Meet Jormi Graterol, also notoriously nicknamed “The Graffiti Queen.” Born and raised in Maracaibo, Venezuela, the artist moved to Paris when she was 25 years old when she discovered the realm of street art. Her signature handwriting and style can be easily recognized at first sight: a visually stimulating monochromatic palette of eclectic graphic elements and symbols, with heavy influence from calligraphy and graffiti, or what is called “calligraffiti.” Her art is not just a statement, it’s a mindset. Jormi uses her words and messages as a tool for empowerment, with the objective to create dialogues between the viewer and the artwork, “to stimulate a connection capable of awakening an inner force to pursue the most elevated version of ourselves.”
Since she was a child, Graterol developed a fascination for handwriting, calligraphy, symbols and their meanings, developing her writing technique back at school in Venezuela. Upon moving to New York in 2009, she took calligraphy courses to perfect her skills while studying fashion at Parsons. With a background in fashion design and haute couture, Graterol tells us how she fell in love with the realm of street art and her successful collaborations with fashion brands all over the world, including her latest partnership with Zadig & Voltaire, who will be using her designs for their upcoming fall and winter collection.
What was your first experience with street art?
My first experience with graffiti was in Paris, 2008, when I started to discover all these amazing pieces on every wall and around the streets (Space Invader, Shephard Fairy, Banksy, Mr. Brainwash, etc) and later in 2009, when I moved to New York. It was love and obsession at first sight. I felt immediately attracted to street art but ironically I was studying fashion design and working with haute couture. Graffiti gave me life! I’ve always been fascinated with the provocative and rebellious side of graffiti; its essence is to communicate social messages capable of changing and making societies around to evolve. I also love that one of the objectives of graffiti is to express yourself by implementing rich imagery which result in high impact on the viewer’s mind. With all this as base, mixing art, fashion and street art, I wanted to incorporate and adapt this aesthetic into my work without turning it into “vandalism.” Now, I use this style as a tool for empowerment, a powerful source of energy, a motivational source. I believe in art as a healing process. As a woman I believe we can do anything, I do believe in true equality, in female power, believing and conceiving that a woman’s mission is to elevate the human race.
Tell us about your career in fashion and your transition into the art industry.
Everything started after I graduated from Parsons in Fashion Design. I started to work with well known Venezuelan fashion designer, Angel Sanchez. I was in charge of creating embroidery designs for haute couture and VIP clients, then I did PR, social media management, and became Angel’s personal assistant.
After a year he offered me a job as PR Director of his partner’s Interior Design Company named Christopher Coleman Collection. I had the opportunity to get in touch with the world of art, interior design and architecture. I was in charge of the production of two art exhibitions for two Latin American artists, Saul Galavis (Venezuelan) and Paulo Castro, (Colombian). After a few months of working with both, I assumed the position of Digital Art Director of his new concept studio in Miami where art and fashion are mixed in a very modern way.
I also had the opportunity of working within New York Fashion Week for about 9 consecutive years as well as fashion week in Colombia (Colombia Moda) and in Dominican Republic (Domicana Moda). All these experiences allowed me to be the stylist for an editorial shoot for ELLE Mexico magazine and a lot of fashion brands and designers in USA, Hong Kong, and Latin America.
“I use my art as a tool for empowerment. A way to express myself…a motivational source. I realized I can say things, motivate myself and others with my signature style, to be consistent with the real challenges we face everyday…” —Jormi Graterol
Most of my background is in fashion but at some point of my life I felt something was missing. This motivated me to dedicate more time to my number 1 passion in life: PAINTING. I dedicated one entire year to my development process as an artist: defining and creating my own style, incorporating all the knowledge from my years working within the art and fashion industry and my life experiences in NYC. NYC has always been one of my main inspirations.
Suddenly everything was aligned and in that moment I was contacted through social media by Saks Fifth Avenue on behalf of KILIAN, a French perfume brand, to develop an art partnership with them for the launch of their new capsule collection called Miami Vice. I transformed the VIP men’s lounge into an art gallery and did live customization on their perfume bottles for VIP clients. The focus of this partnership was an 11 piece exhibit inspired by the three perfumes of Kilian’s collection. This was literally my first time combining two of my passions–art and fashion–within one event!
Tell us about your collaboration with Zadig & Voltaire.
They contacted me through social media and requested a meeting with me at the SoHo headquarters to discuss further details of the collaboration. I was so excited because I’ve love the brand for a long time and how they mix art with fashion in such a beautiful way. I discovered the brand when I lived in Paris.
I still remember that day I was walking down the streets and a beautiful crystal skull caught my attention, I went into the store to check the collection and immediately fell in love with the concept and the brand. At that time I was studying art and preparing my portfolio for fashion design at Parsons in NYC. Ten years later I signed a partnership with them. It was a dream come true for me.
I started working with them during New York Fashion Week (Spring 2018) this year. I was live painting the wall of the new men’s store in Soho. I mixed my style (handwriting, calligraphy, symbols, graffiti) with Zadig quotes and I also created my own version of their skull. The wall is insane, very big, provocative–very Jormi + Zadig & Voltaire!
We signed a partnership and they asked me to customize my own capsule. I selected 20 pieces and painted them using my style and Zadig & Voltaire aesthetic. The result was amazing. They asked me to reinterpret/develop new imagery for the brand with no artistic limits and what I did was materialize my perspective of Zadig & Voltaire in emoticons and phrases that truly represent my aesthetic and the brand’s DNA. I wanted to achieve a collection capable of empowering women but also men worldwide. I wanted to transform every ready-to-wear piece and accessory into wearable art and merge my art, ZV’s merchandise and a piece of the customer’s soul into every product.
What does art mean to you?
Art is my way to connect with people and my way to communicate. Art is everything to me: my therapy, my healing process, my way to drain… to celebrate LIFE. To say things I cannot say with words. Art is my inspiration, the way my emotions can speak, my way to connect with my soul and true purpose.
Name your favorite female artists.
I fell in love with Frida Kahlo when I was a kid because my father gave me a Frida coloring book for Christmas. I was obsessed with her life, her story, her style and how she turned her pain into art. I learned a lot about surrealism from her and I loved her rebellious side, her role in society defending women’s rights, and her interest of highlighting the importance and the true power of women around the world. I also love Yayoi Kusama. I love how she uses art in a way to keep connected with reality and how she used art as a healing process.
What is in your current art collection?
In my NYC studio I have KAWS, Stephen Powers, Alan Belleso, David Parise, BANKSY, Saul Galavis, a custom piece from Gabriel “GG” Gimenez, a murakami lithograph that was a recent gift from my brother, and some pieces I earned from my parents (a Picasso painting, a piece from Virgilio Trompiz and one piece from my favorite Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez).
Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Jesus Adrianza / Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela.
Jormi Graterol is based in New York City and Miami. www.jormistudio.com