Karina Ramirez is a gender-fluid, Chicanx illustrator based in South/East Los Angeles. Upon meeting her, she wore a navy summer dress in vein of a beat poet from the 1950’s; and offered a charismatic and homely attitude. Before going into her home, I gave her a vinyl record of a Spanish singer Jeanette’s Corazon de Poeta, which she was fond of and recalled memories of her mother blaring the album throughout her childhood. Karina is also a member of the “Chulita Vinyl Club,” an all female Chicana/x based DJ collective. We sat outside her home in Bell, CA which was adorned by beautiful marigold flowers that complimented her demure presence; and I’ve happily come to know her more that day.
PO: So what exactly do you illustrate?
KR: For the most part I tend to lean towards drawing women, just because I have a hard time drawing men (Laughs).
PO: Is there a reason behind that?
KR: Well sometimes it’s very androgynous, not male or female, just whatever comes out.
PO: But there’s still a sense of female empowerment right?
KR: Yeah, I feel like, I don’t know, there’s a difference when men draw women, and women draw men; especially when you go to museums, a lot of the women in the art are just nudes and you learn the history was like . . .
KR: Yeah! I feel like there’s a difference to that.
PO: Well what exactly comes to mind when you’re actually getting down and painting?
KR: Well the thing I do most is draw, pencil or pen, I just started practicing painting, like I should know it, you know? But yeah, sometimes I don’t even know what i’m going for, I just doodle then from there I just build on the idea(s). As far as influences, first and foremost the people I hang around or know inspire me, like the way they look or their vibe, that stays in my head; and sometimes without even thinking I draw these images looking like them or having traits of those people. Especially women or gender non-conforming people I’ve met. Before I was just drawing random things, I didn’t even know what I was doing. I was drawing realistic stuff then portraits, like I know I can draw a portrait, but what does it even mean? Like I could’ve just taken a picture. Now I feel like I’m growing more as an artist, and I feel prepared to actually showcase the stuff I want to show.
PO: I’ve seen you’re also part of the Chulita Vinyl Club?
KR: Yes! So the collective was initially started by this girl named “Teardrop,” who’s from Texas; but she pretty much started it as this, like, empowering collective of like all women and POC who spin nothing but vinyl. She also expanded it to the Bay, LA, Chicago, and Santa Ana. The people in the club are kind of in agreement that “oh yeah there are women who spin vinyl or women DJs,” because I feel like the DJ world is very much male dominated. There are female DJs, you just don’t see or hear about them.
PO: Do you guys host events?
KR: We’re actually working on that now, because when we first got together we we’re like, “Uh, so what are we doing?” (Laughs). So for the LA chapter we kinda got together through my friend Rosie who goes by DJ “Frijoles Negro,” and she reached out and talked about it. Then the woman who started it (Teardrop) told us “I don’t really want to tell you how to run it, just whatever you guys want, figure out what you want for the project.” So the LA chapter meets and discusses “Do we want to do this event or do we not? And why do we want to do it?” sometimes we do get hit up by spaces, but we only do it if it’s for a space we want to be in you know? We’re very critical about what we play or who we’re playing for, then if something goes wrong we talk about it.
PO: Have you guys had any encounters with spaces you didn’t feel comfortable playing?
KR: Well, I don’t want to get into detail as to like “this exact space!” (Laughs), but there have been times where we do get hit up by spaces, but we feel like “Oh this is a gentrified space,” so we don’t support that. So we just decline the offer and say we’re busy. We also don’t want to be like, “Hey, get out of here!” (Laughs); even though that wouldn’t be a bad thing either, but we just like to be critical about stuff like that. The collective isn’t about like, “Yeah we just came here to set the mood and party!” We’re all political in our own right. We feel empowered by one another and it helps us get through whatever is bothering us. It’s like a sisterhood where we can rely on each other.
PO: Is the collective exclusive? Can anyone join or is it only through mutual friends?
KR: I’d like to think it isn’t. For now we’re still unsure what the process is like for new recruitment, because people have reached out but we don’t really know how to go about it; we also want to host workshops in case somebody does want to join.
Interview conducted by Pinky Ortiz.