The Artist Who Wants Men to Stop Telling Her to Smile

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When the painter and illustrator Tatyana Fazlalizadeh moved to Brooklyn from Philadelphia three years ago, she used homemade wheat paste to post portraits of women on the street and document their responses to street harassers. Her aim was to turn her personal experiences into public art and give voice to the bodies that are sexualized on the street every day. “To see something you made inside your apartment at 3 a.m. in large scale," she tells the Cut, "it’s exhilarating.” 

Her posters grew into a full-fledged project, Stop Telling Women to Smile, complete with a $30,000 Kickstarter fund to continue to grow the campaign internationally. Earlier this year, she traveled to Mexico City to speak to women there about their experiences. "I've been in conversations with women who really didn't see the big deal when it came to catcalling, or thought that the whole anti-street harassment movement was going a bit overboard," says Fazlalizadeh. "To me [that's] saying that my experience is not valid and that I'm making a bigger deal of it than I should be."

Photo: Courtesy of Tatyana

One of her favorite portraits is of a woman named Dean from Atlanta, seen above. “I think a lot of people have an idea of what street harassment is," the artist says, "who perpetrates it and who receives it, and it’s assumed that it’s always a feminine-[looking] woman or a white woman — so to have a masculine woman say ‘I get harassed, too’  broke open a different layer.”

Fazlalizadeh has several other major projects planned for the year, including a T-shirt collaboration with the photographer Texas Isaiah Valenzuela called Kinship. It will highlight the names of black cisgender and transgender women whose lives were taken by sexual violence, with profits going directly to the Trans Women of Color Collective. She is also working on a zine that will be out later this summer, focusing on a more violent epidemic of street harassment — women who have been murdered because they rejected a man on the street. “This project is not just propaganda, and it's not just a PSA," she says. "So when I think about social-justice issues, and how we shift our culture to a place where this isn’t normalized behavior, I’m thinking about how I can do it in an artistic form.”

Photo: Courtesy of Tatyana

Fazlalizadeh answered our Taste Test to gauge some of her art and culture preferences.

bell hooks or Maya Angelou?
That's a hard one. It's weird, because I love Maya, but I also love bell hooks — but for very different reasons. I'll say both!

Oil paint or acrylic?
Oil paint. 

Alice Walker or Toni Morrison?
Toni Morrison. She's just this brilliant amazing being.

Wine or beer?
I like beer, but I drink wine more often.

Do you prefer to work in color, or black-and-white?
I think I'm going to say both again. I love to work with color, but there's something really beautiful  about a kind of stark black-and-white.

Frida Kahlo or Kara Walker?
Kara Walker has always been, ever since I discovered her work, a huge favorite of mine. The first time I saw her work in person I felt every emotion ever. I think I enjoy Frida as more than just an artist. I went to her house in Mexico this past summer and it was like a religious experience. I could really feel her there, it was beautiful. 

Gloria Steinem or Angela Davis?
Angela Davis for sure.