“Art is how we decorate space; music is how we decorate time.”
Riverwest FemFest combined both. Atop Company Brewing on Saturday and Sunday of FemFest, 20+ artists and activists came together in a pop-up gallery space to share their heart-fueled and purposeful paintings, drawings, 3D works, video installations, and more.
Among them was Yessica Jimenez, the Milwaukee born and raised artist behind Xeroine Illustration. For FemFest, she created a series of five portraits featuring Milwaukee musicians Fivy, Siren, Zed Kenzo, Queen Tut, and Chakara Blu. We met up before FemFest began, and I can hardly believe after an empowering, love-filled, authentic, weird, wonderful weekend that it’s already over. The support and significant ripple effects will go on—especially since FemFest ended up raising $10,000 for Date Rape Awareness Milwaukee!
People With Panache: How do you feel making your first FemFest series? What do you get out of this?
Yessica Jimenez: Oh my gosh—I’m so excited. I feel like I accomplished something. I want the artists to look at these pieces and feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, somebody is drawing me. I must be something.’ They are. There are reasons why I chose to draw them; they inspired me to do so. It’s a ricochet of influence.
PWP: And they are absolutely stunning pieces. What advice would you give to a woman who dreams of doing something similar? Sharing your art is really brave!
YJ: I think one thing Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) taught me my first year was to let go of that fear. People are going to critique your art, dislike your art, and like your art. Who cares? If you love creating it, do it. People are going to want to give advice and tear you down. You need to learn to take criticism and not be offended by everything.
PWP: Every school should teach that. No matter what you do, it’s entirely possible to have criticism, and I agree—you just have to let go of wanting to make everyone happy. It’s not possible anyway. What do you find most fulfilling?
YJ: After doing so many assignments for others, whether for school or commissions, I’m still kind of struggling with making my own artwork at a slow pace after taking long breaks. It almost makes me feel like I’m alive again when I make a new piece, whether it’s a drawing, painting, or illustration. I’ve been creating art since I was a child—my family knew me as ‘the artist’—but this is what I went to school for, too! Me completing a piece is getting me closer and closer to making a living being an artist.
PWP: And as you keep creating that excitement as you finish your FemFest artist series, what do you want other artists, other women, to think about?
YJ: I think people should remain involved with each other—especially artists. Don’t think everything’s a competition. It’s not. When I started the Milwaukee Hip Hop Alphabet and dropped the A, dropped the B, people were Facebook messaging me, wanting to get involved. Artists met each other and collaborated who heard about each other through the project. A lot of time, you’re inspiring and building each other up.
Leaving school it felt like we were all in competition to get a job. Meeting all these artists, I’d rather get together and paint and learn about their techniques; ‘I love the way you do this.’ Communicate with your artists. Don’t take it all as a competition. Don’t view others as ‘levels,’ like she’s at a certain ‘level’ you can’t attain. Don’t let envy and greed get in the way of the reasons why you create.
The FemFest Gallery and Art Sale, including Yessica’s work, was held above Company Brewing on Saturday and Sunday of FemFest. Follow Yessica and her next projects on Facebook.
[Artwork provided by Yessica Jimenez.]
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