Lady Pink is a pioneering street artist who ran in the all male club of the first outer borough street taggers in the late 1970s in NYC. She was in the definitive movie of the period, 1983’s Wild Style, which showcased this emerging art form and the hip hop music scene. Her mural in Wynwood celebrates nature and the female form, themes she has become known for.
Born in Ecuador but raised in Queens, Lady Pink was born Sandra Fabara. She held her own as the sole woman in graffiti among all the boys making high profile street noise. While attending the High School of Art and Design, she knew art was her future though she thought she would be an architect like her family members were.
“The 70s and 80s were a whirlwind for me,” Lady Pink says Facetiming from her house in upstate New York. “I was one of the first women to do big work in that scene. We were into tagging trains in the train yards late at night, we did it to be hip, to be cool, to be royalty in our school crowd. Those trains pulled out and went all over with my name on them, it was a way to get famous but there was no plan beyond that. I never got arrested or in big trouble because I always had my crew with me to watch out for each other. Other kids were victims of raids, or maybe fell and broke an arm but I never did. I think the cops were also more gullible back then and if they asked me I played it cool and they didn’t think girls were out tagging trains anyway. I guess I was a budding feminist without knowing what that fully meant. Really we were just hanging out and having fun! I left school and tried to do some day jobs but it just wasn’t me so I had to work even harder at my art to succeed.”
Legend has it that after her boyfriend was sent back to Puerto Rico when he was arrested, she started tagging her boyfriends name all across New York City trains as a way to heal her heartbreak and keep their doomed love alive.
Pink forged lifelong bonds and was tagging and hanging with graffiti greats such as Daze, Crash, Lee Quiñones, Futura, and others, who made her welcome into the male-dominated scene. She began exhibiting with her peers at the iconic Fashion Moda in the Bronx and other art spaces in New York.
“It was incredible how fast things happened,” she says. “I was selling work in galleries by age 16, then was in the Whitney Museum Biennial by age 21.”
Her role as the First Lady of Graffiti was cemented by her starring role in the epochal hip-hop film Wild Style in 1983. In 1984 she landed her first solo show at Moore College of Art & Design and has continued making her art with a slew of high-profile US and international exhibits.
She was picked to create her mural in Wynwood Walls by uber curator Jeffrey Deitch, who had been following and working with the street art gang from the beginning.
“I became part of the circle of the Wild Style graffiti writers in New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s,” Deitch said in an interview for Art in America when he curated a huge graffiti show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “There were clubs like the Mudd Club, galleries like the Fun Gallery and Fashion Moda, and events like the “Times Square Show. What I’m emphasizing here is the people who may have started in this culture but quickly developed it into a broader artistic vision. There are 100-plus artists who worked in or have continued to work in Wild Style. We picked the real innovators that have sustained that innovation-particularly Lee [Quinones], CRASH, Lady Pink, FUTURA and Fab 5 Freddy who have taken it out into a wider culture-and invited them to do special sections or paintings. Wild Style is arguably the most influential art style since the great innovations of the ’60s—since Pop, Minimalism and conceptualism. It is this international vocabulary invented in the mid-to-late ’70s in New York City. The artists kept on working and the influence kept spreading. Wherever you go—if you take a train in Spain—you see Wild Style graffiti on the sidings. You see it on highway overpasses in Italy; you see it on the sides of buildings in Moscow. It’s amazing.”
Her mural shows a reclining woman who may or may not be an actual building, as she is entwined with the urban setting she has become part of. The natural world still snakes around and through her, a drain pipe is her mouth, windows are her eyes. A doorway resides in her belly. Women are provocative street warriors in the concrete jungle or mythical goddesses in surreal environments.
“The shape of the wall, which was long and low, determined the image,” she says. “I’ve painted versions of the reclining woman before. I paint a woman different than a male muralist might do, I think mine are softer and I use plant life and nature. I had a song in my head when I painted that woman – “She’s a Brick House” by Earth Wind and Fire. I l love that image. You have to draw what you love. I think that mural took me about 3 days.”
Other themes she paints use fantasy, spiritualism, her South American heritage, and indigenous iconography. For years now she has been teaching art and works with teens by holding mural workshops and actively lecturing to college students throughout the world.
She is also being featured in two dynamic docs about women and graffiti, the recently released Girl Power and the upcoming Street Heroines. Speaking on the strength and power women graffiti artists possess, she states, “It’s not just a boys club. We have a sisterhood thing going. I also want my work now to be sensitive to a community, to be art for families, for everybody.”
Watch: STREET HEROINES trailer, a Film by Alexandra Henry from Alexandra Henry.
Curator Carlos Mare says “What draws me to her work are the parallel threads that run through the arc of her career which are both graffiti and feminism. She manages to pull from both of these paradoxical ideas to tell her story as a woman in a man’s world.”
Lady Pink’s canvases have entered important art collections such as those of the Whitney Museum, the MET in New York City, the Brooklyn Museum and the Groningen Museum of Holland. She has established herself in the fine arts world, and her paintings are highly prized by collectors.
Like the song says, she’s a brick house.
Lady Pink Mural at Wynwood Walls, Miami, celebrates nature and the female form. Pink forged lifelong bond has been tagging and hanging with graffiti greats.