Schelsey and I talked over a year ago about feminism, Instagram and of course her own art.
Schelsey Mahammadie-Sabet is a gallery owner and artist living in Los Angeles. Her gallery, Lei Min Space, is located in Chinatown. Her own work is often female and organic forms in all variety of colors.
I wanted to ask you about how this whole thing came about. How did you become a gallerist?
Uh huh, um so basically this is like a family owned space and then I decided to turn it into an art space because the opportunity was there so why not? I’m an artist and it’s funny because everyone at first was like “oh are you gonna do your own show?” and at first I kinda thought that was the thing to do. But I started reaching out to the people who I feel have inspired me because like I’m so on Instagram all the time. I love going through art that’s why I love Instagram. And so I went through and reached out to all these people I’d been like following from afar and I was really lucky that a lot of them were down. And so that’s kind of how it started. It was sort of me giving back and then it like turned into a curating thing and now I can like do this curating, sort of! It’s like solo shows so it’s not that much curating happening but um now I feel like I’m less giving to people I wanted to say thank you to and like finding new artists that I’ve never heard of and that’s like a lot of fun.
How do you pick these things? So originally it was a lot of Instagram research kinda stuff and now…
It’s all Instagram! Except now there are more people I meet Often people will suggest me to other people and I’m still always on Instagram. That’s how I found Isa (gentlethrills). Like I just really had this day where I was really uninspired and pissed off and I was like “I need new art that I haven’t seen before.” So I went down the rabbit-hole of instagram. I like found some illustrators who I like and then went to who they were following.
Speaking of Instagram, I found your Instagram today @Schelsey3. Let’s discuss.
Yeah! So that’s really fun. I have so many regrets because like, I was supposed to start that three years ago. I feel like I was really grappling with my personal style back then so I was changing a lot. I really dressed in weird-weird, like ugly, unflattering things. I wish had captured that but like basically I thrift a lot and I’m a cheapskate. I love fashion but I love fashion in a way that, I feel like with a lot of people it’s about self-expression, so a lot of days it’s like about how I’m feeling. But because I thrift I have such a wide range of looks to choose from. I noticed that I would sometimes look more like a boy or sometimes more like a girl, age would vary, gender, you know whatever. Or like I’d be more bright or one week I’d dress in all black, that’s how I’m feeling. Then I was curious because I’m wondering, and I’m very aware that this is like very specific to me as a straight female, if there’s a correlation or I can find any patterns of trying to dress to impress the opposite sex. And does that coincide with when I ovulate, that’s what I’m curious about. It’s pretty crazy because sometimes I have days where I’m like, I hate myself, I’m the worst, like I have like low self-esteem. I realized how messed up it was that that’s just part of the everyday landscape of a female. Like your self-esteem is up and down that’s dictated by your body. It’s like a hormonal thing, you could be looking great.
I’d say men are also hormonal but it doesn’t fluctuate like that.
Yeah, I don’t think it does. I’m also curious about that. I want to know about the ebbs and flows of their emotions and they have their own testosterone thing but I don’t know too much about that. But yeah! Basically my plan is to print everything out and then like align them cause like each photo has a number. So the first day is the day I get my period and then until I get my period again. So I’ll align them by number and see if I see patterns. I like keep telling everyone to do it with me, you know do one on their own. My friend tried to do one then lost track.
You paint a lot of what would be considered female body parts. Would you consider your work feminist?
