Sunday, January 10, 2010

Women Unbound: Street Art

Graffiti Women: Street Art from Five Continents
Nicholas Ganz, Nancy MacDonald and Swoon
Harry N. Abrams, Inc

Female writers have always been in the vanguard of the graffiti movement, though often shunted to the sidelines by their male counterparts. This exhaustive volume places them front and center, featuring 1,000 full-color illustrations from some of the world’s most prominent artists, including Brazil’s Nina, Japan’s Sasu, Mexico’s Peste, and the Americans Lady Pink, Swoon, and Miss 17.

Lately I have wanted to give all of my attention to reflecting our humanness, our fragility and strength, back out at us from our city walls in a way that makes all these fake images screaming at us form billboards seem irrelevant and cruel, which is what they are….~Swoon

Graffiti Women is kickass. The strength of this collection is the diversity of art styles and the equally diverse personalities of the contributors. Their stories and perspectives vary but all the writers exude self-confidence. They clearly are committed to their art and there is undeniable power in their messages. Each writer had a voice and she uses it not only to express herself, but also to encourage others to find their voices and speak up.

As much as I enjoyed the collection, Ganz’s commentary is uneven and awkward at times. I was disappointed that the author's commentary didn't match the power of the pieces. When the artists themselves spoke though, a feature was empowering:

What I would like to express with my art is the endless possibilities of ideas that we can all share, learn and grow from. I would like to strike a chord within mass consciousness, to lift our minds higher, beyond prejudices or misconceptions. I would like to communicate on a positive level for women, and to surpass any expectations or limitations the world may put us….”~ EGR

I was also distracted by the idea that given the talent and wealth of experience here, this was championed by a man. I am glad Ganz thought enough of these artists to publish this body of work but why hadn’t women managed to celebrate themselves?

Overall, my complaints pale to the joy I felt taking in this work. I can’t draw a stick man so I’m in awe of those who transform what they see and feel and create something we can share in. Street art is dynamic. The energy and attitude of these women is something I’d like more young girls to be exposed to. Our girls deserve alternative role models and other paths of inspiration. Kudos to graffiti women for finding their path, they are creating indelible legacies.

I read this book for Women Unbound.
*First installation by Swoon. The second is by jan_joana.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Susan, you asked, "Why hadn’t women managed to celebrate themselves?"

Maybe they tried. Maybe they couldn't get published. Men control the publishing world, like they control everything else.

susan said...

And if they couldn't Bonnie, that reinforces that even with advances, we still don't have the power men have.

Jodie said...

I love the images you've shared, especially the woman weaving, how dynamic, yet peaceful and how opposite to the way most people probably think of graffitti.

To give an alternative idea maybe the women never thought of formalising their art in a printed collection, but were happy in their own subculture, then when someone suggested it they were like cool I'd like to see street art publicised? Maybe they think of their own element where they create as being the place to put their main creative energies. I'd actually really like to hear the definite answer to this, wonder if anyone involved will ntocie your post and stop by.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Exactly, Susan. That was my point.

Jessie Carty said...

i love the picture you included of the woman against the blue back ground :)