Alexandra Velasco: De-sexualizing Femininity Through Art
“Hey you little poo,” Alexandra Velasco says when she answers my call. I reply with a similarly endearing scatological nickname as I tell her to wait for the call to start recording. It’s my strangest interview yet. I’m talking to the Mexico City-born, Los Angeles-based multimedia artist (who has been finding her niche internationally as a fearless powerhouse artist after having studied at Parsons in New York) about love, creation, and the creepy art our parents had in their bathroom.
“Let’s start with a short bio,” I jokingly tell her, as she laughs and says, “Que hueva.” After twenty years of her being my partner and closest confidante it’s weird to sit like this – her in her house in L.A., me on my rooftop in NYC – to ask her to tell me who she is as a person, as opposed to who she is as my sister. And although we’ve spent countless hours telling each other everything, I’m still joyously surprised that she keeps surprising me. With a newfound love for surfboarding, a freeing take on nudity, and the most poetic view on artistic creation I’ve heard yet, I’m excited to meet my sister as an artist, and I’m excited to present her to the world.
So tell me a little bit about yourself.
(laughs) I am a multimedia artist. I always say that the message dictates the medium, so depending on the idea that I have or the feeling that I want to express, then I pick a medium to work with. Right now I’ve been working a lot with video and making short films, but I draw, I make collages, I make performances.
Is it the same kind of things that influence each different medium that you create in?
Yeah, I find inspiration in the same places. What changes is the way I imagine a story in my head and how I want to present it. Maybe I imagine a specific moment in time, or It all depends on what that image or that moment or that person or that song triggers in my mind. And it all depends on immediacy.
What is your first memory of art?
I remember this painting in our parents house –
The creepy woman with the candle?
No, but I remember that one too. That one was creepy. I loved that one – it was in our bathroom. The one with a bear rug?
And a skull.
And the nightgown. Incredible. I think that influenced us a lot – in like how we dress and how weird we got. But I was thinking of this other one: it’s an outline of a torso of a woman, and when I was little I used to think that it was two mountains and a river. I don’t remember when it clicked that it was breasts and a belly, but I think that’s when I stopped being a child (laughs).
I know you explore the female figure in your work a lot. What do you think is so inspiring about women? I mean, we grew up Catholic, and there was not that much freedom. Do you think that your work is, in a way, an exploration to that repression?
Definitely in my work I’ve explored religious motifs. This performance that I made, Julieta Negra, there was a cross and which I destroyed and it started bleeding on me. So I’ve definitely explored religion in my work, but I think that the reason why I’m interested in the female figure is because I am one, so it’s easy to be interested in what you see every day. I want to be able to understand who I am through my body.
Also, though, I think that in our society female bodies are thrown at us everywhere – in magazines, in billboards, and music videos – but it’s very sexualized and objectified, mostly. It’s just a body, but it has all this meaning that equates it to sex, so that makes people think that women are sex, and that’s not true because women are people and people are everything, and being sexual is just an aspect of us as animals. I’m interested in breaking the sexualization of the female figure through my art, especially right now.
I’ve been making these jackets called Relax…It’s Only Flesh, and in the back there’s a torso of a naked woman. And I’ve done a lot of nude performances trying to be like, this is a body, this is a vessel, this is flesh – skin and bones, and not necessarily something that is here for your pleasure.
You just relocated to L.A. and you were in New York, Austin, and Mexico City before. Do you find that there’s a different expression in your art in every place that you’ve lived in?
Actually yes I do. I mean it’s all me and it’s all similar subjects, but every place that I live in I meet new people and go to different places and collaborate with different people, so my mood changes and then my needs and desires change as well. Recently I directed this short film with my friend Camila for the 48-hour project, and I live with two girls, Beth and Lauren, who are both in bands. I used Lauren’s song in my film, and have just been inspired by them to listen to different types of music and create different types of stories.
You and I have said that if New York, L.A., and Mexico City were one city they would make the perfect city.
Hell yeah. New York it’s definitely being able to go anywhere you want at whatever time you want, as well as the fact that a lot of places are open 24 hours or until late. Mexico City has the food, the people, the colors, the nightlife, and rent. I lived in this crazy duplex in a beautiful neighborhood by the woods —
Yeah I’ve been there.
(laughs) You idiot. But I paid like $300 dollars for it. In L.A. I’ve met so many people that are into growing their own food and sustainable living, being vegan, and hiking, and being fit. Having the beach is amazing, and it’s made me recently start surfing. I mean I suck now but the first thing I see in the morning is dolphins and seals, and it’s amazing.
Do you think that love or fear propels you more to create?
The most heartfelt and intense work that I’ve made has been when I’ve been broken hearted, sad, angry, and lost. I feel like when something goes really bad it means you’ve lost control, so by creating something you’re trying to get it back, otherwise you destroy yourself. Instead, when I’m in love I want to live in the moment, so I’m not that concerned about making work, I’d rather be kissing the person I’m in love with.
If you never had to sleep again or never had to eat again, which would you choose?
That is a horrible question (laughs)! I guess I would never sleep again because instead of dreaming I could get high. I would eat again and again.
Ok last question. What is your favorite thing about your sister?
(laughs) Hugging her.
That’s not about her!
My favorite thing about you, you little turd ball, is your sense of humor, but I can’t hug your sense of humor.
Photography by Sonia Scarr, stills by Alexandra Velasco
Need a new jacket? Buy Relax…It’s Only Flesh here