Rachel and Lauren both make street art here in the Bay Area and wanted to meet with other women making this kind of art. They set on an incredible adventure to travel and meet women making street art in Latin America with their findings culminating in a book titled “Women Street artists of Latin America” packed with interviews discussing themes of women empowerment, solidarity, art as a tool for social change, race & identity, gender, the artist’s practice and more. It is full color bilingual books showcasing the art of 25 women in 7 different countries. As they stated “all know Street art and graffiti is a pretty male dominated field and our book is only 1 of two books dedicated to highlighting the achievements women have made in the field!”
Their book is now published and they are on a summer tour to promote it, the artists they met and to raise money to help the women continue to make art and change within their communities.
We asked them to share their thoughts on the project.
How did the project begin and evolve?
Lauren: Rachel and I were members of an art collective in San Francisco called Revel Art. We were developing our own artistic skills and organizing shows in efforts to make creative community. Public space was a topic that came up frequently in our conversations. It felt as if our visual environment was being bought and sold without our consent. We decided to take control and put up street art. Our first stencil said “Stop Selling Our Bus Stops” It was after a Folsom Street Fair 5 or 6 years ago. We were a group of 4 women who took turns using an exacto knife to cut the individual letters out and then concealing the stencil in a pizza box, we put it up with green spray paint in a few locations on Folsom street in front of bus stops.
Rachel: We wanted to explore a different part of the world and connect with other female street artists. The project arose organically and we had a fluid plan for what we would make. The original idea was that we would make something closer to a zine or comic book of the adventure of two female street artists traveling to meet others like them. We imagined we would incorporate stories of female street artists. But as we traveled and interviewed different women it was clear they needed to be front and center. We are very happy with the Q&A format, because it allows them to speak for themselves.
Did you meet with women who create art in different mediums and for different reasons?
Lauren: We met women making all kinds of street art for multitudes of reasons. Wheatpaste, stencils, graffiti letters, painting with bucket paint—even sculptures. Lili Cuca, a graphic designer from Bogotá Colombia, paints with the largest stencils I have ever seen. 16-year-old Lolipop from San Salvador was writing technically difficult graffiti letters like someone double her age. The diversity was incredible and we tried to reflect that in the book.
Rachel: Their reasons for creating art ran the gamut from artists who wanted to add color to their cities to those who created murals to educate the public about specific political issues.
Are the female artists out there on their own or part of a collective like the Few and Far here or even part of male collective or graffiti crews?
Lauren: Again, so much diversity. There were women who painted only by themselves. In other cities it was unsafe after dark and they never painted alone. We met one woman in Bogotá who brought her mother and sister with her for protection. My favorite story is that of La Kyd who actually spoke of infiltrating the men’s club learning from them and bringing the skills back to her female friends so they could start a crew. She did that, and there name is Ladies Destroying and they are the first all women’s graffiti crew in Managua.
Did you do some research to determine which artists in the various countries you wanted to meet then make contact and branch out from there?
Rachel: We found a few interesting images of art in Latin America before we left but didn’t know anyone before traveling. When we first began our trip there were many unknowns. We knew there were women painting in Latin America but we didn’t know if we would find them or if they would talk to us.
On our first day in Bogotå, Colombia we saw a flyer for a street art tour and the guide was friends with women making street art. He connected us and we actually ended up spending 5 weeks in Bogotá because there were so many women making street art there.
Lauren: Our original plan was to document street artists in South America. But eventually, we decided to visit women working in emerging street art communities—like in Managua where we met the first women painting graffiti.
Any last words?
Lauren: Ultimately I think the project worked because we came in as curious artists, not journalists, so women saw us as allies and shared their stories with us. If we’d really known what we were doing, I’m not sure it would have worked out as well as it did.
Lauren and Rachel recently finished their Midwest BookTour and will host a series of events on the West Coast through the end of the year. If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book please visit their website artesinmiedo.net. All profits from book sales are being returned to the artists to fund mural projects. If you’d like to bring a presentation about the book to your community contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this interview Rachel & Lauren inform their friend Justin Hall about street art, respect for public space, and women speaking out with brilliant color in a macho culture. The video features artists: Perversa (Bogota, Columbia), Ariz (Guatemala City), and La Kyd & Ladies Destroying (Managua, Nicaragua).
About the authors
Lauren Gucik is an artist and community organizer from Northeast Ohio. She graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts from Indiana University where she ran an underground theatre company. She has worked with the SF Mime Troupe, Brava Theatre, and Precita Eyes Mural Project as a children’s art teacher. She is currently the Secretary of the Community Advisory Panel at KQED, the Bay Area’s public media station and she organizes the Dia de Los Muertos Festival of Altars with the Marigold Project.
Rachel Cassandra is a freelance writer and designer based in San Francisco, CA. She has written for Vice, Good, Bitch, SFist, and Narratively, and she writes regularly for Juxtapoz. Find her on Twitter as CassandRachel.