Perhaps there is no other form of art that relates most to city life than Urban or “Street Art” (but for don’t you dare call it common “Graffiti”). Made famous by the mysterious street artist know as Banksy, the style is mostly cartoon-based public markings that range from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. During the advent of paint-proof subway cars, trucks have also become favorite graffiti canvass.
Because Urban Art is often seen on public or private buildings, walls and other properties around the city, it has sparked an unending debate whether it is just a form of vandalism or a form of expression.
Popularized by urban male teenagers in the modern times, Urban Art has already existed since the ancient Greek and Roman periods basically as form of communication. It has since evolved as pop culture that usually connects to underground hip-hop music. Using spray paints or markers, the modern graffiti has also been used as gang signal to mark territory or indicator of gang activities.
As the the home of modern street art, much has been written about the urban artists in NYC, but there are only few women who have been recognized.
The most prominent female graffiti artist is called “PINK” or “LADY PINK.” She has come into prominence in 1979 for painting the New York City subway with her aerosol spray. She has even managed to penetrate the mainstream culture with her gallery exhibitions of aerosol art being displayed at the Whitney Museum and the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
At present, graffiti artists like her are also called “writers.” The 1990s up to the present streets of New York have become a wide canvass for female urban artists only known through their aliases such as MS. MAGGS; DIVA, HOPE, and DONA of Brooklyn; JAKEE from Queens; and recent-day NYC writers including MUCK, FNS, CLAW, MISS 17, ICON, EROTICA 67 and NAISHA.
Legal or not, it is safe to say that Urban Art is not a thing for conservative Urbanettes. Graffiti is mostly done during late hours and in desolate locations, apparently more dangerous to women.
Struggling to gain respect and recognition from the male-dominated lifestyle, female graffiti artists still have to deal with overprotective boyfriends who discouraged them from pursuing their passion or from “her-boyfriend-has-made-the-graffiti-for-her” comments.
Amidst the ongoing debates on the legality or Urban Art, there are organizations that are dedicated to the preservation of the history of the art form that has developed on New York City’s subways, like the @149st. Its website (http://www.at149st.com) has become the basis for several documentary projects including the book Graffiti New York.