The street artist takes a stand against the hypersexualization of women in modern society
As you walk into the exhibition room on the Phi Centre’s second floor, you find yourself being stared at by prints of women wearing nothing but their T-shirts, which they have lifted up for the occasion. Warm welcome, right? Think again. They are not here to seduce you, they are here to embrace and affirm what has been taken away from them—their feminine power and stature. The bigger-than-life wheatpaste pieces—a type of paste-up art affixed to walls using flour and water—are the work of a street artist named MissMe. You may have already come upon one of them as she originally plastered them on walls all across the city. She didn’t stop at Montreal though, as she exported her art to the streets of Dakar, London and Havana, to name a few.
I came across her work for the first time through a short video—directed by Mohammad Gorjestani for Brit+Co company and presented at this year’s South by Southwest festival—which showed the origins and purpose of her work, namely why she quit a successful job in advertising and started walking down Montreal’s streets at night to put up her art. Frustrations that arose from certain aspects of her career, along with issues such as social media censorship—some of her content was deemed inappropriate and taken down—made her take a stand against the hypersexualization of women in today’s society. And while most will agree to women taking back control of their sexuality, some argue against the necessity of nudity to move the debate forward.
Indeed as you face the so-titled Army of Vandals, all 36 of them sporting almost nothing but a black balaclava with attached ears, your focus will go to their bodies. After you’ve discovered the first aesthetic of realistic bare skin, you start pay attention to the details of the strong and proud figures’ messages. Modeled on the artist’s silhouette, they feature some of her past projects like “Horny Betty,” “Fingers with Attitude” and “Unicorn Boob” as part of her body.
MissMe’s inspiration doesn’t stop at her Army of Vandals. As a singer and avid fan of soul music, she previously drew her idols, including Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and George Gershwin, as a tribute to their artistic influence. She also touched on recent events with “The Story of a Refugee Family from the Middle East” posters put up in bus shelters, in which she depicts Mary and Jesus as refugees, drawing a parallel between the biblical figures’ journey and the current crisis.
Ultimately, MissMe would like to live off her art, and proclaims herself an artist vandal who uses streets as a platform, rather than a street artist per se. As she calls out for “self-confident women to join … the army” for an upcoming art installation on her Facebook page, you get the feeling that you will shortly be seeing much more of her.
Keep an eye out for her work on the streets and go check out her exhibition which is extended until April 2, at the Phi Centre, in partnership with Lez Spread the World.