Episode Highlights:0:22 - Getting to know Gigi
1:22- Why do Gigi love body modifications so much?
1:56 - “For me, art has always been like, a soul food” - Gigi
5:13 - What does painting do to Gigi?
7:16 - “You don't have to be a master to channel your feelings into something.” - Gigi
8: 54 - Gigi’s favorite artist.
11:40- Arts-related books
17:06 - “Human is completely flawed”- Gigi
19:35 - What happens after Arts School?
21:00 - Tattoos in the eyes of society
25:08 - Piercings are temporary
29:13 - What are we doing here in Avanti?
“For me, art has always been like, a soul food” - Gigi
Jessica: Hello friends, Jessica here today practicing community and social distancing with Gigi.
Gigi: Hello.Getting to know Gigi
Jessica: I first met Gigi in January when you came into the studio to have your nostril pierced by the very talented guest piercer we had, Ursula Thompson. So I guess to start, why don't you just tell me a little bit about yourself?
Gigi: I am a college student at University of Oregon, currently studying art and journalism. I love body modifications body piercings tattoos. I've got one actually after my nose piercing it's very cute. It's a cat on my arm.
Jessica: Oh, I love that.
Jessica: That's so cool. Where did you go?
Gigi: Tattoo 34. It's my favorite shop with my favorite artists.
Jessica: They are in Hawthorne, Portland, aren't they?
Gigi: Yes. Awesome.
Jessica: Yes, I have one of my favorite restaurants. Now I can't remember what it's called, but I have really good french toast is on that street and I passed them a couple of times.
Gigi: You should go. They're amazing.
Jessica: Oh and awesome.
Jessica: So tell me a little bit more about why you love body modification so much.
Why do Gigi love body modifications so much?
Gigi: So, I've always been very self-expressive with my body like I've been---I've dyed my hair all through middle school, all through high school. This is my natural hair color. You know, it was pink and I think it really comes down to like, it depends on what kind of body modification. When it comes to tattoos, I love tattoos because for me, art has always been like such a like, soul food and I went a couple years without creating art. I was going insane. It was terrible two years and so like being able to put something I love on my body and then knowing that it's permanent because being an artist, being a human being in this world, there's constant change. No matter how hard you try to create an anchor, things will always change and I mean, it's good because we need growth. But it's also kind of nice to have a constant and you yourself, you are constant with yourself throughout your whole life and so I think like you can change how you look and those can be different but I think with tattoos, it's very much like okay, this is with me forever, and it's kind of like safe, you know?
Gigi: When it comes to piercings, I love piercings because it is a jewelry and it's a more intimate form of jewelry that you know, is very self-expressive. I've had my tongue pierced, I've had my nose pierced twice. I've had my ears pierced and, you know, I don't wear my jewelry all the time. When I do, it feels very like it exemplifies myself and my features so that's why I really like tattoos and piercings.
Jessica: I love it, that's awesome. I agree. I'm also an artist, and I also went through like a really dark two year period where I didn't create anything but I got a lot of things created on me.
Jessica: Like I hear you -
Gigi: Yeah right.
Jessica: I dyed my hair yesterday, so my [inaudible 3:47-3:48]
Gigi: Oh my! I love it so much. I did it with my roots.
Jessica: I like put my mask on and went to Albertsons and bought some box of dye.
Gigi: I like it so much. I know, wear my gloves, wear my mask. We're getting some hair dye.
Jessica: It's necessity, it's like it is.
Gigi: It is.
Jessica: It is. Yeah. Well, like especially coming from, you know, one modified person to another modified person and an artist to another artist. There is that part of your soul that almost starves without being fed and I went through that, like two to three year period where I didn't create anything and it was like my, it was almost like, me and my soul were not one.
Jessica: You know what I mean?
Gigi: I do 100%.
Jessica: It's like the next and I was very much feeling that when the pandemic happened because everything shuts down.
