Wonder down any alleyway in Collingwood and there is a great chance you will come across one of the bright flamboyantly feminine portraits drawn by Astrotwitch. The portraits are of strong, powerful women and are reliably lively, bold and loud. However, they are not just pretty pictures but statement pieces. The aim of these portraits is to shine a light on the often underrepresented female presence in today’s Street Art scene. In this interview Astrotwitch shares with us the unexpectedly simple story behind it’s name, it’s inspiration for these power portraits and it’s current project with the queer/feminine porn community.
Okay so – blatantly obvious first question – why Astrotwitch? Such an interesting and intriguing name!
The story behind the name is a little less exciting. Its actually two words that I used to write on the streets when I was younger; “astro” and “twitch”. I needed a name for an email address once, and I got tired of it being things like beyoncesuperfan5000. It occurred to me that “astrotwitch” was basically not a word, and nobody would ever think to put it into anything. So I started using it for everything. But you’re right is does kind of sound trippy. I am always afraid that when people find this out it will be a let down.
There is evidently a strong theme of femininity within you pieces – has that always been an influence/motif for you in your work? If so , how come?
Yes. The simplest answer is really just that I am captivated by feminine aesthetics. Things like fashion illustrations, and flowery design has always held my interests from childhood. This is still true today, my favorite art tends to be a little more delicate, and I guess feminine. So when I paint it just comes out.
I think at this point in time there’s something inherently political about placing the feminine aesthetic in street art. Art in the streets (including street art and graffiti) is still a very masculine dominated field. Just to be clear I like a lot of the masculine street art and graffiti that’s out there, however having strong feminine art on the streets is a type of street art that is often times under represented. Aside from just street art, the world is still kind of a misogynist place. Typically on your walk through a city the representation of feminine and female forms is seen in advertisements, which is rarely-to-never empowering for women. So I think that actively putting feminine images out in where people will see them, and not using those images to really sell anything, is a positive act. I hope that these paintings let people who enjoy femininity to see something in the city landscape that resonates with them, so they don’t fell left out.
We admittedly were stalking your tumbler – and saw a few of the portraits were of Andre Shaktl , we weren’t aware of her earlier; but looked into her further as we were curious! What inspired you to incorporate her into your art?
Starting in 2014 I decided that I wanted to spend a year painting only people who identify as queer people. So I started looking for new models online who identify as queer. The aesthetics of the queer/feminist porn community resonated really strongly with what we were trying to paint. Andre Shakti is part of that community. Its largely centered around Oakland, CA (where I actually used to live). A lot of the people in this movement are not just models but also doing activism around sex workers issues, and lgbt issues. Andre is very striking, and I think her features translate well to our painting style, with the thick black lines that I use. But there are other people in this movement that I am painting as well (eg. Courtney Trouble, Chelsea Poe, Zahra Stardust, Jiz Lee and so many more). Its kind of a 21st century social networking style of artist-muse relationship with them. I have found it to be a very fun and rewarding experience!
Is this your passion? Do you have any other projects at this moment?
I guess it is. It feels weird to call things my “passion”. I guess we are also pretty passionate about our partner, playing with my dogs, binge watching tv shows and making food. But yeah painting the queer portraits in this style is hella fun right now. I am excited to say I have just recently started a collaboration with Sarah Deragon. She has a great photography project called the “Identity Project” (www.identityprojectsf.com/) that investigates the words people use to identify there gender and sexuality. I will continue to paint the feminist porn models, but I will now also be making paintings based on photos in the Identity Project.
Which wall would be the most ideal to see one of your pieces on?
I recently started painting larger scale paintings directly onto walls. Its really fun to make things big, so I would like to do that more. Though for our painting style it takes so long that I need to get somebody to let us do it, or else do it where nobody would see it. So if anyone wants me to paint a wall they should get in touch. I am really keen to paint in women friendly and queer friendly places (like lgbt community centers would be rad).
Where can we find your work?
Take a walk around Melbourne. Since I just recently moved to Australia, I don’t have anything set up with any gallery at the moment. So I have just been selling out of Facebook and over email, if people want something they should just get in touch. They can also find me on the usual social media platforms.