A blinking neon light hanging on a dingy building near South of the Border in South Carolina flashing the words “Girls, Girls, Girls!,” would conjure up some negative images for most women, but ended up being inspiration for Emily Herr’s latest project.
“It was so weird to see that, so sad, out in the middle of nowhere at South of the Border,” the RVA muralist said. “But if you don’t really have anything to do with that world, or if you don’t really think about it, and take it out of context, it’s so happy…and I just loved that.”
Since June, Herr, of Herr Suite, has been painting Richmond women all around the city in small scale murals on houses, businesses, and public spaces, in an effort to change media depictions of women as one-dimensional objects and one beauty standard.
Photo by @girlsgirlsgirlstour
Tomorrow, Herr, along with Sarah Apple of Lucky Signs RVA, will roll out in their multi-colored mobile art studio truck to embark on their “Girls! Girls! Girls!” tour to paint murals of as many real, everyday women as they can up the East Coast all the way to Burlington, Vermont.
“We have a partner who is going to let us paint the back of his thrift stop and the building next door and do the same sort of thing as the Sheppard and Broad Street one; take a bunch of images of local women and interweave it with the whole Girls! Girls! Girls! thing,” Herr said. “The goal is on the way up, we’ll be propositioning people on the way up to try to as much as we can.”
Herr, a 2013 VCUarts graduate, has been painting murals for over nine years and done work for local businesses such as Sugar & Twine, Welcoming Walls, Gather on Broad, and Halcyon Vintage.
In January, she began the mission of her “Girls Girls Girls” motif with a mural of neon-colored women of all races, ages and shapes on Sheppard and Broad streets with the words “Girls Girls Girls” painted boldly across the wall. The artist’s goal is to steer away from the stereotypical depiction of a woman in a magazine, ad, or even fine art in some cases.
“There’s images of women everywhere all though advertising, that’s talked about a fair amount, ‘advertising fucks up body image’, but also art,” she said. “Fine art is very ‘oh the beauty of the female form’ and that’s an excuse for a piece of art and you don’t see that with male bodies. “
“You also don’t see that with all these other kinds of bodies, it’s not ‘oh the beauty of the female form’ if she’s 50 pounds overweight…so that’s bullshit and the art world definitely hides behind that.”
For her Sheppard and Broad mural, Herr put a call out on Facebook for pictures of everyday women that people love and want to see reflected just the way they are.
“That’s my goal is to show real actual women and everything that entails, you’re not perfectly groomed, you’re not necessarily happy, not necessarily sexy, and then also, better representation of people of different body types, different races and skin colors and also, ages and disabilities is what I would love to move this towards,” she said.
Coming from an illustration background, Herr said it was important for her, as well as other female artists, to reflect diversity in their work.
“There’s a huge push from female illustrators to make better representation of everybody in their work, like, be more conscious about who you’re drawing and when, and don’t just use your default body types and lifestyles,” she said.
With this tour, Herr has put out another call for pictures of women pushing for more diversity.
“I want you to be honest, I want you to send me a picture of somebody you know and you think is a cool person,” Herr said.
Ahead of her tour, she’s painted murals at Studio Two Three, Bon Air non-profit Girls for a Change, Campire & Co., and Endeavor Studios’ “Wet Walls” show.
Photo by @girlsgirlsgirlstour
She’s hoping to make stops specifically in D.C., New York, and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and make “Girls! Girls! Girls! More of a long-term project.
“I’m hoping for this to be ongoing…like I guess I imagine the tour being perpetual,” she said. “I would hope to paint murals that make people appreciate the actual humans around them a little bit more, see them in a new way, that’s what I’m working towards.”