The Next-Level Self-Portraits of Ryan Burke


What happens when nightlife and art collide? Artist Ryan Burke, for one thing. With only four years of makeup experience under his rhinestoned belt, Burke’s self-portraits of his imaginative club looks are awe-inspiring. “My pieces don’t have titles,” Ryan told us. “I was never very good at naming things which is why I don’t have a persona name or anything like that.” Drawing inspiration from sci-fi films, artists like Bjork, and the visions of makeup artists Pat McGrath (Dolce & Gabbana, Max Factor, and others) and Alex Box (Illamasqua), Burke combines cosmetics and other mixed media to morph his features into abstract, hauntingly beautiful visions, like those below.

Shooting all photos himself, Burke has found an impressive way to document his nightly faces, which he wears out to parties in New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities. We rounded up a few of our favorite looks of Burke’s and asked him to tell us a little about each one.

“This is a look I did for a Hello Kitty–themed party at Mr. Black in LA. I used black glitter cardstock for the forehead, and yellow glitter foam sheets to create the mouth. At first, these materials were my go-tos for all kinds of looks. Since I wasn’t great with makeup back then, I just cut out shapes and glued them to my face.”

“In the Flower District in NYC I came across all these fake grapes and I really wanted to wear them on my head. The balls falling out of my mouth were a last-minute decision when I was shooting the look. This, along with many of the other looks involving headpieces, were for Susanne Bartsch’s ‘On Top,’ a summer party I hosted last year. All the looks I did for On Top were inspired by [legendary ’50s model] Dovima.”

“I wore this look to the Wolf Party when it was still going at Le Souk [in NYC]. I often use fuchsia and blue or teal together because I think it’s such a striking color combination. This is one of many looks that I would be in while riding the train alone from Brooklyn during my first year living in NYC.”

“For New Year’s Eve, I flew to Chicago to host the Neverland White Party. I met so many amazing people and queens there. I had to construct part of the headpiece in the hotel because it was too tall for the plane. I wanted to do a look that wasn’t drag and wasn’t really club-kid either. To me this is the epitome of what I’m all about. The dress is a draped chiffon floor-length gown made by my roommate, designer Domonique Echeverria. The photo was taken in the hotel shower.”

“This is one of my favorite looks. I felt really beautiful in this. The dress is another by Domonique. The headpiece and earrings I made from items I found in the Flower District. The butterflies were all on wires, so they actually moved a bit when I walked around, and the eye makeup was inspired by monarch butterfly wings. This was also for On Top—I actually ended up stripping the dress off at the club and jumping into the hot tub!”

“I did this look for [the NYC party] Vandam when it was still at Greenhouse. Usually I don’t like to look too much like a costume character, but I couldn’t resist with the monocle that my friend La Rosa cut out of a lighting gel. This is definitely more of a masculine look than the others, but it still reads very androgynous.”

Visit Ryan’s website:

Follow Ryan on: