The art world is a pretty tough place to be a woman. If you venture to the Tate Modern or the National, the percentage of female artists exhibiting is woefully low. Art on the street is no different.
When you think of street artists, chances are only one or two women will come to mind whereas you may be able to reel off handfuls of men. Is this because there are fewer female street artists? Probably. But even those that are thriving and doing incredible things on the streets go about their business very much under the radar.
The street art environment is seen as naturally masculine. It’s dirty, dangerous and more times than not, it is totally illegal. This is not a case of scraping knees and climbing crab apple trees whilst mucking around with your mates at the park. In the adult street art world you are scaling buildings and sneaking into tiny crevices in the middle of the night. Women are more vulnerable when they work alone, making the act of throwing up a mural all the more difficult.
Yet there are some talented female street artists out there: ELLE, Vexta, Olek and Lady Pink to name but a few. A lot of these women actually use their street art to comment on femininity and the prejudice that they face in the art world. Images of strong independent females in murals can be found in London, New York, Mexico City and Sydney. If you follow Vexta’s work, you will see some epic depictions of femininity where she uses scale and colour to explore strong females flying through the air with confidence.
Times are changing. As street art becomes more mainstream, so do the opportunities for female street artists to be discovered and exhibited. The Saatchi Gallery did just that last year with its ‘XX: A Moment in Time’ show, exploring the fine work of female urban art.
Even if they don’t want to be, Vexta and ELLE are role models to the next generation of female street artists. If they continue to climb railway bridges, ascend tower blocks and create mind blowing murals then the gender ratio gap of male to female street artists will grow ever more narrow.