Artist Ginger Placek-better known as Ginga by her friends and fans-is a study in contradiction. She teeters into the room at Rouge, one of the nightclub venues for her many group art shows, in enormous white go-go boots, flashing some leg under her dragon printed skirt. Her dramatic makeup-bright blue eye shadow and vivid red lipstick-is flawlessly applied, giving her the facial appearance of a porcelain doll. Her voice is a childish coo, and her laughter comes in bursts. A pink trucker hat sits atop her head, and the straight blonde hair that flows out from beneath it trails down to her waist, making her seem more like Fashion-Designer Barbie than a baby doll.
Ginga admits the Barbie hair is a wig that she decided to wear for kicks, and the trappings of her exterior image start to fall away, one by one, until a serious, independent woman is revealed. She's actually in her mid-30s, has two boys, 6 and 12 years old, and lives in Rancho Bernardo. A single mother by choice, she supports herself and her sons exclusively through her artistic endeavors.
"I express myself any way that I want to-at the same time I see that it throws people off," Ginga admits. "I guess I just don't care."
Ginga paints, sculpts, designs clothing and has recently gotten into body painting. Not only is she a member of the local female artists' collective Grrrrrl Power, but in 2003 she also created Visual Graffiti, a monthly event that occupies different bars and clubs around town and includes visual art, trunk shows and music by a diverse contingent of local artists, designers and DJs. In 2003, she also started her own art-and-clothing business called 1/8 Fresh Gear and Art, and since that time her designs have graced the celebrity contours of Jack Johnson, Peaches and others.
However, Ginga stresses that being a full-time artist involves a lot more than just painting pretty pictures. She says she usually spends about four hours a day e-mailing, coordinating artists and designers, making fliers and handling all the other promotional aspects of Virtual Graffiti and 1/8 Fresh. In spite of her many achievements and ongoing projects, she claims not to be goal-oriented.
"I've never really set goals or done anything like that," she says. "I just work really hard all the time. I'm really organized."
Though she's been painting for as long as she can remember, she wasn't always able to support herself with her art. She endured a hateful 10-year-long career as "Coat Check Girl," first at E Street Alley and then at On Broadway, using the ample tips she collected to put herself through school and raise her sons. Though the gig was tedious, it gave her enough downtime to read her schoolbooks and establish close friendships with many of the local DJs and club owners with whom she collaborates today.
"San Diego has a lot of artists, but people don't really know that," says Ginga as she explains the niche she's trying to carve in the local art scene. "If you have a concert or a DJ and you have art there, then people kind of inadvertently get exposed to it."
Noticeably women-centric, Ginga's art includes many anime girls (often depicted kissing and holding one another), '70s-style images of bohemian-looking women, and female icons like Audrey Hepburn and Diana Ross. There's a conspicuous lack of masculine images in her artwork, yet she says she doesn't identify as a feminist.
"The word scares me," says Ginga. "I picture some mad girl. I'm not mad; I'm pretty upbeat and happy.... I'm just really independent."
That's not to say she doesn't recognize the strong feminine themes in her art. "I think I value women more," she muses, "but I get more disappointed in women, too."
No matter how she labels herself, Ginga certainly appears to value her independence. "People kind of trip out that I've never been married. They think that my pregnancies weren't planned, but they were," she says. "I wanted to have kids, but I just never met someone that I wanted to be with that didn't seem like a third kid. I don't want to have to take care of a guy."
Asked what advice she'd pass on to younger women, Ginga blinks her blue-lidded Barbie eyes, sighs and mulls it over before she replies.
"I guess just to accept yourself and be yourself... and don't worry about what other people think," she responds in her little voice.
She thinks some more and adds, "And don't wait around for some Disney prince charming, 'cause life's too short, you know?"You can catch this month's Visual Graffiti Thursday, Jan. 12, at Landlord Jim's, 1546 Broadway, Downtown. Ginga's art will also be on display Friday, Jan. 13, at Adorn, 2400 Kettner Blvd. in Little Italy, and Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Four Seasons Art Show at Aubergine, 500 Fourth Ave., Downtown.