Meet Artmamimoni: A Multi-Talented Artist Making Space for Black & Women-Identifying Artists
Written by Jasica Gill
The best part about my 20s has been realizing how much more autonomy I have in all realms of my life, including in the kind of art I consume. Growing up, I felt as though I only had mainstream media to look toward for entertainment and art. The internet obviously changed a lot of that for me. Thanks to the internet I was able to find artists that felt more like regular people, not just inaccessible, wealthy celebrities. I found art by people who represented different communities that wouldn’t usually be featured in mainstream publications. Thanks to sites like Tumblr, I found artists like Holly aka @artmamimoni on Instagram. A thirty year old Oakland-based artist, self proclaimed snack queen, and Pisces, Holly creates art that exemplifies creativity, afrofuturism, and authenticity.
Holly was born in Southern California but has lived in Oakland for the last seven years. As a queer, Black, nonbinary woman (who uses she/they pronouns), Holly finds that it’s most important for her to create art that truly represents her. With society dictating so much of what Black women should and shouldn’t do, Holly creates in a way that works to throw those expectations out of the window and showcase her true and authentic self. She not only wants to do this for herself, but wants other Black, women identifying artists to have the same freedom. With this in mind, she created blackgirlartgang, a collective aimed at cultivating a network of Black, women identifying artists. Her art isn’t contained to just one medium, as Holly works with paint, markers, digital art, and stickers. Her stickers, which she labels her visual journal, are created using free mailing labels. Her stickers feature her signature imagery: girls drawn without pupils, usually accompanied by a remark that will either make you chuckle, feel empowered, or both. Although her work is extremely versatile, I would say it is best suited for adults. Holly’s work aims to be sex positive and sex worker friendly, and thus often features messages that are a bit explicit. Aside from creating visual art, Holly loves to garden and describes herself as a granny. She would pass up most things for a good spread of snacks, a cozy couch, and cuddles with her dog Coco. I had the pleasure to sit down with her in her apartment and pick her brain about her art, her process, who inspires her, and what advice she’d give to other artists.
Q: if you could, how would you classify or categorize your art?
A: I think a lot about how many mediums I use, and it’s great because I purposely went in trying to make sure there was a way for me to always stay busy and always make something, but time doesn’t always allow for more elaborate pieces. I didn’t want that to stop me. There was a long time where I didn't make anything. I started with my stickers, which I made off of mailing labels, which is great because they’re free. Art doesn’t have to be expensive! I started doing more painting when I started doing live painting. After that, I really thought I had something and started to think I could expand my brand, my work, and so I started making my paintings and drawings into digital pieces. I don't even know how to classify my work because I just make so many different things. Medium wise, it’s a lot, but content wise, the stickers can be considered a visual journal. It’s me opening up to Oakland, or wherever I’m slappin’ them up, if I am slappin’ them up, because some I just keep since they’re so nice and others, people buy. Either way it’s me sharing myself with any and everyone.
Q: When I see your work, I see afrofuturism, do you identify with that at all?
A: That’s perfect. This is great, I love hearing other people talk about my stuff, because I’m so in it, that I don't really step out and think about what genre my work would fit into. To me, it's just my journal! But definitely afrofuturism, not even to say because of my space themed stuff, like the babeliens, but just my existence on this planet and the type of art I make. Afrofuturism [fits] because I’m a Black woman really trying to push forward Black women in art and to me afrofuturism is about going against the grain and asserting your own spaces in a society that’s like ‘no, you can't.’
Q: Do you think you work methodically or when inspiration strikes?
A: Both! Methodical because when I really got back into making my art, I needed to teach myself that discipline of just making and being consistent, so the way I draw my girls is kind of like an equation now. I always set up the framework and I just have to add the details so it’s not anything I have to really think about. I can just put pencil to paper or canvas and go for it and work around that. There are going to be times when you're not gonna have inspiration, but I didn't want that to stop me so having some routine to rely on is helpful. Theres of course the more thought-out stuff and a lot of the times I keep those for myself. It’s important that I have some things that are just for me- stuff I don't share or post.
Q: Aside from obvious art supplies, what are some of your must haves when you're working?
