I’m Totally Watching this Documentary About Badass Women in Street Art

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Anarkia. Photos courtesy of Alexandra Henry.

Fangirling about street art is a lot like fangirling about anything else: you have this idea about what an artist will be like in real life. You imagine their personalities and stories based on what pieces you’ve seen. You feel like you know them after seeing their murals in multiple cities or gazing at photos of their work online and in books.

So I’m naturally fangirling over an upcoming documentary called “Street Heroines,” directed, shot and produced by Alexandra Henry. The film features so many great artists — Gilf!, Lady Pink, Elle — and the super important and iconic photographer Martha Cooper.

In speaking with these powerhouses, Henry also brings to light the challenges of being a female street artist but also what makes the female street artist community so strong and important.

“I decided to focus on women because I realized that not much literature or film existed on what they were bringing to the urban environment,” Henry wrote in an email. “After my first encounter on the street with female artists, it dawned on my that I had never considered women to be part of the culture. Just always thought of it as male-centric, like many other things. So I wanted to create more awareness on what they were doing, because personally I could identify with the beauty and messaging going on in their work.”

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Miss 163.

Henry traveled everywhere from New York to Paris to Brazil, discovering artists by word of mouth or through exploring the streets. This makes for a rich variety of artists, both in terms of aesthetic style and personal backgrounds.

“Street Heroines is comprised of women from many countries, especially in North & South America. Brazilian, American, Mexican, Japanese, Chilean, French, Puerto Rican, Argentine, Chilean, etc.,” wrote Henry. “The community is pretty tight, so once I met Miss 1.6.3. from the Bronx in New York in 2012, she told me about other artists and also informed me about an all female street art festival called Nosotras Estamos en La Calle in Lima, Peru.”

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Legs.

Henry sees the project as a way of “preserving culture” for the next generation and helping viewers look at their surroundings in a different way.

“I have had countless friends and strangers, men and women alike, tell me stories of a beautiful piece of art in the street that they noticed after hearing about my project,” wrote Henry. “They even send me photos or tell me when they’ve met some one doing graffiti or street art. The fact that this project is starting conversations on issues like domestic violence, sexual harassment, economic disparity and climate issues, among others, is very important for us as a society to find solutions.”

Check out the trailer below and support the documentary’s Kickstarter campaign here.

Official Trailer | STREET HEROINES A Film By Alexandra Henry from Alexandra Henry on Vimeo.

 

 

Insta Round-Up: Inspiration from the Web

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I’ve discovered some of my new favorite artists from Instagram, which is a powerful tool for sharing street art. After all, street art is all about making art more accessible, so social media just helps to break down barriers even more. I’ve been super interested in work from artists everywhere from Colombia to Germany just from seeing snapshots on Instagram. I always end up following along with their work afterwards.

Here’s a quick round-up of the artists that have been on my radar this week:

Dennis McNett via Juxtapoz Magazine

La Jaxx 

Zabou

hoxxoh 

View this post on Instagram

Repost from @missaliward

A post shared by hoxxoh (@hoxxoh) on

Nosego via Thinkspace

5 Questions for Millo

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                     Photos via Millo. 

I came across the work of Millo on Instagram and automatically loved his eye for detail and sense of humor (and whimsy). His large murals remind me of giant coloring book pages or vignettes from children’s books.

But each scene is trademark Millo, each story endearing and sometimes mysterious. If you look closely you can find lots of fun details (can you spot the batman Millo in this post?).

The Italian artist has created work everywhere from Holland to Rome. He was kind enough to answer some questions via email. Check them out below!

1. How did you first get involved in public art?

I started in 2010 in Italy for the first time. I decided to follow my passion (I have always drawn since I was a child). I took part in a big event about street, video art, in Ancona… before that I used to paint on canvases.

2. Your pieces are very whimsical, playful and detailed. Do you plan visuals ahead of time or is your process spontaneous? 

Even if it should appear strange, I usually go to a lot of festivals without a clear idea of what to realize, only after I have spent in the city some hours,my imagination starts to work.

In any case, I only choose what the characters should do, all the rest is completely spontaneous and free hand.

3. What sorts of materials do you use when you work?

I only use acrylic paint, brushed and a good boom lift!

