Art Nerd No. 4 – Lady Pink and Me

from Jenny Holzer’s Truisms, 1977-79, T-shirt worn by Lady Pink, NY, 1983

Lady Pink aka Sandra Fabares is an artist who emerged from the burgeoning graffiti subculture of the late 70s and early 80s.  As far as I know, I share one thing in common with Lady Pink.  Her heritage.  She was born in Ambato, Ecuador like my grandmother.

Confident, self-assured, and determined to write graffiti with the boys, Lady Pink was (and still is) the epitome of coolness.  While still in high school, she exhibited paintings in art galleries.  She also appeared in the first feature film about hip hop, Wild Style, released in 1983, as Lee Quiñones mercurial love interest.

In 1982, while Lady Pink was hanging out with Jean Michel Basquiat, Lee Quiñones, Keith Haring, DONDI, FAB 5 FREDDY and REVOLT, I was a scrawny sixth-grader in catholic school. Fiction for me had all to do with the fables I learned in school or imagined on my own.  In order to survive, I created this alter ego who ran around the lower east side smoking cigarettes, kissing b-boys, and shoplifting at Unique, a trendy shop in rundown Soho.  My tall tales earned me a place in a hip hop dance crew at school.  I wasn’t very good, but I had enough rhythm in me to fake a fancy freestyle move or two. We only gave one performance at a school charity event before breaking up.

In truth, my only connection to the downtown NYC scene were my family’s late summer, back-to-school shopping jaunts in Soho and the Lower East Side. My mother would drag us to about twenty stores in one afternoon.  These stores were mostly owned by Orthodox Jewish families and had little room for display racks or cases. Instead, merchandise was hung on clothes lines.  The merchandise included flower-printed boxy panties for women of all ages, knee-high socks for the family, men’s tighty whiteys, and ladies’ nude-colored, polyester bras. Each item was tagged with a numbered index cards, so all you had to do was point to the panty you liked and the shopkeeper would run to the stock room and come back out with a corresponding box.  For $15 my mother bought me enough panties and navy, knee-high wool socks to last me the entire school year.

Little did I know that at the height of the Reagan years, AIDS would decimate the scene I longed to belong to, Drew Barrymore would go from bad girl to a Nancy Reagan soldier for the war against drugs, and I would become a member of FBLA, the Future Business Leaders of America in high school. The 80s were strange for sure.

As for Lady Pink, she survived the 80s like a true warrior.  She’s still very active as an artist and has been collected by the Brooklyn Museum, the Met and the Whitney.  You can see a number of her work online here.