Vanessa Solari Espinoza Is a Graffiti Artist and Hip-hop DJ

Agana brings female perspective and talent to the male-dominated world of graffiti art.


Vanessa Solari Espinoza, aka Agana

Chris Duffey

The first time Vanessa Solari Espinoza saw another girl doing graffiti art, her whole world changed. In a male-dominated world of urban art, many young girls grow up thinking that they can’t become a graffiti artist, says Espinoza, who paints under the moniker Agana, a Youruban term for the mother of life.

“They didn’t even know that it [the female graffiti artist] existed; that it was even possible,” says the Laurel District painter and hip-hop DJ.

Agana, a prominent figure in the exploding Oakland arts scene, also creates personalized urban jewelry out of metal and wood and is a trained animator. Spray paint is her medium of choice. “I will dabble a little with brush, but I always go back to spray paint,” says Agana. “Once you learn how to control it [spray paint], it is amazing.”

The Venezuelan-born artist is hoping that her work painting murals and commercial graffiti pieces with the Few and Far Women, a collective of female graffiti artist from around the world, and displaying her own artwork will change the notion graffiti is a male-only medium. In 2012 the group took a graffiti road trip, painting murals in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tijuana, Mexico.

“Having the opportunity to paint with girls who I never thought I would paint with is super inspiring,” says Agana, whose mural work with the Few and Far Women has helped her collaborate and streamline her message that women can be political with their art. “It’s not about painting something that is pretty; it’s about the relevance of it.”

Urban art prompts people get a dialog going, Agana says, and can have healing power on a community. “I’ve noticed how powerful art is to heal people from violence,” she says. “I defiantly use it as therapy.”

Spray-can art has given Agana the opportunity to express herself on a public scale. Working closely with the Eastside Arts Alliance, a San Antonio District community nonprofit that promotes social change through the arts, and with the Few and Far Women, Agana saw that her art could have a positive impact by bringing colorful murals to blighted neighborhoods and opening up discussion about the definition of what art is.

“I think I have more to say besides just my name,” says Agana, whose images of women break away from the sexualized depictions of females that can often be found in graffiti art.


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