1. WHAT DO YOU WRITE? (YOUR ALIAS) …AND WHY?
I write Ruby or RUBIA. RUBIA is like “blondie” in Spanish. I grew up in Washington Heights, NYC with everyone calling me that. When I became a teenager, I watched it change into a cat call often used against me on the streets. So writing it now is like a reclamation.
2. WHAT CREWS DO YOU REP (IF ANY)?
I rep an art collective of women called Queen Vandals Collective. We are a group of women and non-binary folks across the world who support each other in graff and sticker art. We are not a crew with traditional top-down leadership- our power is shared and we operate on consensus. I also rep TPT.
3. HOW LONG YOU’VE BEEN WRITING/TAGGING/PAINTING/DOING ART?
I started writing 5 years ago but found art about 8 years ago when I was in pieces in a drug rehab. I started making collages as a way of mirroring the process of putting many separate pieces together to make a new whole.
This is what I was going thru internally and found the art form of collage to be so therapeutically in line with that internal process. Anyway I included a lot of graff in my collages and thru that, I met and was exposed to the graff community. After years of using other people’s graff in my work, I was like “I wanna do my own shit” and that’s when I really transformed as an artist.
4. WHERE DID YOU GROW UP, AND HOW DID GRAFFITI BECOME A PART OF YOUR LIFE?
I came to NYC in 1986 when I was 7. I had come from England and before that Cali and before that Nebraska. But I grew up from 7 onwards on the upper west side of Manhattan and Washington Heights 181st street.
I remember being captivated by the insides of the trains when I arrived in NYC as a little girl. All the names and styles- I was amazed. I even did a documentary on graff for my senior project in High School. But I never considered myself an artist. I was never encouraged or led in that direction. I knew I was creative but I had no consciousness of myself as an artist. And I wouldn’t for nearly 20 more years.
5. WHO/WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION?
My biggest inspiration in art is Probably Frida. I know that’s maybe cliche but she’s so timeless and represents the true meaning of what “FEMME” is to me: intersectional, defiant, loving, and full of beauty.
6. HOW HAS BEING IN GRAFFITI CULTURE CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Graff has changed me a lot. I’m outspoken about my mental illness and I can’t stress enough how effective graff and art have been in helping me cope with clinical depression and anxiety. There’s nothing more healing than being that intimate with the corners of your city in the dark.
It’s liberation from a struggling mind, even for just a few hours. Plus I started out so terrible with the can. I was total trash. But I put myself out there anyway and the willingness to be vulnerable and learn something new and keep trying till I get a little bit better and a little bit better- all that was completely transformational for my confidence.
That is the type of shit no one can take from you. All that being said, it’s hard to be a woman in this shit. And I have seen and experienced a lot of misogyny from both men and women that is not fucking okay. This has affected me a lot too. Mostly, proving to me that there needs to be more space for women. Space for us to grow and make mistakes and be ourselves.
7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEDIUM TO PAINT ON? THE STREETS, IN THE STUDIO, ETC.
I make all kinds of things, collages, miniature boxes, canvases, and a lot of resin work. And like I said, there is nothing more freeing than being with a can and a wall in the dead of the night. I guess my favorite medium is the next one. I love to explore and use my hands and challenge my mind and body. I respect all mediums and I’m interested in their combination.
8. WHERE WOULD YOU BE IN LIFE RIGHT NOW IF YOU NEVER PICKED UP A PAINTBRUSH/MARKER/SPRAY CAN?
I would be gone without art. I found it when I was on my knees- it literally called to me as a lifeline. And I’m so grateful to my ears for listening.
9. ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SAY?
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about my stuff. We all have a story to our work and a greater wholeness of who we are to share. Shout out to every femme doing this, you’re seen and you’re appreciated. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love.
In honor of everything that’s currently happening regarding Women’s Rights, we felt it was only right to highlight one of the strongest-minded artists and fighters of equality for all that we’ve come across in a long time. Ruby is influential and uses the power of graff to spread the message of the unheard. Through her art, Ruby disrupts the confines of what is the norm… aka, the definition of graffiti. Kudos to that!