Queer social media has been buzzing about work by Brazilian artist Jenifer Prince: illustrations of sapphic characters in vintage aesthetic comics and pulp art. Prince’s Instagram art posts have received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments, with fans gushingly praising and thanking her.
This is a reality Prince never expected. Growing up in a small town in Brazil, Prince didn’t think she could really become a professional artist – much less that she’d publicize queer art. The path to her current success unfolded slowly but it indeed began in her childhood.
“I was always trying to create something and/or work on my drawing skills,” Prince tells Tagg. “I had lots of fun with it, and I believe [art] is a great way of self-expression and communication.”
Art was in fact a critical means of expression for Prince’s introverted self. In her teenage years, art helped her with something else, too: exploring her sexuality. She’d often draw women and lesbian stories as she came to terms with her identity and struggled to “find [her] place in the world as a lesbian.” Prince also utilized art to express her political values, making protest illustrations from what she considers a feminist lens, influenced by the 90s riot grrrl movement.
Later, college offered Prince a chance to explore mediums she never had before, given limited financial access to certain materials and tools. In her studies, she fell in love with printmaking and illustration, including in digital formats. Yet even while in art school, Prince didn’t see herself becoming a professional artist.
“I was really insecure about sharing my work. I saw whatever [art] I was doing as a passionate personal project; I didn’t think it was for others to see,” says Prince.
She rarely shared her art throughout her youth and especially never shared queer art, having been fearfully closeted. However, that changed in 2016, when she submitted to and won the poster illustration contest for the San Francisco Dyke March.
“I finally saw my work as something for other eyes to see, too,” says Prince.
After spending time as a graphic designer, then an illustrator for a T-shirt company, in 2021, Prince become a full-time freelance artist.
Prince draws project inspiration from her own life, and from other interests, including pop culture, queer history, and Old Hollywood. When she began merging these interests and infusing them into her art – via exploring vintage-style, queer-themed work – she felt she’d found the artistic voice she’d been missing.
“The vintage aesthetic brings up this nostalgic, sometimes melancholic feeling that I really relate to and connect with,” says Prince.
On the significance of featuring queer women, Prince adds: “It’s fulfilling to see something that could’ve been from the past – there’s a validation there. When I see an old photo with a gay or a lesbian couple kissing in it, there’s a satisfaction of knowing queer people always existed.”
Prince notes queer art can help combat bigotry and help queer people feel seen and a sense of belonging. Thus, she hopes to see queer, women, and POC artists unite to eliminate the visibility barriers they all face in the art world, both online and institutionally – like harassment, bias, and censorship.
For herself, Prince has a lot of future plans. This includes exploring different art forms because, as she says, it’s fun and makes her “think of new ways to solve problems.” She also plans to continue working on her queer vintage work – and even publish a book of her queer illustrations.
Young Jenifer Prince might not have seen herself becoming a legitimate artist – and an openly queer artist, at that – but with her current ambitions and hundreds of fans hungry for her sapphic art, adult Jenifer knows better. That evolution is a pretty picture, indeed.