Dr. P: Why did you write Women Street Artists of Latin America: Art Without Fear/ Grafiteras y Muralistas en América Latina: Arte Sin Miedo?
Lauren: I wanted to connect with other female street artists in a different part of the world and talk with them about their experiences making art on the street. The books I was reading at the time as well as the websites I was looking at were dominated by men from Europe and North America. I kept thinking, “Where are the women?” “What about the rest of the world?” I definitely wanted to add the female perspective to documentation of graffiti and street art.
Rachel: I thought it was super important to publicize the stories of women making street art because we imagined their experiences breaking into street art would be unique. Most street art books just have pictures of art and, of course, the art is incredibly beautiful… But we hoped that by including stories about artists getting started, the book would inspire women who were just starting to paint or had only imagined it.
Dr. P: What did you learn during the writing/traveling/getting published process?
Lauren: This project has been and continues to be a wealth of learning experiences for me. So in laundry list format and in no particular order. I learned how to give myself permission to try something even if I have never done it before. How to ask for help when I didn’t know how to do something. I’m still learning Spanish. The importance of creating bonds of solidarity between north and south will never leave me. How telling our stories is an act of empowerment. To name a few.
Rachel: The main thing I learned is how to stick with a long project. This project, from beginning to now, has been over four years! Before that, the longest art-based project I had ever done probably took around four months from start to finish. Anyway, the trick I learned is that when shit looks bad, just pretend that it will work out somehow, and it will. We never knew what we were doing with this project—from the interviews to designing the final product, but we made it work.
Dr. P: Now that it is published, has the book done the work you want it to do?
Lauren: I would say yes. It exists in the world and other women can see how very possible it is for themselves to begin making street art if they want! Also we have been steadily selling copies through our website and are working with a few artists from the books to see how we can best return the profits from books sales to fund mural projects they are working on!
Rachel: Hmm. I would like to see it get to more young women. They’re not always able to buy a $25 book. On our website we encourage people to write us if they want a copy of the book but can’t afford it, but so far no one has done that.
Dr. P: Is there a particular story you’d like to share about the feedback you’ve received (negative or positive, cause we know there are haters everywhere!)?
Lauren: I was at an Arts Festival in Oakland last weekend and had the opportunity to speak to an emerging female artist. She was obsessed with street art as a young women and so her parents bought her all these books to look at for inspiration. She told us how she didn’t feel like she had a place in the graffiti world because she didn’t see any women in the book. This was 15 years ago or so and the documentation of women was even more dismal than it is now. It felt nice to know that won’t happen again.
Rachel: I love when the book reaches women from the same areas as the artists. One Salvadorean woman was reading the section from San Salvador and was impressed that the spanish retained its local slang. We tried to preserve the artists’ words as much as possible, to retain the intentions of their language.
Dr. P: Do you keep in contact with the women in the book, and if so, what are their thoughts?
Lauren: Yes. I am in contact with the artists mainly through facebook. Every artist featured in the book received a copy and they are so excited about being included. Also, I am in conversation with a few artists on how to best use the profits from the book. Many of the women organize all women’s murals so we’d love to fund one of those projects or something they are making with their communities.
Dr. P: Are you on to a new project? If so, what is it about?
Rachel: This book kickstarted my career as a freelance nonfiction writer, so I have a lot of small writing projects, which you can find on my website: RachelCassandra.net. I think it will be a long time before I work on another book again—such an intense commitment! But it was very cool to delve into ideas surrounding street art for a while.
Lauren: No new projects yet. I’m still iterating on this one! We just spoke at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit and are taking our book on the road for a six state book/art tour. We’ll be giving presentations about the women in the book as well as our process for creating it. Currently I am fundraising to cover the costs of being on the road for a month so we can reserve book sales for murals. After that I’m hoping to organize an all women’s mural in the Bay Area and focus on my own art again!
Lauren and Rachel are currently on a book tour in the Midwest through the end of July and will host a series of events in California at the end of the summer. If you’d like to support their book tour, visit their Indiegogo Crowdfunding campaign. If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, visit their website. All profits from book sales are being returned to the artists to fund mural projects. If you’d like to bring a presentation about the book to your community contact them at info @ artesinmiedo.net.