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


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.”


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.”



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.



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:


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.


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.


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.

Street Art on the TED Stage: The Streets As Canvas

If you love serious writing and street art, you should most definitely look into the work of G. James Daichendt. I’ve been following his scholarship on street art for some time now and I’ve noticed how much street artists appreciate their work being assessed under a different lens. While Daichendt acknowledges that vandalism and illegality can be natural parts of street art, he focuses more on what street art adds to our society as a whole. Daichendt recently gave a TEDx talk in which he explored the important of street art, especially in relation to visual art’s history. There are some really great points here and I was especially struck by the following diagram: Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.48.23 PM A lot of times people will debate the merits of street art not just because of its illegality but also because of its aesthetic. This diagram definitely makes for an interesting conversation starter (or debate point, so keep it in your pocket!). Also I loved the idea of looking at street art that happens on a smaller scale — something I definitely don’t do enough. Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.53.38 PM As Daichendt puts it, “it doesn’t always have to be big. It’s about perspective. It could be very small to have that kind of impact.” This isn’t the first TED talk on street art. Back in 2011, for example, JR gave an official TED talk on his work. But this one touches nicely upon the more universal nature of street art and why we should all care. “Think about what street art is doing. They’re bringing art to the people. And they’re fundamentally changing the way we engage the visual arts.” What are your thoughts on the talk? Any ideas for the next great street art TED talk?

Blu’s Wacky, Intriguing Video

So this is a little different from my usual posts but why not try something new?!

Which in this case means… video!

There is an awesome new video out by the artist Blu. It’s nearly 7-and-a-half minutes of trippy, creative, mind-boggling scenes. Apparently this was ALL done on the walls of Buenos Aires and Baden. That means Blu took who knows how many hours creating all his art on walls – inside and outside – in order to animate that art into one seriously wacky video.

If you haven’t heard of him before, Blu is an Italian artist who started out as a graffiti artist but now works in other mediums as well. His work has invaded walls all over the world, from Germany to Central American to the United States. In fact, there was a bit of controversy when Blu created a mural on the wall of the Museum of Contemporay Art’s Geffen Contemporary Museum in Los Angeles that featured coffins draped with dollars bills. The piece was apparently not approved of and the mural was painted over, much to fans’ dismay.

But Blu did get away with the work he made on these walls and the result is the video below that you get to enjoy. It’s interesting to see street art, animation and video bundled up into one – maybe it’s the start of a new street art movement? If so, this is going to be hard to top.

Sound off on what you think about the vid and Blu. I’m curious to hear your opinions.



Smiling Wide

Today was a day of epiphanies! One of which included a previous post I put up entitled “Woman on the Wall.” I was doing some research on Retna and realize that this is actually one of his works. It’s pretty obvious because he likes to combine portraiture with eye-challenging, intricate backgrounds. It’s just the cool style of his.

Speaking of women in street art, which seems to be quite popular, I stumbled across this stenciled piece of a girl smiling wide while I was on a walk with a friend.

It looks large in this photograph but it’s actually easy to miss. She’s just hanging out on the curb near the red section (thus the red on the bottom). I like the way that you can actually see some details, like the hair across her face, and shading, like her nose, when you look closer.

It could actually be a real person since some street artists like to use their friends as subjects for their pieces. So maybe someone you know knows someone who knows someone who knows her…? It’s not completely impossible.