Disclaimer

*Bae in a piss-take kind of way. Kind of.

Ambivalently Yours, artist & also the soft and sassy voice inside of me

(I the a chance to interview her, here's what happened).


I found anonymous artist Ambivalently Yours on Instagram (where else?). A wicked 4.2k person following, has the pink hooded vigilante constantly seeing her work being regrammed, reblogged and put on t-shirts daily. She's kind of a manifestation of a modern female's ambivalence between feminist issues and one's love for pizza. The kind of woman who listens to Cat Power, post-Red Taylor Swift and Johnny Cash.

With a background in the fashion industry, which is notorious for being sometimes toxic to a female's morale, the Canadian artist sought refuge in lamenting the convoluted thoughts of a millennial woman, through the scrawls of sad girls with doe eyes that say things like "IDFWU". For illustrations that initially look juvenile and light hearted, Ambivalently Yours fleshes out the most raw and honest thoughts every twenty-something year old woman dismisses.

She's currently doing a drawing marathon; churning out works to respond to over 300 Tumblr messages, during her 91 day residency in the Centre of Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. (A hectic inbox? I know that feel, AY).

Over the summer, months before she accepted that massive feat, I picked her brain a little to talk tumblr, Riot Grrrl and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Ambivalently Yours. All images belong to the artist.

Ana-Janine: Now and forever, I'll always identify that infamous shade of pink with Ambivalently Yours. What's up with your love of pink?

Ambivalently Yours: I’ve always loved the colour pink. My kitchen walls are pink, my phone case is pink, and most of my art supplies are pink. Yet, my love of pink has often been a problem. Pink is the colour that girls are taught to like after all, thus, in many ways it is the colour of patriarchal domination.

In art school, they seemed to think that I was being duped by society’s desire for me to be a well-behaved pink-loving girly girl. Maybe I do love pink because I’ve always been taught to, or maybe I love pink because it is a badass colour, or maybe it is a little bit of both. Others interpreted my girlie colour palette as a sign of insecurity, and to be honest their opinions really began to make me angry. I started Ambivalently Yours during this tumultuous time of pink ambivalence. Just because our society sees all things girlie as weak, does not mean that women should give up their love of girlie things in order to be taken seriously. So instead of taking the pink out of my work, I decided to fully commit to it and make everything as pink as I possibly could.


Is that how Ambivalently Yours happened?

At the time, I was studying feminist art and also working in the fashion industry and the colour pink seemed like a huge contradiction. I felt like if I wanted to be a “real” feminist artist I had to give up fashion and all things girly, and if I wanted to be a real fashionista I needed to shut up about my feminist ideals. I felt stuck; I felt like a fraud; I felt completely ambivalent. I eventually decided not to pick one over the other, but rather to embrace the contradictions in my life and remain somewhere in-between. Ambivalently Yours is the work I make from this place in-between.



So, is she the Sasha Fierce to your Beyonce?

YES, it is sort of my Sasha Fierce! (That question was so great btw!) At first, I decided that Ambivalently Yours would be anonymous out of self-preservation. I felt like I could be braver and more honest if I was writing and making art anonymously. Ambivalently Yours is a fiercer, carefully edited version of me.

But I'll be honest, as Ambivalently Yours evolves, I’ve questioned my need for anonymity. I’m not sure if it serves a purpose anymore. I’ve been trying to embody the Sasha Fierce version of myself in my every day life a little more too, instead of just being fierce from the comfort of my Internet persona. It’s a work in progress.




You're sent a lot of poems and streams of thought on your Tumblr page, and they directly inspire your next illustrations. What's it like to collaborate with the public on your work?

I don’t think there is anything more comforting than finding someone else who is able to understand and share your feelings. Once you have that, everything else is a little less scary. That is why I take drawing requests and share my personal stories online: I want other people to know that someone out there get’s it.

The requests has helped me feel less alone. It has helped me find a network of like-minded in-betweeners, and they all give me the courage to keep making art.


Now this ritual you have of leaving your illustrations in random places (sometimes public, sometimes your sock drawer). Are you hoping for someone to find them or is it addressed to no one, but the location itself? 

