BUY this issue!!! Read my piece: Graffiteras Performing Feminist Community!!

I’m THRILLED to announce that the Fall 2013 issue of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies has DROPPED!!

My piece on Crazis Crew, Turronas Crew, and Rede Nami “Be About it: Graffiteras Performing Feminist Community” joins works on Censorship in Egypt, Hip Hop in Israel, TDR’s first born–digital article and more!

Here is the (truncated) Table of Contents:

Social Performance Studies: Discipline vs. Freedom by Faye C. Fei and William H. Sun

The Fire and the Frying Pan: Censorship and Performance in Egypt by Nehad Selaiha

African Tongues on the Israeli Stage: A Reversed Diaspora by Sarit Cofman-Simhon

Imaginaries of Exile and Emergence in Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Hip Hop by David A. McDonald

Be About It: Graffiteras Performing Feminist Community by Jessica N. Pabón 

Death Dressed As a Dancer: The Grotesque, Violence, and the Argentine Tango by Julie Taylor

The Aesthetics of the Invisible: Sacred Music in Secular (French) Places by Deborah Kapchan

Hearing the Music of the Hemispheres by Erin B. Mee

CLICK here to purchase the issue for $13. Unless you want to subscribe to the journal (which is way more bang for your buck, so you definitely should), make sure you select Single Issue “T219, Fall 2013 Volume 57, Issue 3.”

Special Offer: Subscribe to TDR/The Drama Review and receive a 35% discount off the regular subscription rate PLUS a free MIT Press book: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/page/TDR13

Teachers/Professors! Tell your students to subscribe to TDR for only $25.00 per year!

Like them on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/TDR.TheDramaReview

T219 Cover

Graf Grrlz on the Rise, weeks 2 and 3!

I have no idea where time goes, but if you are following my blog you already know my posts are sporadic at best. So, I am #sorrynotsorry this update is way overdue since it is now week 4.

First, a few things I’ve learned from weeks 2 and 3 as a summer camp art instructor:

Lesson #1: Summer camp scheduling is a tad unpredictable, so be prepared to wing it!

Lesson #2: The amount of female “historical figures” young people can name has increased slightly since the last time I asked (which was probably when I had a 16 year old in a summer college class once). Also, it now includes Beyonce (#allhailqueenBey).

Lesson #3: 2nd-11th grade girls from Miami have a resounding response to nude female figures on walls: “EWWWWWWW”

Lesson #4: Art class comes second only to the pool. (Is there a better compliment? I think not.)

Depending on the groups, weeks 2 and 3 were a mixture of drawing on trains, working with stickers, and playing with fabric and ribbons. In addition to the planned lessons on gender politics and resistance, we tossed in a few impromptu lessons to keep all of the groups on the same schedule as much as possible. The impromptu lessons included a session on Shinique Smith (in which we made some bundles, bows, and what I deemed “cannolis”); a session on exploring the letter (in which they were to pick 1 letter from their tagname and “get weird with it”); and a style mimicking session (in which they responded to characters by drawing their own). On our longest days, we worked with upwards of 60 girls.

In the resistance sessions, we talked about how female writers can reclaim sexual imagery, support one another across oceans through online communities, and communicate political commentary…and why they might want to use their art to do those things. We talked about the use of colors, lines, and textures and how that might affect how the viewer responds to the work of writers including Injah (Rio), Shiro (Japan), Kif (Mexico), Stela (Montreal), Ivey (Australia). And finally, they worked on their “Hello My Name Is” stickers.

