Today we’d like to introduce you to Yasmin Youssef.
Yasmin, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
First of all, I am deeply grateful that my family introduced me to music and dance at a very young age. Despite not having a lot of luxuries at the time, they prioritized this experience for me and that started me down my creative path. I remember playing my first “violin” which was a small gift-wrapped cereal box with a ruler sticking out of it. I would put that box under my chin and practice my hand positions on the ruler. Over the years, I learned to play various instruments. Even though I stopped playing music after High School, the principles of music continue to be a strong foundation for my dance pursuits.
Dance, on the other hand, has been a consistent companion. I moved through ballet, contemporary and hip hop classes until Middle Eastern music and dance really opened my heart. I took my first belly dance class because I wanted to connect with the music and culture of my heritage. The music made me feel such expansiveness and also some kind of remembering that I can’t quite explain.
I had a full-time corporate job as a User Experience Designer & Manager, but I was so driven by dance and music that I spent most of my evening and weekend hours in rehearsal, workshops or learning about my Egyptian heritage. In time, I was performing in theaters, nightclubs, and weddings as a member of the Sabaya Bellydance Collective. I also toured nationally and internationally for many years as the dancer for Govinda and Thievery Corporation. After a time, this demanding schedule caught up to me, and I made some changes. I started my User Experience consulting company, eased up on the rigorous dance schedule and began a fine art practice that continues to feed me to this day.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do? Why? And what do you hope others will take away from your work?
At this time in my creative journey, I strive to create art that resonates with personal memory, whether it be a dream state, an encounter with the divine, a place of being, a moment in time or a process of transformation. By the time I’ve completed a piece, it is heavily textured, multi-layered, and rich with symbolism and pattern. I often use found & vintage paper as the foundation for an art piece that includes layers of ink, acrylic, graphite and gold leaf.
I love the personal history of paper, whether it be an antique map, shred of wallpaper, a marble-edged page from a Baedeker travel guide, a sheet of handwritten music composition, a torn page from a book of poetry, sepia-toned vintage postcard, or colorful washi paper. Tactile papers hold a memory, a history; they can hold the symbols of music, mathematics, stories, and poetry. They can hold great meaning in someone’s life. Digital files just don’t have the same emotional resonance or tactile connection. There will come a time when handwritten paper ephemera is no longer easily found in antique stores and flea markets. I like incorporating ephemera like this into art and bringing it forward into the homes, lives, and experiences of new people.
Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
It’s true that choosing a creative path comes with many financial challenges and, while I am not in any position to advise others, I can share my path and the choices I made along the way. I grew up in an environment where financial and physical independence as a woman was very important. I was encouraged by my family to find a steady profession that would provide financial stability along with the benefits of health insurance and the long term safety of a 401k. This was important to me too. Being a dancer or artist didn’t fit into that category, so I found jobs that orbited creativity in some capacity and followed my creative pursuits after work and on the weekends.
For example, I worked in the marketing department at a film organization, I led the web team at a small publishing company, and eventually, I built a solid career designing enterprise software, websites, mobile and tablet applications. I also managed team members around the world, led staff meetings, and conducted performance reviews. It was a demanding day job. After work, I had dance rehearsals on some evenings and dance or conditioning classes on other evenings. On the weekends, I would often have performances. I took vacation days to go on tour and attend workshops. My day job funded my creative pursuits and also kept my analytical side in balance with my creative side. I sometimes wonder how my creative career would have grown if I had been able to dedicate myself full time to dance or art. There are pros and cons to each path as there can also be struggle with each path. In the end, I am still very much an artist, albeit one with a lot of software design experience and a couple of software patents.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Supporting the work of artists can come in many forms including viewing, sharing, buying, engaging in conversation, going to art events, and building a strong community around art. There are several ways to follow along with my creative pursuits. My website showcases my art, dance, and upcoming art shows while Instagram offers peaks into my process and studio. I open my studio every November for the East Austin Studio Tour and can be found around Austin showing my work at the Atxgals pop-up art parties.
There are quite a few opportunities to see my work in person this Spring. On Feb 22, Austin City Hall will debut a new exhibit in their People’s Gallery, and I am honored to have one of my pieces on display through the end of 2019. I have several pieces in the Brushfire Collection at Soma Vida in February and March. I will also be showing a new body of work at the West Austin Studio tour in May as a guest artist in Julie Ahmad’s studio.
- Website: www.yasmin.ws
- Instagram: @thegoldcurrent
Esther Zurita, Annie Winsett, Vance Strickland, Yasmin Youssef