Women have long been portrayed in art as the lover, the muse, the mother, but rarely as just women. Possibly because there is no such thing as “just” a woman; she is complex, enigmatic, multi-faceted, everything all at once. New York City based illustrator Amber Vittoria, seeks to wrap her mind around all parts of herself and her amorphous gender, embracing the female longing to understand, to accept, to celebrate. Like Picasso in his famed Demoiselles D’Avignon, those who break the mold of traditional female beauty are seen as dirty and subversive, but with Amber, subversivism never seemed so sweet. Nada Alic interviews her below:
Your representation of the female form is so striking to me, I was just watching John Berger’s Ways of Seeing Episode 2 on male painters painting the female form through the male gaze and how women are so often objectified in art. It feels like there’s this movement among female artists (or maybe it’s just now coming into public consciousness) of reclaiming the female form and desexualizing it. Your work makes me think of that, hairy legs, different body types, etc. Was that intentional on your part? Is your work, in some part, political?
On both the intent and the political thematics, definitely. Throughout recent art history, the majority of women within pieces are depicted by male painters as sexual, maternal, or a stereotype of the like. As gender becomes progressively more fluid, I’ve personally felt empowered to break the trope of an ‘ideal physical female,’ to propel forward my ideals of femininity and my sense of the female form.
The colors you use are so bright and feminine, does that play into the message you are trying to convey, almost in contrast to the imagery? What is the relevance of color to you?
Although several of my pieces are rooted in the raw thematics of femininity and physical identity, the bright, bold palettes I pull from are meant to be a celebration of the power, strength, and intelligence of the woman.
You’ve worked with clients such as Man Repeller, Teen Vogue, Lenny Letter, etc. How did this happen? Did they approach you?
For majority of my clients, I’ve reached out to them via cold email, either finding a contact on their web page, or through Instagram.
Describe a typical day for you, do you work from home? What are your daily rituals?
In addition to illustrating, I am also a full-time designer at Avon. A typical weekday involves me waking up, running for a few miles, getting ready for work, working until the early evening, then coming home and drawing/writing/reading. As for rituals, running allows me time to think about new pieces that I’m working on, which is incredible. Reading also teaches me, which influences a lot of my work. I just finished ‘Consider the Lobster’ by David Foster Wallace today, actually. My brother has wanted me to read that for a while. It’s a lovely compilation of his work.
Who are the contemporaries/peers/friends that most inspire you? Be it, other artists, musicians, etc.
My shortlist would consist of Gill Gold, who did my most recent ink. She is incredibly talented and a wonderful human being. Allison Bamcat, whose work brings a large smile to my face; her use of color and pattern is pristine. Nomad-Chic, for when I need a little zen and gorgeous collages. India K, for honest, beautiful photography and installation art. Finally, Jen Hsieh, whose world is bright and full of magical destinations.
You recently contributed to a pin collab, can you tell us about that? Do you hope to do more collabs in the future?
My first pin collaboration was with my good friend India, who is an incredible photographer and installation artist. She came to me with an idea of a pin simply stating ‘Product of Immigration‘ to raise funds for the ACLU. We sold 200 pins and donated $2,200 to the ACLU, all in a period of approximately a month! Since, I’ve collaborated with my former writing partner, Rishi Magia on a ‘Love Who You Want’ pin to raise money for OutRight Action International. Thus far we have raised a bit over $800. My end goal is to have art to fundraise with every few months.
What is your advice to other artists looking to market themselves on the internet? i.e. tips for Instagram, pitching to blogs, etc.
Instagram has been the single-most incredible resource for my artwork. I’ve been able to cultivate a truly wonderful audience where I can share my true self through my art and snapshots of my life. For Instagram, testing and learning are important. I’ve learned when it is best to post my work, which hashtags to use, and what stories my audience gravitates towards. In regards to cold-emailing/pitching, give a gift. Most of my cold emails (especially if it is to a specific person and not to an email@example.com) offer to send some of my art as an introduction, even if it is just a small hand-drawn post-card.
What do you hope to achieve with your art? What would make you feel like: yes, I’ve made it.
To continue to break the tropes of the ideal physical female, of gender, and of appearance, would all be incredible achievements. In regards to ‘I’ve made it’ moments, I’ve fortunately had a few: working with Teen Vogue, Man Repeller, Lenny Letter, being written up about on Society6 and It’s Nice That and having people send me photos of their art framed in their homes. The idea that my work has connected with someone who I may never meet in person is the most incredible feeling.
What’s next for you/anything else you’d like to add/tell us?
I am always open to chat. If you have a comment on some of my work, think there is a book I would find interesting, or have an awesome secret running path in Manhattan, feel free to send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org