Women on Walls: The Female Subject in Modern Graffiti Art

Katja Fleischmann, Robert H. Mann


Modern day wall art featuring women as subjects is usually painted by male artists, although women graffiti artists are challenging that male dominance and there are ample examples of their work on social media. The choice of women as subjects dates back to ancient Rome and Greece where idealized female images provided a template for desire, sexuality and goddess status. In modern times, wall artists present women as iconic subjects of power, renewal, and social commentary. Feminine graffiti appears to be idiosyncratic in its subject matter—the product of history, geography, culture and political discourse based on feminine power and influence. Although it is impossible to generalize stylistically about street artists, who are sui generis by their very nature–and wall art defies easy labelling–there are some patterns that are apparent when wandering city streets and encountering women subjects on walls. This photo-essay explores women who feature in wall art in open air galleries in Western Europe, South America and tropical Cuba and seeks to define female archetypes found in these examples. The historical antecedents to modern wall art are presented followed by specific examples of wall art featuring women; succinct interpretations are presented with each example. The journey takes us to Paris, Berlin and Venice, with a stopover in the small fishing town of Huanchaco, Peru, the colourful artistic hill city of Valparaiso, Chile and ends on the worn and tattered streets of tropical Havana, Cuba. In crossing the equator and cultural divide between Western Europe, South America and the Caribbean some surprising trends are suggested in this exploration of women on walls.


wall art; women in graffiti; city streets; tropical; female archetypes; Europe and South America; graffiti

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.17.2.2018.3659


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