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Artist Spotlight: The Creative Femme Fatale KawaiiSugar

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 Jen Lezan

The future is female. Women artists today are rewriting the narrative about their roles in the creative industry. Despite encouraging signs of women’s improved status and visibility in the art world, there are still major systemic problems within the creative world. From lack of attention on  prominent female fine artists, illustrators and even a lack of female focus in genres such as comic books, there are still hurdles for women when it comes to pursuing a career within the arts. Yet, that's not to say that women aren't in a much better place than they were 30+ years ago, but the reality is that we can always do better. When one looks at the stats of women in the art world, it becomes evident that there are still systemic issues women face when attempting to make a career in the arts.



The more closely one examines art-world statistics, the more obvious it becomes that, despite decades of post-colonial, feminist, anti-racist, and queer activism and theorizing, the majority even within the creative world continues to be defined as white, Euro-American, heterosexual, privileged, and, above all, male.

Sexism is still woven into the institutional fabric of the mainstream art world and it often goes undetected. Discrimination against women at the top of the industry has a tendency to trickle down into every aspect of the art world—gallery representation, auction price differentials, press coverage, and inclusion in permanent-collection displays and solo-exhibition programs. In a case study on Ninedotarts.com, stats highlight the realities that women face:
  • 30% of gallery-represented artists are female
  • 25% of New York solo gallery exhibitions feature women
  • 24% of museums with an annual budget over $15 million have female directors
  • 19%: the wage gap between male and female artists/arts workers
  • $135 million: the gap between the highest priced artwork ever purchased at auctionand the highest price ever purchased at auction for a female artist’s work
  • $51.3 million: the gap between the highest auction record for a living male artist to that of a living female artist
  • 1: the number of women included in the top 10 living artists based on total value of secondary market sales (2011-2016)
Yet, women artists are working harder each day despite the obstacles they face. The feminist art movement that emerged in the 60s has truly been a beacon of hope within the industry. Feminist artists throughout the years have sought to create a dialogue between the viewer and the artwork that they area. They have done this through the inclusion of the women's perspective in the work that they create. Modern female artists are creating work that is not only an object for aesthetic admiration. They are creating work that incites the viewer to question the social and political landscape. The goal behind this questioning is to affect the world and bring change toward equality, to educate and to inspire. 

One Chicago female artist, who truly embodies these ideals and modernizes them through her manga/comic book inspired art is Suga. Suga is an artist residing in the Southside of Chicago. Growing up she spent much of her time reading comic's and playing video games. Her art style is a testament to the influences of her youth. Her work almost feels as if she's a modern day Georgia O'keeffe who became a badass female comic book artist.

The characters she creates, each have their own personal stories that stem from a simple phrase in a song that Suga is enjoying. Adorned with exotic flowers & Shibari, Suga's characters fall in the borderline of vulnerability & strength. Tied up in rope due to their own self constraints & anxiety; but also because they feel a sensation of freedom and independence from it.The themes in her work are meant to make the viewer uncomfortable, while drawing them in at the same time.

Suga recently took some time to talk with us about her creative journey and share some of her most recent work. Keep reading for the full interview: 

1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to pursue a career in art? 

I'm Suga & I reside in the Southside of Chicago. My family is from Mexico, and as opposed to visual art my family's artistic roots stem from music. I tend to keep to myself, so art is the only thing I have when it comes to expressing whatever is lingering on my mind. Pursuing a career in art was not something I ever had in mind. Drawing was simply a hobby I enjoyed, but somehow it caught the interest's of others.


2. Can you tell us more about your current work and the vision driving the pieces you create? 

My current work is based off girls tied in Shibari, and has been for about 2 years now. I enjoy pulling out seductive girls out of my mind, and letting them manifest themselves in pieces of paper. As having a vision, nothing is ever really planned. Creating them is somewhat of a personal journey & although most people might not notice, there are subtle changes in them as I progress. My girls are vulnerable and strong. Anxious, yet enjoy the gaze inflicted upon them by strangers. It's quite meditative and fun having them so exposed.

3. Can you share a bit about your journey as an artist, the ups and downs and what led you to this point in your career? I've always been illustrating since I was 4, but If I'm being honest these past two years have had the most up's and downs. I found a "style" to call my own and it truly made me ecstatic. People started reaching out to me for art shows, and I met so many creatives in the city. While I am extremely happy & grateful for all of these opportunities It does get overwhelming.

I am somewhat of a introvert & because of that I feel awkward socializing. Other times I find myself dwelling in self doubt. It's a back and fourth thing in my mind.

4. Where do you get your creative inspiration?

My creative inspiration comes from my emotion's. I always illustrate things I'm going trough using symbolism. Manga also plays a huge factor in my art style, as does erotic photography.



5. Are there people, mentors or figures that have made an impact in your life and career? If so, how?
 I never had mentor's or anyone teach me. I used to always keep a sketchbook for doodling. There was a time I had a book I shared with my mother, where we would both be drawing girls, wish I still had it.

6. Who are some of your favorite artists or inspirational Instagram accounts to follow?  I have a endless list! Right now I love Gustav Klimt. Hans Bellmer, Stella Im Hultberg, Audrey Kawasaki, Katsuya Terada, Nobuyoshi Araki, Ellen Von Unwerth & Junji Ito to name a few. I adore surreal artwork with sexual undertones sprinkled with melancholic emotion. The feelings of angst and longing have a romantic tone I cant explain. So lovely!


7. How are you remaining innovative when it comes to your work as a an artist?
Remaining innovative as a artist can be difficult. You tend to always want to make something original and spacial. When I see similar art on social media it can be discouraging. People always say "It's just a drawing" but to a creative, its a part of them. Too much stimuli is also hard to handle, because you feel like you are lost. What I can say tho, is experimentation is very important. Innovation comes from errors. You never want to stay comfortable.


8. What kind of obstacles have you faced as an independent artist – how have you overcome and what are some hardships young creatives may face as they pursue their dreams in the art world? 

As I said, some obstacles (for me) come from self doubt and discouragement. Fear of losing creativity or staying stagnant. I want to perfect my craft, with no rush. When I find myself in a rut it passes. Everyone goes through it and grows from it.




9. Can you share more about some current projects or commissions you are working on if you are working on anything in particular?

I have some fun projects and art shows coming up! 4 art shows coming up, Curated by Chad Edwards, Sylwia (Yung Sailor Moon),Juicy Jackie and Lisa Lei. I have a shirt collaboration with "Get Lost Perv!", Working on some wheatpaste gals to decorate the bottom lounge of Circus Magazines new spot & live painting at Northcoast! yup yup.




11. What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in art?

I'm useless when it comes to advice. But I will say this, create something that is significant to YOU. People will like it, other's will dislike it but at the end of the day the only person you are working to get better against is yourself. Make time to improve everyday, and don't get upset if people offer constructive criticism. Just enjoy yourself and do you.

12. Finally, where can we learn more about you and your work online?
-Instagram.com/kawaii.suga

-Facebook.com/suga1art

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