0It is well known in the art world that women have historically been underrepresented, not to say represented at all. The Guerrilla Girls first brought this fact up in 1984, availing from statistics that evidence that women artists and artists of color have been quasi absent in the art historical traditional canon. From then on, the Guerrilla Girls dedicated themselves to expose and challenge galleries, museums, critics, and collectors, in sum, the art world, about this issue. In the same tone, when addressing street art and graffiti, women have struggled to claim their places. As an often-illegal activity that requires a state of risk and alertness, and demands physical strengths and capabilities to for example climb walls and bridges, jump fences, and often run away from the police; street art has been, so far, a man’s world.
Since the early 1980s, however, women started making their way through street art. Pioneers such as the born-Ecuadorian, raised in New York Lady Pink and her vibrant, surreal, emotionally appealing, versatile street art pieces that have occupied spaces that go from subways, to murals, to museums for more than three decades now; have set the path for bold, daring, independent, and highly talented women street artists around the globe that have earned national and international acclaim. Three women that particularly stand out from around the world are Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Mira Shihadeh, and Alice Pasquini. They have been highly recognized not only because they obviously are skillful artists but also because they utilize street art and graffiti’s original implications (art in public spaces with sociopolitical statements) in order to communicate and denounce female historical and current issues such as violence against women, objectification, street harassment, and sexualized representations of women.
Deanna, Chicago, 2013. Photo taken from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s website.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is an African-American and Iranian artist who graduated with a B.F.A majoring in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA in 2007. Her body of work is “inspired by the distress and injustices that people around the world continue to experience.” Fazlalizadeh’s more recent work is Stop Telling Women to Smile (STWTS), an ongoing street project that began in 2012 in Brooklyn, NY. In it, the artist focuses on street harassment based on gender that women suffer in their daily lives. It consists on portraits of women in the form of posters with captions that expose women’s harassment experiences and act as warnings and denouncements such as “My Outfit Is Not An Invitation,” “You Are Not Entitled To My Space,” and “Harassing Women Does Not Prove Your Masculinity.”
“No to Street Harassment,” by Mira Shihadeh. Photo taken from Arts.Mic.
In the same tone Mira Shihadeh, an Egyptian artists, confronts and exposes women’s harassment in Cairo. Her powerful piece called “No to Street Harassment” depicts a woman dressed in black tights and red dress, wearing a big red rose in her hair, and high heels. The curvy woman portrayed is standing, and holds a spray can in the way of a pepper-spray or a can of insecticide to spray what seem to be the harassers, which in turn are small figurines apparently blown away. Shihadeh has other pieces that also display sexual assault. Her work has been featured among others in Muslima (2013), “an [online] exhibition dedicated to demonstrating how contemporary Muslim women use artistic practices and critical discourse to define themselves against limited and static stereotypes.”
Alice Pasquini is an Italian street artist, painter, illustrator, and designer with a degree in Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, Italy and a Masters degree in Critical Art Studies from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. She is interested in human interaction and emotions. In her work she also addresses women’s daily lives, sexualization and objectification, creating characters that are independent, strong, and shatter stereotypes about gender and femininity as well as challenge the controversial gendered-gaze. Examples of these powerful women are in her outdoors works at the Villagio Olimpico: Ri-Ciclo Officina in Rome from May 2012, her murals from March 2013 in Philadelphia, and a mural featuring six female faces in different positions, smiling, staring at the viewer, at a building in Berlin from January 2014.
Fazlalizadeh, Shihadeh, and Pasquini are only three of the now many examples of women artists that have risen in the world of street art. Their works have been exhibited not only outdoors, but they have made their way to major galleries, museums, and festivals. They reflect how street art and graffiti is no longer just a man’s world, but it has become a field were women have a strong word, too. They are also living proof that “the arena of street art has transcended gender norms.”
1) Fazlalizadeh, Tatyana. “Artist Statement,” http://www.ceruleanarts.com/images/face_to_face/tlf_statement.pdf (accessed August 26, 2014).
2) Pabón, Jessica. “Wipe It Off and I Will Paint Again,” Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices, International Museum of Women http://muslima.imow.org/content/wipe-it-and-i-will-paint-again (accessed August 27, 2014).
3) Hawkins, Chelsea. “21 Daring Women Proving Street Art Isn't Just a Man's Game,” Arts.Mic (March 27, 2014) http://mic.com/articles/85809/21-daring-women-proving-street-art-isn-t-just-a-man-s-game (accessed August 25, 2014).