Latinx Street Artivism: Interview with Yanina Angelini
Yanina Angelini is a 27 year old Uruguayan born street artist, activist and gallery owner living outside of D.C., in Fredericksburg, VA. Last month we caught wind they would be participating in the Words Beats & Life Paint Jam in D.C. and had the opportunity to have a conversation with them about their work. In this interview we talked about artivism, their undocumented experience, their influences and other topics.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Yanina Angelini Arismendi, I was born in Uruguay and moved to the US when I was in middle school. I am a painter, artivist and co-owner of Art Mart, an art gallery and studio located in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia.
How and why did you first start doing murals?
My first and oldest mural I did at age eight, it still lives on the walls of my primary school en Montevideo and it is maintained by the students of each new third grade class. When I moved to the US I painted and drew sporadically. As an angry teen I took to tagging buildings I was not supposed to as art took a backseat in my undocumented life. About six years ago I met some amazing artists at a local church I used to attend that encouraged me to create... Once I began putting my own thoughts on paper again, it was all over.
Because of the content of my work, D.C. was much more receptive in terms of shows and sales but I found here in Fredericksburg a vibrant arts community with amazing artists that took the time to teach and encourage me and many art collectors and paetrons that saw value in my work enough to keep me commissioned often. I would be failing majorly if I didn’t mentioned that my partner Justin Young is truly the muralist here and definitely my biggest teacher, I’d describe myself as a street artist personally, we, with Graffiti artist David Hernandez make a good team under AM Studios and have been commissioned to do indoor and outdoor murals all over Virginia.
What are your inspirations and what are the subject matters you like to explore through your work? Who are the latinx/latin american artists you look up to and/or have influenced your work?
My biggest influencers are Frida Kahlo, Carlos Paez Vilaro, Joaquin Torres Garcia and Basquiat . When I say this to people and then show them my work they go “Ah!” and recognize the names and styles and how that would be translated into my own aesthetics. But truly I feel connected to each of these artists for the way they lived their lives and interacted with the art world of their times. My grandmother used to hide my mother and her siblings in a trap wardrobe from the military police, whom would often raid homes and take children to be raised by the government. My great uncle was sent to the Soviet Union during the dictatorship because of the Communist theories he penned down. My parents came to this country with $200 and three daughters and no English and pursued their American dreams to the fullest, but not without having to hide for a long time. I feel like it is in my blood burning, a desire to honor my family by living a life that is colorful, unafraid and powerfully creative.
As Nina Simone Said, “'You can't help it. An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times.'
I explore themes that I work through in my own life: my upcoming solo show in the Fall, titled Modern Memento Mori, for example, is an ongoing project that I’ve been working through for a number of years now and it is about my life and death’s work, literally.
I have worked and helped other’s work through their own grief as a hospice nurse when I was younger, although the type of work I specialized in back then could be classified a “death duola” now.
Then I began documenting through photography and videos roadside shrines, memorials, cemeteries displaced by urbanization and any other kind of Modern Mementos throughout the east coast for a few years, a small MMM photography series of a most uncomfortable memorial day spent at the confederate cemetery here in Fredericksburg, was selected into the 40 Under 40 in Virginia exhibition at Shenandoah Valley Center for the Arts last year. I was very proud of my work.
Once my nephew died in a tragic accident I lost faith in prescriptive religions, and truly art has helped me connect to others and work on healing. The mural at the jam was actually for him. It was his birthday and the Little Prince is one of those lovely books that can really get you through a rough time. I used to read it to our kids all the time. Living with a chronic illness, I am most often aware of my own mortality and so that plays a huge role on my art work itself as well as how seriously I pursue my art career.
What do you think differentiates mural painting from other art forms? What makes it special?
Murals for me are powerful memories markers. I remember being small and riding the bus with my mom or my grandma and seeing all these red walls, yellow sickle and hammers, stars, bullet ridden from guerilla wars won for the freedom and beautiful childhood I got to enjoy in my country. They imprinted in me like the smell of the sea y Las Llamadas and singing the word Volver instead of just saying it. They are how I personally work through my split identity of calling two places home.
Murals are undeniable and unapologetic, when they are they up, they are larger than life there but they are as finite as our lives, for every street artist knows that someone might come tag your work or add to it in a beautiful way, or the authorities will cover it with a fresh coat of white paint and make it disappear. That happens often, but thankfully there's so many colorful ones out there that wall won’t be plain for long.
Do you have any upcoming projects lined up? What are your plans for the future?
Art Mart keeps me so busy. I usually use sick days to catch up on my painting. I curate all the art that comes through our walls as well as our satellite galleries at Fly Fitness Studios and Catalyst, a local concert venue. We are a year in owning our own gallery and have had extreme success: our First Friday openings packed for every month, even in the winter when the heaters were not enough and we had to pull out coats. Our walls have been graced by the best photographers and painters in this small city, amazing up and coming artists, most of whom have immigrated to the US from all over the world. And a beautiful response to our first call for arts, Postal: International Mail Art, which we are doing again in December of this year and anyone, anywhere can send us mail art (1405 Princess Anne St. Fredericksburg, VA 22401)
Up until last week, we were doing music programming every weekend and had a huge schedule extending as far out as August but we live in a place where the zoning and noise ordinances do not make much sense and found ourselves in trouble to the point of having to stop our music shows altogether or pay $300 for a special use permit, per show, every time. So the future looks like us rebuilding our whole space inside out this summer to sound proof and pick up where we left off, with a much more comfortable space.
We are also working on a few fashion related collaborations for late spring/summer time. Expanding Art Mart together with mural projects and taking time to travel to other cities should keep our summer busy!