Jazzmyn and Taylor Barbosa are twins who make art and are part of a girls-only art gang in Denver called Vicious Bitches. Naturally, we couldn't resist asking them how having a carbon copy of yourself influences what you make and how you make it … or what the hell an art gang is and how we can join it
Jazzmyn and Taylor Barbosa are twins who make art and are part of a girls-only art gang in Denver called Vicious Bitches. Naturally, we couldn't resist asking them how having a carbon copy of yourself influences what you make and how you make it … or what the hell an art gang is and how we can join it.
What's it like being artist twins?
Jazzmyn: It's kind of hard to describe what it's like being a twin, because I don't have anything to compare it to. When you're a twin, I think you don't even have to say anything and we know what the other one's thinking. We just get each other. So having a twin that's an artist is great because I don't have to explain to her what I'm doing, or why I'm doing it. She'll read into all these things that I'm thinking. It's a really good bond, to have somebody else that's doing art, that's interested in the same things as you. And I just think it's funny that even though we both are influenced by so many similar things, and our processes are pretty similar, but we both make different work. We're just kind of interested in different things.
Taylor: It's great. I love it. With Jazzmyn I don't have to explain myself, and she knows what I'm trying to do and how to go about it. She thinks about it in the same way, but different enough that she can give me ideas that I haven't thought of on my own.
Do you think that you have a creative advantage?
Jazzmyn: Yes, and I think another good advantage of just even having a sibling or good friend is that everybody that Taylor meets and knows, I meet and know. So we have this really big range of people that are artists, that are friends, and people just look out for each other.
When did you guys start making art?
Jazzmyn: The first time we probably did art was when we would draw pictures of our Beanie Babies with our dad. That's the first thing that I remember us doing. More formally, though, I think we both really got into it in high school. But in a different way. When I started, I was really into ceramics in high school, but never really drew until recently in college. I think I had a really good ceramics teacher in high school, and I didn't feel really confident about drawing until I took printmaking. So then I started drawing in college.
Taylor: I was really into art in high school, but for some reason I was like, I want to go into, like, psychology and study people with weird mental illnesses. Which was a really weird thing that I had never been interested in. So when Jazzmyn was going through the whole art program, at first, I was just super jealous of it, and then finally just gave up and was like, yeah, that's what I want to do, so that's what I'm going to do.
Do you think your interest in psychology comes through in your art?
Taylor: It might. For a while I was making this weird art that was kind of like, disturbing to people, but I didn't mean to make it that way. But I feel like it comes through, without me trying to do that. My older stuff was pretty weird.
One of the things that's most obvious about what you've done in your art is that Jazzmyn's is a little bit more comical, and it has a lot of words, and Taylor's is a little bit morbid, but in a good way. So where do you think the divergence in that happened? Is Taylor the evil twin?
Jazzmyn: She's the older twin, so she probably just has more life experience.
How much older than her are you?
Taylor: One minute.
Jazzmyn: I think, I started getting really into comics and zines a couple years ago. And I think that when I was looking at these things that were really personal that people were making, that were kind of funny, and they combined words and text, and it kind of just seeped into my work kind of unknowingly at first, but now it's something that I definitely try to draw from. So maybe that's why it's funny.
So Taylor didn't have that same experience with comics?
Taylor: I'm really interested in comics, and I like looking at them. But the comics that Jazzmyn likes are way more funny than they are sad, and the ones I like are way more sad than they are funny. It's relatable, and weird. So that's what I like about it.
What ideas are you guys exploring with your art?
Jazzmyn: I'm just kind of referencing comics in my work lately. And I'm kind of making work that's self-help based right now. It's kind of about being depressed. Or about trying to get over it, when you're kind of dwelling on something that you shouldn't, and turning a negative experience into a positive experience. So I'm using a bunch of personal stories from stuff that happened to me.
Taylor: I've been making a lot of work about women, and what it means to be a woman, and how that differs in experiences.
Both of you seem to kind of mutate the female form. Does that have anything to do with you exploring what it means to be a woman, or how women feel about themselves?
Taylor: Yeah, definitely. I think those pieces specifically were about trying to take negative feelings about being a woman and highlight those as a portrayal of a woman, as opposed to a beautiful portrait of a woman. I can't really relate to images like that. So I wanted to create something that people could relate to, and then they didn't have to feel bad about relating to, because it's kind of funny.
Jazzmyn: Yeah, and I think that a lot of the stuff that we used to like when were younger was like, bad 90's animation where everybody looked gross. Nobody looked good. don't think I've ever drawn a picture of a woman, or a guy, or anything, that I was trying for it to look really good. It was, like, always trying to get it to look funny, or sad or weird. It's not my intent.
Taylor: I remember one time in high school I tried to do this drawing of Keira Knightley, that was supposed look really beautiful, and I fucked it up. I was trying to shade her jawline, and it was all brown, and it just looked like she had a beard. And it was so much better that way than the way I was trying to make it.
Can you guys talk a little bit about your creative process? Do you guys work together a lot?