Jessica: And you go from like in the zone and busy, busy, busy and like you were going to art classes and you know, all of this stuff, and then it's quiet. And that quietness is like---so almost triggering I think for a lot of people.
Gigi: Yeah. No, I completely agree. I mean, I haven't been able to go out and get more canvases. I've painted all of these.
Jessica: It is beautiful.
Gigi: Thank you. Yeah, I don't know if you can see them that well, they're all on my Instagram anyway.
Jessica: I like it.
What does painting do to Gigi?
Gigi: Yeah and like --- so I've been trying my best focusing more on drawing but like painting has been a very good outlet for me of my emotions and how to express myself and so I feel like I'm bottling it up, and I---you know, it does feel like that starvation, that kind of almost deadly silence that you're just falling into a black hole again and it's terrifying because those were the worst two years of my life, you know?
Gigi: But I think as artists, it's our responsibility to adapt in our world right now. It needs us more than ever before. We need hope, that's how the human race survives, unfortunately.
Jessica: I agree, you know, and I like I'm also thinking back and you know, maybe this is true for you. But when I started to get sucked in, like, I remembered, I just needed to feel more like myself. So I dyed my hair at three in the morning, you know, and I did a zoom call with my best friend and we both dyed our hair at three in the morning, and it just made everything feel like me again.
Jessica: And it was like that deadly quiet, just kind of---you could hear the hum of life again, you know, like,
Jessica: -because I feel like as artists, I think that everyone has a specific role in society. And I am not a scientist, I can't speak to being a scientist and I'm not, you know, a mathematician, so I can't speak to being a mathematician but as an artist, what I see is feelings. You know, and---
Jessica: A lot of that is if you're not right and centered in yourself, then how can you---you can't translate anything that you see. It's just all this raw emotion that just pours through you and you can't channel it anywhere.
“You don't have to be a master to channel your feelings into something.” - Gigi
Gigi: Exactly and I think it's really important that it becomes a universal language that people can start feeling like they can do it. I have tons of friends that are like, oh, all I do is doodle and I'm like, that's great. You don't have to be good at art. You don't have to be like the masters to channel your feelings into something because I think a lot of times people just bottle it up, you know, and we've gotten better as this generation has been moving forward, about like therapy and mental health and being able to talk about all these things. But it's still like important that we allow this kind of, I guess what I'm trying to say is like we create that bridge that is needed for people to cross into our world because it's something we need to share. And that's another thing too is a lot of previous artists and a lot of great artists are very Lone Wolf's. And like, that's what I'm learning about. It's very egocentric, very narcissistic. Artists that would not work with people, but I'm also learning about great artists like Sol Lewitt, who would create blueprints that anybody can make and it's just as authentic as if he hadn't done it.
Jessica: That's so cool.
Gigi: Yeah. And it's like it's amazing. This group, Art Artistry.
Jessica: Yeah. Who's your favorite artist?
Gigi: Oh, currently? I'm learning about so many artists now. I think someone that will always have my heart is Marina Abramović.
Gigi: Ah, recent. She's still popping she's out. She's out there. Okay, Marina Abramovic and Ulay, they're performance artists.
Gigi: Yeah, they just like--she is so dedicated to her practice as an artist. I mean, the work that she does, is beautiful about the human condition about just like the practice of time, space, and what she's trying to convey through her work. But she's somebody I look up to a lot as an artist because she just is so dedicated and she doesn't do it for people. Her motivation isn't like money or anything, she does it because she's so in tune with it and like she needs to create art. And I mean, she doesn't do it for the fame or any of that. I mean, they both, Ulay and her back in the day, they did work together, performance work together, and he didn't like it and I think that's what happened was they were talking about it in their interview that when they started becoming more recognizable and famous, that's when their relationship started to break was because he didn't want that he couldn't adapt to it and he could not just like he had very physical limits that she didn't, and they both have their own limits and but she was able to just push through, and he just he couldn't. So they split and it was really their goodbye. They didn't do it for anybody else except to each other. They both started on either end of the Great Wall of China and they walked and they met in the middle and it took three months just to say goodbye.
