This Queer Colombian Muralist Is Changing The World One Wall At A Time
Jessica Sabogal is a Colombian muralist adding her unique beauty to walls from the Bay Area to Canada to nationally distributed posters. Sabogal begins each project by researching the neighborhood her work will be showcased. Then, she decides what la gente need to see to disrupt their daily lives. Her work has commemorated trans lives lost, showcased queer women taking up space, and exalted immigrants as “greatness.”
Primero, meet Jessica Sabogal.
Sabogal was born and raised in San Francisco, born to Colombian immigrants who narrowly escaped Pablo Escobar’s pervasive violence and terror in their community. They came for education and they gave their daughter a college education.
Sabogal graduated from UC San Diego in 2009.
She became politically active during her undergraduate career and majored in Political Science. By the time she graduated, however, she couldn’t imagine putting on a suit and tie and working in politics. So she put on a gas mask and got some spray paint instead.
Sabogal started with stencil spray painting.
She wanted to make political statements on a larger scale, and, shockingly, the mere mirroring of Latinx culture is a political statement. Soon, her stencil art started to go viral.
This image of Chicana writer and theorist, Cherríe Moraga, is one of her first viral works.
Since then, she’s started the “Women are Perfect” campaign, which depicted different portraits of her feminist icons. Some critics have claimed that this campaign sets an impossible standard for women, and that women don’t have to be perfect.
Sabogal’s message is that women already possess perfection, without having to try.
She aims to portray real women in her lives. Indigenous women from her homeland in Colombia. Her intern. Her neighbors, educators and other activists in the community. These women make up “Women are Perfect.”
Soon, she started being commissioned to paint entire walls.
She’s making sure that White America can see Brown and Black America. That White America doesn’t forget their privilege, and the power that comes with it to dismantle white supremacy.
Sabogal’s art is la lucha against gentrification.
This mural went up in Salt Lake City as part of the city’s mural project. In an interview with Slug Magazine, Sabogal explained her goal for this specific work of art:
“My work always has two intentions. If you see it and you get it, it’s for you. I hope it’s validating and grounding for you. For the folks that feel anything else, if they feel uncomfortable or [question] why it’s in Spanish, or don’t immediately understand its importance, it’s for [them] too. My goal is to make you curious about your apprehension to the work, to sit in it and have the uncomfortable conversations about it.
Sabogal has continued her family’s legacy of prioritizing education first.
Her work has moved her parents. Her mother, Regina Otero-Sabogal has described Jessica as someone who doesn’t ever give up, and it shows.
She has committed herself to raising awareness and combatting violence against the trans community.
Chyna Gibson was a black trans woman murdered in Sacramento earlier this year.
Caption: “The death of Chyna Gibson, the death of Stephon Clark, the deaths of the countless names we hear every day on the news, were not isolated incidents. As the artists responsible for memorializing Chyna Gibson’s legacy, we could not do so without pushing the viewer to draw connections to broader structural issues of oppression and violence. We can not talk about racism without taking about whiteness. We can not talk about Black lives matter without talking about Black Trans Lives. We can not look at problems at the individual level when they affect our families and communities as a whole. So we urge you that stand here today, to ask yourselves the question, what will you do to protect our trans community?”
Her campaign has garnered the attention of powerhouses like Laverne Cox.
Because women are perfect, and Jessica Sabogal is one of them. She’s currently actively seeking queer, trans, women of color in the Bay Area for her next project. If that’s you, slide into her DM’s, it’s all welcome.
Showcasing lesbians and queer folks has proven controversial.
The above mural was created in Montreal during the annual Decolonizing Street Art Convergence, and critics have spoken out about it. In an interview with Xpress Magazine, Sabogal said, “Why is it a big deal for me to produce a big lesbian mural in Canada? I am discovering it is a big deal because it is still not being talked about.”
Though she has received wide, positive reception, even commissioning the walls of Facebook headquarters.
“Muralism for me is the beginning of a creation of my own political system—my own way of bringing about the most change I possibly can,” she told Slug Magazine. “In a way, they are small “advertisements” created in the name of my own people instead of trying to target us to buy something. They bring validation instead of trying to take something from us.”
Her murals say what we all want to, and it cannot be ignored.
Sabogal makes a huge effort to put indigenous people at the center of her work. No white person can argue with that statement, and it’s too true for so many in our community.
Her murals have been so powerful that some people have defaced the work.
Sabogal, joined with Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and Melinda James, together called When Women Disrupt, traveled the country creating murals on college campuses. This one was defaced in Los Angeles, at USC. It was restored.
“I will not mourn the decline of whiteness in my America.”
“Liberation is not white,” “White supremacy is killing me,” “America is Black,” and other statements have captured the attention of so many, and of course given some white folks some strong opinions.
When Women Rebel have defended their work.
On its website, the feminist collective wrote, “By confronting communities in the public space with art that uplifts the voices and sacredness of people whom history has often rendered invisible and less than human, WWD’s intention is to provoke greater discussion and thinking about the institutionalized and everyday systems of power and representation that reinforce racism, patriarchy, and inequity.”
In a medium that is male dominated, just by creating her work, Sabogal is breaking glass ceilings.
You might have recognized much of her work as part of Shepard Fairley’s “We The People” Public Art Campaign. I’m shocked if you haven’t screenshotted any of these images to your IG story.
You can buy her prints on her website.
JessicaSabogal.com is home to all of her work, in highest resolution, along with a shop of her available work. Want to support a queer Colombiana while making your home modern and welcoming AF? Here’s you chance.
And bring your truth to life all around you.
Here we are, in all our glory. Her latest campaign is called “Our Existence Will No Longer Be Silenced.” It goes onto say that “we require no explanations, apologies, or approvals.”
Whatever you do, follow her work.
You can follower her on Instagram @jessicasabogal, support her artistry at JessicaSabogal.com or just go right ahead and add her work to your IG story already. She lifts us all up. Vamos a dar lo mismo.