Interview with Casielle Santos-Gaerlan
How has growing up in Brooklyn influenced your art? Do you feel that your immediate environment has had a significant impact on the work you create?
Growing up in Brooklyn has substantially influenced my art. My parents moved to South Slope in the 90s, back when living past 9th street wasn’t advised. Growing up in such a culturally diverse area has influenced the causes I've become passionate about. Witnessing gentrification firsthand and the evolving Brooklyn landscape has led me to create work on displacement, the immigrant experience, and the parallels between gentrification and colonialism.
Brooklyn has also heavily influenced my love of creating work about street culture and style. Streetwear exists as a sense of self-expression and representation amongst the marginalized communities of New York and I love highlighting that in the characters I create.
How did the development of your own personal style take shape? I feel like there are a lot of young artists who feel as though they haven’t found “their approach” yet, or a method/look that they are satisfied with. What advice would you suggest to artists who are finding their rhythm or are feeling stuck in a style?
I’m a painter first and illustrator second. But diving into the digital realm has been incredibly rewarding and I'm constantly incorporating my learnings as a painter into this new medium. I'm especially drawn to large-scale murals of the past, which influence the boldness, colors, and significance of the figures in my illustrations. I honestly still feel like my style is evolving and growing because I don’t want to be confined to one space. Very often I'm always drawn back to oil painting to act as an inspiration to where I want the direction of my work to go. I would definitely tell young artists to experiment, make mistakes, and don’t be afraid to put themselves out there! We never stop learning.
I really admire the passion with which you advocate for intersectional feminism in your work. I was wondering how your own identity informs what you create and how crucial you believe it is for intersectionality to be addressed in feminist art?
Intersectionality has to be at the forefront of feminist art. There are so many stories, identities, and layers intertwined with feminism that are often disproportionately marginalized. My Filipino identity inherently comes from a historically colonized, patriarchal space, so it's incredibly important to me to reject these systems and create more conversations around the importance of intersectionality.
I wanted to congratulate you on the beautiful logo you created for Yahoo! in honor of AAPI Heritage month! I love how you pulled inspiration from textiles and patterns from AAPI communities to incorporate. What would you say was your main goal in reimagining this logo, and what was most critical for you to express through this design?
Thank you! My goal in reimagining the logo was to create a sense of belonging and community and drive visibility across all Asians and Pacific Islanders. Too often, AAPI communities are lumped together and their identities are blurred. All of the details I created represent the diverse and complex communities, each with its own lineages and collective stories.
What kinds of stories do you like to tell through the visuals you create?
I tell stories of my bicultural experiences, displacement, feelings of belonging, and womanhood.
Outside of illustration and design, what brings you joy?
I'm a huge foodie, if I'm not exploring the different gastronomy of New York you can find me in Jackson Heights having some Filipino comfort food!
Lastly, what’s an organization you’d like our community to learn about or donate to?
I would love people to go donate to Gabriela New York, a women's based organization that connects the Filipino diaspora to the women's struggle in the Philippines.
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Thank you so much to Casielle for taking the time to answer our questions! To read more about the Yahoo! logo that she designed in honor of AAPI Heritage Month, you can click right here!
• Casielle's prints are available for purchase here.
• Find more of her work on her website.
• Follow Casielle on instagram.
All images courtesy of Casielle Santos-Gaerlan.