Jacqueline Brandwayn is a Panama-based Colombian-born artist whose recent show “Beautiful: A celebration of being a woman” premiered at Espacio Panama last week. We liked it lots. (See some photos here.) Brandwayn has made her mark on Panama (particularly on Casco Viejo, where she has her studio) both literally and metaphorically. Besides being a painter, Jacqueline is a street artist, whose distinctive leg stencil graffiti is visible all over Casco. Jacqueline has a background in graphic design and photography, the latter of which she studied at Emerson College along with advertising. During the week, Brandwayn designs the accessory line for Converse. (Jacqueline, how do you do it?!)
We visited Jacqueline’s studio last weekend at the Santa Familia community center in Casco. It’s a beautiful space and so close to the ocean that “When is the tide is high you can listen to the breaking of the waves,” Jacqueline said. We first spoke in her current workspace, then moved to her old studio upstairs, where there was (and still is) no door. “One time I came in at night and there were seven crackheads hanging out.” She moved downstairs.
What was your inspiration behind your recent show “Beautiful”? I was raised between two boys in a very conservative, very chauvinistic, Colombian family. I was always trying to prove myself – that I could do that too. I was fighting for the equality of women. Then I had two baby girls and I looked at them and I realized: it’s fucking awesome being a woman.
When did you move to Panama? Eight years ago. I was visiting Panama for a wedding and I met the man who’s now my husband.
We saw work from the show under the title “The Sexual Liberation of a Late Bloomer” on your website, what brought about the change in the name? Originally it was that. Once I did the work for the show, I realized I wanted a one-word name to capture it all. I was brainstorming what a woman is and I came to “Beautiful.”
The work in “Beautiful” is mainly digital paintings, what does that mean exactly? Digital painting starts in photoshop. I find photos that inspire me and mess with them and then paint over them using a tablet. While I was doing it I was questioning, ‘is it as valid as to do it manually?’ When I saw the finished work though, I decided it was. Once I printed them I realized I needed to do more. That’s where the sides came in. I treat the canvases as 3-dimensional objects. There are even legs on the back. I cover them with resin afterwards. I wanted [the paintings] to be reflective. I wanted people to see themselves in them at a certain angle.
Oh, cool. Is that related to the mirrors in the show too? Hah, yes. I saw the mirrors in Amsterdam and spray-painted them. The words come from – well, I’m a graphic designer. I studied graphic design and photography and I am particularly interested in words.
You mentioned that you started doing graffiti with your coworkers while you were living in Amsterdam. How did that happen exactly? When they said they did graffiti, I thought ‘no fucking way. That’s so cool – I want to photograph you.’ Since I was so far away from home I started doing stencils of my friends’ faces and putting them where I’d walk by them. I’m a perfectionist by nature and doing street art helps me shed that. It introduces an element of imperfection into my other work too.
How did you come up with leg motif? It’s again about spreading female energy. I’ve always had an obsession with black and white imagery and I thought, wouldn’t it be funny to spread those legs. The graffiti thing is so masculine and I wanted to introduce something feminine.
Is that related to your series on heels too? Yeah, you know, if you wear heels, it’s a different day than if you wear sneakers. I’ve always liked that Marilyn Monroe quote. “Give a girl a pair of heels and she can conquer the world.” They can really change things.
Speaking of well, a different Marilyn, the focus on heels reminds me of some of Marilyn Minter‘s work. I understand she does some digital paintings as well. I love Marilyn Minter. She’s very bold. Her work is on a fine line between the sensual and the grotesque. I saw her work for the first time though after I started the series on heels.
Who inspires you then? All women really. I’m inspired by your yellow shoes for example [hey-O Christina] – I’m just inspired by women everyday.