Fierce, fearless women with a burning drive and desire to create are the subjects of “Street Heroines,” director Alexandra Henry’s documentary about the females who are an integral part of the worldwide graffiti and street art movement. Speaking with the artists themselves, Henry explores the art form’s history, starting with its birth in the concrete jungle of New York City, and gets an insider look at the women working today both in the U.S. and beyond.
Art lovers will especially enjoy this film, as it shines a light on names that aren’t as popular as Banksy or Mr. Brainwash. Henry’s story is all about the women who are working and creating, taking charge and making their own spaces where their voices can be heard. They tell first-hand stories of the sexism they still endure, including harassment and disrespect in a male-dominated art world. While it’s encouraging that attitudes towards women making graffiti and street art has been slowly changing over the years, it’s chilling to hear so many tales of actual violence they’ve encountered while simply trying to express themselves.
Henry’s documentary tries to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, traveling from New York to Mexico to Brazil. She briefly touches on the culture that was built around hip-hop style and fashion; a movement where artists share their own lingo and speech patterns. The film also exposes corporations that have learned the evolving role of street artists as social influencers, who in turn expect these women to create art for them for free. It’s a common, valid complaint from many artists, and they are standing up and refusing to be exploited.
The most interesting part of the documentary is about these women using their art to make political statements. Since their work is displayed on a public platform where as many people as possible can see it, their pro-feminism and anti-government messages reach a wide audience. Making art with meaning and social commentary is a way to disrupt society, which has become a problem to those in charge in Sao Paolo, Brazil. According to one outspoken artist, her open air murals are often erased by the sexist, homophobic, and oppressive government, and her art is intended to provoke them all.
In this way, graffiti and street art has come a long way from its origins, when young men and women armed with spray cans would sneak around, scaling walls, painting subway tunnels and jumping fences while trespassing at train yards just to create their art.
“Street Heroines” is a story of the women who are turning urban cities into a colorful gallery of art by and for the people. It’s a tale of fearless female empowerment, celebrating the rebellious feminist spirit in a worldwide creative movement.