Gabriella Sanchez takes the phrase “never not working” to another level. The GIF artist has kept busy this year, juggling her role as head gallery girl of Wayside LA with making fine art and working with clients like GIPHY, Headspace, Refinery29, and The United States of Women. Her milky, illustrated GIFs are not only eye candy, they also send substantive messages about queer and reproductive rights, demolishing rape culture, and the importance of self confidence.
We caught up with the LA-based artist to talk to her about her latest projects and how she got into political art.
You were part of the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign to stop sexual assault. Can you tell me a bit on how you got involved and how it was working on the campaign?
I was hired to do illustration for their digital and social media content. It was really cool because I got to go to the White House to hear the panels. I had never been to D.C., and Joe Biden was the key speaker. I had 24 hours to turn around the illustrations and GIFs of my interpretation of the event and what I came away with. I loved it. People would see [the content] and feel related to the cause – other than just reading or hearing the statistics of what is going on with sexual assault on college campuses, they saw visuals that made them think.
Historically, art and politics have always been linked, either as explicit political propaganda or as a way to fight against injustices. You’ve worked on various issue-oriented campaigns fighting against transphobia, promoting abortion, queer, and feminist issues. Did you always have an interest in making your work political or was it something that evolved?
I think it naturally evolved, but I have always been very opinionated. Maybe that’s also from my family dynamic, we are very loving but also very loud and we don’t shy away from arguing. It was a natural evolution. I’ve always had a lot to say.
I also first got into promoting access to birth control and abortion rights when I went to Planned Parenthood to get my birth control. After I graduated from college, I was in school debt and it was when we were bouncing off from the housing crisis, so there weren’t that many jobs out there. My mom didn’t have health care, so I had no insurance and that’s when I went to Planned Parenthood. They were a huge help in not only offering birth control but other health services. It’s like the best case scenario, being able to talk about these services that I am actually using.
I love that your work takes these complicated issues and makes them more accessible via visuals and text. What does your creative process look like? How did you define your aesthetic?
The way I go about it is trying to illustrate it in the the simplest way. That’s what makes it relatable and digestible. Because [these can be] really huge topics that involve a lot of aspects, and so I feel like sometime people feel overwhelmed – like they have to fit all those aspects in one piece. When you can use the visual to say as little as possible but also be very pointed about it, I think that leaves that space to think about it.
I try to make all my piece look very simple. I try to make them look flat. I feel like the topics that I talk about are pretty heavy and sometime kinda dark. So to do it in a simple way, I think it makes it more approachable and less intimidating. It also lends itself to a dark humor.
What do you listen to when you are creating GIFs? Or do you go into full concentration mode?
It usually depends on how far along I am in the process. If I am in the concept phase sometimes I’ll just sit in silence because I need to totally focus on what that idea is. But once I am in the hands on painting or drawing phase then I’m always listening to music. I have been listening to Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak, M.I.A. and Childish Gambino lately.
What’s next? What other projects are you working on?
I’m currently working with this company called Headspace, they’re an app on your phone that helps you meditate. I never thought I should be meditating, but I’ve been trying out the app [because] I feel like my mind is always so weary by the end of the day, because there is so much information all the time. It helps creatively and personally to give your mind that break. So I have been working with them to do illustrations for a couple of their online campaigns.