There's a reason you haven't seen much of Pai Pai at the Museum as of late: unfortunately, the company wasn't doing enough business in the U.S. so they ceased their short-lived shipping here. But the good news is that a fellow collector sussed out another Mexico-based store that carries the line and will send it to the States. After missing out on several really cool collaborations I was finally able to resume adding Pai Pai to the Museum's collection. Without further ado, I introduce their latest release, a collaboration with Ana Leovy.
I had hoped to get the exclusive scoop on the collection and emailed the artist for an interview. Much to my disappointment she did not respond. (And you wonder why I'm continually discouraged - this is the second artist in a row to turn me down). Nevertheless I was able to cobble together some information on Leovy's work. For the Pai Pai collection, it appears she created four different paintings to be used on four lipstick cases. To my knowledge they are untitled.
Here are the colors in case you're not a crazy collector and actually want to use them!
Ana Leovy is a young Mexico City-based artist whose vibrant, woman-centric paintings have garnered the attention from everyone from the likes of Man Repeller to Elle Mexico. Originally trained as a graphic designer, Leovy reignited her love of painting after earning her Master degree in illustration at a university in Barcelona. Upon completion of her degree she moved back to Mexico to pursue painting full-time. She states in an interview, "Although I love graphic design, being an artist gives me so much more creative freedom. People come to me now because they like my style and they trust what I will create for them, whereas from my experience working with design clients, they were a bit harder to please – and I was stressed all the time. Art doesn’t feel like a job at all, it brings me lots of joy and peace, especially when seeing the reaction of people who have bought my work, it’s the best feeling ever!"
Thematically, Leovy's work consists mostly of the female form. Their bodies are often asymmetrical, out of proportion and show a range of colors, reflecting Leovy's commitment to depicting diversity in body shapes, sizes and skin tones. "We all come in different shapes and colors, I think that is so interesting and awesome. We should learn to embrace our uniqueness. I like playing with distorted bodies in order to avoid falling into any specific beauty category. I think it’s important to encourage diversity; my work isn’t about creating beautiful people, but trying to send a message of self-love and empowerment. Perfection is not necessarily beautiful; to me different is more exciting. We already have perfection in photography...I want everyone to be able to relate to my work regardless of their skin color or body shape." While this may seem disingenuous coming from someone as gorgeous as Leovy - I tend to roll my eyes at beautiful, thin women (especially models and actresses) who preach "loving your body" - I believe she is sincere. The proof is in her work; you will not find skinny, conventionally beautiful model types in any of Leovy's paintings. This is a refreshing change from other illustrators, especially the more fashion-based ones. Leovy's women are modern and yes, well-dressed (the artist loves fashion, citing Mara Hoffman and Elie Saab among her favorite designers), but without the reinforcement of beauty and fashion stereotypes. This makes her work seem much less intimidating and achieves her goal of being relatable to the average woman.
Another reason Leovy's work seems more welcoming than other depictions of women we see so frequently in beauty collabs is the overwhelming spirit of camaraderie and sisterhood. “All my life women around me have been nothing but inspiration. I love being able to confide in them," she says. I particularly love this scene of women having a picnic in a lush garden, clearly enjoying each other's company (along with some wine and Vogue magazines!)
I also enjoy the feminist bend in Leovy's work, which shows an awareness of the inequality faced by women. She states: “Sadly we are still a very chauvinist community where you get blamed for being out too late or the way you dress...It has never been my intention to become too political, however I think now more than ever it is important to stand up and support what you believe in. It is amazing to see so many movements all around the world demanding what should be natural; equality, love and acceptance. So after seeing all this it is impossible not to feel vulnerable, getting involved in such topics are a small way of showing support.”
Depicting women by themselves, enjoying their time alone is another way Leovy expresses a more feminist angle. "[Mexico] is a country where most women are raised to be married and have children, nothing else. Even though this has been a year of very feminist-oriented social media, I believe we’re still lacking the day-to-day actions that go in hand with these movements, to really practice what we preach,” she says. Showing women without a male partner, and even happy without a male presence, emphasizes the notion of women's independence as well as a rejection of the societal expectations of marriage and procreation. It's rare that you see women living "happily ever after" totally on their own; single women are generally still viewed as defective, or at the very least, lonely spinsters. That's why I love seeing Leovy's paintings of women in a room by themselves, reading, watching TV in their sweats or simply having a moment with their thoughts, as these pieces fight back against the stigma single women endure. (And even if you're partnered, it's important to have some time alone on occasion to maintain your sense of self.)
Now that we've covered the main themes in Leovy's oeuvre, I want to talk a little about her style, particularly her use of color. The landscape and textiles of her native Mexico as well as the tropical environment of the Caribbean, where she lived for several years, shaped her preference for vibrant colors. The unexpected combinations reflect Leovy's "no rules" approach. "When it comes to color in my work I believe the more the merrier, it's the part of the creation process I enjoy the most, I follow no rule or guideline whatsoever and I love it...Choosing the color palette is my favorite part, I love letting myself flow and see what comes out. I think the colors I choose are sort of a personal journal of my mood swings."
While Leovy's style is uniquely her own, I can't help but notice a striking resemblance to Matisse. Another article points out the similarity between Leovy and Matisse in terms of color, but I'd also argue that the use of a somewhat flattened perspective, background patterns, and overall composition are reminiscent of Matisse's interiors. Some examples, alternating between the two artists and starting with Matisse:
In terms of format, Leovy enjoys both large and small scale. “Every format has its good and bad side, big canvases might feel intimidating at first but once you get started they are so much fun, love a big white space to intervene. However, tiny pieces are the cutest and I also enjoy doing them. So I guess I love them all, I like being able to change formats and not being stuck with only one, I think I would find that boring,” she says. For the Pai Pai collection, I thought for sure the works she created would be large, but they actually look tiny.
(images from @analeovy_art)