Jessica: That give me chills.
Gigi: I know right? Every time and like that's the thing is like, they're just so dedicated to the beauty of art and like, how they live their lives through it. And I mean, I think it's really hard for people to do that, in general through any kind of profession like to live that profession as their truth, but it's just like it's super admirable.
Jessica: That's cool. Yeah, that's really cool. Have you read the book Conversations with Artists?
Gigi: No, I have not.
Jessica: I am just gonna call and grab it.
Gigi: Okay, please. I'm going to write it down.
Jessica: It's called Arguing About Art.
Gigi: Okay, Arguing About Art.
Jessica: I think it is. Well, that one's a good one. So Arguing About Art. And then let me check this guy.
Gigi: I was reading Big Magic. by Elizabeth. And she wrote, Eat Pray Love.
Jessica: Oh, cool.
Gigi: Yeah. Elizabeth Gilbert, creative living beyond fear. It's very inspiring.
Jessica: I think you'll like this one. I read it. I think this is from my Contemporary Art class. Yeah, so it's contemporary philosophy called debates.
Jessica: Philosophical debates. Sorry.
Gigi: No, you're totally good -
Jessica: - about art and it goes into like the art of food, authentic performance of music, authenticity and musical performance, the concept of authentic performance, and all sorts of things along those lines.
Jessica: And it's written by other artists, but there is one I think that is called Conversations in Art. It's interviews with different artists, and absolutely amazing.
Gigi: Art is so important.
Jessica: It is. It really is like, a couple of my favorite artists. I have to- it's Ai Weiwei, and he is a contemporary artist in China.
Gigi: Yeah that was.
Jessica: You know what I mean? Like -
Gigi: I do.
Jessica: A lot of his stuff is he takes like ancient pottery from China, like that really old, like very valuable vases that are just so dear to their culture, and they'll paint Coca Cola symbols on them.
Jessica: And all this stuff has a political statement to talk about how just his like I don't know much about Chinese politics, but it has to do I know that the Chinese government hates him so much for all that he says that he did get kicked out of China a couple of times.
Gigi: I love that though.
Jessica: I know like he did a whole exhibit [inaudible 14:02]
Gigi: Oh, wow.
Jessica: So cool.
Gigi: What's his name again?
Jessica: Or not [inaudible 14:08], Alcatraz. Sorry. They're two very different things.
Gigi: Very different things, but they have very similar-
Jessica: They have A's.
Gigi: Really ho and ho, I totally get it.
Jessica: So it's A-i and then W-e-i W-e-i
Jessica: Homeschool life today. His work is just phenomenal and I think you'll actually like it quite a bit. He did one piece to talk about all the, you know, labor in China and he did sunflower seeds, and I think he did one for every single Chinese labor but he made them and covered the entire ground of them in this one gallery, which is really cool.
Gigi: That is really cool.
Jessica: Right? And then the other one is an oldie but goodie, and it's Caravaggio. I don't know how much you know about Caravaggio but -
Jessica: I had to study him in Italy. This is so off-topic, but -
Gigi: No, go for it.
Jessica: There's so much about Caravaggio, that is just like, amazing. So first off, no one knows where he is. He like died and disappeared.
Jessica: Which is very cool. There's a lot of like lore associated with him. Right?
Gigi: You know?
Jessica: I was like that's so cool.
Jessica: Mysterious. I think he was also a murderer.
Gigi: Whoa, no way. Really?
Jessica: Yes, so he is a murder. He was hired. He was one of the top artists in that time. Because he did those beautiful pieces in the cathedrals.
Jessica: What was interesting is he's actually a part of the reformation of the Catholic Church.
Jessica: As what he did was those beautiful pieces are done with dead subjects.
Gigi: Wait, what. Really?
Jessica: Yeah, so if you look at the grapes, they're molding, and there's flies on them. And if you look at Mary, she was actually a prostitute. That was his model was a prostitute who had passed away. He painted her as Mary.