After I do the bulk of my mini lecture, we pass out the supplies and they get to work. Then for the second half of the class, we make art and talk about anything (and/or listen to music and rap/sing along). This is our “bonding” time. I ask them about their day and their other classes and we stumble into quite a few conversations that are heavily charged with issues like representation in relation to bodies and the politics of respectability. Sometimes, I’m stumped as to how to talk to them about some of these very complex issues. How do you adequately explain the Trans spectrum after a student refers to people as “drags” (she further explained she meant a “he/she”) beyond rearticulating the difference between sex and gender and the sexuality spectrum…after about 15 seconds you can see the glazed over eyes of confusion. You do your best, or at least that’s what I did. Also, Another example is when we asked why Injah’s or Pink’s  (Brick Lady specifically) nude figures grossed them out I received a variety of responses: “because she’s showing all her goodies and that’s nasty,” “it’s confusing cause we learned the opposite of that in abstinence class,” “her boobs are droopy, she needs to take care of that,” “I’d just get plastic surgery.” We talked about why breasts are gross, or why breasts in art is “ew,” in more than one class. In the end, we do our best to get them honestly talking about their opinions and have them respond through art making.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Wild Thing” Artwork by Sharon Lee de la Cruz aka MISS163 Opens Tonight!

If you’re in NYC tonight, swing through the opening at bOb!!

bOb Bar is pleased to present Wild Thing, an exhibition of work by graffiti artist MS163. Please join us for an opening reception on Wednesday, July 3rd to meet the artist and celebrate her work.

In MS163’s series Wild Thing, the fictional yet familiar character “Max” from Where the Wild Things Are (1963) performs the role of the iconic Ruby Bridges—a crucial player in the civil rights movement and desegregation in 1960s New Orleans. On the one hand, MS163 celebrates the centrality of women of color in national sociopolitical movements; on the other, she begs the spectator to consider how women of color are used by these same movements. Wild Thing asks: how was Ruby, at 6 years old, deployed as a symbol of femininity, fragility, and respectability for the betterment of the African American community?

Sharon Lee De La Cruz is a prolific artist and activist in New York City. She earned a BFA from The Cooper Union, is a Fulbright scholar, and is now an MA candidate in NYU’s ITP program. She has shown in numerous venues throughout the New York metropolitan area, notably during Armory Week 2012 at the Bronx River Arts Center. She has been awarded residencies at Wonder Women and 365 Days of Print. Additionally, De La Cruz has designed a limited edition perfume bottle for Calvin Klein’s CK One Shock Street Edition For Her.

http://www.unoseistres.com  | #miss163atbOb  | RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/528173020553056/

artwork_ms163_back (1)

Report from Graf Grrlz on the Rise, Week 1

In my last entry, I mentioned I’d be working with a program for girls here in Miami called Women on the Rise! The program itself works with various organizations over the summer, but as of last Tuesday I’ve been spending my days at the Carrolton School of the Sacred Heart with a program called Honey Shine [inspiring young girls aged 8-18 to shine]. I’ve had the best time meeting and co-teaching with Fabienne Rousseau , Dinorah de Jesús Rodríguez , Nereida Garcia Ferraz , Lupe [sorry Lupe I can’t find your website!], Dr. Jillian Hernandez Bernal, and the program’s director Anya Wallace—all artists in their own right.

Each day we meet with 5 groups for about 60 minutes each and it turns out that the cliché “kids say the darndest things” is spot on. Before this week, I had never worked with kids. I was never a babysitter (aside from watching my little sister), I never did any kind of summer camp, and I am hardly around little ones in my everyday life. So, no one is more shocked than I am at HOW MUCH I LOVE TEACHING little girls!

I mean, wow. For someone who is absolutely fascinated by how people think and what they think about—someone like ME—being exposed to such unbridled, “filterless” energy (specifically in relation to the “writing on the wall”) is the most absolute form of intellectual stimulation.  

This week I worked with a little less than 60 girls from 2nd to 11th grade. We began each session (no matter if it was session 1 or 2) with a standard WoTR! icebreaker called “Just because”  where they are given 4 sentences to fill out about perceptions/stereotypes. Some of my favorites:

“Just because…I am blackDoesn’t Mean I…will be a slaveMy name is XAnd I am…proud.”  

“Just because…I am a cheerleader. Doesn’t Mean I…am dumb. My name is X. And I am…smart.”

