A collection of Alex Rothman's earlier works. (Photo courtesy of Alex Rothman)
Northwood High School

Artist Alex Rothman on women’s liberation and expressionist power

Artist Alex Rothman is a believer in beauty — the beauty of eccentric and captivating art, the beauty of female empowerment and the beauty of creation through self-love and imagination. Working toward a world of art that is more inclusive and accepting, the 18-year-old has already captivated her community with her “funky, feminist” art pieces. 

Although Rothman initially struggled with finding her artistic style, she now has over 116,000 followers across her social media platforms who regularly purchase her prominently abstract and dynamic art in the forms of prints, posters, shirts, tote bags and more online. She is known as “Faeriebaebie” on her various art platforms, where she shares her artistic process and thoughts on feminism. 

“I think that the nude female body is the most intense form of protest, especially in our society where female bodies are so censored,” Rothman said. “[My art] is just like an in-your-face feminist protest. This is the female body on full display. Get used to it because I love it.”

At first, Rothman faced difficulties with sharing her art — specifically, how to balance her artistic virtuosity, a piercing feminist message and the risk of sensationalizing the nude female body for the wrong audience.

However, over the years, Rothman developed and fine-tuned her artistic vision as her following grew. The end result was an exhibition of work that continually impresses her audience with its carefully considered subjects and narratives.

“My whole room is covered in naked women, and I feel strong when I look at them. I just think it’s badass,” Rothman said as she shows me a wall in her room dedicated to displaying her art. “Even though everything looks super sexual, I don’t look at them from a sexual standpoint. I think it’s so empowering. They’re all exaggerated in the places that would make them super sexual, but I think they’re more feminist than anything. I don’t make them for men to look at and stare at. It’s supposed to be the female body without the male gaze.” 

Rothman’s love for art can be traced back to her childhood.

“When I was eight, my sister got a fashion sketchbook for the holidays one year. I was so jealous of her, so I stole the book and started drawing clothes on the people in the book and I wanted to be a fashion designer. When there were no more pages left, I had to draw the bodies myself, and then I just stopped drawing clothes on them and it was so much more fun,” Rothman said with a laugh. 

Rothman graduated from high school early and is currently looking to major in art history. Still, she never ceases to find inspiration from art around her. Currently, she looks up to the artistic genius of uncompromising and identity-centered pieces, Frida Kahlo, admiring how “wacky” her paintings are.  

Through her artistic journey, Rothman has developed a signature look that is fiercely colorful and dramatic. Her paintings are usually composed of various mediums: first, the subjects are sketched onto a canvas and outlined in Sharpie. Then, they are painted using an acrylic mashup of distinct colors — hot pinks, icy blues, plum purples and more. The pronounced eyes and lips on her subjects are undisputedly glamorous and their distinct poses capture the attention of the audience she reaches.

As for the backgrounds of her art pieces, Rothman approaches it as a medium for further storytelling, although she mentions that the background is often the most difficult part of a piece to think of. Scattered throughout the backgrounds of each of her pieces are phrases, signatures and symbols that serve as a point of departure to speak on matters close to her heart. 

“BL@CK L!VE$ M@TTER..dUH” (Alex Rothman)

One of Rothman’s summer 2020 pieces, “BL@CK L!VE$ M@TTER..dUH,” was highly controversial when introduced on social media. There were misconceptions on Rothman’s intent for the painting as for the commodification and sexualization of Black bodies, when in reality, this has always been Rothman’s art style. 

“All my paintings look like this and I didn’t draw them specifically because they’re Black. Most of my paintings don’t have a skin color,” Rothman said. “Given what was going on at the time, I thought it was an appropriate time to have my Black followers feel represented in my art. If my art is their favorite style, I want them to be able [to] see themselves in my art and to know that I’m standing with them.”

“0R@NG€ U GL@D B@BAI€?” (Alex Rothman)

Rothman’s favorite piece she has done is one of her older paintings, “0R@NG€ U GL@D B@BAI€?” The painting is distinctly Rothman — bright contrasting colors of orange and blue, a classy woman reminiscent of the 60s style with pearls, blue eyeshadow and upward curled hair combined with an equally vivid background. 

“I listen to music and sketch something out while listening to the lyrics, and the feel of the song would determine the colors,” Rothman said. “For this one, I took a paintbrush and went up and down the canvas with different blues. It would look like an impressionist painting where it’s just dots of all different colors and it would all blend together in the end.” 

“TH€ M0TH” (Alex Rothman)

“TH€ M0TH” is one of Rothman’s most recent pieces. Created using mediums of wash and paper instead of her usual acrylics and canvas, the painting showcases an ethereal lady with wings. Rothman explains her interest in fairies, the mystical and magical and the large role that inspired imagination plays in her art: 

“It just felt right to make her a moth. My art is mainly bodies of people, but I add the face and characterize it to my style,” Rothman said. “I’ve only drawn actual people a few times since realism isn’t my strong suit.” 

The ability to bring her imagination into the real world is something Rothman uses to her advantage as an emerging artist. Through her work, Rothman pushes her audience to empower women around us and to create through art. Much like her art, Rothman reminds us that we are the creators of our own beautiful realities and fantasies — it just starts by imagining it first.