Ambivalently Yours is an anonymous feminist illustrator whose work is unapologetic, pink, and completely badass. I've admired her work for years and I'm beyond excited that I had the chance to interview her this week!
For those of us who are meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get started?
I’m a feminist artist who works under the pseudonym Ambivalently Yours. I started this project in 2012, when I was studying feminist art and working in the fashion industry, which seemed like a huge contradiction at the time. 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, in other words I felt ambivalent. I eventually decided to embrace my contradictions and Ambivalently Yours became my way of unapologetically exploring my feminist questions from this in-between place.
Your work is unapologetically feminine, pink, and confronts issues & stereotypes that women face today. What is the motivation behind your artwork? What inspired you to take a stance and speak out with your art?
My work is a result of the intersection of my personal experiences with my feminist education. In other words, once I learned more about feminism, I realized that a lot of my internalized pain and anxiety was caused by a larger political system that did not value me because of my gender. I started writing and drawing about my thoughts and experiences online, and eventually people on Tumblr started sharing their own stories with me, which I decided to respond to with drawings. I embrace all things feminine and pink in my work, because even though they are often dismissed as frivolous and weak in our society, the empathy they inspire can be effectively used to create social change. Furthermore, I strongly believe that women should not have to become more masculine in order to be taken seriously.
Why do you choose to remain anonymous?
My desire to remain anonymous online was initially motivated by fear. When Ibegan this project, I was mainly being critical of the fashion industry, which also employed me and gave me the wage I needed to live. I decided to make my work anonymous to ensure that my artistic work would not affect my ability to make a living. The Internet can also be a volatile place and my work is always inspired by personal experiences, so I found that the only way I could be honest without making myself too vulnerable was to be anonymous. In other words, my anonymity was a form of self-preservation, which in turn gave me courage to be more daring in my art. Later, I realized that my anonymity allowed for people to find themselves in the lack of specificity of my online persona. People often assume that I live in their country, or that I am their age or attribute me with any other form of similarity they are looking for. With this, Ambivalently Yours becomes less of a reflection of my personal self and more of a representation of the ideas behind the work. With anonymity I am exploring ideas of connection through ambiguity and ambivalence.
What has been a challenge that you’ve faced as you’ve established yourself as an artist, and how did you overcome that?
Being an artist is difficult. It requires long hours for little to no pay. People seem to love art but they hate paying for it, which makes it hard to make a living wage. I’ve also had to deal with a lot of plagiarism and copyright infringement, and the subsequent victim blaming where I’m told that it was my own fault for sharing my work on the Internet. There is also the constant unedited feedback from close-minded people and trolls about my work. I’ve had to learn to shield myself from the volatility of the Internet, to not read the comments, and to take everything with a grain of salt. The trick is to try to find a balance between the work and living a healthy life. I still struggle to find that balance, but I’m working on it.
If it weren't for art, what would you be doing? Could you see yourself pursuing any other career?
If there was some sort of career that revolved around binge watching TV shows designed for teenage girls, I think I would be really good at that. Until then, I’ll stick to the whole art thing. It sounds so cheesy, but art is the only thing that makes me feel fulfilled and happy.
On your site, you encourage others to submit their ambivalence. How has the response been, and what do you hope to achieve by including people in this ongoing project?
When I created Ambivalently Yours I began making drawings inspired by my ambivalence and posting them on my Tumblr page. Eventually, people started responding to my work by writing personal messages to me online, to which I began answering with more drawings. While often people ask me for advice, I’m in no way qualified to tell people what to do, nor do I think I have all the answers. Instead, I try to offer alternative perspectives and reframe their questions by turning them into drawings. I knew I always wanted my work to have a collaborative aspect, which is why I put it on the Internet, but I never expected it to become so interactive. My ambivalent questions have become a sort of online conversation, based on empathy, feminist ideas and the celebration of contradictions. My hope is that I can maintain this practice while also allowing it to grow and mutate into unexpected and exciting things.