The responses to these vary from serious to funny, from profound to nonsensical and I believe the WoTR! Facebook page documents some of the great ones. Definitely check them out.

After the icebreaker we get into the lessons. The first time I meet a group is Session 1: the history lesson and tag name creation where they come up with 3 tags: 1 for themselves, 1 for a friend sitting on the left and 1 for a friend on their right.

First, I ask them to tell me “what graffiti is.” Here are some answers I jotted down with favorites bolded:

  • Wall art
  • A lot of colors
  • Writing and drawing on someone else’s property
  • Writing in a fancy way
  • Vandalism
  • Art that represents something like feelings or goals
  • Gangs
  • Imagination
  • Colorful art on a wall
  • Spray paint on walls
  • Flowers and people on walls
  • Art on buildings
  • Words, people, houses and stereos painted on walls
  • Some kinda art
  • A bunch of lines
  • Someone’s insight
  • Something you cant read
  • Something expressive
  • Something that tells a story
  • Art that’s popping out
  • The future
  • A puzzle
  • 3d letters
  • beautiful
  • crazy lines
  • swirls
  • layers
  • illusions
  • awkward letters
  • boxed letters
  • something personal
  • connected letters
  • bubble letters
  • a history
  • when you write everywhere
  • to go all over the stuff

Then, I ask them to tell me “where graffiti is”:

  • Walls
  • Buses
  • Churches
  • Abandoned buildings
  • Stop signs
  • Trains
  • Closed down stores
  • Sidewalks
  • Skyscrapers
  • Billboards
  • Tables, schools and stores
  • Canvas and bridges
  • Everywhere
  • houses

Then, I ask them to tell me “who does graffiti”:

  • Crazy people
  • professional artists
  • thugs
  • dreamers
  • people in the ghetto
  • criminals
  • citizens
  • anybody
  • rule breakers
  • rebels
  • young people
  • women
  • vandals
  • artists
  • talented people
  • gangsters
  • art teachers

Then, I ask them to tell me “why do they do graffiti”:

  • to show their point
  • to show off their art and feelings
  • they can’t help it
  • cause they have something to say
  • to make a difference in their community
  • cause they are just CRAZY over drawing!

And finally, I ask if they know how long people have been writing on walls and we move into a brief history of writing beginning with cave paintings. Yesterday, one girl responded to my “when” question with total confidence: “40,000 years!!!” I was literally like: WHOA! She had sat through my class on Wednesday and recalled, with absolute clarity the entire lesson. She blew me away, so I let her co-teach the history.

After they learn the history it is time to make their own tags. Some of them drew their names in styles I haven’t yet showed them. Call me impressed. These girls are naturals.

In session 2, they practice their tags on trains and learn about gender politics in graffiti: sexualization, marginalization, and tokenization. They are sponges…well, most of them and I can say with certainty that most of them understood why being a token is complicated,  why being marginalized from history is as one of the girls said “unfair,” and how being sexualized might make “the girls stop painting.” I wish I had recorded our conversations so that I could recall the intensity and insightfulness of their interactions. Alas.

While we chatted, they drew.

And once again, without any prompting about the particulars of blackbook culture, they began sharing their piece of paper to gather one another’s tags.

Here is a slideshow from Week 1:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I can’t wait to see what next week brings!

Graffiti Grrlz on the Rise, MOCA Miami

So, as usual, I’ve been busy. After the “My Thuggy Pony” jam and the opening of the Girls On Top Crew at bOb…I graduated (you can now call me Dr. Pabón!) and spent (at least a week) celebrating in Boston where I grew up—reconnecting with friends and family members before I move to the Middle East. Yes, you read that correctly. If all goes as planned, I’ll be starting a position as a Postdoctoral Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi this fall working with the senior class in the Arts and Humanities. I’m going to be traveling to (mostly to Cairo, Egypt) as much as possible to conduct  research on the Women on Walls Campaign.