4. Are your characters inspired by anyone?

My characters are always inspired by someone or something. I used to reproduce things I live or things I feel… sometimes it could be a real person but most of the time it’s a question of emotions.

5. Is there somewhere in the world you would love to paint that you haven’t already visited? 

I really would like to paint in Rio even if I’ve been there… But those were holidays!

Faces to the Names: Women’s Issues in Street Art

Women Are Heroes via JR on Vimeo

As an art form, public art is all about scale: the larger the wall, the better. In transforming huge walls into canvases, street artists have found a way to transform the visual aesthetic, but also function, of a given space. Walls become not just surfaces for painting but areas for social commentary.

Since starting this blog, I’ve been interested in the ways that street art can create an experience — not only aesthetically, but through its ability to spark dialogue. Lately, I’ve especially been interested in pieces that address women’s issues, from violence against women to public perception. Check out a few of my favorite projects:

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Photo by vincent desjardins

Women are Heroes 

JR often works with portraits, printing large-scale faces and affixing them to public spaces. For this piece, he traveled to Brazil to capture the faces and eyes of women. He then transformed these into large-scale pieces that covered Moro de Providencia favela. The work references the fact that women “are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism.” The project has also taken place in Kenya, India and more.

The simplicity of the project lies in its ability to put a face to the statistics, to humanize the many women who becomes just numbers in reports of violence. The project have gone viral and eventually resulted in a book also called Women are Heroes.

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Stop Telling Women to Smile

I’m also a fan of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s ‘Stop Telling Women to Smile‘ project which has now been installed in various cities. The artist takes a similar approach to JR in that she approaches women to draw their portraits. Fazlalizadeh also hosts meetings so that women can share their negative experiences with cat calling. She creates a safe space for them to discuss these incidents; the phrases included with the portraits are often taken from what the women share. Her work has appeared both on the streets — everywhere from New York to Paris — and in the gallery setting.

Fazlalizadeh told the New York Times“Women need to start talking about their daily moments because it’s the smaller stuff that affects the larger things, like rape, domestic violence, harassment in the workplace.” The pieces reverse the male gaze, throwing back the action of scrutiny with a confidence and assertion that is palpable no matter the city.

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Photo by shoehorn99.

Portrait of Sylvia Elena 

Swoon creates intricate paper pieces that she often posts in public spaces. A multifaceted artist, she also creates installations and floating pieces. In 2008, visitors to Honey Space could descend into a cave-like space underground. There, they encountered the Portrait of Sylvia Elena, a paper piece featuring a teenager in her quinciañera dress. A victim of the violence against women in Juarez, Sylvia Elena died at a young age. Swoon met with her mother and learned more about the other dead or disappeared women in the region and created this piece.

After its initial installation, other iterations of the piece appeared in outdoor spaces in San Francisco and Mexico. Paper, a fragile medium, peels away and disintegrates eventually — reinforcing the tragic nature of the violent incidents.

5 Questions for Amandalynn

Natural Attraction Full Mural

All photos courtesy of Amanda Lynn.

 

I’ve had my share of fangirl moments when writing this blog. Talking with or meeting the person behind the mural only helps to add more context to a piece. Yes, some mystery is fun — and many a street artist likes to keep his/her identity hidden — but sometimes knowing the thought process behind a specific piece just makes it more meaningful. Or, you know, you might just want to talk to the person because they seem super interesting.

I first ran across Amandalynn‘s work in San Francisco and her female figures seemed to peek out at me from every corner of the city. The SF-based artist often teams up with Lady Mags to create work under the team tag Alynn-Mags. She often depicts enigmatic women surrounded by flowers and other natural elements. In addition to large-scale murals, she also creates fine art. The women are strong and confident, often looking straight out at the viewer as if they know a secret the viewer doesn’t know. Amandalynn’s line work is fluid and vibrant, no doubt due to the fact that she often uses brushes.

She graciously answered a few of my questions via email, check them out below!

Your pieces often feature photorealistic faces. Who are the women in your murals?
The women in my murals are inspirations I find through the women around me. I find these images in personal photos, books, magazines, and the web, then manipulate them to fit into my fantasy-like world.
Amandalynn_Final1_PhotobyBrandonShigeta
A lot of your murals are collaborations with Mags. How did you two meet?
I met Lady Mags in 2011, we shared a car ride back to San Francisco from Los Angeles. After talking for 5 hours straight, she invited me to paint a wall with her. I never imagined that I would find so much inspiration and life long friendship from painting murals and fine art together, and I feel incredibly lucky to have her as my artistic partner!

