UK-born, Singapore-based artist and textile designer, Vix Harris is one of our latest Instagram obsessions. She uses her vibrant drawings to celebrate incredible women who have broken the glass ceiling in a host of different fields.
Although Harris is Caucasian, she is a true ally and intersectional feminist, using her art to shine a light on not just white women but badass women of colour as well — from the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Beyoncé Knowles.
The stunning pieces, which are part of her year-long 50 Rebel Women series, are all of iconic women Harris loves and admires. According to her, "They were chosen for their different capabilities and inspirational life stories."
So, we at Konbini decided to reach out to Harris to discuss how she discovered her love for art, her distinct artistic style, the inspiration behind the empowering project and the importance of being an intersectional feminist.
Konbini: How did you discover your love for art?
Vix Harris: It wasn’t a discovery, really, but something that has always been with me. Even as a very small child I would draw and paint and make things out of bits of cardboard. My parents are both pretty artistic, and my dad loved to take photos so I was surrounded by art from a very early age. It never occurred to me to do anything else.
How would you describe your work?
My work comes from a place inside me, so it’s kind of hard to describe what it is exactly, but I know that I have been strongly influenced by the countries I’ve visited and the cultures that I’ve experienced.
There’s a strong element of surface pattern because I studied printed textile design for fashion and interiors at art college, but most of what I do now is unplanned and very spontaneous.
When I start a piece, I just start with a small section and put pen straight to paper and then just see how the design develops. I like to think of each design as a series of small decisions.
What inspired you to start illustrating women?
I come from a family of women (my mum has two sisters and my dad has three), so I’ve always been surrounded by strong, capable women.
My mum was involved in feminism before I even knew what it meant and has definitely taught by example. I also have four young nieces now, so it’s very important to me that they get to see women of all ages and backgrounds making their own decisions and living lives that they’re proud of.
Why is intersectional feminism so important to you as a woman and as an artist?
Another great question! Well, I spent my early childhood in Kenya and Malawi (where my parents were English teachers) and I have spent the last couple of decades travelling all over the world and teaching people from many different cultures and backgrounds.
I have lived in countries like Indonesia, Tanzania, South Korea and Vietnam, and many of my students have been women who are not afforded the same freedom and privileges that I, as a white British woman, have been given simply because of where I was born and the family I was born into.
I don’t think you can travel extensively and remain blind to the inequality and prejudice that exists in the world, especially for women. Intersectional feminism is about acknowledging that different women have different experiences according to their race, the gender they identify as, their upbringing and their abilities.
As a feminist, you can’t just focus on straight, white, able-bodied women because by doing that you’re leaving no space for those who have a completely different experience of life and these are the women who we really need to learn from. So much learning must be done and the only way to do that is to shut up and listen.
As an artist, the work I produce represents not only the things I find most beautiful but also the ideas which hold the most importance. It’s essential that women from all walks of life are represented in my work and that there is evidence of the cultures and traditions that I find most fascinating. As Nina Simone once said, “You can’t help it. As far as I’m concerned, an artist’s duty is to reflect the times.”
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