In almost every city you go, you will be surrounded by street art. Often, it is eye-catching. Often, it is thought-provoking. But when you come across something that is both beautiful and critical, it is hard not to stop and stare at the piece on the street to analyze the message that the artist is trying to convey.
Truly powerful artists are those capable of successfully turning an everyday bystander into an active viewer as they are intrigued with a piece’s beauty, but also confronting them with the social and political undertones which they carry. In particular, the works of Miss Me, Gilf! and Starchild Stela are powerful, thought-provoking and not to mention, visually striking. These individuals are able to voice their unique societal frustrations through each of their mediums to create something that is able to inspire the common passerby.
Miss Me, based in Montreal, pastes large scale drawings of her own naked body up into the streets which she describes as "artful vandalism". The act of using her own body as subject matter for street art can be seen as a powerful attempt to counteract centuries of female objectification through art. Throughout history, women’s bodies have been the subject of a myriad of famous paintings, yet rarely do these female subjects have the power Miss Me conveys, and rarely are they portraits of the artist themselves. Miss Me embraces and celebrates the very female sexuality fraught upon in history as she portrays her body in the act of revealing itself to the public eye. In addition, the image stares back to its viewers with an active gaze stopping them in their tracks and forcing them to examine the power of the female body.
New York City street artist, Gilf!, produces socially conscious street art as she speaks on present-day issues such as gentrification and climate change in the attempt to critically provoke her viewers. Some of her most influential work has been large scale building intervention such as the larger than life “GENTRIFICATION IN PROGRESS” police tape she wrapped around 5 pointz, a mural space in Queens, to protest its destruction.
Check out more of Gilf!'s work on Instagram
“I started to install [the tape] outside buildings owned by slumlords, and corporate businesses that were taking over spaces that once housed small businesses. It’s really effective in barring people from moving through certain spaces, just as gentrification actually does the same thing to entire communities when expensive homes and services move in and take over,” says the artist.
Some of her other work, consisting of intricate patterns with messages embedded within, attracts the onlooker with geometric beauty incidentally forcing them to decipher the message within.