A young teen, head tressed in thick brown curls, meticulously organizes elaborate miniature scenes in her bedroom. These scenes are not the beginnings of a mock stage, but rather the backdrop of a photoshoot. Her subjects? Miniature animal-shaped erasers.
Engracia Abeyta, known as the misnomer “Vilicity” on social media, has come a long way from her amateur photography days.
Her new muses include sparkling oceans, richly colored fruits, and dark, hazy landscapes.
“It’s interesting how you can make photos look like paintings and make your own meaning in them,” Abeyta says. Abeyta, though born in Colorado Springs, has lived in California her entire life. With an immediate family of painters, photographers, and installation artists, it’s not surprising Abeyta herself has made a reputation for her photography.
However, her portfolio of work is not limited to photography. At some point in her early days of experimenting with Polaroid film, Abeyta began creating collages on top of film blanks.
“I was growing increasingly frustrated with the polaroids that would come out overexposed or underexposed,” Abeyta says. “I wanted to repurpose them and incorporate them into something new.”Her writing, which she superimposes onto these shots via glue and paper, centers around a philosophical and feminine narrative. This narrative has become a trend in much of her work.
“I’m trying to incorporate feminine energy, so to speak. Whatever that means. I’m a huge Simone de Beauvoir fan, so I don’t know what woman is or her condition,” Abeyta explains.
Although she is featured in her work, she tries to distill an air of anonymity within her photos.
“I never wanted to be the center of anything. I’ve always wanted to be separate from what I’m making and not really have my life or people in my life as known,” Abeyta says. “I want them to be there, but leaving that kind of air of mystery where people can make up their own interpretations.”
Though she used to try to develop a set meaning in her work, she’s since become more objective, and encourages others to do the same.
“I was just reading something by Andrei Tarkovsky, a Russian filmmaker,” Abeyta says. “He’s said something about how you should never try to get someone to understand what you’re trying to make. I found words that were so true to how I felt about what I’ve been trying to do.”
Most recently, she has drawn inspiration from films by David Lynch, Jean Luc Godard, and Quentin Tarantino. Though most of her photos are not staged, she enjoys the idea of making each item in a composition look purposeful.
“I’ve always had this fascination with light. For whatever reason, I’ve always been obsessed with light, and lighting, and good lighting,” Abeyta says.
This fascination is evident in both her landscape and interior photography. Many of her photos feature the shadowed outlines of lace, window panes, and arboreal figures.
After a profound experience in Mill Valley, she’s been trying to reflect her appreciation for nature within her photographs.
“I’m noticing I can do all it all. I can go to school and be a STEM major, and also at the same time create and use those two things together to raise awareness and help people,” Abeyta says. “I feel like that’s something that’s meaningful to me, something bigger than myself as well, and that’s all I really want out of life.”
All photos by Engracia Abeyta. Check out more of her work here.