The 7 train might not seem like the first place to find artistic inspiration, but for a high school kid from Queens, it was just the ticket, or well, metrocard. "I'd stare out the window on the way to school and see this graffiti everywhere, all over the rooftops and walls—everything was just covered with it," says Toofly, one of the most successful female graffiti artists out there, known for her stalwart female characters. "There were certain graffiti writers in the neighborhood whose styles really inspired me."
Born in Ecuador, and raised in her grandparent's humble Corona, Queens house—packed with aunts, uncles, cousins, her mother and grandparents—Toofly's stable surroundings encouraged, rather than discouraged, her new artform at a time in the '90s when there were few women on the scene. "The greatest part is that my mom supported me so much that she would literally wake up at 4 in the morning so I could start doing this on walls. She didn't want me to hang out with the guys out late at night, so she'd drive me to rooftops where I could paint. She was my lookout!" says Toofly. "Those things mean so much because I'm not your typical artist that might have bad relationship with their parents, or who are getting in trouble with the cops. "
Hardly. Even today Toofly, a graduate of the School of Visual Arts, is determined to help keep other kids out of a destructive cycle through her work with various youth organizations and workshops. "I speak to them about what I've done because they can relate," says Toofly. "I'm an example of how you can make it, even through an artform that is considered illegal. People say graffiti is bad, but I'm like, 'Look what I've done with it."'
She's done a lot. And luckily, the city this "little Queens girl" now knows like the back of her hand, continues to feed her colorful creations. "There are so many different cultures here. There's that gritty part—rough, raw New York," says Toofly, "but even that's changing. The city is so eclectic. There are so many people's ideas out there—in music, art, all kinds of things—and as a result our art form, graffiti, has that too… we communicate through our writings."
Her own message is reflected in the fearless women she brings effortlessly to life on various walls throughout Williamsburg, Queens and the city. "Because a lot of my work revolves around the female image, I feel she should look really edgy and fierce and beautiful," says Toofly of her painted counterparts. Which doesn't sound so different from the strong Queens woman who creates them. With her own design line of accessories, bags and t-shirts and more, and several hip-hop, gallery and Younity events on the horizon this fall (West Coast Graffiti Party in LA, Crossover in NYC) it's easy to imagine Toofly's vivid, powerful images inspiring a whole new generation of girls on their way to school each morning—which, for the price of a swipe, seems pretty priceless.
Read an exclusive interview with TooFly on the official ontheinside.info blog here.
A lot of the spray paint that we use comes from Europe, which are hard to find. A lot of graffiti artists from back in the day started with Krylon and all those other cans, but then, when we started painting and we had like rainbows of colors, we started using Belton and Montana—he started to carry a bunch of that paint. …more
It's basically a man-made beach. You can't get to the water, but it's all sand and they have picnic tables where you could get beers and hotdogs or hamburgers and sometime they have a live band, so you can dance or play volleyball. …more
It's almost all sneakers—people can sell their vintage sneakers there consignment-style, and they bring in very rare sneakers from Europe and Japan that you can't find in the U.S., in addition to the regular sneakers that are released every other month or year. …more
All the Ecuadorians go there and they have the best ceviche, guatita—all those typical dishes from Ecuador. …more
The mojitos are $3.50 at happy hour and they're big and cheap and good. So we always go early, get a little buzz on, and then take our party elsewhere. …more
When my friends and I are out on the Lower East Side and everybody is hungry around 4 A.M., this is the only place still open in Chinatown. …more
Everybody passes by— 'Oh my god, why is this still here?'—but you go in and there are these big pots of rice and beef and chicken. It's really authentic Dominican food, the people there are nice, and they have best rice and beans for only like $5. …more