Vanessa Vigil’s eyes flicked up as the waiter set down her beer. Her silver eyeliner caught the light, highlighting its careful precision. She took a sip.
"Yeah, you know I did skate — I was the only girl in my neighborhood with a group of guys. My brother skated, and I would go with him," she relayed, playing with the sleeve of her green flannel.
Vigil — better known by her artist name “Vavi” — has never been the girl who held back from doing what girls weren't supposed to. From her prolific work to Not Ur Baby — her incredibly successful all-female art show — to skating and gracefully slaying a buzz cut, she does anything but let herself be subdued by men. Vigil and her work reframe the common notion that emotion equals vulnerability and weakness. In fact, she finds immense power in her ability to change other people’s emotions through her art, something she describes as a projection of her frustration.
“All I want is [for] my art to cause a conversation. I want my art to cause an argument between you and your boyfriend.” She described her art as her “projection. The things that I say are my reflections and projections.” She looked up in between bits of pizza.
“I’m constantly running off emotions, the core of me is just a ball of emotions — that's why I do the things I do, [why] I say the things I say, [why] I make the art I make.”
And she’s no stranger to process: Vanessa has been making art since she was a child. Although most widely known for her photography, she is also a painter, a writer, and even dabbles in drawing.
“I also love writing — I write poems all the time,” She laughed. “They are usually love poems, I'm a hopeless romantic. I’m a pisces, so I’m very dreamy — I’m always in a dreamstate.” She however, keeps that work close to her. The majority of her work has been photography projects, collaborating with her friends to make art that refutes the sexualiztion and obstruction of women. Vavi first found her way to photography in high school on a trip with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, who first encouraged her to start shooting.
Later, she moved towards female-empowered and based works, especially with Not Ur Baby, an art show whose second installment appeared at Oakland Terminal this March. The event was a gathering, show, and celebration of women identified artists, a space dripping with powerful female energy. The last show, themed to support anti-human trafficking, offered vendors who did nail art, registered you to vote, and did hair-art. The entire endeavor was a female-run one, showcasing female artists and community vibes in support of femmes.
“A lot of the times I was the only woman in the shows. I’m like this shit is hella weak. I know hella dope women, hella dope female artists. I tried telling curators but they only fucked with their friends and their friends were all guys,” she recounted. Not Ur Baby stemmed exactly from the kind of project and frustration she described inspires much of her art. Vigil described how she knew “hella dope women who come together” and decided to get every inspiring woman artist she knew to come and throw their own show.
“I had no intention of, like, one day, ‘I want to be a curator and curate a show,’” she explained. “It was out of frustration. And that’s how a lot of my art happens...That’s how Not Ur Baby happened. It was taking this frustration and being like, you can’t stop me — it’s not going to stop here.”
As a whole, Vigil expressed that her art is her way to speak, something she’s grateful for is able to touch other people. For her future plans, she hopes to move towards video film. Vigil described that a goal of hers is to direct a short film titled, “Chapters of Queer.” The project will read more like a documentary, she said, “an interview of queer” that documents random parts of their lives. She hopes eventually to take it even outside of the Bay.
She strives, and succeeds, to create work that challenges people's norms."I feel like my art -" she paused "something I recently learned, is that not everyone is going to agree me, not everyone is going to like what I like. And I can't be mad at that...I create for myself, ultimately - and because it needs to be heard."
See more of her work below.
Check out her work at http://www.vavivisuals.com/
portrait by Mancy Gant
by taylor marie