Art, community, and feminism: a chat with Rosa Francesca
Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Crochet eyeballs, anyone?
A naked, mostly armless woman with neon pink hair lurches towards me, supported by a single hand emerging from her mouth. In another corner, another woman stares at me with bleeding eye sockets containing not eyes but faces, blue and pink, projecting from her body at skewed angles. Elsewhere yet another figure kneels, an arm where their head should be, dangling a rose in front of a body dripping with blood. It is unsettling. I am unsettled.
I’m walking around “Not Alone”, a gallery devoted to Rosa Francesca’s work, designed by “Frogbeat2” and recommended to me by Rosa herself.
She also told me about how her art wound up hanging on OWW’s walls, the merits of presenting art in a virtual space, and how her fascination with vision took her from crocheted eyeballs to surreal digital portraits.
Rosa started off as a regular OWW player, “after randomly coming across it in an ad”.
“At the time I was dealing with some really bad chronic pain and needed a new game to obsess over whilst cooped up in bed, and it was the perfect antidote! I became artistically involved after I found the art of Jessica Ballantyne in the game and reached out to her to buy some prints. She connected me to the creators of OWW who asked me to add some of my art into the game - as an avid player at this point, I was super excited about the opportunity!”
For Rosa, it wasn’t just a chance to see her work hung around the game - it was also the first time her 3D visual art had made it to any walls, virtual or otherwise.
Nowadays she’s one of the game’s most celebrated artists, and I seem to find her digital eyeballs peering at me from every other gallery I visit. It’s not hard to see why. Rosa’s work is undeniably striking and often plays with your perceptions of the human form. Limbs are mismatched or elongated, bodies are drenched in vibrant colours and eyes crop up where they oughtn’t.
When I asked Rosa why women and eyeballs dominate so much of her art, she told me it had to do with self-expression: “I love including femininity in my work as an expression of my identity as a woman and a lesbian”, she said, as well as “a celebration of my own body in general.” She also draws inspiration from medical illustration and anatomical art, which fascinate her - but nothing can top a good eyeball.
“I'm not sure how they came to be such a big part of my work! I've been fascinated by eyes even before I became an artist (I used to make crocheted clothes with crochet eyes as embellishments), so it makes sense that it's worked its way into my art too. I want to look more critically at the imagery of eyeballs and vision in my future work, and am particularly interested in optical illusions and how our brains trick us into seeing the 'wrong' things.”