The 42nd Street Project mural is not meant to represent all Latina and Black women, because we are very diverse. It is a compilation of memories and experiences I have had through my mural paintings in New York, Puerto Rico and Hartford, Connecticut (in my Real Art Ways public art project). This mural speaks to those who feel identified with it. I sincerely apologize to those who are offended. However, I have been working with this female imagery for about 10 years.
This is the first time it has caused debate. The reactions, the controversy and the dialogues that the mural has sparked have been motivating. It has made us all reflect, discuss, and has opened a space where everyone can come to his or her own conclusions. As an art piece it has accomplished its purpose: establish a dialogue between its spectators.
Times Square Alliance did not commission it for Women’s History Month. Although we had expected to put it up by mid-February, our schedule was delayed so we installed the mural in March.
As a Caribbean woman I feel these images have opened a discussion about how people identify with and visualize the women that dress like this in our communities. The protestors have called these characters degrading names such as: “cheap hoes”, “prostitutes”, “going back to the past”, “section 8”… etc. Respect should not be linked to a dress code. Who has made us believe that this way of dressing is cheap? Or negative? Why do women like this, which exist in our society, offend people? Can’t these women in our society be smart, hard-working individuals? Who has imposed the “correct” image through the years? Isn’t there room in art for them too?
These manifestations have demonstrated that some people want to deny the existence, the beauty (yes, the beauty) and the self-worth of these women who carry tattoos, nose or belly rings, big “bling bling” jewelry, and stretchy clothing. These are working women just like the rest of us. They’re not working in Wall Street? They’re not carrying briefcases? Well, that does not make them less professional; although, they might not fit in with Corporate America.
I have lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant for 4 years. I see women with different styles: dressed for church, walking to work (with briefcases!), single mothers with strollers, nail and hair salon owners, college students, schoolgirls, and many others. It is a very diverse community, of course. Vive la différence!
In all societies the dominant culture wants to dictate the image of success. I am interested in representing women that choose not to play into these ideals, and are judged unfairly because of this. My mural speaks up for those woman who exist and are proud of their long nails, stretch clothing, tattoos, piercings, and, like one commentator said: “Don’t you dare call her a hoe! Cuz’ she will slap ya’ face right up…. Aight?”
At the moment I am working on my next solo show which will take place on June 17 at Magnan Metz Gallery, in New York. This exhibition will have a deeper insight of my most recent artwork: works on paper, canvas, video, and a life-size installation.
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Sofia Maldonado describes the new mural.
“The mural illustrates strong New York City women as a tribute to the Caribbean experience in America. Inspired by my heritage, it illustrates a female aesthetic that is not usually represented in media or fashion advertising in Times Square. It recognizes the beauty of underground cultures such as reggaeton, hip-hop and dancehall and incorporates trends such as nail art and Latina fashion. Green organic forms represent the imaginary land that third generation immigrants create in their minds about their countries of origin. I represent the characters and happenings that tourists usually do not see in Times Square, even though it could be a frequent scene in the other boroughs of New York City. These women are strong single mothers or wives who enjoy life and have overcome tough experiences living in and immigrating from a third world country.”
Sofia Maldonado was born in Puerto Rico in 1984 and moved to New York City in 2006 to attend the Master of Fine Arts program at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Her artwork draws on her Cuban and Puerto Rican heritage and her personal interests with fashion trends, the Latina female aesthetic, and various street culture elements such as skateboarding, graffiti, and music
Maldonado has created many murals on abandoned buildings and skateboard parks. Last year in the northeast USA she created a large mural for Real Art Ways in the Frog Hollow community Hartford, CT, and exhibited paintings at Painted Bride Art Center (Philadelphia) and Taller Puertorriqueño (Philadelphia). Outside of New York, she exhibited at Graffiti Gone Global during Art Basel (Miami), Girl by Girls at Spacejunk Gallery (France), Hybridity at the SOMArts Cultural Center (San Francisco), 10th Havana Biennale (Cuba), Graphopoli Urban Art Biennale (Puerto Rico).
The Public Art Program of the Times Square Alliance has established the “Times Square Arts” blog to provide a public method to comment on the artworks and art events in the Times Square distict. We look forward to your thoughts.
Manager of Public Art and Design
Times Square Alliance