A: I need music playing, weed is great- not necessary, but helps me loosen up and go for it, and water. I love water, I’m a Pisces! But music is the biggest one.
Q: What are some blockers when you’re working, whether it’s something internal or something external that prevents you from continuing?
A: Well right now, I have a piece all drawn out, it's a lettering piece- and it’s all drawn and ready to go but I can’t figure out colors and it’s driving me crazy because colors just come to me usually and it’s just not happening with this piece! Basically, my blocker is, if it doesn't come to me immediately, I get kinda lazy.
Q: What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about being a freelance artist?
A: My favorite things are that I’m doing what I fucking love. Like I’m doing this anyway, and now I get to make money off it? So great! I get the freedom to make whatever I want, and the fact that I’m just so silly- you know the stuff I make- and people still fuck with me? That’s amazing. It’s really rewarding to truly be me and get that validation from people. My least favorite is the money aspect of it sometimes. I hate talking numbers, because I want my work to be accessible but it gets difficult. I live in Oakland, in the middle of a housing crisis, so again I want to be accessible but I need to make money. It’s difficult for me to put prices on stuff in general, but what I really hate is when someone starts trying to bargain with me on an already marked down piece. It’s usually men who get really pushy about it.
Q: You founded a collective called “blackgirlartgang.” what were your hopes for that and how has it panned out?
A: I wanted to make a collective where I could be with other Black artists who are women identifying. I wanted that to be a thing, because that’s who has helped me. That’s who supported me, so I wanted to offer that to other artists and create that network. I wanted us to be able to find each other, because that connection is so important. I really wanted there to be a safe space for us, too, because it’s difficult alone. So I created the Instagram, put the feelers out, and eventually there was a group of us just promoting each other’s shows and helping each other just get on people’s radars. We got some shows together [and] took part in a couple of murals together on behalf of the collective. Things did slow down because of my day job at the time and I was in school, but we never slowed down on posting each other’s work and promoting it under the blackgirlartgang hashtag. It has even gotten to other states and it’s so amazing, because we don't just promote visual art; it’s across mediums, so we post writers, photographers, people in film, hair braiders- like that’s all art! In terms of where I want it to go, I want to do outreach with kids, because I used to work with kids and I really want to give back. I’m pretty new in the game, and kind of older and I can’t imagine what it would've been like if I had that support early on. I want to hopefully make it feel more feasible for young kids to see that there can be a career in art.
Q: The hashtag and how you promote artists of all kinds reminds me a little of womensoundoff in the sense that, at one point it was focused on women in music, and now it’s women who are entrepreneurs in all walks of life, not just music or entertainment. Who are your favorite artists in all realms?
A: What fool would I be if I didn’t say Beyonce? She’s always just going the extra mile, like you wonder ‘oh, what else could she do?’ Like, bitch, THAT! I’m just wondering what her next move is...I’m sitting here frightened. @naranuva on Instagram is so good- I just commissioned a piece and I love their work so much! They are so talented, quick, and whimsical. The speed of their work is so fast and the quality is amazing! I also want to put people on to @yesikastarr, @johannareign, @trippytoya, @photosbylakeela- all amazing people who are putting out great work and have been an inspiration and support for me from the jump. Honestly, I love Bob Ross too, and his philosophy about just working with your mistakes. Ooooh and JUNGLEPUSSY. I fucking love Junglepussy. I had the pleasure of seeing her last Saturday and give her the painting I made for her. I mean I don’t know if it actually got to her, but she touched it and that made me happy enough.
Q: She reposted it on her instagram when you first made it, right?
A: Yes and I was SHOOK! Her music got me through so much and then I listen to Beyonce and it’s just too powerful.
Q: Do you have any advice for other freelance artists?
A: Don’t be afraid or worried about being super formal. I wouldn't consider myself like formally trained even though I went to school for art, but I think people get hung up on being formal and worrying about whether it looks right. But who cares? You have to start somewhere. If it makes you happy, you go for it. If it turns out you don’t like it, just make another one. Just don’t let that worry of ‘does this look right?’ stop you. Wherever you’re at in your abilities, someone’s going to enjoy that content. And with time and consistency you will grow as an artist. You see people come up because they're being consistent in their work, so if you start, that’s already further than where you were when you didn’t start at all.