Julianne Villegas - Artist, Printmaker
Julianne Villegas is an artist, a printmaker whose pieces honor and record their identity. As a first generation Filipinx American, Julianne work is inspired by a rich personal archive and their community, creating art that navigates a hyphenated identity with softness and light. Walang Hiya 2019, Julianne’s recent exhibit, uses traditional handicraft and printmaking pieces that show a tenderness and nostalgia towards Filipinx American identity. Julianne received a BFA in Printmaking from California College of Arts in Oakland in May 2019 and will be holding workshops, curating exhibits and being present for their cultural and artistic communities.
Has art always been a part of your life, and how did you decide to pursue it in college? How did you start print making?
I started drawing as a young child and then focused the scope and process of my work when I started high school. My first introduction to printmaking was in 2012 when I joined Youth Art Exchange (YAX), an after school program for public high school students in San Francisco. I started as a Summer Intern and became a Teacher’s Assistant the next semester and then for the rest of my high school career. Through YAX, I built the foundation for my own studio work and for my teaching practice. I decided initially to pursue printmaking in college because I was interested in the accessibility of screenprint and dreamed of opening my own community studio.
What is your favorite part about being creative/creating?
My favorite part of creating specific to my process is the community. Visually, I feel that my work is such an intimate and vulnerable aspect of my identity. To receive positive feedback from folks that appreciate who and what I represent is the best kind of validation. And speaking technically, printmaking is deeply rooted in shared information and equipment. To hold space with other printmakers who understand the specific pains and successes of print, who also identify as both artist and craftsperson, is so special and so specific.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from my personal archive and from the folks around me. I use my personal archive (old baby photos, letters written to me by my mother, my baby blanket, etc.) to pursue a nostalgic softness in our brown bodies. I also aim to visualize the tenderness and care given to me by the relationships I hold close.
How has your identity as Filipinx influenced your art?
As a first generation Filipinx-American, I realized that what I create is also what I choose to record and honor. I recognize Filipinx as a separate identity and lived experience from Filipinx-American, and through my work, I contribute to the canon of the Filipinx-American identity and recognize the unique cultural icons of our diaspora.
What does your work address? What does it celebrate?
As a queer trans Filipinx-American, I don’t fit into the specific categories of queerness and of Filipinx. I am either too brown to exist in queer spaces or I am too gay and American to fit into Filipinx spaces. In my work, I navigate the issues of the hyphenated identity and reinvent my relationship to Filipinx-American culture. To process this trauma, my work celebrates the formation of cultural identity through the people around me. In my practice, I take the time to honor and thank my family (specifically my mother and my grandmother) and my friends for their contributions to my life and my sense of belonging.
What are some of your favorite art pieces, projects that you've completed?
Of all of the pieces in my artistic career, I am the most excited for my most recent pieces, It Is A Privilege To Be Loved By Me (2019) and Pasensya Na Anak (2019). I created both works immediately after my BFA exhibition as reactionary exercises to the critiques and compliments I received. It Is A Privilege To Be Loved By Me (2019) is a textiles/printmaking hybrid using banana leaf and sampaguita motifs reminiscent of my senior thesis. The banner is a proclamation of tenderness and softness held in my body that can be given unto others. Drawing from the same inspiration of healing and self care, Pasensya Na Anak (2019) is a lithograph/monotype/embroidery piece depicting hands offering a tortoise-shell mango. Shaped like a placemat, the piece explores Tagalog-to-English translations, the languages of apology and generational trauma, and what it means to have a seat at the table.
How do you approach Walang Hiya? What was the inspiration behind your BFA exhibit?
As I understood Walang Hiya, the phrase was meant to shame me for acting rebellious and always a little too Western, whether it be through my sexuality or my haircut. My BFA exhibition was an attempt to reclaim Walang Hiya and celebrate my Filipinx-American community and my own cultural hybridity. I also examined the Balikbayan box and thought about the box as a vessel for my hyphenated identity. To be “without shame”, I created a space for me and my community to exist in and as intimate, archival items.
What are you looking forward to post graduation?
Over the years, I’ve missed so many opportunities to volunteer and participate in events due to classes and work. Post graduation, I am looking forward to finally having the time to show up for and help out the artistic and cultural communities I’ve been having to sideline. I can’t wait to curate exhibitions and teach print workshops to uplift the community I reference so often in my own personal practice.
Photos courtesy of Julianne Villegas