She goes by the name of Lady Pink: Ecuadorian transplant, Queens resident, professional artist and former graffiti artist who cut her teeth painting New York City subway trains in the 1970s. At that time, Lady Pink - real name: Sandra Fabara - was one of the only ladies in the graffiti scene. Today she’s a renowned artist whose work can be found in galleries around world. But her real passion is community-based art: Pink leads aspiring young artists in mural projects all over the city.
Back in the day, Lady Pink ran with a graffiti group called The Crazy Five (TC5), tagging and bombing her way around the city. She starred in the iconic hip hop film, Wild Style. She even met her true love while bombing a subway car. On their first date, they were chased by the police. They got away - and eventually got married.
Lady Pink’s colorful, feminine style caught the attention of the art world in the late 70s and she graduated from the streets to the galleries. Unlike many other artists accustomed to permanent gallery space, Lady Pink accepts that her artwork will not last forever. “When we painted subway trains, perhaps we learned that lesson the hardest of all,” she says. “You paint your train, kiss it goodbye – you may never see it again.”
Today, Lady Pink and her husband run a business from their home in Queens commissioning murals for neighborhood projects and businesses. She paints with young people whenever she can. “I think it’s important to hand down my skill, my art, my craft. Mural painting isn’t taught in schools,” she says. “If just meeting an artist can inspire these young people to pursue art as a career...I think I’ve done my deed.”
Woodward Gallery (where Pink first exhibited her work)
NYC Graffiti Blog
BEHIND THE SCENES
My colleague Erin Horan came across Lady Pink. During the initial interview, Pink offered great insights into the NYC graffiti scene - its evolution, challenges and potential. We filmed a show she had with a few other female artists at Causey Gallery in Williamsburg. But we also wanted to recreate graffiti art’s history as Lady Pink described it. So we experimented with a lot of point-of-view shots to give the feeling of what it might be like to do illegal work. We also spent some time crawling around the city’s subways to capture the sounds and sights a graffiti artist might have encountered in pursuit of cars and walls to bomb. We shot at 5Ptz in Long Island City, the mothership of all graffiti projects in New York and a hot topic in the discussion about public art and private property. It seems 5Ptz will be torn down sometime in the next few months to accommodate plans for a new condominium; the property owner, who for years has allowed graffiti artists to paint there, has decided it’s time to sell. We wanted to allude to this issue with images of 5Ptz matched with Lady Pink’s discussion of preserving art in the public sphere.
When you’re doing illegal work you have to prepare a little bit differently.
When you’re going out at night, you don’t take a sketch with you. You have to have your work memorized. Otherwise you’re going to have to eat the piece of paper while you’re running.
And you have to do it under extreme pressure, with your knees shaking, your heart in your throat, and you’re scared to death. And yet you have to perform...the sun is coming up...you have to finish.
I got my start as an artist at the age of 15 by painting on the New York subway trains, which is not exactly allowed, but I had a passion for my art and nothing could stop me.
People come from all parts of the world and paint on New York City because this is the Mecca for graffiti….. When you come to New York City, it’s unpredictable. The energy is infectious.
I think that NYC is such a very quickly changing place. It is nearly impossible to try to preserve something for the sake of art.
And when we painted subway trains, perhaps we learned that lesson the hardest of all. You paint your train, , kiss it goodbye – you might never see it again. Maybe someone won’t even take a photo of it, and it will just be a memory.
[Background: “Finish those spaces up for me. Is this a good outline for the [inaudible]? I think so. I hope I don’t mess it up.”]
People still call me a graffiti artist but I haven’t done any illegal graffiti in a couple of decades.
Painting murals is how I set an example for all to learn. You know, it doesn’t take any more than just a little bit of permission from the owner of the wall, and you are good to go.
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