Is that a dildo? The illustration of Cristy C. Road
By: Laura Way (Last Hours)
My experience with women illustrators has been limited, increased somewhat only recently through the introduction of Juxtapoz magazine in my life (thank-you Ian) and my own curious prying. Art for me, like pretty much everything else in the world, has always been an area dogged with gender discrepancies, inequality and control (to read on check out The Guerrilla Girls), and with that in mind I approached the world of illustration rather sceptically. As an outsider illustration to me, like art, came across as male dominated with public perceptions of genre being tainted by gender stereotyping (such as the illustration of children's books being aligned with women illustrators). Scratching beneath the surface, I found, however, women illustrators breaking boundaries, not just with regards to genre, but by tackling topical issues such as queer culture and politics; producing illustration not just for illustration's sake, but as a means of being heard.
Miami based Cristy C. Road is an example of such exceptions to the rule and is carrying the flag high for the role of art in social change. Starting out at the age of 14 making punk zines, Cristy's illustrations have featured on posters, in magazines, on records. Cristy's work brings together a sense of rawness and reality grit whilst addressing contemporary social issues - illustration is merely an extension of what affects her life. Illustration is so often a reproduction for a brief, a nameless and static piece which has limited purpose. The use of the personal within work is refreshing. Cristy speaks to that which is important to her and is, at times, autobiographical but is immersing herself in her art throughout.
In a society in which women are bombarded with fashion-constrained ideals of beauty, Cristy embraces the real; highlighting the beauty found so often in those not conforming to traditional beauty regulations. This defiance of adhering to the rules seems to come easier within contemporary illustration, then say, photography, with illustrators increasingly blurring the boundaries of traditional femininity and reinterpreting meanings of gender. Tara McPherson, for instance, whether intentionally or not, is able to craft women who bend reality and take on 'unnatural' qualities. Cristy's characters have un-kept hair, an aversion to mainstream fashion and body modifications a plenty. Definitions of gender, what is masculine, what is feminine, are turned on their head with boys wearing eyeliner, girls brandishing strap-ons and, at times, the distinction between female and male breaks down completely. This is gender fucking at its finest; dismantling the power relations inherent in society and readdressing both gender and sexuality. This portrayal of real people and real life, contribute to the work's engaging authenticity.
Cristy C. Road's work tackles a range of issues alongside feminism, gender and image. Her art has addressed politics (such as "You can't hug with nuclear arms"), queer culture (for instance "Dykes feel no shame!" or "Feel no guilt in your desire"), punk rock, teenagers, Latino identity, inclusiveness, racism and even cycling ("The pedal power don't stop"). Whether her messages are outright (such as her piece on the celebration of Spanish women's militias) or more tongue in cheek, her work is making waves. Road has to date had two publications, both of which can be found at Microcosm Publishing - Indestructible , an illustrated novel, and Distance Makes the Heart Grow Sick , a collection of postcards. Cristy is currently working on a second illustrated novel titled Bad Habits .