I’m like really at odds with feminine discourse right now. It’s really weird because it’s like dominated by certain voices but that’s changing because the internet. I remember when I was in class, in college I took an art theory class, my professor asked if anyone could tell her what feminism was. People didn’t really know and um and then she said “ok, raise your hand if you’re a feminist.” This was in 2011 and not everyone raised their hand, which was insane. Then I audited the class this Spring, totally different. Everyone raised their hand because everyone knows now. It’s just part of the… it’s like meme culture. Sometimes I’ve heard people be kind of weird about Caitlyn Jenner or whatever and I get it. I’m like honestly she has like that show and it’s basically the Housewives. It’s just a bunch of recently transitioned people getting drunk and we can like bitch about that. But to me what’s important is the fact that my dad who is a muslim immigrant and my mom, catholic, also an immigrant, both pretty conservative can know what transgender means and that’s crazy! So to me that’s the cool part of the internet, that’s the cool part of like things getting popularized even if it’s like the Kardashians. Even if it’s vapid it’s still making people aware and vocabulary is so powerful.
There are terms I still don’t know. There’s some though that take it to the next level but realizing the base level terms is important.
Yeah, so, if you’re asking me if my art is feminist. I’ve done artwork that is centered around what it means to be a female and what does it mean to be in this consciousness. Like you know, be in a girl body, have a girl mind, what is that? And all the things I grapple with, I am at odds with a lot of the things I hear that are labeled as feminist. For example like one of things that has been bothering me for a while is that I think a lot of feminism I read online is really self-victimizing. And I can’t fuck with that. Like when people are like “oh my god, that guy just undressed me with his eyes, I feel so gross!” Like yeah he just made himself a fucking animal, that has nothing to do with me.
Right, it’s kind of like how when people talk shit about you it’s none of your business.
Oh yeah! I love that.
I hate the word empowerment most of the time too.
Right, because it implies that you weren’t in power before. Like if someone catcalls me it doesn’t really bother me, I don’t care, that has nothing to do with me. Maybe the problem is that I don’t have respect for men. Maybe at the bottom of everything is like a deep lack of respect for males. I mean I’ve like considered this. Did you expect anything better from them? But you’re asking me if what I do is feminist art. I would say when I have like the boobs coming out of the house I would say that’s surrealism. For me that’s not about the experience of being female it’s more like… like I could have been doing penises. That’s just not what I saw, for me it’s more like I just had a vision of these boobs coming out of a house because there was this house and it was flesh colored and it was so unbelievably fleshy. So I just started thinking about boobs then I was like “I have to paint this.” Like I’m more inclined to think of boobs I guess cause I see them everyday. So yeah, those I wouldn’t consider feminist. I don’t know, I’m really weird and all over the place with my art right now because everything is so disjointed.
I feel like recently you’ve been doing a lot more paintings as opposed to marker drawings. And I notice a lot of those are women.
Oh, I don’t draw guys ever. First of all, I don’t know how to draw a guy. That’s feminist, if you wanna talk about feminism, that’s feminist but not because I want to, it’s not an agenda that I had thought of but it’s something that came about like naturally. I do think that is worth discussing and that I’ve thought about all the time. It’s something I realized maybe four years ago when I went to… The boyfriend I had at the time made me go to this like screening of like Lord of the Rings and I fell asleep and he got really mad at me. And I was like thinking about it, cause the experience made me really think about it, and I realized I can’t fuck with Lord of the Rings, I don’t fuck with Star Wars. I didn’t see the new one, I’m sorry, I guess there was like a female character in it. If there’s no female lead or like substantial role I have no interest and this is not a stance I’m taking. This is not a decision it’s just like it’s boring to me because I can’t fucking relate.
Most of the characters are usually men and the women need to be saved.
See like, okay. Let me think of my favorite books. I have a collection of female characters who are my favorite. Like Jo March from Little Women is the best character in the whole world. That book is so fucking good, that character is so amazing. Like I’m obsessed with Kathryn Hepburn, she’s a good one, just personality all over. I just always wanna know what she’s gonna say, how she’s gonna react, how she’s gonna move her eyes. So anyway, I realize I have a fixation with women and um I just think they’re more interesting, I also think they’re a lot more interesting to paint. Because girls just have like so much more of a range of what they can wear and jewelry and their hair and makeup and everything. I just like to draw chicks, they’re like what pops up in my head.
Schelsey’s work can be found at leiminspace.com