I’m thrilled to be featuring my favourite online artist, Ambivalently Yours, in a special interview between two people who believe badassery also comes in shades of pink! In case you haven’t heard of Ambivalently Yours, she’s a anonymous artist who illustrates feminist art throughout various social media platforms such as tumblr and instagram. I’m a big fan of her work and was thrilled when she accepted my request to interview her on my blog. I’m hoping this post is the start of many discussing Feminism on A Sunny Spot as it’s a topic I feel passionately about. Enjoy!
I’m good, thank you!
2. Could you tell us a bit about what you do and the art you create?
I first started Ambivalently Yours when I was studying feminist art and working in the fashion industry, which seemed like a huge contradiction. At work, I was the feminist killjoy every time I raised a concern about the sexist undertones in our campaigns, and in art school I was the fashion girl who many assumed was duped by the patriarchy just because I liked cute clothes and girly colours. I felt caught somewhere in-between two worlds that I both loved and hated at times, in other words I felt ambivalent. Eventually, I decided to stop worrying about what others thought of me and embrace my contradictions. Ambivalently Yours became my fierce alter ego, giving me a way of exploring my feminist questions from this in-between place where things are undefined and pink can be powerful.
It’s going really well. The project is part of an artistic residency I’m doing at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. I’m actually in the final week of my 91 day residency. My goal was to answer as many online messages as I could for three months and post drawings as responses to the messages. I had 310 pending messages in my inbox when I arrived here, and even though I’ve answered over 200 messages since I’ve been here, I now have 695 pending messages in my inbox. So obviously the work has grown a lot since I got here. This residency has also given me the opportunity to reflect upon the work I do and think about how I can expand my practice when the residency ends. (For more info visit: http://91daysofdrawing.tumblr.com/)
4. What is the meaning behind your name, Ambivalently Yours?
Ambivalence means loving and hating simultaneously, which is often confused for an inability to make up one’s mind, or not having a strong opinion. Embracing ambivalence has given me the freedom to resist defining myself too narrowly. Part of being a feminist is about advocating for a woman’s right to choose. This right, however, does not imply there is only one choice. For example, my commitment to feminism could only occur once I gave myself permission to also embrace my love of fashion and the colour pink, two things often associated with the patriarchal domination of women. This refusal to choose between traditional femininity and radical feminism allowed for another space to exist: not a space of indecision but rather a space of undeciding. I call this space: Ambivalently Yours. My commitment to ambivalence is about learning to ask more questions rather than get stuck with incomplete answers.
5. You proudly label yourself a Feminist, but for those who are a little confused about what the term really means, would you mind telling us what “Feminism” mean to you?
In an article for the Glasgow-based zine TYCI Kate Bailey wrote:
“Feminism is the tool by which we achieve equality, Feminism is not a result nor tangible goal.”Feminism is often misunderstood as a desire for female dominance or dismissed as man hating. Feminism actual advocates for equal rights for men and women. By equal rights, I don't just mean take the rights that men already have and give them to women too, but also acknowledge that people are different and may have different needs. People of all genders deserve to be valued equally, even if they are different. The same goes for people of all races, religions, and sexual orientations.
6. Do you think it’s important that young woman call themselves Feminists? Why?
I know that a lot of people have a problem with the word “Feminist”. Feminism has a complicated history, and the word itself can be somewhat problematic for some. I don’t think the word itself matters so much, as long as you are fighting for your rights and those of others. There is this great quote by Isabel Allende that sort of sums it up well:
“For most western young women today, being called a feminist is an insult. Feminism has never been sexy, but let me assure you that it has never stopped me from flirting and I have seldom suffered from a lack of men. Feminism is not dead, by no means. If you don’t like the term, change it for God’s sake. Call it Aphrodite or Venus or bimbo or whatever you want. The name doesn’t matter as long as we understand what it’s all about and support it.”7. In what ways does your artwork engage directly with the idea of feminism/do you consider them feminist works?
- Isabel Allende: Tales of passion, TED conference, March 2007
There is a huge support system for women and by women that exists online, especially on Tumblr, so this is not a format that I invented, but rather something that my work sort of mutated into as it adapted to it’s online environment. What it really boils down to is empathy. The act of reblogging is in itself an act of empathy. It is a way of saying: “Yes I get this” or “I feel this way too.” People began writing to me because they could empathise with my drawings, by responding to their messages with drawings I am acknowledging that I can empathise with them too. The drawings become an expression of that empathy, often illustrating things that words alone can’t. To me, this collaboration and support system that has grown out of my work is definitely a feminist statement. I also try to include a lot of quotes and links on my blog to the work of other feminists, to inspire people to learn more about feminism and to give people more tools to help them think critically about world issues.
8. Are your aesthetic choices (colour, line, subject matter) chosen in relation to this feminist line of thought or are they just pleasing?
I’ve always loved pink and I do think it is a pretty badass colour, but many people strongly disagree with me. I decided to make all my drawings light pink because people kept telling me not to. The use of pink is actually my rebellion against everyone who told me that pink was not a powerful colour, or that my work was too feminine and not confident or strong enough, or that I should use darker pink or black because they are somehow perceived as stronger colours. I know that girls are brainwashed from a young age to like pink, and maybe part of my affection for it is rooted in that, but I disagree that everything associated with girlhood should be automatically be seen as weak.
9. What materials or programs do you use to produce your art?
All of my drawings start out the old fashioned way, on paper. I usually use cheap ballpoint pens, colour pencils, markers and watercolours. Then I scan my drawings and clean them up and make them all the same shade of pink using Adobe Photoshop. I also use Photoshop to create the animated GIFs.
10. As an artist, did it take you a while to find your own voice/style and way of expressing it?
I’ve always liked drawing girls and using girly colours, but it took me a long time before I developed a cohesive visual language or artistic style and it took me even longer to figure out what my drive to make art was all about. I studied art in university, then pursued a masters degree in art, and also worked in fashion in-between; my work experience and my education have all inspired and shape my artistic voice.
11. If you could go back to the past and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
Everything you think you want, will look very different when you actually get it. So pay attention, and be prepared to change your mind a lot.
12. If you could ensure your viewers took one message away from your art, what would that message be? You’re not alone.
13. When you initially started up Ambivalently Yours, did you imagine you’d receive such a following and the recent recognition that you’ve achieved?
No, not at all. I never thought so many people would be able to relate to what I’m doing. It’s really encouraging, and it makes me feel like I’m not so alone.
Ambivalently Yours ❤