Q&A with Jennifer Maravillas, New York based artist who creates “protest bandanas”

In a small apartment in Brooklyn, Jennifer Maravillas, a 33 year-old artist, works continuously on her artwork with her cat alongside, as her main companion for the day. Maravillas has a new gained confidence for making advocacy art after her artwork was chosen as one of five posters to represent the Women’s March that took place around the nation and world on Saturday Jan. 21st. “It’s amazing. Even when it was first announced as a competition of women all around the country; submitting art just made me feel awesome to be part of the marches in that way,” she told me through the phone. She mentioned that I was one of her first conversations of the day with a human since she had been busy all day creating a poster for a rally against the Muslim-ban and immigration order happening later that night on Feb. 1st.  While making posters is a simple way for Maravillas to be actively involved, she is artistically venturing out by creating “protest bandanas” highlighting different civil rights movements.

How did you come across the open call for art by the Amplifier Foundation and Women’s March and why did you decide to submit your artwork?

I saw a post on an art blog about it. After the election I think people are really freaked out and confused. All year I have been working on making these bandanas and the process took up pretty much all year to figure it out but I finally perfected it. Originally they were supposed to be about the ecosystem and then after the election I wanted to make a bandana for each of the issues that are important. I had created all the graphics for the bandana on gender, religion and sexuality so I applied it to what [the foundation’s] mission is and repurposed it.

From what I have seen of you artwork I noticed it’s a lot of watercolor and painting so how did you go about creating the poster? Do you have a background in graphic design?

I have an undergraduate degree is in graphic design and in grad school I did more of advertising and I worked as a designer for ad agencies but I didn’t really love it so I started building an illustration portfolio. I still use those skills a lot in my artwork. I would have probably painted that design but I procrastinated a little.

What was the inspiration and meaning behind the design of the poster through the bandanas?

The flag graphics were based on some of older protest culture. I wanted to incorporate that and its history in words and graphics but then also want to incorporate plants because it’s interesting how our relationship to plants is shaped by our culture. When I think of the suffragettes I think of these fabric banners with etchings and I wanted to make the text pretty broad so that it could cover first, the body; kind of literally women’s reproductive rights, then, mind; I was thinking about how imbalanced society is and how patriarchy affects our mind and then power; embracing who you are as a human being and coming together and working together. All these combined with the many symbols representing our gender, sexuality and religions that ground and uphold our global feminist movement to reach as many people.

How did it feel that your piece was one of the five chosen from the public call for art, from a total of over 5,000 submissions?

[It’s] incredibly special. It’s a weird feeling all together because at the march you have all the adrenaline and it’s almost a therapeutic feeling to be there and empowering as well and inspirational at times so I guess that’s what I was feeling. It’s just amazing that it speaks to people, any time you make something that people identify with is a special feeling and it has made me more confident about writing, to speak for a movement.

Did you attend a march with your poster?

I attended the march in D.C. and actually it’s pretty sad but I wasn’t able to get my poster for the march. The Amplifier Foundation was giving them out but I don’t think anybody anticipated how big it was going to be so pretty much the whole day was me trying to get my poster but I was about 50 feet away from [the foundation’s] truck and no way to push through. I finally got a poster at the end of the day. I am actually going to protest tonight, against the Muslim-ban and immigration orders and [am] making a poster for it now.

Had you done any work before that had to do with art as advocacy?

It takes a lot of research to make any project so I would say that while I do have commercial work, generally my work is advocating evolution and societies. My long-term project is a map and walking around New York and picking up trash along the way. So I just finished Brooklyn now. I started two years ago and it’s more about understanding communities and stepping out of my apartment to be a service of the community and learn about it at the same time.

What led to the idea of the bandanas and the research behind all the detail of the plants as in your website it states that “they portray the evolution of reproductive rights from the time when women foraged for plants to the introduction of the pill”?

I became really interested in painting plants; it’s almost therapeutic for me. I loved finding patterns and looking at plants and learning about our relationship with nature. Now it’s all with a greater meaning. If Hillary Clinton had been elected I probably wouldn’t be doing it so it was a need I had to fill in my own life to make myself feel better. It does help.

The bandanas are up for sale thorugh your website and a portion of the profits are donated to BUST Magazine, “one of the few remaining feminist publications”. Why did you decide to create that partnership with BUST magazine?

I know a lot of people working there and I know they aren’t getting a lot of money and not doing very well. I guess it could have been to Planned Parenthood but a lot of people need help. It was a hard decision but I am very happy with it.

How long does the process take to make the bandanas and what is your aim for them?

It takes a total of four days and it is pretty physical work to make each batch, which makes 24 bandanas. I do want them to be more socially known. I want to send them to some politicians, like senator Kirsten Gillibrand and it that would be amazing to see them wearing one. I don’t usually have many expectations or desires beyond that but mainly hope they at least speak to one person in the world.

Maravillas’ bandana highlight Women’s right movement, taken from jenmaravillas.com

Did you ever imagine yourself doing this work in terms of your poster or bandanas regarding advocacy?

I guess so, maybe not literally in making bandanas but I have always had a pretty feminist mindset and interest in civil and social rights but it seems a little scary since you are putting yourself out there. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I can’t even comprehend what’s happening in the world and my brain is so immersed in trying to understand and this is kind of therapeutic for me.

What are some of your upcoming projects?

I am working on the map and continuing to collect the trash. I will be working on the bandanas probably for a while, and working on three designs now. They are Black Lives Matter, gender and sexuality and also something with the environment, and also a design for a hijab. It would be fun to just make tons and tons of them.

To see more of her work go to http://jenmaravillas.com


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