Jessica: Which is a huge statement during the time when it was very much about appearances and holiness and what Caravaggio did was he took all that and he was like, actually, these are people. Just regular people and needed some grace. And so he painted regular people and needed some grace and the Catholic Church hated it. I love it because it's so rebellious and also so pure, and also so not know.
Gigi: I know, exactly. It---like entails human perfection.
Gigi: My opinion of perfection varies but I feel like my definition of human perfection is all our flaws.
“Human is completely flawed”- Gigi
Gigi: Human is completely flawed.
Jessica: Yes, I agree.
Gigi: Because otherwise then you're just a robot.
Gigi: You're not human.
Jessica: And I would almost say that flaws are a lie from society on what is not true because if you think of like what I like to do bring it back to modification.
Gigi: Yeah, for sure.
Jessica: I love to pierce parts or tattoo parts of my body that I'm almost afraid to bring attention to because...right? It makes you feel brave and then it also up like you and then it also almost feels like this big like, you know FU to society kind of like, you know, I am me and my flaws aren't flaws, they actually make me unique and I would almost go as far as to say that your flaws are just learning curves in which you're growing as a person.
Gigi: We agree. Yeah, flaws, you know, human society just deemed flaws but I completely agree with that so that's so awesome because a lot of people don't like, can't wrap their head around that when I feel like they kind of understand it, but I think on a different depth, we understand what we're both like kind of saying, you know?
Gigi: People like--- I think it's really funny is like, the people that are most attracted to, you know, and I think are the most attractive people are the people that society deems as like, imperfect or like, ugly, right? Yeah, I'm like, I call it---I call myself something beautiful, it's like, I can't remember but anyway, it's like just, we're all beautiful in our own ways and I just, I really love human beings. I have a huge part for them in my soul.
Jessica: Me too. It's when I --- so I used to be a customer at Avanti and actually came into the studio when I was in the middle of that really dark time and when I had actually just scratched I have I graduated from George Fox with my Bachelor of Arts and I just graduated and I just gone through my senior thesis and I'm not sure where you are in Art, but the senior thesis kicks everyone's butt.
Gigi: Good to know.
Jessica: And that's normal and it's okay.
Gigi: Yeah, Okay, good to know.
What happens after Arts School?
Jessica: But it's very much a growing experience because you---you'll enter or at least I did, I don't want to speak for you but I, I graduated and then I was like now what? Because what do you do with an Arts degree?
Gigi: Right? that's why I'm like also journalism because I think it has something with that.
Jessica: It's my second interest, too.
Gigi: It's like I can't use something without at least to make money in the meantime.
Jessica: Well and so what I learned is---so I went straight from Art School to working in a restaurant and from working in a restaurant, I worked at a Coffee shop and then I worked at a bank and then I worked at Avanti and everything I wanted to do in art school went into Avanti.
Gigi: That's awesome.
Jessica: Which was not at all what I was expecting because it is a piercing studio and a jewelry store and I was like, I didn't want to work at a restaurant anymore and I really liked my experience at Avanti and it have been such a transformative time for me like I got my septum pierced which like-
Jessica: -society like No-No piercing, you know, my dad was always like, " You're gonna look like a cow" and
Gigi: Oh my god. My dad said that too.
Jessica: Like every guy, I'd ever been with was like, why would you do that?
Jessica: And I was like, why wouldn't I? Right?
Gigi: It's not for you. It's for me.
Tattoos in the eyes of society
Jessica: Right. And I'm like this, and so that was like the first thing I actually did for me---was getting that because I've gotten tattoos but I feel like tattoos are kind of like your parents don't like them, but everyone else is okay with them.
Gigi: Yeah, I know right. 100%.
Jessica: Like, "Oh, why would you do that?" And everyone's like, "Oh, sick tattoo that"
Gigi: I like your tattoo, man.
Gigi: I would never, you know? Yeah, no like, Well, the thing is my dad's---my parents are artists as well.
