INTERVIEW by EMILY SUNDBERG
PHOTOGRAPHS by LAURENCE PHILOMENE
INTERVIEW by EMILY SUNDBERG
PHOTOGRAPHS by LAURENCE PHILOMENE
You may recognize them and their work from Instagram. While the platform has served as a tool for many artists—Fauna included—those in the tattoo world have found it particularly useful. Given the intimate process of creating body art, Fauna shared with me the struggles of using social media (with which I’m also familiar in my capacity as a professional Instagram editor) in their practice, their goal of tending to their dreams this summer, and their sage advice for other young artists.
Emily Sundberg: I always love to ask artists how Instagram influences their work and process. How has social media been a tool for you?
Flora Fauna: Well, I have a bit of a double-edged sword relationship with social media. On the one hand, I’m primarily known for doing hand pokes, so the career I have built for myself in this area very much rests on my understanding and use of Instagram. A lot of people have found out about my work through it, and I probably owe it most of my paying gigs. But at the same time, because I’ve never wanted to split my work persona from selfies and other more personal posts, and having gained a lot of followers in the last year or so, I started to become very aware of who was looking at me through their Instagram; it became a very daunting thought. Right now, my philosophy is to let that discomfort speak and to allow myself to step back a little from the platform and post a little less often.
ES: Who are some women who have inspired or influenced you?
FF: First off, I want to say that I’m not a woman and I identify as non-binary ... and so do a lot of the friends who have inspired me and helped me to grow the most in the past few years. Some of these people are: friend and illustrator Stella Starchild (@littlestarchild), for their dedication to community building and unconditional support; Laurence Philomene (@laurencephilomene), for showing me the path to being my truest, nerdiest self, and loving me right this way; my sweet friend who writes quietly, Rochelle (@darkeyedsister), for the kindness that they carry and for making me believe in fairies once again; Bao Ngo (@baohngo) for taking pictures coming out of hazy dreams and always speaking their mind on important issues; Lora Mathis (@manic_at_thee_disco) for creating ongoing discourse about feelings and emotional vulnerability that is open, transparent, and real; Kara (@moon_and_milk) for being such a fun and free bean, drawing the most sincere and beautiful pictures, and being an amazing listener; and finally my former roommate Kiki (@hi_priestess), because they are a dream of a bean, have the best style, and in memory of the both of us enabling each other to step out of the house with outraging looks on a daily basis. The answer to “Be this too much?” is always “NO!!” if you ask us. (Sorry this turned into a list of my friends ... but also not sorry and I could keep going forever! I love my friends so I feel like I should throw them a party whenever I can.)
ES: You're from Montreal. What was it like growing up there, and what role does it play in your life now?
FF: Well, I grew up in France so I’m not actually from Montreal. But although I’m taking a bit of a step back from city life at the moment, I’ve been there long enough that it feels like home now. I moved to Montreal in my late teens, at a time when people usually go through a lot of changes, and it was no different for me. I think Montreal offered me a space and supportive frame to reflect more deeply on my own racial and gender identity, but it's also where I started my learning process toward accepting vulnerability, trusting, letting go of my fears toward others, and viewing love as an infinitely renewable resource. As cliché as this sounds, my experiences there shaped me into who I am today, and I am infinitely grateful this was something I was able to do, because I am so much better at loving this self than the 18-year-old me who first entered this city.
ES: What has been your proudest moment as an artist thus far?
FF: I love it when people tell me they spotted or approached each other in public spaces, classes, or elevators ... because they both had a tattoo I gave them. As a general rule, I always get a little embarrassed and flustered when people tell me something I made had an impact on them or they use it as a screensaver and anything between there. But ultimately, the biggest reward that comes with doing what I do is to feel the connections it unknowingly weaves between others and me, as well as any connections that I have no part in. I have a natural tendency to be reserved and extremely self-conscious, and although a lot of what I make still carries these defenses, I feel freer in the land of visual projection, and it opens doors I have issues pushing as my “common bean” self.
Don’t worry about cool art, because really the coolest thing you could do is apply yourself to your uniqueness.
ES: How do you start your day?
FF: By hitting the snooze button for an hour ... but then if I’m on a good day, I drink something energizing, get dressed, and leave the house for early day plans or a walk because it’s so easy for me to fall into a slump and let enormous amounts of time fly by. Maybe it’s not so bad in the long run, because all I make is born from the maceration of all the feelings living in my body, these ones included. But on a daily basis, because of all these ideas society has put in my head about how productive I should be before I can call it a day, it makes me feel icky and can really end up with me binge-watching TV for hours, eating snacks, and feeling like a horrible representative of the human race.
ES: Any upcoming projects?
FF: Being [in Montreal] is always emotional, because I am confronted by memories of my past selves while walking through familiar décors, and I think that's something I want to address through art in the near future.
ES: If you could give young creative people three pieces of advice, what would they be?
FF:Curate your visual environment so that over time, it is just an extended part of your boldest visual, textural, olfactive, sonic tastes. It will make you feel happy and you'll work so much better in there.
Trust your unique tastes and vision, commit to them, and defend them at all costs. Don’t worry about cool art, because really the coolest thing you could do is apply yourself to your uniqueness and craft it to reach [your own standard of perfection]. And often times, the things that are plucked out of the masses and regarded as cool end up where they are because of the economic and social capital of their creator, and I don't think you should judge yourself for not being able to play by these rules.
Make time for people, friends, and kindness in your day. And for a personal note to myself and a reminder that leaving my inner world is necessary: find your community and commit to them. ★