Catching up with Jessica Sabogal

March 10th, 2011  |  by Published in featured artists  |  1 Comment

I recently heard from Jessica Sabogal about her take on art as a tool for social, political, and self-expression. This powerhouse visual artist is buzzing with passion and compassion. Feast your minds on some highlights from our interview.
What are you trying to communicate or explore in your work?
In the grand scheme of it all, I love exploring the stories less told, the undocumented, the forgotten and invisible. I am a San Francisco born Colombian mujer, making an effort to make visible the history and existence of women, underrepresented minorities, and my own people at the core of each of my shows. I want to take back the typically white American male gaze and interpret bodies, emotions, and flaws through an atypical queer woman of color’s lens.

What are some strategies you use to sustain your art practice (while living in Northampton)?When we first moved here all I had were my cans. During the lovely months of Fall I could easily paint outside and make awesome stencils all day. But as Winter happened, and the seasonal affective disorder started kicking in, I knew I had to find a space INDOORS.Luckily the current house we live in has this huge underground space that no ones really uses. So…MINE. Even though the open double doors provide ventilation, sometimes it can make the house smell like toxic. So my apologies to all the girls that live with us.

All in all, it’s been tough to maintain my “art practice” here, but it’s all somehow paid off. Remember, the most important thing is to stay resourceful. So suck it up, stop complaining, and handle it, kids.


Where were you when you created one of your favorite works?

While in the Bay Area, I became obsessed with painting the female figure over and over again in different, dare I say, positions. It was amazing. It was like finally being able to paint my “take” on something that’s been traditionally drawn and painted billions of times over the course of history. Thus, the women I paint have maroon, yellow, and even teal skin, building new vocabularies of how we see skin color without loosing their identities as women of color. After my last show, “La Mujer Es Mi Religión” in Berkeley, CA, I realized that the women I was painting were all too skinny. They were all typically beautiful, sure, but I was missing something. I started watercoloring larger women on 12×18 pieces of paper.

Paint big women, trust.


How do you see your art in relation to cultivating community, and how does community effect the work you make?

Community is everything; community is the whole point.

One of my first exhibits, “Womyn So Empowered Are Dangerous”, pays homage to fierce women warriors, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, Yuri Kochiyama, and Lorraine Hansberry. What was most incredible about the process was that I posted each woman’s bio underneath their portrait, so everyone that came through was forced learn about these women warriors. It was amazing to witness, tons of people strolling through and getting educated together as a community for the better. They would talk amongst themselves about the women, who had heard of them and who hadn’t…truly incredible to witness.

Community, in turn, has a tremendous affect on my work. The global community is my muse, it IS the reason I paint. The best example I can give is the recent painting I did for Egypt. I was so moved by the Egyptian people’s desire to come together and show the world the true effectiveness of people power, finally ending what had been 30 long years of oppression and silence. Hopefully this piece can serve as a memory of what they accomplished in Tahrir Square–and a warning to never again let voices fall silent.

You can view the video at:




What is your spirit animal?

Owls and unicorns, all day.

What spaces in Northampton are you most curious to see inside of, or to make work in?

Well, as a graffiti inspired artist, it’s not really a matter of what spaces I want to make work IN, but rather what outside spaces I want to make art on. For the past two years I’ve made countless paintings with spray cans and hung them in galleries, coffee shops, and shoe shops so that folks can start to understand that graffiti art can be equally if not more beautiful than it’s more traditional counterparts like oil or pastel.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean Northampton’s walls don’t tease me everyday.


What 5 items do you always carry with you?

Sharpie, knife, SF Giants hat, business card, and my ladyfriend.

About Jessica:

As one of the most influential artists of her time, Jessica Sabogal works to empower and educate. Creating within a male dominated arena, Jessica is one of very few womyn that continually destroy the notion of, “well, that’s just the way it is” — playing by her own rules and stomping on whomever tries to tell her to do it their way. She is stubborn and influential, reinventive and critical.

Jessica Sabogal is a first generation Colombian American graffiti artist, hip-hop dancer, toymaker, and photographer. Inspired by the rhythm of a drumbeat, the body in motion, and the stories less told, Jessi seeks to undo the taboo reputation of the spray can while making art that incites action, inspiration and appreciation.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Jessi currently resides with her ladyfriend in Northampton, MA, musing, creating and applying to grad schools. She received a BA in Political Science from University of California, San Diego.


  1. Chiyoko says:

    March 11th, 2011at 2:20 am(#)

    Thank you for giving Jessica the attention and space that she works/paints so hard to earn. She is truly an inspiring artist with a huge task and necessary mission. I hope to see her work on city streets, gallery walls, and living rooms worldwide throughout the coming years. Props to C3 for taking notice.

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