Life Under the Microscope: An Interview With Aislinn Russell
Interview by Cadence Baker
CB: Hi! It’s so great to finally talk with you. Do you mind introducing yourself?
AR: Okay! I’m Aislinn Russell, I’m seventeen. I’m into activism, art, witchy stuff (laughs), writing, all the good stuff.
CB: Gotcha. How would you define yourself? Is there a title that you’d give yourself?
AR: Ooh, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about that. I guess I’m an artist and activist.
CB: How did you get your start painting?
AR: My mom actually signed me up for painting when I was, like, five. It was a lot of finger painting, making a mess with paint and markers. I think I was always encouraged to express myself creatively, and that’s something that really stuck with me. I don’t see myself becoming an artist as a career, but I think it’s a hobby I’m always going to stick with. It’s a great outlet for my emotions.
CB: What inspires your paintings? Is it more fantasy or reality, or people that you know?
AR: They’re not really abstract. I mostly find myself painting women... and monsters. A lot of fantasy, and a lot of colorful things.
CB: I definitely get a magical realism vibe. Who are your artistic influences?
AR: Something amazing about influence in art is that often you don’t even realize [the influence]. It’s hard to point to anyone who I intentionally take influence from, but I think a lot of it is art I see every day, and the art class I take at school. I think a lot of my art has been shaped subconsciously by learning from the techniques and skills around me.
CB: Do you feel like a sponge? I find that, as a creator, I tend to sponge.
AR: Definitely. One thing that I think is great about art is that there’s no such thing as a 100% original idea. That could sound kind of cynical, but I think it’s a beautiful thing that everything is interconnected.
CB: I think you’d drive yourself crazy trying to find an idea that no one has had before.
CB: Who are your energy influences? Is there anyone who influences your vibe?
AR: I think a lot of it is the people around me. I surround myself with a lot of badass women. One of my energy influences is my grandmother. She’s kind of witchy, and she’s from the South - she grew up in this tiny Confederate-influenced town in Mississippi, and she just subscribed to the [conservative] beliefs. She had never even met anyone who believed in equality - didn’t even know it was a thing! - but she knew she didn’t stand for anything less.
CB: Your grandma sounds like a badass! Wish her well from me.
AR: (laughs) I will. Another energy influence is @sighswoon on Instagram. I love her. The self-awareness (...) she just seems so enlightened. I love reading the long posts about her spiritual realizations, and I love how she uses her account.
CB: When did you start to get your footing on Instagram?
AR: I think it started around ninth grade, when I started feeling more comfortable in myself. I started to really gain a following once I came out. The reason I came out on Instagram was because I just wanted to rip off the band-aid and tell everyone at once, and it wasn’t my intention to grow a following from it, but I started to become more connected with other people in the lgbtq community afterwards.
CB: I’ve found that you’re very open on Instagram about certain subjects that tend to be surrounded with some controversy [feminism and queer issues, among others]. Do you get a lot of hate from online trolls?
AR: Definitely. I recently posted something on my [Instagram] story about the Georgia abortion bans, and someone threatened to kill me in my DM’s. I have to laugh at that stuff, but if something is particularly hateful, I’ll just delete it. That’s something I never realized in the past about Instagram - it’s my page. Unless someone wants to engage in a mature debate with me, I don’t have to listen to an opinion that exists to dehumanize me.
CB: Agreed. I think Instagram provides a good platform to hear a lot of differing opinions, but you absolutely do not have to engage with someone who’s trying to disrespect you.
CB: Growing up in the early 2010’s was a very specific, surreal time to be growing up. We’re sort of in that post-MySpace, pre-TikTok generation, and it’s a strange place to be.
AR: Social media has really evolved since we first started using it. I think we were the first generation who had to learn to navigate social media from a young age. It’s bizarre.
CB: How do you normally practice self-care?
AR: Self-care is such an open concept for me. It involves taking care of your mind, your body, and your spirit. One thing that was really beneficial to my practice was realizing that I don’t owe the world “pretty”. A couple years ago, I had this weird idea that I had to constantly look pleasing for the world, and I realized that sometimes it’s self-care to just look bad. It’s an uphill battle, especially as a woman - we’re told that “pretty” is where our value comes from, and I’m really working to unlearn that.
CB: I think that we learn that not only from [a patriarchal society], but from the older women in our lives who were raised that way. My mom always urged me to make an effort and look “presentable” for the world, and it took me a long time to break down the word and ask “Who am I presenting to?”
AR: I really had to learn to quiet the invisible audience who I felt was watching me. Self-care is continuing to fight that uphill battle [towards self-acceptance] - even when it’s hard, even when you mess up - and remembering that progress isn’t linear. It’s always worth it to keep trying.
AR: Witchcraft is something I also consider self-care. I do rituals for whatever energy is lacking in my life at the time, and that really helps me.
CB: How do you generally practice witchcraft? When did you start practicing?
AR: The beginning of my practice started after a sort of spiritual awakening I had. For a while, I had a very nihilist, very atheist mindset. Over time, a lot of experiences led to a sudden appreciation of the world around me, and I was able to come out of that mindset. I feel very grateful for the world, and a lot of my witchcraft is about worshipping and giving back to it. I give back thanks to my ancestors, the people around me, and myself, and while I don’t really believe in one God, I believe in a lot of energies and spirits. I only practice light magic, but sometimes when I tell people about witchcraft, they get scared.
CB: I get that too sometimes! What I’m doing is very wholesome, but people tend to assume the worst.
AR: Right! All I really do is worship the earth and give back to it, and sometimes people will associate witchcraft with black magic or Satanism. It gets a little annoying, because it’s very far from the truth. I also strongly believe that what you do unto someone else, you’re going to get it back - three times worse.
CB: Last question: What are your plans for the future?
AR: I’m excited to not fully know! I used to be someone who was very neurotic about the future, but now I’m content with pretty loose plans. I plan to graduate from high school this year and go to college on the East Coast, and I want to work in activism and advocacy. It could be anything. The only thing I’ve ever truly known about my purpose is that I want to fight for people who’ve been silenced, and there’s a lot of ways to go about that. There’s a lot I want to pursue, and I don’t want to limit myself.
CB: Thank you so much! This was a pleasure. I’d love to do witchy stuff if you’re ever down.
AR: Absolutely. Let’s expand the coven.