Women on Walls Logo

Women on Walls Logo (amazing right?! ) I hope to make some good connections and be able to share what I learn here on this blog; in the meantime you should LIKE their Facebook and peep them on Flickr.

LIKE their Facebook and peep them on Flickr.

Until then, I’m thrilled to share that I will be spending the next two months as an Instructor for the Women on the Rise Summer Program for MOCA Miami. Founded in 2004, “Women on the Rise! is a unique gender-specific outreach program that presents the work of contemporary women artists such as Ana Mendieta and Carrie Mae Weems to young women ages 10-24 who are served by community organizations doing social justice work. Many of the girls who participate in the program live in low-income, underserved areas and some are involved in the juvenile justice system.  MOCA educators visit these institutions and use contemporary art to inspire girls to engage in critical dialogues about body image, relationships, and culture and to creatively imagine brilliant futures through hands-on art projects, visits to exhibitions, and meetings with noted women artists. The goal of the program is to increase girls’ self-esteem, critical thinking skills, and access to arts and culture.”

womenontherise

I want to introduce the girls to the empowering sociopolitical potential in producing graffiti art. I’ve developed a 7-session curriculum designed to teach them about: the ethnic lineage and diversity of artists and styles; the gender politics within the subculture; and the strategies of resistance female artists employ to make space for their participation. The best part is that they will develop their own tag names and crew names, think about and analyze works of graffiti, learn about dozens of female graffiti artists and all-female graffiti crews, potentially have a field trip to Wynwood to peep the Few & Far production at Brisky Gallery, and ultimately paint their own group production (probably a giant mixed media stencil/tag/sticker collage because there are almost 200 girls).

They also get to play with this:

Blank Train Canvas

Needless to say: I’M SO EXCITED!

Until next time…LIKE their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WOTRMOCA. Visit the website: http://mocanomi.org/2012/03/women-on-the-rise and Support Women on the Rise!

My Thuggy Pony All-Grrlz Jam in the Bronx

When I went to bed last night I had no idea I’d be spending 8 hours in the pouring rain watching some of NYC’s illest graffiti women kill a wall in the Bronx. Granted, I knew they were painting since I helped organize it…but the non-stop-just-enough-to-soak-your-feet-throughout-the-day-misty sprinkly stuff—-that part was a surprise. And the wall is not finished because of it, but whatever. This is [legal] graffiti. It can be an extreme sport, haha. So weather be damned, PIXIE, CHOCK, ABBY, NEKS, QUEEN ANDREA, EROTICA, AND MS163 painted.

I took a LOT of photos. You can see some of them here.

Interview with JERK LA

I first came across the fierce wildstyle of Mexican-American graffitera Jerk LA in issue 3 of my favorite grrlz graf mag COP Magazine (buy them!). Months and months later, her work appeared on my Facebook news feed and so I started doing some casual digging (“like” her artist page: www.facebook.com/Jerk.LA213). I found that since she was “managing her mischief” like a BOSS (pardon the HP reference), Jerk’s prolificacy was featured in a 2002 LA Weekly article (a decade old, but highly suggested) by Stephen Lemons.

I messaged her requesting an interview quickly thereafter and it was game on!

For Jerk, the fundamental characteristics of graffiti subculture (i.e. anonymity and mystery) produce a unique kind of artistic cultural space—where (with the use of an androgynous tag name) her artistry can be judged without sexist presumptions about women’s artistry as less than men’s. No room for the offensive and ridiculous “good for a girl” rhetoric here. Below, she shares her experiences with, and navigation of, gang life in Los Angeles, CA, her perspective on neighborhood-based crews, and her determination to always push past her own aesthetic limitations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tag and how you settled on the name:

I am JERK. I chose this name for a couple of reason. I liked playing with these letters the most and I did not to give away my gender. I think for the most part since we were all kids on the play ground we’ve all heard “you run like a girl or you this or that like a girl” since then I’ve quickly notice how much society embeds the notion that females are inferior. So because graffiti allows you to exist without a profile picture I choose JERK. The more I learned about the graffiti scene, the more I realized that to keep to myself would allow my graffiti to be judged on the same level as the rest without the “it’s good for a girl” assessment.