I simultaneously want and am terrified of people finding all the things I leave in public spaces. I want people to experience what I am doing, to be able to relate to it, but I am also afraid of what they will think.


So you're ambivalent *ba dum tsss*

But it’s that ridiculous thing! You'll get 100 hundred compliments but only remember the few negative ones. I’m pretty much afraid all the time- afraid that my fear will hold me back. Most of the time it doesn’t, and I go for it (have a private meltdown), survive and move on. It’s a silly process, I guess, but it works.





Let's get real: what does being a feminist in our generation mean to you?

That is a great but complicated question. I'll answer it with the help of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

[Buffy spoiler alert!]

The series ended with Buffy sharing her power with hundreds of other potential slayers, and together they saved the world. I always thought that Buffy’s decision to empower thousands of other young women was a beautiful metaphor for the political power of the feminist movement. I'm reading Buffy in comic book form and the first sentence of season 8 is: “The thing about changing the world… once you do it, the world’s all different.” That foreshadows the challenges, which centre around the world’s reaction to this large group of (vampy) women and their sudden gain of power.

Our generation is lucky to live in a time where we have a lot of rights, thanks to all the women who fought before us. Yet, while the more obvious things like the right to vote have been attainted, there are still a lot of inequalities in our society, and the more power women gain, the more sneaky these inequalities become. For so many, equality means “the same”. As in, if women and men are treated exactly the same they are equal. We should be able to be different and still be equal. We can’t just call it a day and celebrate the triumph of feminism, with a few rights. People keep trying to tell us to stop complaining, that we already have it all, that other people are worse off that we are, they try to divide us, to make us fight amongst ourselves.



As soon as Buffy and her friends saved the world, a whole other set of more complicated issues emerged, which I feel is reflective of how things are now. It seems really exhausting and futile, to have to keep fighting, knowing the more you gain, the more you’ll have to fight for, but I think the trick is to avoid trying to look at the bigger picture all at once, and to break it down into smaller pieces. (And also, to take breaks once in a while, to just chill and like- watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

What do you hope to stir when creating a work?

I think ambivalence- which means both loving and hating at the same time, or feeling contradictory emotions simultaneously. It's an emotion that most people have felt at one point in their life. I hope that by highlighting my own ambivalence, it will help others feel less alone with theirs.


Your work resonates with me because it is so self-aware and human.

Yeah, I try to share as much of my personal self in my work, without- at the same time, making myself too vulnerable. This is a tricky thing for artists, and I’m still figuring it out.

I really want that feeling of unresolved questioning, the notion that 'I don’t really know what I’m doing and that I am still figuring it out,' to be tangible in my work.


What are you sinking your teeth into right now?

Well as I mentioned before, I am reading Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8 (I’m pretty obsessed), and re-watching the entire Gilmore Girls series for the 9th time, on Netflix.

[I'm definitely a Rory]

I'm also constantly re-reading the Bad Girls exhibition catalogue, published by the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. It has a lot of really great essays and images about the exhibition curated by Marcia Tucker in the mid-90s.


So the Riot Grrrl movement was kind of this bad ass feminist thing of the 90s and something that you've considered to be a big influence.

I like it a lot because it was led by young girls. People often dismiss young girls and no one takes them seriously, so in the 90s a bunch of them got together and started a movement. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, and they made a lot of mistakes, but they tried, they did something, and that inspires me.


What's the coolest thing a girl should check out when reading up about them?

A great book about the Riot Grrrl revolution is Girls To The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus. The movie The Punk Singer: a film about Kathleen Hanna is also really great. And of course all the bands: Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy!


What's one piece of advice that you could give a wide-eyed 18 year old?

Remember that you have a lot to learn, but you probably know more than they think you do. So keep learning, keep asking questions and keep proving them wrong.

---

Ambivalently Yours is the soft but sassy voice of a new kind of feminist.

For more of Ambivalently Yours and her works,

Her website
Tumblr
Society6
and that 91 day drawing marathon

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