Jessica: Oh, great.
Gigi: My dad is very like, particular. Like the only way he'd ever get a tattoo is if he had been-if he tattooed himself. He'd been studying the tattoo, like the art of tattooing for many years and became like, perfection at it. Like this just needs to be perfect. Otherwise, he'll hate it. My mom just doesn't like permanent things.
Jessica: Oh, that's awesome.
Gigi: Which I think is really funny because that's the one thing, that's what I love about tattoos is that they are permanent but I know it's not going to change.
Jessica: Me too, kinda fact.
Jessica: Like growing up, I was obsessed with shadow boxes and [inaudible 22: 18] in the shadow boxes and so when I started getting tattoos, I felt like I was collecting memories and my body was becoming the shadow box.
Gigi: That's so awesome. I love that.
Jessica: And so that's what I like. What I love so much is because I'm collecting pieces of like, everyone's like, "Oh, what do your tattoos mean?" I never tell anybody.
Gigi: Yeah, no, right.
Jessica: But each piece of it is a reflection of who I was in that time.
Jessica: And then I get to hold on to that memory because I feel like you- you will either go two ways in life you'll either become someone who continually grows and continually changes and continuing to nurtures or you'll become someone who implodes.
Gigi: Yeah. And that's like-
Jessica: It becomes all about either victimizing yourself or, you know, forgetting who you were and losing your humility.
Gigi: Yeah, And just being able to like, I can sleep with myself at the end of the day.
Jessica: Yes, exactly. I'm like when I look at the mirror, I want to see who I am.
Jessica: I don't want to see anyone else and, you know, like, I had to take out my lip piercing and I didn't even realize how much of that changed how I felt about myself removing it.
Jessica: It was like, almost cried in my car and then I went and I came into work the next day, there's a guy that removes it and I, you know, one of our sales associates I think it was Gigi also she like, wanted to cry with me, you know, because it's like such like a part of you, you know?
Jessica: I was at the same with your nostril piercing or-
Gigi: It was difficult. The first okay. Last time I got pierced like a year prior or whatever. That was devastating for me to take out because it was infected and like I had to clean it in and I couldn't get it was like a whole thing and I was also going through really tough times so it just was like, I felt like I was losing another piece of myself. And so, because I was in such a bad place at that time, it was very devastating but right now because I knew like, okay, I know I can get this repierced, it's not the end of the world like I have the jewelry like this sucks but I was in a much better place. So I was very okay with like putting it on pause and like being able to be to say like, I can come back to this, you know, it's like a temporary thing.
Gigi: But it was---it was very difficult. I think if I had to get a tattoo removed I would cry because I love it. You know, like, I think about like how it's like I get into like an accident or something and like you know, skin like burns off or something or like-
Jessica: What you'd do?
Gigi: Great, and I was like "No, [inaudible 25:04]"
Jessica: You have to get stitches and they stitch it crooked.
Piercings are temporary
Gigi: Right? Or it's like you have surgery and they have to like ruin or they mess it up and I'm like, "Oh, that's terrifying." Like, that's my biggest fear when it comes to my body modifications. I think what I love about piercings is that they can be temporary like if you can put them back in like it's, but like, anything happens to my tattoo and I'm like, okay, like I'm devastated.
Jessica: Yes, no, I would be yeah, that's true. piercings are almost like temporary permanence.
Jessica: Like you have it as long as you want but it also like you can remove it and do it again, you know?
Jessica: Sometimes there's limitations. You can really only pierce scar tissue so many times before it becomes a problem.
Gigi: It's so true.
Jessica: Those are probably good, you're fine.
Gigi: So right, and like- well, I've had my ears pierced 14 times where my life in the same spot because let me tell you, growing up, I'd always go it was before like tattoo guns were illegal. I always would get it with a tattoo gun---always get infected and always close up where I came to, I went to a shop-a tattoo piercing shop and they pierced it properly, and I had no issues and I was so ecstatic because I've had my ears pierced for like three years now and they haven't closed up and it's like for me that was like the best thing the best day ever was like knowing that like okay, it's not gonna close up again because I wanted my ears pierced so bad. You could just never sick. It always gets infected like super superinfected like have to be on antibiotics.
