BY JOHN BEECHEM
Yoko Molotov is a force to be reckoned with. She’s an artist who defies any easy classification—at once, she’s an illustrator, musician, and poet. Her work reflects her own struggles, personality and imagination. She also creates for other people, taking commissions for portraits and artists’ creative work. Like a prism, Yoko takes the light (and darkness) of the world and separates it into many different colors, images, words and ideas. Here are a collection of some of her works, the tip of an iceberg that reveals a part of her psyche and many talents.
Nightshade is one of Yoko’s most recent works. It’s an online comic in the style of a manga. Violet, a woman who mourns her friend, Olive, dreams of a time traveler named Peach. Peach visits Violet in her waking life, and this begins a strange partnership. Peach recruits Violet in her mission to prevent a coming apocalypse with the help of the mysterious Nightshade. The comic follows some of Yoko’s strongest themes: people who are damaged, intense relationships between women, and a warped sense of humor. To see more of Yoko’s manga, check out her webpage.
Yoko usually follows a more realistic style for her commissions. Based on her client’s wishes, she blends elements of their fantasies with the subjects of these pieces. Often, this creates a version of a person based on how they imagine themselves, one not restricted by reality. Aside from people, Yoko also creates commissions for pets and animals, as in this image of Sabrina and her feline companion.
Yoko also practices automatic drawing, a style of art wherein “the artist suppresses conscious control over the making process, allowing the unconscious mind to have great sway”. Instead of the careful precision reflected in her other pieces, these images are often surreal and impressionistic, even dream-like. In this piece, what emerged is a disturbing illustration of Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac (see the book of Genesis for this story’s happy ending).
Yoko also creates self-portraits that reflect her mental state. She struggles with and thrives from her bipolar, and these images represent that contradiction. In her depression, Yoko shows spirits from inside herself twisting outside of her form to haunt her with their whispers. It’s an often inescapable symptom of depression, dark thoughts that often feel outside of one’s control. Her manic self is showcased above. Smiling and bloodied, stigmata pooling around her, I see energy cascading out. Only to leave her drained once the mania passes. The sword in the heart reflects self-destruction. At least, this is what I see—reading her image like a tarot card. I’m also bipolar, so these hit close to home.
Here is another example of Yoko’s commissions. She uses her red and black palette to full effect, the blood and the bulls in her image literally bleeding into one another. The tag GITSUM is at once the title of the piece and also a kind of signature. One reason I like this image, common among many kinds of art, is how it combines the ugly and the beautiful. Yoko does this with ease. Like a venus fly-trap, she lures the viewer with a “wow, cool” kind of hook, and then let’s a feeling of unease settle in once they get a closer look.
Yoko’s portraits are genuine and accomplished. Her black and white author portraits are featured in the LEO (Louisville’s alternative weekly), but they’re even better to look at in a large format. Her ink and line work are sharp as a knife. I like this image of Kim in particular because of how well Yoko renders the curls in her hair and the personality in Kim’s face. I feel like I could dive into those eyes. This portrait is part of Yoko’s project Babes of Louisville, a series of portraits of some of her favorite people.
I encourage everyone to explore some of Yoko’s work. She’s a hard-working person, as her sweat and the amount of her commissions can attest. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with her work—you can also contact her there for your own commission. Yoko’s been a friend of American Fantastic for some time, ever since we commissioned her to create an illustration for my zombie short story, “The Good, the Bad, and the Dead”. As an accomplished local artist, and one of our favorites, we wanted to make sure we got a chance to focus on her body of work too.
Dive in. Just remember to come up for air.