Street art is a frequently dangerous game. The threat of arrest pales in comparison to some of the hazards long time practitioners describe. While other artists sketch in pleasant cafes, creators of large-scale street pieces often have no choice but to wriggle through ragged holes in chain link fences and climb to vertiginous heights to get to their canvases.
There’s a popular conception of graffiti artist as lone wolf, but when it comes to the perils of the street, there’s safety in numbers. You need a crew. Female street artists must draw on the power of sisterhood.
As photojournalist Martha Cooper notes in the trailer for director Alexandra Henry’s Street Heroines, above:
I think bringing women together empowers them and there’s been some resistance on the part of men…it has to do with camaraderie too. It’s not that they’re saying, “You can’t do it,” but they’re just not allowing them in to their inner group.
Apparently, street art is something of an old boy’s club.
“What!?” gasps Lady Pink, a well known veteran with over 35 years’ experience. “You need a penis to climb a ladder? Does it help you hold on?”
The female camaraderie Cooper cites extends to the successful funding of a Kickstarter campaign to complete this documentary on “the courage and creativity of female graffiti & street artists from around the world.” As the deadline loomed, Lexi Bella & Danielle Mastrion, two of the women featured in the documentary, issued an open invitation to New York City-based female artists to join them in creating a spur-of-the-moment mural in Brooklyn, surrendering artistic control to embrace community spirit.
Many of the 25 artists Henry has profiled thus far speak of using their work to bring beauty to the street, and to advocate on behalf of the oppressed. Such earnestness may diminish them even further in the eyes of the old school He Man Woman Haters Club. Lexi Bella counterbalances the laughably soft image certain macho practitioners may assign to them by speaking unapologetically of the thrill of making one’s work as big as possible “so millions of people can see it.”
Street Heroines is aiming for release in 2017.
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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday
Okay the ‘does it help you hold on line’ made me laugh out loud.
If you don’t need a penis to climb a ladder, why do you need a vagina to be in a documentary?