Philly transplant Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s new exhibit, “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” aims at the gender based harassment women encounter whenever a stranger approaches them and calls them “baby.” “We are being taunted, annoyed and disrespected and this art is based on my response to that treatment,” says Fazlalizadeh. The artist not only portrays herself as a victim with the show’s tagline, but also depicts seven different women with captions like “My name is not baby,” and “Women do not owe you their time or conversations.”
Fazlalizadeh wants her work to begin discussions of street harassment and continue that conversation nationwide. “I want this to be an ongoing project and create new portraits of women to bring the conversation to different cities,” she adds. The artist, already well known for her oil paintings, wanted to touch on this topic with penciled sketches of real women in actual situations.
It is no surprise that Fresthetic (552 Grand Street), a boutique /art space dedicated to new, independent and community-oriented art, would showcase Fazlalizadeh’s work. “I jumped on the opportunity to exhibit her work because the project is really dope and it also brings attention and consciousness around the subject of male privilege and street harassment,” says Fresthetic’s art director and part owner Michael Shawn Cordero. “That type of content is always welcomed here.”
But it is the women who mostly appreciate the content of the exhibition. Kasha, who made the trek from Crown Heights, relates to the show because of the inappropriate statements she hears every time she passes a construction site. “Looking at this beautiful art makes me feel validated,” she says. Her friend Valerie agrees. “To have a message that blatantly says ‘stop it!’ That’s empowering for women,” says Valerie, who bought two t-shirts with the signature piece.
Williamsburg showed Fazlalizadeh plenty of gratitude and love based on the number of prints, t-shirts and paintings bagged and sold. “I think it’s great, says Fazlalizadeh. “As an artist creating work that means a lot to you, means a lot to people and [that] you can make a living is what this is all about.”
“I didn’t know about the artist when I came with my friends,” says Jessie, a new fan. “Just being a woman who lives here, men do tell you to smile a lot and it is paternalistic. I bought a print because the title of this exhibit resonated with me.”
“Stop Telling Women To Smile” will run until June 8th.