I’m coming from a mix of graffiti, street art and now mural painting, and they are all very different worlds. I don’t feel like, personally, I am necessarily missing opportunities because I am female but the numbers say otherwise.
When you look at statistics of women being represented in museums and galleries the percentage of women artists is crazy low. Yet, I don’t know what it would be like if I was a guy, I don’t know what the opportunities would be.
When I started, I wanted to be called ELLE, because that means ‘she’ in French, so that people would know that my work was female. At the time I hadn’t seen many women graffiti writers and I wanted us to have a presence. I wanted to rep for the ladies.
Especially in the beginning, the lack of female presence was a big reason for me to go as high as possible and hit billboards and paint as hard as possible—to prove that women can do it and just as well.
One night, I was out to dinner with an art collector he said, to my face, ‘I don’t collect art from women.’ When I asked him why, he said, ‘Women get married, they have babies, and then they stop making art—it’s a bad investment.’
The thing about the art world, and art as a career, is that it’s not as well-documented and tracked as typical jobs. It’s hard to see sexism unless you look at statistics. If you’re not in an office you can’t see the sexism in a typical way. Very rarely is someone going to be as brutal and honest to my face, as that one particular collector.
Then, there are the challenges of physically being a woman. I was out, by myself, pasting up posters, and a man drove up in a car to tell me that he wanted to chop my feet off. As a woman you might be a target, where men are not.
Lastly, women are fighting against the female stereotypes, it’s traditionally frowned upon to get dirty, climb tall things and be out at night by yourself. But, for me that was even more motivation—I love breaking the rules.