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La Mujer es Mi Religion: The Jessi! Wap!

Jessica Sabogal is a first generation Colombian – American graffiti artist in residence at the Galeria De La Raza in San Francisco’s Mission Area.  There you can view her art until 6:00pm and there on comfy couches we sat to discuss her work.

We came to the gallery in the afternoon to view some stencils for a mural Sabogal is currently designing for the Montréal based, artist’s collective she has been selected to participate in; Decolonizing Street Art: Anti-Colonial Street Artist’s Convergence.

The large-scale Canadian convergence focuses on individuals of both indigenous and postcolonial settler origins and seeks to bring attention to the wide spread and specific struggles plaguing these communities.

The chosen artists already disclose a political interest in their work relevant to the focus.   With a fairly wide variety of on point topics to choose from, I was curious about Jessica’s direction.  Though she won’t yet reveal the full scope of her plans, she tells me the mural will deal specifically with indigenous women’s rights.  This is a topic that nicely marries the subject provided and her personal interests.

Sabogal’s latest series, Women Are Perfect! Came to her during the birth of her nephew. She was amazed by seeing first hand the power and strength of a woman’s body and simultaneously heartbroken by the violence of the war against women’s bodies in a global setting.

Her work speaks of women as an independent, self-sustaining, and powerful gender and she takes it upon herself to bring light to the violence suffered through the untold, individual stories.  Through the series Sabogal seeks to “demystify” the female form and bring to light what it is from a medical-biological understanding.  It is to detract from the mainstream vision of a robotic and inconvenient understanding of the female body and its sexuality.

Sabogal’s work has always depicted a strong political influence, and through the years the message has gained in both subtlety and potency.  Her strong ties to identity play a strong factor in her ever-growing body of work.

Sabogal works in the Mission Area, ground zero for the gentrification conflict, a conflict plaguing communities of postcolonial settlers. It’s a battle zone between Silicone Valley and the communities that immigrated here generations ago.  In contrast, Sabogal was the first female artist commissioned to design a mural by FaceBook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA.  Her new age, multifaceted perspective takes into account both the need for growth and the need for roots and stability. Her roots as a first generation Colombian – American woman and her opportunities as an up and coming young artist juxtapose starkly against the backdrop of a larger and growing problem.

Sabogal tells me that while she loves a variety of subjects, she finds her work to be at the height of personal fulfillment when she is able to work with subjects that excite her on a personal level.  Sabogal doesn’t practice monogamy with her muses, though she is specific.

Her love of the human realities of the female form is infectious. Through her mind, arms and fingertips, she sprays into existence a world in which the intrinsic and colorful differences found in the vast expanse of the female form create an innate pride. That pride cannot be ignored or hastily and intentionally forgotten, no matter the aim of American pop culture. She dares to challenge ideals and suggest that individualism just might be at the core of human perfection.

Sabogal gives strength and solidarity to the terrors of the female flesh market.  Much of her art is a specially brewed lager of raw sexuality, feminism, womanhood, and finding strength in the very nooks and crevices of unique human identity.

“Yo, everything is hella impermanent.” (…Including the body)  She tells me this as we discuss love, bodies and this past year.  Jessica’s a hip-hop dancer, toymaker and photographer–this woman gets off telling stories that incite action.

“This year everything’s been about doing exactly what I want, it has been all about drinking, loving, eating good food, being with family and making art.  What I want when I want it,” she said.

Standing in her haven, in her workspace, the studio was nothing short of bliss.  You can see the growth of her early fantasies to the strength of a woman seasoned in her craft.  With many miles still to go and a growing audience, she’s ready, willing and able to absorb her guidance.  We are ready and waiting to see where the years ahead will take this young female artist and activist who incites change and creates space for those stories preemptively delegated to the periphery.

It’s the antithesis of radical art; it’s the bassist version of womanhood. It’s the blood, the birth, the functionality; it’s the nature of a mother’s love, of that same woman’s sexuality, of the respect lost for the power of the woman.  The death of the matriarchy and the rise of the patriarchy ushered in a time of violence not only against sisters, daughters, friends, wives mothers and lovers, but against entire cultures.   With her artist’s eye Jessica brings these tales to light one story at a time.

About the author:
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Emily Wiest is a New York City-based writer and filmmaker. Her fascination with suffering and the resulting escapism informs her work. Emily's current project, BadPuss: A Popumentary is in post-production. Her written works include, BadPuss: A Popumentary, A Love Letter to Slim Shady, Peaches, Maud and Benny, and Lackadaisical Baby. She received a BA from Smith College in 2012.

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