Occupation (9-5): 

I am not a bum; I have a career. I finished high school and later completed schooling for my career. I knew it was important to have a plan b; always. In general, I am a very quiet person, so I spent a lot of time watching and listening to what others were doing and learning from their mistakes. I grew up amongst gang members telling me not to be like them. Watching drugged out people that never left the neighborhoods and never did anything with their lives because they chose to give up control of their life…I mean who really makes a conscience choice to live like that? I think because I kept my eyes and ears open it allowed me not to fall into peer pressure so easily. I guess I’d rather just stand alone, then to follow the crowd.

Crews (If you rep a crew, what are the pros and cons and can you share a bit of the history):

I have represented a few crews in the past. I currently represent Can’t Be Stopped (CBS) crew. CBS has been around since the 80’s and is out of Hollywood. This crew has represented graffiti illegally, but is known more for really pushing can control and creativity, competitiveness amongst each other to produce competed concepts for their legal murals.

I would say every crew essentially starts out with childhood friends and from that you have individuals who are going through the growing up process together. So the dynamic of the crews change throughout time. There are changes in personalities, everyone questions and or comes to the conclusions of what graffiti means to them and what they feel is important to be known for in the graffiti scene. Sometimes everyone moves forward together and sometimes crew members need their space. Every crew offers different things—it’s just about who you get along with the best or if they have what you’re looking for…or sometimes, a crew will scout you out because you have something to offer the graffiti scene.

How would you describe your style?

I wouldn’t really know how to describe my style because I am always trying new things. I like to play with letters a lot. I often get bored doing the same letters or color schemes and composition. I’m sure my style will always look like mine, but I definitely try to change it up and push myself to do better than my last piece, almost as if am in a competition with myself.

Writing for how long and how did you get started?

I started writing as a very young teenager. It was almost a subconscious act. Graffiti is all around us, I grew up seeing graffiti but not thinking it was abnormal, from freeway spots to gang writing. I’ve always had an interest in art in general including fonts. In elementary I took a lot of free after school art classes taking drawing, print making, painting and I was even able to join a figure drawing workshop, which was not offered to everyone unless you fit the age group. So the creative spark was there. I actually started messing around with graffiti from really just walking around the LA River and picking up cans and just starting to tag. Once I started to get some sort of a grasp of what graffiti is, I just took to it naturally. I still make art—some is graffiti related others are not

Graffiti is often spoken about through and alongside the hip hop nation. Is this something you identify with?

Graffiti has long existed before the concept of hip hop formed. I think at the time when graffiti was forming most of the graffiti youth at the time listened to hip hop music so it was a natural unification. I think hip hop as a whole offers a sense of a culture but this is not something I really identify with.

Does your graffiti take on a social message, or primarily is it about style—or both:

If you have longevity in graffiti you’ll find that it begins to evolve as you grow. So for me it’s really both in a way. To me, graffiti will always be about getting up but style is just as important to me as well. When it comes to social messages: sometimes there is one sometimes there is not. Usually I ask myself that when I am thinking about doing a graffiti mural. So it is never solely one meaning or the other.

How do you feel when you see your pieces up?

When is see my graffiti murals or just pieces I did at a yard I always think of what I could of done to make it better, or what I can do to the next one.

How do you feel when you are getting’ up? What emotions do you associate with the act?

There is rush of emotions all at the same time when getting up. There are a lot of elements to consider: late night, cops, gangsters, bums, quiet, lonely streets. With all those things you have the feeling of freedom, adrenalin, not knowing, nervousness, fear and fearlessness.

What does the word “community” mean to you in relation to graffiti culture:

To me community means people that you can relate too. I think this also means the acknowledgements from your peers or fellow graffiti writers in a way. For example, I (as well as many graffiti writers) mutually feel that if you have not covered the illegal part of graffiti you’re not really a graffiti writer.

