The Voices of Art: Just Listen

Written by: Lily

Edited by: Mariah

Visual by: Tatiana

Art is a universal language: it gives people who don’t have a voice, the ability to speak out. Those voices emanate from all over the world, addressing issues like racism, sexism, and homophobia. In order to keep these voices loud and clear, this article will be exploring the wonders of street art across the world, and their messages. 

After the murder of George Floyd, murals expressing their anger, grief and hope for change began to surface starting in Minnesota, and eventually appearing all over the world. This sparked more flames for action, as artists began calling out racist political figures such as the former President of the United States, Donal Trump, as well as accusing the police of racial profiling and brutality. One example is the mural by Mario Deina called “I Can’t Breathe” made as a tribute to George Floyd. As a way to preserve these works of art and their importance, The Urban Art Mapping George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art database was created by Dr. Todd Lawrence, Dr. Paul Lorah, and Dr. Heather Shirey with the Urban Art Mapping Research Project, based in Minnesota. 

“I Can’t Breathe // George Floyd · George Floyd & Anti-Racist Street Art.” Georgefloydstreetart.omeka.net, georgefloydstreetart.omeka.net/items/show/2911. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.

Street art was, and still is, a powerful tool for the LGBTQIA+ community as well. During the 1980s AIDS epidemic, artists Keith Haring and David Wojnarowicz were diagnosed; this inspired them to use their diagnoses as a “platform for activism.” Haring would use chalk to draw his art on black advertisement boards in NYC subways, while Wojnarowicz used various types of media, such as photography, film and graffiti. In the early 90s, both Keith and David passed away due to complications with their diagnoses, but they still made a memorable impact: before his death, Haring created a foundation -The Keith Haring Foundation- that funds HIV research to this day, and Wojnarowicz spread awareness by criticizing the American government’s lack of support during the epidemic through his artwork. For example, after his partner, Peter Hujar, passed away from AIDS, Wojnarowics created a mural that included images of his dead friend. The LGBTQIA+ street art activism did not stop there. Today, even more works by artists from the community are being placed under the spotlight, such as Jeremy Novy, whose artwork has been vital in the LGBTQ+ movement. Some of his past work includes rainbow Care Bears, a stencil of the drag icon, Divine, and stenciled posters of sexualized or intimate men. 

“The Value and Impact of LGBTQ Street Art.” Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide – Artist Owned & Operated, 17 June 2020, miamisbestgraffitiguide.com/the-value-and-impact-of-lgbtq-street-art/.  Accessed 9 Sept. 2021.

“The Value and Impact of LGBTQ Street Art.” Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide – Artist Owned & Operated, 17 June 2020, miamisbestgraffitiguide.com/the-value-and-impact-of-lgbtq-street-art/.  Accessed 9 Sept. 2021.

Despite street art being a “platform for activism” for many oppressed and marginalized groups, it is, ironically, still amale-dominated platform. Panmela Castro, known as  the “Graffiti Queen” of Brazil, became aware of this gender divide when male artists remarked that her graffiti was “so good that it didn’t seem like a woman made it.” As a response, she began adding “feminine” art -often murals of a woman’s face- to areas that had a more masculine presence, in order to reclaim the public sphere for women. Art in all forms has fought for women’s rights throughout history, and even today, when much of the world believes sexism to be lost in the past, art still pushes for the respect that women and girls of all ages deserve. 

Thing, A. Women’s. “Graffiti Queen Panmela Castro Is Leading the Fight for Women’s Rights in Brazil.” A WOMEN’S THING, 24 Nov. 2020, awomensthing.org/blog/panmela-castro-graffiti-artist/.

“He Spoke out during the AIDS Crisis. See Why His Art Still Matters.” The New York Times, 12 July 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/arts/design/david-wojnarowicz-review-whitney-museum.html.

Modern street art has been an outlet for creativity, opinion and activism since the early 1900s, and it continues to thrive across the world. The LGBTQIA+ community, Black Lives Matter and feminist movements are all screaming to be seen and heard, all you have to do is listen. 

Works Cited

“3 Female Street Artists Who Are Breaking Boundries.” Global Citizen, 22 July 2016, www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/street-artists-gender-stereotypes-women-art/

Almino, Elisa Wouk. “A Very Queer Street Art Movement Is Spreading across the US.” Hyperallergic, 15 June 2018, hyperallergic.com/447507/queer-street-art-usa/ . Accessed 9 Sept. 2021.

“Anti-Racist Street Art.” Www.goethe.de, www.goethe.de/prj/lat/en/dis/22015981.html . Accessed 9 Sept. 2021.

Moran, Lee. “Street Art Takes a Stand against Racism in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter.” HuffPost, 19 June 2020, www.huffpost.com/entry/street-art-black-lives-matter-george-floyd_n_5ee37c11c5b6090d86c5500b. “The Value and Impact of LGBTQ Street Art.” Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide – Artist Owned & Operated, 17 June 2020, miamisbestgraffitiguide.com/the-value-and-impact-of-lgbtq-street-art/.  Accessed 9 Sept. 2021.