When you have a blank wall and full spray cans, what color do you reach for first?
Well I don’t use a lot of spray paint, I am much more of a brush painter, and my first color is always black! I tend to rely heavily on my underdrawing and sketches to layout my imagery. I then apply depth and shadows through different color layers and washes.

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What is one of the most challenging surfaces you’ve worked on?
I worked on a wall this year that had grooved siding, electrical wires, painted windows, random nails, a bum camp and lots of human pee everywhere… I ended up using a lot of spray paint on that wall because the surface was too intense for brush. And yes! I also wore gloves!

Is there somewhere in the world you would love to paint that you haven’t already visited?
Yes! I actually would love to paint all over the world. My international painting experiences have been my most favorite. I really love painting in smaller communities, it’s extremely rewarding to have locals get excited about what you are doing, and even if there is a huge language barrier, art creates a universal language we all can connect with.

When Forces Unite: co·lab at Athen B Gallery

Artwork by brettflanigan_jeannagai

Work by Brett Flanigan and Jean Nagai

In a fun game of artist exquisite skeleton (the Surrealists’ favorite pastime where you would draw something, fold the paper over and have a friend unwittingly add to a drawing they couldn’t see), Athen B. Gallery has filled its walls with work from 17 pairs of artists. The artists in the show work in different mediums, sizes and styles. And what they create together on a canvas carries traces of their signature style but also the process of a unique collaboration.

co·lab features the collaborative work of Lauren YS and Meryl Pataky, Gaia and Nanook, Brett Flanigan and Jean Nagai, Martina Merlini and Derek Bruno, and much more. What I find really interesting about the show is that some collaborations feature public and street artists working with primarily fine artists. Each piece — each result of the exquisite skeleton game, you could say — showcases a new side of each artist involved.

If you’re in San Francisco, the opening reception for co·lab is taking place this Saturday, Oct. 10 at 7pm. The show is up until Nov. 6.

Check out some more photos below:

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Work by Lauren YS and Meryl Pataky

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Work by Bunny Reiss and David Marc Grant

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Work by Moneyless and Sten Lex

Preview: OUTSIDEIN Explores Street Art’s Journey

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Art by David Flores; photos courtesy of James Daichendt. 

This past weekend, I stumbled across a familiar Banksy piece — but it looked different this time. There was a protective layer over the girl on the swing, shielding the piece from any outside forces much in the same way that a frame protects a piece of fine art. When I first saw the piece four years ago, the phenomenon of selling and acquiring Banksy pieces wasn’t at its full fever yet. People weren’t yet carving out pieces of walls to get a Banksy piece — but they would be soon.

Over the course of just a few years, street art has become commodified. A hot trend in the art world, it is now more welcome in gallery spaces and a more familiar sight at auctions.

OUTSIDEIN — curated by James Daichendt, Ann Field and Stephen Nowlin — explores the negotiations that street art makes when working in an outdoor space versus an interior one. It also reignites the conversation surrounding the place of street art within the gallery or museum setting. The show will be up until January 10, 2016 at multiple locations. Organized by the ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles, it includes work from artists like RISK, Shepard Fairey, Kenny Scharf, Cryptik and more.

The opening reception for OUTSIDEIN is happening Thursday, Oct. 8 from 6pm to 8pm at the Hillside Campus in the Williamson Gallery with an afterparty (!) from 8pm to 10pm at the South Campus in the Hutto-Patterson Exhibition Hall at 870 South Raymond Ave.

Check out some more preview photos below:

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Work by CHASE

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Work by Kenny Scharf

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Work by RISK

Kaleidoscope Vision: Hueman’s Just One Moment

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Photo by Brock Brake for Mirus Gallery

Artists get asked a lot about inspiration, about source material. And then they get asked about process, about all those little steps in between prepping the paint and declaring a work the finished product.

But there’s nothing quite like walking into a gallery without this information to get a little lost (and maybe a little dizzy) by jumping head-first into an artist’s unique vision.

Hueman, aka Allison Torneros, is a street and fine artist working out of San Francisco. Her recent solo show, “Just One Moment,” includes more than 15 new pieces. Much of Hueman’s work features vibrant colors, flowing lines and mysterious faces.

