#ArtTransforms July 18, 2019

Jess De Vitt talks Drake Egg Mural and collaboration in art

By Jonsaba Jabbi

In June, SKETCH and Drake Hotel Properties partnered to commission an artist from the SKETCH community to paint the Drake Egg located across the street from the Drake Hotel and beside the Drake General Store at the intersection of Queen West and Beaconsfield Streets. Through a competitive open call and two rounds of jurying, Jess De Vitt’s design was awarded the commission. Jess completed the mural in six days while engaging with excited passersby in the busy Queen West neighbourhood. This mural will be on display for an entire year with the plan to make this an annual competition and commission. We spoke to Jess about her artistic practice, her experience painting the mural and why art is an ongoing transformation for her.

No Nos Toquen (Don’t Touch Us) by Jess De Vitt

My art practice consists of being the Visual Arts Facilitator at SKETCH and working in art and collaboration within the community at SKETCH. On the other hand, I work around the themes of gender-based violence. I use art as a platform to talk about the issues based on where I’m from in Mexico and I try to reflect on the impact that colonization has and its relationship to gender-based violence here in Canada as well.

It was a surreal experience because I had never done a public mural before. But it was a fun process! I love creating on big scales like the Drake Egg Mural. I’m afraid of heights so doing the top of the mural was a challenge for me. I was also able to commission another artist from the SKETCH community, Ezequiel Morales, to help support the creation of the mural.

Jess with artist Ezequiel Morales working on No Nos Toquen

I want to do more murals. I was excited to see and hear how people responded to the piece, from my friends to people walking by the mural.

It’s pretty cathartic to do these pieces. It makes me think about how we can use art to relieve these anxieties related to the issues and problems happening around us. Art can also be a tool that challenges narratives and ways in which we are made to think about these issues as well.

Jess at work 

Along with being informed on how gender-based violence is perpetuated by heterronormative political systems and reading more and more news about this violence, much of the ideas in the mural are a result to the violence of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. This made me think about the impacts of not being able to have control over your own body, or the environment around us.

I tend to draw these stylized figures that are shaped by the frame they are being created in. For the mural, No Nos Toquen, which translates to Don’t Touch Us, the figures in the piece are being protected by nature. Around the piece, I added messages that speak more directly about this violence.

I heard about SKETCH through Naty Tremblay (Program Coordinator at SKETCH), who came to visit OCAD one day. I had moved to Canada only a couple of years before that, and was feeling very disconnected from artmaking and community. When I visited the space and saw what it was like, I started to look at different ways to do art and layer it with other disciplines through collaboration. Being able to facilitate Day of the Dead celebrations and other multi-disciplinary workshops in the space made me think about art differently.

I don’t believe art alone can solve the problems we have in the world but it is a reminder of how we need to be more connected to each other.

Art, for me, is an ongoing transformation.

Photos courtesy of Louisa Nicolaou and David Yu.