Gigi: It was just like, I think that was one of the most frustrating things for me--growing up was because I just like I wanted it so bad.
Jessica: I understand. Were you pierced with the piercing guns before?
Gigi: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. So like the first like 13 times, a show were piercing gun and then when I did it with the needle out of a piercing shop, amazing.
What are we doing here in Avanti?
Jessica: Well and it was crazy so that's one of the things we're doing at Avanti is mostly we---so when I came on to Avanti, I knew nothing about piercing, like, other than like I've been pierced.
Jessica: And so we're like, whoever customers also know nothing and I'm like it's probably everybody so I'm like really realistically like at least 90% probably don't necessarily know why piercing---I didn't know why piercing guns were bad.
Gigi: Yeah, me neither.
Jessica: Right like I was 22 and got my second stun with a piercing gun.
Gigi: Yeah, just like [inaudible 27:52] and you're done
Jessica: And then I start working at Avanti and I learned why you don't do use piercing guns and like---it does one first trauma and that's actually why they tell you to twist your earrings? Piercing guns because the trauma causes the tissue to grow over the earring. When you're pierced with a needle, that doesn't happen.
Gigi: That's insane.
Jessica: Yeah. And so there's a whole new world to me and I am like "Oh, so that's one of the things we're doing at Avanti." And actually one of the reasons why we're doing all these interviews and is to bring, like, first off great hope to everybody, because everybody needs a little hope, especially today, you know.
Jessica: Also to, you know, empower everybody to just continue to be themselves, check-in with, you know, our regulars and be like, "Hey, how you doing? We're still here." And to also educate everybody because you, I mean, I know better and I've been tempted to pierce myself like -
Gigi: Right? Yeah.
Jessica: Other people are out there feeling the same way and we just got to bond together. It'll be over soon.
Gigi: We just gotta hold it in. Breathe.
Jessica: We gotta hold it right.
Gigi: I know cuz like, man. I think when I was kid like four, I wanted my ears pierced so bad and like, my older sister was eight and we were like, let's just do it so she put pierce on my ear and then took the earring and--- it's bleeding and I was like, "What are you doing?!"
Gigi: Yeah, lots of fun experiences. I'm sure people are trying to pierce themselves through this time.
Jessica: I know.I've seen it on TikTok.
Gigi: Oh,really? I've been seeing all the like cutting hair videos and like dyeing your hair video and I'm like, that's a mood right? I'm like, don't shave your head, Gigi. It wants you but don't do it.
Jessica: I did. I like my razors actually out like my buds cutter? Yeah, you can hold up you don't need it because I've been growing my hair out -
Gigi: Yeah, me too.
Jessica: -this year sometime. Now it's up in the air because of the pandemic but like I've been growing my hair out for the wedding and I'm like, I could be a bald bride.
Gigi: Literally, right?
Jessica: You've been growing your hair out for a year, you got to hold on to it, right.
Gigi: Right? I shaved my head sophomore year of high school and then this is what this is. Since then, this is what's grown.
Jessica: Oh, that's awesome.
Gigi: I know and I'm like, don't, don't do it. Just get through this part of your life where you need the long hair and then you can do whatever afterward.
Jessica: Well, I think I will wrap it up here.
Jessica: But I have enjoyed talking to you so much.
Gigi: I know, I concur. It's been wonderful.
Jessica: I'm really excited to see you and this is all over so we can get your nostrils repierced.
Jessica: And we can also look at all the new things because we're getting new products.
Jessica: But yeah, I hope you stay safe.
Gigi: Thank you, you too.
Jessica: Thank you.
Gigi: And you know, best of luck with the wedding. Congrats!
Jessica: All right, well, have a great rest of your day.