The exhibition SHE SLAPS: Street Art Stickers by Women Artists from Around the World closes at St. Lawrence University this week. Here is the co-curator’s statement I wrote about the project:
SHE SLAPS features 536 street art stickers by 85 contemporary women artists from 20 countries around the world. Drawn from the private collection of Oliver Baudach, founder and director of Hatch Kingdom Sticker Museum in Berlin, Germany, the exhibition includes stickers individually drawn, painted, and/or printed by the artists, as well as silkscreen, offset, and digital designs that were printed in larger runs through commercial services. In the spring of 2019, Baudach also sent out a worldwide call-for-entries for new stickers to add to the SHE SLAPS exhibition and to St. Lawrence University’s Street Art Graphics digital archive.
The exhibition includes portraits of women and men, fanciful “character design” creatures, and various images and text that function as artists’ “tags.” Female personas represented in the exhibition range from dolls, punks, and riot grrls to femmes fatales and leading ladies. A handful of artists address political subjects, with one artist using photos of her cat Illchmann as a spoof on Grumpy Cat in order to comment on sexism, racism, and gun violence. The exhibition organizers also noted that the stickers in the show, with few exceptions, exclude images of violence, skulls, or military-related themes often found in stickers by some male artists.
Several artists contributed works that are part of an ongoing global campaign called Streetart Against Hate: To Live and Let Live, in which artists can download circular templates with text in different languages and design their own stickers (click on link to view photos from the #nohatefamily sticker campaign).
When asked, many artists in the exhibition indicated that identifying as a female affected their work, while others felt that gender and sexuality did not play a role. All of the artists indicated a strong sense of solidarity among street artists in general, however, whether male or female.
A grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the U.S. Council of Independent Colleges provided funding support to St. Lawrence University to catalogue stickers by women artists for the Street Art Graphics digital archive.
As of today, there are 433 newly catalogued stickers in the digital archive, with a few hundred more in the works from a previous scanning job at Hatch Kingdom in 2017. Special thanks to SLU’s arts metadata technician, Arline Wolfe, and Tyler Senecharles ’20.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery also hosted an informal discussion and sticker making workshop with the Boston-based, self-taught artist ANKANA. Over 35 students and a handful of older community members attended, drawing on USPS Label 228s and Hello-My-Name-Is stickers with colored pencils and markers.
With the female-based SHE SLAPS show, it wasn’t surprising to see so many women show up for the workshop (I counted three men in the crowd), and women’s themes certainly emerged in many of the stickers everyone made.
ANKANA, a.k.a the Harami Artist (she/her), is originally from Assam, India. Her earliest exposure to art came from seeing her grandmother’s creations and watching her father paint. Although creativity ran in the family, she was never encouraged to pursue art as a profession. Being surrounded by nature in her childhood heavily influenced her, and that influence permeates her work today. She experiments with ink, acrylic paint, watercolor, fiber, collage, and digital photography, creating surreal imagery with elements of fantasy, grounded in reality as she experiences it. Using detailed patterns and bright colors, her work centers on and celebrates nature and wom*n/femme in a positive way.
ANKANA started her sticker journey in 2017. In 2018, she participated in and helped organize the Priority Made Sticker show in Boston, Massachusetts. You can see her work on IG @beankana.