can spin a tale like no one else, and this comic book has inspired me till this day.
Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up by Bob Colacello
Acyde told me to buy this book, and he didn’t know how prophetic this book would be for me. The book is written by Bob Colacello, the [former] editor of Warhol’s Interview magazine, who spent a decade by Andy’s side as employee, collaborator, wingman, and confidante. The book is a wild look into New York, the art world, fame, and nightlife. The book was prophetic for me because I ended up living out many of its pages at my old job for an artist just as big as Andy.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The first book I pilfered from my parent’s book collection, first James Baldwin book I ever read, the first book I ever read on race relations. I learned the power of words from this book. The power of James Baldwin and the power that came from reading James Baldwin. I’m forever grateful for this and all the books in my parent’s library.
Ulysses by James Joyce
I haven’t read it yet, and I think that’s what one should be inspired by the most. The books you haven’t read yet, i.e. the things you haven’t done, places you haven’t been yet. People you haven’t met, things you haven’t accomplished, etc. That’s what should drive you and your art. Not resting on the laurels of what you already know. The unknown inspires me most. Also, this book was given to me by one of the keenest minds I have ever met, my love Boni. My life has been informed so much by special books given to me by special people. I look forward to reading this one and seeing where it takes me.
Find Tremaine Emory @denimtears.
Read all of Document’s reading lists here.