Using Uptown as her canvas, multihyphenate creative Bojana Ilic, aka Bojitt, pushes for critical conversations surrounding social justice and uplifts neighbors through her abstract, joyful, color-filled works.
The artist’s first street mural for B_Line Chicago
It’s rare you encounter someone with such conviction. With such unadulterated passion it courses through their soul, personifies their being, their work, their raison d’être. It bleeds into their surroundings, a byproduct of their community. Such is Bojana Ilic, better known as Bojitt, a Chicago-based artist by way of Serbia.
I’ve seen Bojitt’s street art dressing the walls of Uptown, always pausing to take in the shocking, almost aggressive use of color and the undeniable joy that escapes from the paint’s brick and concrete confines. And as I connect with this soaring talent, what I learn is that, unsurprisingly, it’s all by masterful design. “If people think positively,” Bojitt declares, “people know they can overcome pretty much whatever they set their mind to. And then there is a beauty in everything that happens to us in life.”
The artist, who settled in Chicago nearly 15 years ago, has seeped into the local fabric, immersing herself in its singular neighborhoods. “I fell in love with Chicago,” she says. “It is still, in my opinion, one of the most complex cities in the United States.” Trained as a fashion and textile designer, Bojitt has inadvertently been relying on the principles of classical art since her days at university. Her career has spanned fashion, set and costume design, consulting, painting and, now, street murals.
After several years spent painting commissions inside public buildings and private residences, she made the leap to the outdoors—all in an effort, of course, to continue shining a light on her signature brand of positivity. “Meeting more street artists, street art became a huge way to communicate who you are, how you talk and how you promote positivity,” she says. It’s so simple yet so striking as Bojitt asks, “People need to feel better, generally speaking, right?” And her works are here to serve exactly that purpose.
In I See You, Bojitt traced the dancers’ poses along the mural.
In such important times for social change, Bojitt saw an opportunity to amplify her voice and, with luck, positively impact those around her. Recently, she recalls, she had a conversation with a friend about the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests that swept the nation. “I need to do something,” she told him. “And I need to do something big.” Using her public-facing medium, Bojitt partnered with a dance troupe to create the video installation and mural I See You at Chicago Market in the restored Gerber Building. “I’m not going to run for president… or talk politics because I try not to,” she says. “But I am going to stand up and be clear that I stand with African American and Black people in this, and I’m always going to.” Sans choreography, Bojitt instructed the dancers, simply, to move in victory, while behind their movements she erected a mural depicting their poses. The finished product is astounding. “This is a victory,” she says. “This is empowering; this is what we want.”
The first of Bojitt’s E Pluribus Unum series in Uptown
Next on Bojitt’s radar is the continuation of her E Pluribus Unum series (Latin for “out of many, one”). In keeping with her theme of inclusivity in divisive times, the project’s goal is to bring viewers together, united in joy. “I want to empower communities positively and for people to come together because now is the most important time,” she says. “There is a lot happening, but you’ve got to find a way to say, ‘OK, what’s the point?’ Am I going to join the people who are going to be negative? Or am I going to say, ‘Hey, guys, if we get together, we can get through everything.’”
As Bojitt prepares to put brush and spray can to wall in the next E Pluribus Unum mural, she reflects not only on her work as an artist, but also as a citizen of the world. “My goal can always be bigger,” she admits. “They always say reach for the highest stars. It’s not about me; it’s about those feelings, those people. If you can touch many lives and touch them in a positive way, then I think you can be happy.” Determined, resourceful, unstoppable, she is the embodiment of her powerful paintings.
“Overcome,” part of the Love series
Photography by: From top: Jeremy Witteveen; Bill Whitmire; Bojana Ilic-Bojitt; Vinco; BojanaIilic-Bojitt;