What do you think is the historical significance of graffiti?

Graffiti has a life of its own, even if graffiti is or is not thought of as a legitimate art form it will always exist. Graffiti offers both sides of the fence: there is the guerilla punk rock side to it and then there is the reformed side of it. It was its way of dipping in and out of the art world. Just like there is a fine and hazy line between fine art and design I think those lines are debatable between fine art and graffiti. I think in my art work is where I sometimes find that challenging. Sometimes my work is graffiti influenced and sometimes not…and sometimes I marry them.

Do you think of yourself as a feminist?

No.

What is feminism to you?

The idea of feminism is like organizations that use their “flaw” as a crutch. Sure sometimes life is not fair. But if you want people to take you serious, you should state facts not emotional statements. If you are good at what you do, or are better than the next, then that should be the argument, to be treated equal.

What does resistance mean to you?

It means to object without reasonable doubt.

What are the characteristics, personalities, or traits that you associate with graffiti writers?

None, specifically because graffiti is for everyone.

What new trends or types of graffiti are you seeing?

Graffiti started in the streets as an illegal form; this is credited to paying your dues. This is the platform to graffiti. The trend now a day is to exploit graffiti without paying your dues. I don’t think there is a problem with people using spray paint as a medium in their style of art work but that does not make you a graffiti writer, or graffiti anything for that matter, just an artist.

How does graffiti fit into your past, present and future?

Graffiti was a fun pastime and a creative outlet and it really has not changed much today. Obviously as I get older I have to be more conscience of how I get up, there might be a time when I will stop getting up because the risk might not be worth getting the responsibilities compromised. I think when that time comes I will hopefully feel fulfilled with myself in that I have paid my dues in graffiti where I can just be ok with doing legal’s, so we’ll see. Alongside with graffiti I have always created art work as well and shown in various art shows that were not graffiti related art shows.

Tell me what you know about women in graffiti history?

In general not much is expected from women, because of the embedded ideas that women are inferior. A lot of times because there are few women in graffiti they are put under a microscope. If they are talented, or they are the bomber of the year, for the most part they are doubted and people—men and women alike—look to see if there is a male that the females’ work can be accredited to. When a female graffiti writer builds their longevity, consistency and is well rounded in graffiti they are given their respect and place in the graffiti scene. I do think that was one of the benefits of choosing the name JERK, because I got the credit and was taken seriously and by the time people found out I was a girl it was more like, oh. There was no “for a girl” reference at least to my knowledge.         

Is there a message you’d like to send to aspiring female graffiti writers?

Always strive to do better and never settle or assume you’re any good at what you do.

 

HomeGirls artworks by Abby online store is up!

I hope you’ll take the time to visit http://www.abbygraff.com and then buy a canvas or print for your collection, or for your favorite hip hop fanatic. Truly is money well spent.

HOMEGIRLS

artwork by Abby

A Queens, New York native, Abby is a visual artist with roots in the early ‘80s graffiti art scene at the geneses of New York’s Hip Hop movement. She attended the seminal High School of Art and Design in Manhattan from 1981 to 1984, where she was mentored by some of the most prolific and celebrated visual artists in urban and fine art such as Web One, Doze Green and Mare 139.

Abby was accepted to Parsons School of Design (New York)and attended from 1985-1987. Although she thrived academically, the financial strain was simply too much for her and her family, so she silently applied to Temple University’s Tyler School of Art (Elkins Park, PA and Philadelphia respectively). She graduated in 1991 with a BFA in graphic design with an emphasis on packaging.

In 1991, Abby returned to New York, started working for Arista Records and happily returned to painting legal walls with her crew. In 1992, as the design industry was quickly transitioning to computer-based design, she relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area where opportunities in Silicon Valley were abundant. There, she quickly became submerged in digital art, working for start-up ad agencies. Eventually, Abby earned coveted positions designing packaging and promotional work, most notably for Sega, Safeway Corporate Advertising, Concord Records and World Market.

