Deconstructing The Artists:
Jennifer Garcia and Jiayi Wang
Deconstructing The Artist is an ongoing series in which we break down a rising artist's work and, through conversation, get a sense of what drives them to create.
Art director Jennifer Garcia and copywriter/photographer Jiayi Wang are the advertising creatives behind Gender Baby Food, a collection of fake baby foods that call out gender roles placed on children. "Most people felt it was a reflection of parenting-- but it’s actually yet another reflection of society and what we’ve crafted masculinity and femininity to be," Garcia told me via email. "Let a boy play with makeup if he wants to. It doesn’t make him any less of a boy. We influence children in so many ways, parent or not," she said.
For the duo, advertising isn’t just about selling beer or appealing to commercial wants. "It’s about using art to inspire change in human behavior and mindsets, challenging the negative aspects of our society, and ultimately making the world a better place." Between them, Wang and Garcia have worked for some of the biggest agencies in the industry - Ogilvy and BBDO, respectively - on work related to some of the greatest consumer brands on the market, including Samsung, Kotex, and Coca-Cola.
Much like Garcia's 2015 project, "The Big Ass News," Gender Baby Food is irreverent, and smart, funny and concerning. Browsing through the site's shop section (designed to mirror a Gerber site), you'll come across yummy flavors like Anti-Gay Grapes, Big-Boys-Don't-Cry Carrots, and Submissive Spinach, each with its own searing description of the corresponding product. Submissive Spinach, for example, "will teach her all the right ways to respect a man, from knowing that she has no right to question him, to understanding that a silent mouth is the prettiest one" while Anti-Gay Grapes "ensure that fruitiness belongs in a jar, not your family."
The point of the project, the duo notes, is to be cognizant of our biases and do what we can to shatter them before they (mis)inform the next generation. Throughout, there are links to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), where on can further learn about the harm in assigning gender roles, and a resounding reminder of our power in shaping the future in small ways.
Below, Garcia and Wang discuss the concept behind "Gender Baby Food", the backlash from parents, and why it's up to creatives in advertising to push messages with a meaning.
Can you give me a general sense of your background in art - where did you guys get start?
Jiayi: I’ve always been very passionate about photography and photo editing, because they were artistic tools that allowed me to alter the way people see the world. Advertising is very much like that, if not even more. That’s why I grew interested in it.
Jennifer: As a kid, I constantly told my dad about random, weird ideas and he always encouraged me to keep innovating. Now as a creative in the ad industry, that is our job. Keep creating. No matter how weird. I’ve been lucky enough to meet amazing people to inspire me along the way. Ivan Cash, an interactive artist, first taught me to ditch thinking in the realm of advertising and instead create projects that question social norms and experiment with human behavior. He fueled me to have a mindset to disrupt and educate.
Where did the concept behind Gender Baby Food come from?
"Babies are born with a blank slate. They don’t have any notion about what makes someone 'manly' or 'girly', and that’s a beautiful opportunity for adults. Adults can either let their kids shape their own attitudes about what it means to be a boy or a girl, or, they can feed their kids society’s age-old gender norms and expect them to act a certain way. Sadly, the latter is much more common nowadays.
Gender Baby Food was created because of that. We wanted to challenge adults and make them second-think themselves before feeding their kids their own gender biases, because it does play a part in anxiety and depression in children. We wanted to illustrate that gender norms, though deeply entrenched, are much more ingrained in adults than they are in children."
Does art still have the power to incite political or societal change and awareness?
Jiayi: For sure. As creatives, we pretty much hold the world in our hands. We can spin it and turn it in any angle we want to stir people to see different sides of it. We have the power to shape perceptions, change pre-existing notions, and create new movements. When a group of people have that much power in their hands, what better way to use it than to try to bring some positive change to the world?
Jen: I agree with Jiayi. Yes, we’re in the business of changing perceptions, but we still try to live truthfully. For us that means creating projects with messages we truly believe in without a brand or product behind it like typical advertising. There are SO many things that we as a society need to work on. The challenge is finding an interesting and creative way to communicate so that people will stop and listen.
Describe your process in one word.
PostedApr 26, 2016