20/20 vision might sound like a good thing, but there’s value in seeing double. Pam Tietze is the artist behind current mega hit, H0les Eyewear, a brand that transforms glasses into kaleidoscopic art. For H0les, it’s all about the process of exploration, an adventure that Pam says “creates the feeling of being a tourist in your own reality.” And apparently, tons of people are looking for a vacation. Pam’s glasses have distorted the vision of Lady Gaga, Chanel Iman, and Natalia Kills, just to name a few. We caught up with the empress of eyewear to talk crystal harvests, candy bowls as hats, and why Batman’s seal of approval is everything.
First off, where are you from and where are you living now?
I was born on a military base in South Korea. We moved around a bunch until my dad retired from the army in Killeen, Texas. I’m now based in NYC mostly. Today I’m writing you from Berlin, Germany.
What were your teenage years like? Did you know then that you wanted to be an artist?
I was incredibly shy and nerdy. I read books, grew crystals, took apart electronic objects and practiced telepathic communication with animals. I definitely wanted to be cool and popular but it just wasn’t my strong suit.
In the places I grew up people were just trying to hustle and survive…you were considered an ‘artist’ if you could draw pretty girls well. And my boob shading was just ok. I did recognize a deep curiosity in myself, a desire to explore and express ideas and questions but I hadn’t connected that with the form of artistic expression I had been exposed to. At that age I only knew for certain I wanted to be independent, free and my practical life choices reflected that pursuit. But art was always there, tagging along patiently.
You created a video on Jason Sapan for Vice. Where and when did this interest in playing with light and perspective start?
I think everyone has moments where you discover how easily your perception can be manipulated (optical illusions, a lover’s betrayal, psychoactive substances, Keanu Reeves in the Matrix are all great instigators of this) perhaps you feel the fool….feel the holes, holes in everything, everywhere, always, even in your awareness of the holes themselves. Space and matter, nothing is truly solid, all is meaningless, free-falling, emo-life, apathy, x_x But if you are aware of the walls you create, you can climb over them, dissolve them, turn them into rabbits. You look at reality, pick up the gooey thing and start playing with it, knowing the impermanence of anything you shape. So I dunno…maybe in high school?
For those who don’t understand exactly what H0les is, how can you describe them in a few sentences?
H0les eyewear uses crystal prisms to transform utilitarian eyeglasses into experiential, psychedelic art. Looking through them, you see a faceted, kaleidoscopic version of your world. I like to think they encourage exploration and create the feeling of being a tourist in your own reality.
Did H0les begin as a business endeavor, or was it an art project gone viral?
Definitely began as the latter, but presently taking on more properties of the former. I’m grateful for the spectrum. Especially the chance to consider and redefine from first-hand experience the world of BUSINESS and these social/economic structures—creating a delicate web of people, ideas, objects, value. It’s so wild and messy, I love it.
Obviously, we have to talk about Lady Gaga and her love of H0les. How did you two get in touch, or did she just start wearing your glasses without you knowing?
OBVI! Well, Facebook actually brought us together. From my experience I do believe her and her team make a genuine effort to work with lesser-known, emerging artists. I’d also like to note that babygirl is a PRO. She parades around wearing H0les and sky-high heels with gaggles of paparazzi swarming her without missing a beat (In case it’s not obvious that is quite challenging, ha)
What other cool people have worn H0les? How crazy is it to see your creations all over the Internet?
I was busy setting up an installation for H0les at Art Basel last year when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and it was Val Kilmer (aka BATMAN). He had a look on his face that was both puzzled and curious (a look I’ve become very familiar with) so I reached up (he is quite tall and I am quite short) and put a pair on his face. He didn’t really do anything for a second and then just said, “How much?” I told him and he politely handed me money and walked off. I checked his Twitter the next day and he had posted a string of H0les selfies with him and Harmony Korine. I think they had a fun night.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done while wearing H0les?
Last year I did an installation at the PS1 that involved filling this space knee-deep with shredded plastic confetti. Viewers were encouraged to get in with H0les goggles on for a little sensory exploration. It was pretty entertaining seeing these serious art people freaking out and rolling around like trippy little hamsters.
What has been your favorite art project to work on?
The first documentary I ever made. I had just quit my job in advertising, leaving behind the most security I ever knew. I was lost and searching for something, anything when a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Capetown with a film collective presented itself. So without any ties to hold me back, I went. For four weeks we stayed at this farm by the sea where I made a short film documenting the experience of South African taxi drivers. With my own identity so in flux I was more than happy to lose myself and absorb the stories and experiences of strangers who opened their homes and lives to me. The final cut was screened at a local theater and only one person in the film could afford to take off work to see it. Afterward he was crying and so was I—it all was an incredibly layered, intense and emotional experience for me. I usually find it difficult to truly re-feel past experiences, like knowing the cold of winter in the summer heat. But whenever I think of that time I can really feel it in my bones.
The clear cowboy hat is amazinggggg. Did you make it?
No, actually the company that makes it sells it as a candy bowl. But I’m sure everyone is using it as an fashion accessory instead…right?
Okay, if you could tell young female artists anything, what would it be?
I don’t know if I need to tell them anything…they are killing it. Just keep going, y’all!
Understand it both matters and doesn’t.
What’s next for you?
Dot dot dot question mark smiley face.