Marriage and motherhood fostered a shift in Abby to work exclusively freelance, allowing her to remain present for her family and support her fine art. After 16 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Abby relocated back to the East Coast where she could be closer to her roots.

Since 2008, Abby has been exhibited in ‘Heiroglyphics 3’ at the San Francisco African American Art and Culture Complex, ‘Queenz Arrive’ at McCaig-Welles NYC, and ‘TC5 Revolutions’ at Crewest LA.

In 2012, Abby lectured at Davidson College in North Carolina, on the topic of Stylemasters of Graffiti and her experiences as a female graffiti artist in her native culture and as a design professional.

April 2013 marks Abby’s solo exhibit ‘HomeGirls’ currently on display at bOb Bar NYC until May 19th, which depicts the places and mind-spaces the artist has called home. HomeGirls makes visual her journey as an African American woman, an original participant in a vibrant transnational arts movement, as she transitions from place to place (physically and emotionally) trying to find a balance between motherhood and career that won’t demand she sacrifice one for the other.

To Purchase Works from the show, please visit http://www.abbygraff.com !!

“Homegirls” artwork by Abby, opening next Wednesday!!

"Charlotte" by Abby TC5, on sale at bob bar NYC

“Charlotte” by Abby TC5, on sale at bob bar NYC

 

HOMEGIRLS artwork by ABBY

curated by Jessica N. Pabón

  

Opening Reception: Wednesday April 17th, 2013 6PM-9PM

 RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/299368726856841

bOb Bar is pleased to present the solo exhibition HOMEGIRLS, a collection of works that transform the cities Abby has called home into figurative representations. Abby uses traditional graffiti letter forms to illustrate metaphors and emotions—which are intimate, and sometimes universal in appeal—to push the boundaries of the genre. HOMEGIRLS features African American women whose cadence symbolizes the artist’s experiences living in cities like Philly, Oakland, and Queens. Please join us on Wednesday April 17th, 2013, from 6:00PM to 9:00PM, to meet the artist and celebrate her work.

A Queens, New York native, Abby is a visual artist with roots in the early 80’s graffiti art at the geneses of New York’s Hip Hop movement. She attended the seminal High School of Art and Design in Manhattan from 1981 to 1984, and has been a quiet, yet active, crew member of TPA, TC5, Rocstars, KAOS Inc, and TM7 for three decades. Her early work has been captured inSpraycan Art and Piecebook Reloaded. Her recent work has been exhibited in ‘Heiroglyphics 3’ at the San Francisco African American Art and Culture Complex, ‘Queens Arrive’ at McCaig-Welles NYC, and ‘TC5 Revolutions’ at Crewest LA.

 Exhibition Dates: April 17th—May 19th, 2013

For more information, please contact the curator: jnp250@nyu.edu

bOb Bar

235 Eldridge Street

New York, NY 10002

212-529-1807   www.bobbarnyc.com

 

Guest Blogger Eileen Quaranto, responds to Couvrette

After I posted Katrine Couvrette’s guest blog about female graffiti artists in Montreal, I asked my former student/research assistant/curatorial intern Eileen Quaranto (yes she wears many many hats!) if she would be willing to write up a brief response. Knowing the content of her thesis (I was her advisor for an independent study on female graffiti writers), I thought it would make for an interesting contradistinction. And I wanted YOU to be in on the conversation. I find it productive and exciting that I am not alone in the endeavor to build a body of scholarship (at various levels) about female graffiti artists.

And, of course, I am so proud of Eileen.

Eileen and Jess at ClawMoney opening

Eileen and Jess at ClawMoney opening

Get it, girl!

*******

For my Undergraduate Senior Thesis in Art History at Stony Brook University I chose to focus on the sexualization of the female figure by female artists in graffiti and street art. I focused specifically on Toulouse artists Miss Van, Fafi, and Mademoiselle Kat simply for the sake of my thesis not exceeding the maximum forty-five page limit, but I have also looked at other female artists who are similarly working with sexualized female characters. From this perspective I have a few responses to Katrine Couvrette’s masters thesis in the hopes that all of us who are studying the work of female graffiti artists can continue building on one another’s ideas from the many and varied educational and cultural backgrounds and perspectives we have to offer.

