#YSPortfolios: Illustrator Anna Marcelo examines the politics of the body

Header photo by Sophia Gallegos Reyes

Illustrator Anna Marcelo’s interest in digital illustration started when she was nine years old. Growing up amidst fellow artists on platforms like Deviantart and Gaia Online, this 21-year-old took inspiration from shoujo manga. She uses her art to recover from personal trauma, as well as connect with others who’ve had similar experiences with the body.

 

What inspires you?

I am mainly interested in body politics, sexual identity, and mental health. In my life, all of them are interlinked. My art usually revolves around these same themes because they personally reflect my own experience as a survivor of sexual abuse, trauma, and mental illness. My art first started as a way to heal and recover from my own wounds. I felt that if I could process and retell my own story in a very vulnerable way, other people could understand me. It’s always been as simple as that.

It takes strength to be vulnerable and reveal the reality that we’re all going through something. It motivates me more to reach out to other issues and present them in a real, honest way. There is no question that our physical bodies aren’t ideal but reminders of our own survival.

 

Tell us about your top three favorite works.

“Bound” is an excerpt from a series I made last year. It’s an exploration of body politics and erotica. The ropes become a metaphor of a very real binding society put onto our bodies to conform and become “ideal.” I used bondage in making this because I was watching a lot of Filipino Bomba films where sex and violence were closely interlinked. Bondage and sadomasochism were present in these films and strongly situated on archetypal female roles.

Sad Diary is a zine that talks about my own experience of being mentally and physically ill. It is a compilation of illustrations I made while on different manic and depressive episodes. Most of them were made as a way of therapy and as a visual autobiography of how I live my life with this sort of illness. I honestly think it’s one of my most vulnerable works.

“Digital Vulnerability” is an illustration that explores the topic of how technology has become not just a tool, but an extension of our most intimate selves. Our phones, laptops, and social media accounts easily become a documentation of our most vulnerable moments. I really wanted to exploit the fact that I create my illustrations digitally through this work and comment on how our everyday bodies relate to modern-day technology.

What are you busy with now?

I’m currently studying at Pratt Institute for Graphic Design but I just wrapped up some of my exhibits here in New York. One was for an illustration residency where I was able to be mentored by DC comic artists, while the other was the Yesterday’s Tomorrow exhibit at Gallery House on virtual reality.

I am currently working on a collaboration with a body-positive brand called Outlines. as an artist for their clothing and bags. I’m also releasing zines this August at Indieket like Sad Diary #2 and Family which is about the relationship of family love and mental illness. Right now though, I’d like to focus on my project about female archetypes, sainthood, and binding as a companion piece to my flash essay “When I was seven years old, I wanted to be a Saint” that just got published this month.

 

What do you want other people to feel when looking at your work?

I’m not sure if I want there to be a certain reading of my work. All readings are valid, I think. There have been works that have been interpreted in different ways and I never felt like it was a bad thing. I think the only expectation and hope I have is that they feel the sincerity in what I make.

Check out Anna Marcelo’s work on annamarcelo.com. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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