Despite its strides into the mainstream, street art still tends to be mostly a man’s game. The six artists discussed below are some of the best around, working in diverse styles and media, portraying a range of experiences and messages, pushing the boundaries of urban art in New York City. And they just happen to be women. By Jessica Allen.
See Also: 6 More Street Artists You Should Know
Cake uses her formal artistic training (degrees from Pratt and Parsons) to create haunting images of women. Watercolor washes soften her delicate portrayals of young ladies in side profile, their organs exposed, their arms often missing, their mouths open in surprise or shock. Occasionally she puts birds or symbols into the monochromatic background, but generally the women in Cake’s murals and wheatpastes hover outside of time and space.
Sheryo’s singular characters have a tendency to jump off walls and lodge firmly in your brain. They can be silly, scatalogical, and just plain weird, a wild mash-up of cartoons, comic books, tattoo design, and hallucinatory dreams, among other sources. Pickles ride bicycles, hot dogs scoot on mopeds, centipedes nosh on pizza, space aliens smoke hookahs. Born in Singapore but based in Brooklyn, she frequently collaborates with The Yok.
Widely considered to be the best female writer of her generation, Lady Pink burst onto the scene in 1979, proving to many bombers that girls could not only do what boys could do, but do it better. She even starred in the seminal movie Wild Style in 1983. Today her colorful, surreal paintings have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, the Met, and the Whitney. But she still gets up outside, as recent work as part of the Welling Court Mural Project (at right) demonstrates.
Can you change the world through art? gilf! thinks so, and this optimism extends throughout her politically charged work: the Statue of Liberty guzzles fruit punch, polar bears wear floaties, Colonel Sanders has the body of a chicken. Outside a Chelsea gallery she painted, “All I See Are Naked Emperors,” written to look like an eye exam. gilf! also serves an important role as an organizer, bringing together diverse artists to collaborate on walls around the city.
Andrea Von Bujdoss paints under the name Queen Andrea. Her vibrant, spirited work frequently includes messages in eye-catching bubble letters, such as “don’t fret,” “always rise above,” and “go for yours.” This emphasis on typography draws on both her early days as an artist, when she started tagging New York in the early 1980s, as well as her professional training and successful career as a graphic designer.
One of the best-known and best-loved street artists working today, Swoon focuses on the marginalized and gives voice to the voiceless. While a student at Pratt Institute in the late 1990s, Swoon began putting up wheatpastes on abandoned buildings and other easy-to-miss locations; later she began showing in galleries and museums. Her realistic, yet sensitive depictions show kids and down-on-their-luck adults as they play, walk, work, and try to keep living with dignity.