02_016

MRS

My first response is to Katrine Couvrette’s claim about female artists having to prove themselves masculine, which stems from Macdonald’s assertion that “female writers must work to prove they are not ‘women.’” (Macdonald 2002: 130). While I do agree with this claim in a certain sense—yes, female writers are often assumed to be male when their identity is not known, and yes they often must go above and beyond in order to prove themselves capable of such “masculine” activities as running from police, climbing fences and hitting tough spots—I would also argue that many female artists also deliberately set out to prove that they are women in terms of their chosen aesthetic elements or tag names. For example, MRS (a street bomber from the Bronx) includes a little bow on her fill-ins, which serves in part to notify the viewer that the writer is female.

missvan

Miss Van

missvan2

Miss Van

I would also argue that the choice to work with the female character as a constant element in one’s work is also a direct declaration of one’s “womanness,” as it acts as a pictorial depiction of one’s identity on the wall, and this identity then becomes inextricable from the idea of “female” as it is presented. In her Biography on her website, Miss Van states that early in her career her characters began as a depiction of her own identity, as an alternative to using a lettered tag name.

This leads into my next response, which is to the following claim: ”When female characters are painted by male writers they tend be portrayed as scantily dressed or not clothed at all, in a submissive posture to a male character (surrounding an authoritative male or in a sexual position), demure, voluptuous, or implying some level of sexual promiscuity, and generally in a passive manner. On the other hand, characters painted by female writers tend to be portrayed as strong, dynamic, active, and even authoritative in nature. They are mostly clothed, fashionable and generally chic.” Given the nature of my UG thesis, I think it is obvious I am going to argue that there are many female artists who paint figures of sexualized women, and that this is not just a technique used by male writers. Miss Van’s characters are almost always “scantily dressed,” and Shiro’s characters (“Mimi” characters) are certainly “voluptuous.” Fafi’s characters (“Fafinettes”) are usually very passive, although there is never a male figure present to which they submit–they generally look up at the viewer with wide eyes and assume a posture that expresses shyness or timidity. Furthermore, the work of all three of these women, in addition to the work of such artists as Mademoiselle Kat (also from Toulouse), Vinie (France), Szylk Wane (UK) and Toofly (US) can be said to “imply some level of sexual promiscuity.”

Shiro

Shiro

Fafi2

Fafi

Fafi

Fafi

Shiro2

Shiro

Mademoiselle Kat2

Mademoiselle Kat

Mademoiselle Kat

Mademoiselle Kat

While these artists do paint the female figure in ways that are typically ascribed to male writers as Couvrette argues, these artists also depart from the male writers’ techniques and take on new approaches that Couvrette rightly ascribes to the female artists. Shiro’s characters are “voluptuous,” but also “strong” and “authoritative.” Fafi’s characters are depicted as “passive,” but are also “fashionable and generally chic.” Vinie’s characters are often “scantily dressed” and “voluptuous” and yet “fashionable” and “chic” in terms of what clothing the character is wearing and her hairstyle. Of course there are also female artists who paint characters that are “strong, dynamic, active, and even authoritative in nature” without being sexualized: Alice Pasquini, a street artist from Rome, focuses on painting women who are “strong” and “independent…in a way that differs from the highly sexualized image of femininity that is typically seen in society,” according to her website. But for the women who are painting sexualized female figures that are also strong and autonomous, serving as figures in themselves rather than just surrounding an authoritative male, something is to be said. These women are seemingly reclaiming the sexualized female body so that it is no longer the object of the patriarchal male gaze. The sexualized female figure becomes the subject, rather than object, and the female artists creating these figures are the ones who determine how they are depicted and what effect they will ultimately have on the viewer.