The works in the show are described as “a look into a singular moment in time, spliced, dissected, and manipulated through intersecting lines and planes.” Hueman often plays with perspective, asking that the viewer put together the pieces — or surrender to the work’s intertwined parts and get lost in their ordered chaos.

For this show, Hueman pushes that concept further by also manipulating the canvas. No longer a square surface, it also alters the expectations of the viewer. In some instances, the canvas echoes the movement of the work’s content; an edge mirrors the curve of a woman’s neck and back while sharp angles echo the angularity of strong lines.

At this point, Hueman has already gained the viewers’ trust – and will continue to break it into gorgeous, dizzying pieces.

“Just One Moment” is on view at Mirus Gallery until October 10.

Check out some more photos from the show:

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Photos courtesy of Mirus gallery; final photo by Brock Brake for Mirus Gallery. 

Blue Face Against a Blue Sky

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As cars whizzed by and I wobbled over pavement cracks in my wedges (because it’s summer and I can’t wear them in San Francisco), a large face suddenly appeared in front of me. Well, actually, a sign describing The Springs first caught my eye. I walked towards the building and then noticed that the blue of the sky seemed to reflect off a mural on the wall depicting a face staring out into the distance.


This is the work of Christina Angelina, an artist based in California — Venice to be exact, so you can spot plenty of her pieces throughout LA. What I really loved about finding the piece on this particular day is the way that the LA environment played so beautifully with the colors in the mural.

Something about the light blue against pops of white on the wall seemed so fitting with the tufts of cloud and bright hues in the sky. Overly romantic? Maybe. But that’s what Los Angeles does to you sometimes.

The Springs — an adorable juice bar and cafe — asked Christina (nicknamed Starfighter) to paint a few walls inside and outside. When I wandered into the space, there was also an awesome pop-up shop from M Dot Design Studio.

Christina has a knack for photorealistic faces. Her muted but eye-catching color palette has become her signature although she’ll also use grays and pops of bright color in other works. A lot of her figures seem to have untold stories, secrets they’re hiding. Except the viewer doesn’t quite know what those secrets are — and maybe it’s better that way.

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Burst of Colors in NYC

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New York City gives me a sensation that I can only explain as the prickly feeling you get when someone is about to tell you something. You’re ready to receive the message, excited because something tells you it will be a good one.

When I arrived early on a Thursday morning, my body had no trouble adjusting to the jet lag. It also didn’t struggle with weaving itself through subways crowds or streets full of pedestrians. The only challenge: the glorious yet tiring heat.

Luckily I had a couple of sightings to keep my mind off getting lost in the muggy streets while hauling my luggage. During a stroll on the High Line with a delicious People’s Pops popsicle in hand (Strawberry Basil), I came upon this piece.

The bold style and signature tipped me off right away: it’s a piece by Eduardo Kobra, a Brazilian street artist. The mural makes its way into your field of vision when you walk the High Line. It’s a rare moment to see street art from higher up than the ground — you can almost envision yourself in the position of the artist himself. Street art, after all, is about height and perspective so seeing it from the ground sometimes doesn’t do the work enough justice.

The patterns on the piece (those tights!) are fantastic and lend a super recognizable aesthetic to Kobra’s work. He’s depicted everyone from Dalí to Einstein is this signature style. It reminds of something between a colorful quilt and an explosion of bright pixels. Covered in these distinct colors, each scene and person seems to take on a different shape.

I continued to my next adventure and my friend pointed out this Roy Lichtenstein piece in the subway station. So while onlookers watched a subway performer I snapped a photo.roylichtenstein_theworldisacanvas

The “Times Square Mural” is six feet tall and 53 feet long; amazingly, Lichtenstein completed it three years before his death. It’s got references to all kinds of cultural history, like the 1939 and 1964 world’s fairs. I am a big fan of Lichtenstein’s work but normally see his pieces at galleries or museums. Seeing one of his pieces in a public space gave it a different sort of magic, especially with a crowd standing underneath it. New York City’s past and present seemed to come together and I felt then and there that the city had a rich history I needed to know more about.

Alas, my trip was only a couple of days. But I walked away with the feeling that I would be back again. And I KNOW there is plenty more street and public art to discover.