Freedom from strings attached - Victoria Villasana interview

Artist Victoria Villasana
On Instagram, @Villanaart describes herself as Mexican yarn bombastic textile /street artist, to the growing number of people that follows her in the many thousands. For us she is also an uncompromising talent whose work is true testimony of our times, from the point of view of a young artist, a woman and a mother, raised in traditions that she shares with a global audience, and a culture that she celebrates along with all others as for her, empathising with other communities is the only way to move forward.

Under the tag name of ‘Villana’ (means female villain in Spanish), her street art work elevates the overlooked to highlight unfairness. Bright colours bring hope, and also shed a glow of optimism and power on the hand picked portrayed subjects that Villana unveils as true visionaries (sometimes villains) of our times, for their inner power to change things and people around them. She resents the present lacking from good leaders, hence her art is an invitation to remember these musicians, writers, activists .. so we keep them in our minds and hearts, to help us believe in our own power to change things.

Portrait of Female Kurdish Fighter YPJ

The use of yarn, a traditionally female craft, has been repurposed by Villana’s art to be the new umbilical cord that will link us back to our mother civilisations; a rope to bond us together, such is the essence of human belonging, but also to strangle injustice and restrain unfairness.

Portrait of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Victoria Villasana was born in 1982 in Guadalajara, Mexico. After studying design at university in Mexico, she spent over a decade in London where she became well known in the street art community for her rebellious femininity and acute cross-cultural imagery.

The dynamism in her work derives from the way the yarn is left uncut, far below the frame, giving a surreal aesthetic reflecting in the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Now residing in Mexico, her work is shown in exhibitions and public installations around the world.

Altered States Saatchi Gallery Group Show

Could you tell us about your childhood, and growing up, and starting as an artist. What were the experiences and people in your life that influenced you to do what you do now?
My parents are accountants! So not very creative surroundings, but since I can remember I lived in my fantasy world and growing up in Mexico fuelled my curiosity, I used to love making things with my hands and in my teens I made a lot of surrealist paintings. I started studying design in Mexico but I feel my real push in my creativity happened when I moved to London in my early 20’s.

What are your memories from London?
Feeling free, excited, incredibly inspired by architecture, the way people dressed, the museums, the arts, the multiculturalism, great friendships, love, melancholy, pain, feeling so lonely, overall a lot of life experiences that opened my mind in different aspects in my life.

Your work has been featured in the press alongside street art heavy weights, and you continue to work from time to time with prominent international street artists. What would be your ultimate collaboration?
There’s so many amazing street artist that I admire but I think Banksy would be the ultimate collaboration. I love the simplicity of the ideas and I love that the art is always speaking up about humanity, plus I love the humours criticism to society and politics in the pieces.

What does activism mean for you? What is the role the artists should play in society and the moral economy?
Activism can come in different forms and everybody should do it from their own window but I think specially artists need to speak up using art as way to create a bridge to connect and move and question people about our humanity.

On the hot topic of identity, and gender gaps. How is life as a female artist, and mother? Is there gender equality in street art?
I really like the balance I have between parenthood and creativity. At the beginning I remember feeling a bit weird specially because I started doing this when I was a mum, so I felt like a such a rebel mother! Haha but then I met a lot of people of different ages, people in forties, fifties, pregnant women etc..putting street art, it was great – I felt I found my tribe! In terms of payment I don’t really know but between my male peers I feel a lot of support and encouragement even my work seems to be very feminine.

On a different hot topic: where is the boundary between cultural celebration and appropriation?
I don’t know. To be able to have an influence from something you have to respect it a lot, yet simply copying is a different story. I can only speak of my work and my work is my story, a collage of influences from when I was growing up in Mexico to when I was in London working as florist and then in fashion everything that I have experienced has influenced the work I make today.

How to you find it reaching to international audiences and the global art arena from Mexico?
Instagram has a huge influence on that. Most of my works, collaborations, press, commissions, projects etc… I get it from Instagram.

How do you describe your typical follower/collector?
This really surprised me. At the beginning I thought it was mainly my mum but then I realised a lot of male and female from different ages and backgrounds liked it too. I think that’s my biggest satisfaction that my art connects with people from all backgrounds and not just a small elite interested in art.

Installation at We Work Mexico City featuring Oscar winner director Guillermo del Toro

How do you think your project evolving in the future?
I’d love to do other types of mix-media and installations. I’d love to do more installations!

What does Victoria do when she is not doing art or being a mum? What kind of music do you listen to, books you read, or special places for you.
I love walking and dancing, music is the fuel of my ideas and it helps me to connect with my feelings and emotions. I love reading about anything especially when is informative. I love literature and philosophy and I love being lazy whenever I can! haha

To find out more about about Victoria Villasana’s work visit victoriavillasana.com. Follow Victoria on Instagram!

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