Shamsia Hassani. Photo courtesy of Combat Communications.
This is a guest post by Robin Grearson.
So here’s the deal. Complex asked Vandalog founder-leader RJ Rushmore to create a list for them, “50 Greatest Street Artists Right Now,” and that list came out this month. When I saw it I was surprised. Out of 50 names, the only women to make the cut were Faith47 and Swoon (and a few who make art with male partners).
Yes, I know that any person who makes up a list like that would come up with a different list. But the intro to the list read, “Public art has a whole new set of powerful voices. We’re celebrating those.” And 48 of the 50 entries on a list designed to celebrate powerful new voices were men’s voices. That’s not a lot of diversity. It’s not even a little diversity. I called out RJ for his selections, via Twitter.
We volleyed some names back and forth but ultimately my argument was not with his exclusion of any particular artist. In exchanges with RJ and others, the questions came up–as they tend to when women are breaking into boys’ clubs (politics, business, race-car driving, etc.): Should there be a separate list for women? (No.) Should there be a quota for women even if they’re “not as talented” as men? (No, but, false question.)
If I were RJ and knew the work of as many street artists as he does, I would start with my favorites, and probably run out of room just listing those artists. So I wouldn’t have to go looking under rocks to find artists I had never heard of before. If I were RJ, I might think that if there were any women (or men) doing truly great work, I would have heard about them by now. Except that’s not necessarily true, especially with women. For instance, RJ mentioned a few female artists he considered…but he didn’t put them on the list.
Consider that the most powerful and the most personal work is not necessarily going to resonate as strongly once it crosses gender lines, which is not a minor point. For instance, RJ said he’s not a fan of Olek. And I’m not a fan of Lush. And that’s how it works: women don’t end up on too many “greatest” lists, if the guys are the gatekeepers. And if they’re not on the lists, how does anyone hear about them? It’s a little like the axiom about getting a job: you can’t get hired till you have experience, but if you can’t get hired, where do you get experience?
After our exchange, RJ offered me an opportunity to write a post for Vandalog about women street artists, and I respect him for that. So here it is, there are five artists in particular who I think fit the Complex criteria but didn’t make the list. As I began researching the post, I asked around for referrals. Emails arrived all week with the names of talented women making great art all over the world. So as a deputized one-time Vandalog gatekeeper, I want people to know about established as well as emerging talents like Alice Mizrachi, Bastardilla, Bunny M, Cake, Elle, Fafi, Georgina Ciotti, Gilf!, Hyuro, Imminent Disaster, Lady Pink, Liliwenn, LMNOP, MISO, Miss Van, Sheryo, Shin Shin, Sofia Maldonado, Tati Suarez, Toofly, and Wing. Just to name a few. Because there are so many more.
The work they are making reflects their communities, it beautifies blighted areas, it makes us laugh, it breaks down gender barriers and smashes stereotypes and speaks out on behalf of women and children and parents and humanity. It is sensual and funny and simple and complex and symbolic and speaks of rights and wrongs and freedom. And these women have these strong, powerful, fierce, witty voices that we all need to hear. Why? Because they make images to express what we as viewers can’t articulate until we see their work. And then as it pierces our hearts and minds we say, simply: yes, that is exactly how I feel, too. But this is not because they are women. It is because they are artists.
After the jump, check out what these five world-class street artists who also happen to be women have been up to in 2012. Read the rest of this article »
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