By SPECIWOMEN Illustration EBRU TATSILU
"My paintings still contain a lot of feminist thought and dialogue, but I think of it more as an appreciation of the hardships and struggles women have had to face over the centuries"
Who are you?
I’m an eighteen year-old artist. I have a passion for everything, fashion, painting, textiles, business. I want the world to teach me everything that it can.
How did you first get into art?
My parents came home one day to find their four year old daughter taking a sharpie to their walls to create a beautiful mural. Just joking. To be honest though, the first recollection I have of knowing that being an artist is what I wanted in my future was in the first grade. We had these composition books that we would use to complete daily assignments in. One of our assignments was to create the “perfect,” world. Everyone came back with these elaborate stories while I was the only one who did a drawing. I got a bad grade and my teacher wrote in the margins that the world I created was “impossible and not part of the assignment.” That’s when I knew, that I just saw things differently.
What is the purpose of your work?
To connect people. To connect myself with people. My art is my link to everything that I perceive in life. It’s a manifestation of all that is in my heart in it’s physical form.
What materials do you use?
Primarily watercolors on plastic, as well as ink and other more traditional forms of drawing like charcoal and pastels. My watercolors make it very easy for me, to be able to set-up shop and paint wherever I please!
Who inspires you?
My mom and dad. They’ve worked so hard and have come such a long way from where they’ve started. My mom is from Latvia, so I’m blessed to be able to speak russian fluently. Also my grandfather, we have a relationship with each other that is untouchable and not possible to recreate. He understands more about myself than I ever will. Besides them, I love the few friends I have with all my heart. I cherish them and count my blessings everyday that they have entered my life and support me. As for the big time celebs, I’m a huge fan of books. I love reading, I can devour a book in one sitting if given the time. Haruki Murakami is a big inspiration, After Dark is a fantastic tale of mystery and darkness that creeps in the crevices of our lives. But I can’t forget the classics like, Albert Camus, James Baldwin, Scott Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, and Allen Ginsberg. Literature plays a huge role in my life. I remember the first time that a novel really lit a light in my life. The writer’s name is Cynthia Kadohata and she wrote a beautiful novel called, “Kira Kira.” I found the book in my middle school library, and when I went home that day I sat in my backyard and didn’t leave my spot till I finished the book. I was in a trance, and I couldn’t have been more at peace.
Where do you prefer to work?
Any wide open spaces with tons of light! I also prefer to be alone and for it to be quiet. I do like to work in coffee shops though, as well as museums. Even though there is normally a large quantity of individuals shuffling in and out of these places, you still feel alone and unnoticed, because everyone has an agenda and are only focusing on that. They don’t have the time or care to see you, they only see another person sitting in a chair. I go to an art school that is connected to the third largest museum in the world, so I have unlimited access to it. It’s so huge, that there are certain backrooms that visitors don’t know about, that I like to inhabitat. The security guards there are more lenient because they hardly see people throughout the day, so they’ll let me sit on the floor and use the bench as a table. They’ll even let me sneak a snack when I’m hungry. I treasure those special moments that I have in those forgotten rooms.
Who is your work for?
For myself. But at the same time also for others. I paint, because my parents and family have given so much to create the life I have, that I feel the need to work just as hard in return. I’ve just been given so much love. And I feel that love so strongly, that sometimes I feel too much which is why I create the work that I show you now. Even though my paintings are of individuals of people in my life, you can still find me in them. I’m in their eyes. When I paint them, I become a part of their expression, I’m embedded in their melancholy shown through their eyes. You can see an individual’s entire life story if you just look close enough. I guess that’s my goal, for the viewer to stop focusing so much on the individual’s appearance and more on their story. I want to viewer to relish and devour my subject’s story just as much as I do. Right now I’m working on opening my own clothing line. I’m using this site called, “Printalloverme,” some of the designs are already up and for sale. I won’t get sample pieces in for a couple weeks, but I thought in the meantime I’d test them out online.
Has your art ever been on display?
Besides small school exhibitions and local community events, no! I have had quite a few online publications though. I work as an illustrator for Rookie Magazine, so I am fortunate enough to have my work displayed on their website quite frequently. I actually enjoy the work I create for them the most, it’s honest and uncensored. I also sell my zines, at Alt Space Brooklyn, a really awesome gallery. I actually will be selling my work there along with merchandise 12/6. I have also been fortunate enough to be working with Teen Art Salon, an art community created by Isabella Bustamante that creates a unique and nurturing environment for teens to explore their creative sides. What they are doing there is truly inspiring. I also have my zines at Opening Ceremony in Soho.
What are your favorite places in your city or around the world?
Well I’m from Washington DC, where I really like to spend time in a local coffee shop and bakery called Baked and Wired. They play great music and their ice cream sandwiches are out of this world. I usually sit in the back or outside on a nice day, and just work and paint for hours. Then there’s the portrait gallery. They have this greenhouse like room that connects the two parts of the museum together, that is super beautiful. Tons of light and with a wide open space filled with plants and fountains. As for NYC, another place I have lived in, I really love the Lower East Side. My favorite guilty pleasure is getting a cinnamon raisin bagel with funfetti cream cheese from Tompkins Square Bagels and then just finding a warm sunny spot to sit at while I eat and think. I love the combination of butter and cream cheese, so I always have butter on my bagel and then a little cup of cream cheese on the side to dip my bagel in. I give the leftovers to the birds nearby. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in a family where traveling is a huge part of my life, so I’ve been to many countries. Some of the most inspiring places I’ve been to have Japan, Spain, Germany, Scotland, and Turkey to name a couple. I just have such a need to have a vibrant color palette in my life, and all these countries are just decorated in arrays of color. I’m also just so inspired by human interaction. People watching is my favorite past time, so to meet and speak with so many individuals from different backgrounds is inspirational.
How has the female role played into your life?
As a visual artist, my paintings are created around my experiences as a woman in this day and age. I used to think that the female role had a lot to do with the male gaze, and being exploited in the media for commercial use. Now I think of the female role in more of a positive sense. So my mom, my grandmother, and my best girlfriends. Women who have encouraged me to strive towards higher places, that have helped me become the person that I am today. My paintings still contain a lot of feminist thought and dialogue, but I think of it more as an appreciation of the hardships and struggles women have had to face over the centuries. For example, I'm currently working on a painting that depicts three naked girls just hanging out on a bed. A lot of people, have commented asking if there is an erotic nature behind the piece. It surprises me. To me, its just something natural. Why should women feel the need to censor themselves in any way around each other or others? If anything, the painting focuses on the vulnerability of women, but also the bravery they show in being themselves. I feel that our pop culture and media causes my generation to be very harsh critiques of themselves.