Graffiti has been a boys’ club since its inception in New York City train yards in the 1970s.
Lady Pink was the first woman to enter the scene, an Ecuadorian immigrant who painted subway cars from 1979 to 1985. She appears as a godmother figure in Street Heroines, a documentary directed by Alexandra Henry about female graffiti and street artists in New York and Latin America.
The movie starts in New York City, with old-school writers talking about tagging trains, tall buildings, and other risky surfaces and reflecting on the hip-hop era of the 1990s and the discrimination they often faced from their male peers. But it soon moves to Ecuador, Mexico City, and Brazil and focuses on contemporary female artists making their way in the still-male-dominated genre which encompasses murals, street art, graffiti, and the particulars of pichação, a Brazilian form of public-protest writing.
Though Street Heroines is ostensibly a feminist treatise on the talents and plights of female street artists, most of the Latina artists featured don’t really have much to say about women’s rights other than to roll their eyes over the comments they sometimes get from men when they paint on the street. They make art because it’s what they are called to do and rarely question their right to do so. Local political issues and their individual aesthetics take precedence in their art.
The true beauty of the movie is its wealth of stunning, quirky, brightly colored public art and learning about the street art movements of different cities around the world.
Documentary, not rated, 70 minutes, in Spanish, Portuguese, and English with subtitles; 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, Violet Crown, and 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, Railyard Park. The filmmaker will introduce the film.