Street art and street culture are, by nature, underground phenomena, especially in San Antonio. Women street artists are even less visible, working in a male-dominated subculture. Yet these women thrive in San Antonio and around the world, and their stories are gaining recognition.
Graffiti artists often show in traditional gallery venues, even though the city streets showcase their work best. Their exhibitions last as long as the walls do – or until painted over.
Triz, RabbitRye, Roshi K, and SzaGold are four artists who work in San Antonio to inspire more people to embrace their own creative instincts and change social perspectives.
Beatriz Rodriguez, whose better known in the scene as “Triz” (pronounced “Trees”), maintains a style that’s an eclectic blend of hip-hop and classic B-girl. She’s a native San Antonian with cultural Cuban and Puerto Rican roots.
“I’ve been listening to and been a fan of hip-hop since I was a child. For some reason, it always resonated with me,” Rodriguez said.
Triz is not just an artist, she’s also an art educator who is shaping a world of imagination and creativity through and for her students.
The Robert E. Lee High School alumna went on to obtain her law degree in 2000 from the University of Pennsylvania. She plans to finish her doctorate in urban schooling this June.
Along with a collaboration of other artists, Triz has partnered with AV Expressions, a multimedia design collective that focuses on audio-visual elements. Her goal is to engage the public with street art while systematically creating art that is “culturally relevant, responsive and sustaining.”
After 22 years away from San Antonio – living in such street art hotbeds as Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia – Triz has returned home. Her travels, as well as her education, define her unique sense of purpose.
“The phenomenon is that across all these cities – the art is so special to the space created – it is unified, connecting and influencing each other,” Triz said.
The path to art and art education was not easy.
“I struggled to get into the field of education. My first job was that of a school secretary, and then I eventually moved into a vice principal position,” Triz recalled.
That position eventually led to her teaching students the art of “style” in grade school, and then to a position at UCLA’s School of Art and Architecture.
“I had the opportunity to develop my own class and it was pretty amazing,” she said. The final exam she gave undergraduate students was to paint a wall in Venice Beach.
Triz is also one of the founders of the Universal Style School (USS), a local educational design and consulting firm.
According to the USS mission statement, it hosts “literacy and arts programming for children, youth and families, including regular-style school classes, three yearly events and a summer-style school.”
“RabbitRye,” or Sabrina Marie, received her handle because of the speed at which she completes her murals, leading her to become a seminal figure in the Alamo City street art world. She is making a name for herself by coordinating and organizing local events and teaching art classes at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
Her distinctly feminine style is slowly redefining the way in which the world sees herself and her art. The interplay of whimsical and fantastical characteristics expertly weave with groundings in reality.
“My style is RabbitRye,” she said. “If you see something based off-color, then you know that it is me. I grew up on Lisa Frank and I like to paint females. I always feel a deep connection to females. Women are out of this world.”
Like other street artists, RabbitRye is prone to cathartic wanderlust. In 2014, she joined a summer tour hosted by Down and Dirty Productions titled, “The Come Up is Real Tour.” It featured a group of female artists, musicians, poets, and photographers.
While noting that all-women crews create a powerful dynamic, she pointed out that “women-only” events ironically exclude participation of some artists based on sex.
“It segregates us more than empowers us,” she said.
Her education in art came from attending local graffiti-based events, where she was exposed to more knowledgeable artists who began to teach her the distinctive art form. Her main inspiration, however, is music.
“When I paint, I have a song (a rhythm) that takes my mind to a soothing line,” she said.
She’s well aware of the pressures of working in a male-dominated subculture.
“I have to prove myself,” she said. Sometimes it’s not enough to be “as good” as a male artist, “you have to be better than them.”
A young and energetic force, Roshi Krautheim – who goes by “Roshi K” – is originally from Virginia, but has lived in Hawaii and on the East and West Coasts. When she arrived in Austin, she dove head first into the art scene, but focused entirely on wheat pasting and stickers.
Eventually, she picked up an aerosol can.
“One of the best advantages (of being in Austin) is the unity of the community. And being a female, because I’m seen as warm and inviting and others don’t view you as threatening,” Krautheim said.
Her training in animation came from her stint in art school.
“I pay attention to movement, and I have a huge background in anime,” Roshi K said.
While the development of characters is a definite in her artistry, she avoids stereotypes that create deleterious views of women.
“Very rarely are black women portrayed as fine art,” she said. “It is up to you to continue to make it (so) … I’m trying to empower women and young girls.”
“I’m happy with who I am, but mainstream media has made us hate ourselves. Very rarely do people look at the real person, beyond the surface,” she continued.
She finds herself facing an internal battle about how she wants to present herself and her work.
“Often, I go with my soft, feminine side because people might be afraid of the darker images,” she said.
Roshi K is planning her first solo show in June.
Sara Rios, known as “SzaGold,” does a little bit of everything. She is not an artist, per se. However, her ties to the graffiti arts communities have evolved into becoming a female videographer widely regarded for her photography and music videos.
Her initial subjects were local skateboarders.
“Skateboarding still goes largely with street culture and ties into graffiti. Graffiti in itself, it is a craft … you have to know the colors, you have to know the depth. The artists make it look so easy,” she said.
For her own expression, SzaGold, does not feel the need to create a big show or production from her work. Instead, she likes to blend into the background.
“I like being behind a camera and not in front of it. I guess I am a little shy … except when I pick up a camera,” she said.
The road to being a freelance photographer was not one that she initially anticipated.
“I never really considered myself a creative (person). I went to college for computer science. I love painting. I had a very hard time with the label of photographer,” she said.
After graduating from Churchill High School, she attended St. Mary’s University to pursue a computer science degree. And while she loves her chosen field of photography, she also realizes that it’s a heavily saturated market (with mostly men).
SzaGold believes that women are meant for more than the standard stereotypes.
“We are capable of so much. As girls, we are supposed to fit a certain mold,” she continued.
The strong paean by her grandfather to follow her bliss led to painting and photography portraying skater and graffiti culture— a culture that still enthralls her and many women in San Antonio to this day.
*Featured/top image: The artist Triz (right) and her crew member (left) stand next to a finished mural that was done during a local festival called Content Under Pressure. Courtesy Photo.