Artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, whose work has garnered international attention, returned to Philadelphia, the city that fueled her artistic sensibility and feminism, and ultimately changed the course of her career.
Born and raised in Oklahoma, Fazlalizadeh, 31, came to Philly to attend the University of the Arts, where she spoke to a group of students and artists on Wednesday. Her workshop occurred during Sexual Assault Awareness month and in the middle of Anti-Street Harassment week.
It was in Philly, as she was working on a mural, that she experienced street harassment on the daily. The constant cat calls inspired the Stop Telling Women to Smile project, an art series she began in 2012. She speaks with women who have experienced street harassment and creates a portrait of them, captioning each image with messages directed to offenders, like "Women are not seeking your validation" or "My name is not baby, shorty, sexy, sweetie, honey, pretty, boo, sweetheart, ma."
She then installs the work on walls, corners and streets for neighborhoods to see.
"Harassing women does not prove your masculinity," said Fazlalizadeh in an interview. "I think it's perpetuated because men are trying to prove something about what they think masculinity is. Challenging sexual harassment also challenges what we think women or men are supposed to be."
Stop Telling Women to Smile began to get national and then international recognition. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, TIME, Huffington Post and The Guardian. She's traveled to Paris and Mexico interviewing women, drawing and installing their portraits.
"The work has been installed on the walls in cities I've never been to," she said. "It's been very fulfilling to take something so personal and have it reach people."
On Friday, Fazlalizadeh takes it a step further, and invites people to take part in International Wheat Pasting Night. Participants are asked to download the Stop Telling Women to Smile portraits from her website (stoptellingwomentosmile.com) to display or install in their own neighborhoods. The goal is to spread the message across the globe.
But Stop Telling Women to Smile isn't the most recent piece of Fazlalizadeh's to cause a stir. When Donald Trump was elected in November, she made her feelings public. She created the "America is Black" piece. A compilation of illustrations she made prior to, including one of her mother. The piece reads: "America is black. It is Native. It wears a hijab. It is a Spanish speaking tongue. It is migrant. It is a woman. It is here. Has been here. And it's not going anywhere."
She made the first installation in her hometown of Oklahoma City as a message to Trump and his supporters. She plans to expand and install the piece in different cities.