Jazzmyn: We've collaborated on stuff before, but the way that we work is more informal than formal. I'll do a doodle or something, and then Taylor will add some words that she thinks are funny, or she'll do something that's really good and I'll just write something really sad on it, like, totally bum out the whole drawing.
Taylor: For a long time Jazzmyn was doing these drawings of ladders, just in her sketchbook, and never used them for anything. And then last year I started doing a bunch of ladders in my work. So we collaborate in this way where we take images from each other, and we recycle them back and forth all the time.
Do you feel like one of you deserves credit? Or is it more collaborative than that?
Jazzmyn: I never get jealous if Taylor does something that I'm doing. If she can morph this thing I'm doing into something that means something, then I think it's cool, it doesn't bother me at all.
Is it the same for you Taylor?
Taylor: Yeah. It's this weird thing where we absolutely don't need each other's permission, but we do talk to each other about it a lot. And then it's more of a conversation about why, thematically, we chose to do that.
Jazzmyn: If I don't know what I'm doing, and I'm just really stuck, I'll just look through old sketchbooks of Taylor's. And since we have so many of the same influences and like so many of the same things, it seems like whenever I don't have an idea, Taylor does, and kind of vice versa.
Taylor: Yeah. We're like, best friends. We hang out every single day. We'll just talk to each other constantly about everything that we're thinking. Our wealth of creative input is just so big, every day. More than other people's, because they're way more solitary than me and Jazzmyn have ever been. If I'm in the studio, Jazzmyn's in the studio with me.
Do you guys kind of balance out each other's personalities and styles?
Taylor: Yeah. Jazzmyn's more of an introvert than I am, but Jazzmyn's really good at talking to people, and Jazzmyn gets really close to people in a lot different of a way than I do. When one of us is feeling uncomfortable, one of us compensates for the other one. When one of us can't go out, and hang out with people, we will go in each other's place. Not as each other, but to go and get all the information bring it back to the other one. So it's total balancing thing that we do.
Jazzmyn: Plus, I think we both just know what the other one needs. So if Taylor's having a really bummer day or something, I know to be supportive, or whatever, it just kind of balances out.
Do you have any weird compulsions when it comes to art?
Jazzmyn: I feel like I collect a ton of stuff, and then I do brainstorming. I brainstorm 90% and make 10%. That's kind of my weird ritual.
Taylor: I take an image and trace it and trace it and trace it and re-trace it, trace it, and then add all these weird things to it. I make 20 different weird little tracings of something before I ever go to paper, and I don't know why.
How have you each developed your style so that it stands out?
Jazzmyn: I just feel like I'm just kind of bad at drawing. I think I'll kind of do it on purpose sometimes. I'll kind of hold the pen really, really loosely, so that it kind of has a scratchy line to it, where it's not very controlled, and it's not trying to be smooth, and it's not trying to be perfect, I guess. I have such a well of things that I like but I've always been drawn to stuff that's like super simple, and minimal. So that's kind of the thing that I try to do. Like, how much, how little information can you put on the page for people to still know it's a drawing of a lamp?
Taylor: Jazzmyn has a pretty consistent style throughout. And I feel like I kind of go back and forth from this weird tonal drawing that's like, not quite right to more simplified drawings. I think that that's a way, how I can keep the things that I'm doing to stay kind of fresh, at least to me. Like, the simple informs the tonal drawing, and that informs the simple drawings, and just, like, back and forth a lot.
Tell us about Vicious Bitches.
Jazzmyn: We'll have to kill you if we tell you.
Jazzmyn: So there's a print club at school, and it's called Vicious Dog Press, and for a long time it was really dominated by guys. And it was a boys club.
Taylor: Boys club, for sure. So when we were first starting out, it was really dominated by guys, and then all those guys graduated, and it was kind of left to us. And we were going to the printmaking conference last year in Milwaukee, and we realized it was only girls who were going, so we decided to screen print these jackets, and instead of Vicious Dog Press, we came up with Vicious Bitches. And So then it kind of turned into this communal thing. We want to, like, make zines and comics, and screen printing. We want to emphasize girls making art in Denver. I think Denver has so many good artists, but sometimes the scene can get kind of overwhelmed with with guys. That's why we're kind of looking out for the ladies.
So, what does somebody do to join the collective? Is there a hazing process?
Jazzmyn: Put your hand in a bath of acid.
Sign us up.
Taylor: We all kind of talk about which artists we like. Badass girls making art. If you ask, then you can totally be in it.
Jazzmyn: … If you have a jean jacket.
How does your collective work?
Jazzmyn: We put together zines and projects and shows. We do a lot of, like, brainstorming and stuff. We kind of just mull over what we're interested in, and what we feel like isn't really happening, and then try to do that, I guess.
What's next for Vicious Bitches?
Taylor: A comic about rejection, which our friend Molly is spearheading. Should be out this summer.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
Jazzmyn: Miranda July. Her work is so genuine, and it's based on these ideas that are deceptively simple.
Taylor: I'd probably have to say Marcel Dzama. Because he's so talented at taking his drawings and translating them into 3D forms.
You can see Jazzmyn and Taylor in action at their show at Forest Room 5 on April 5th. It's called "You Made Me Different" and it's going to be bad ass. Come check it out.