Photos by Asia Morris.
Editor's note: This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Described as “one of the few very active female artists in the French/graffiti art scene,” by POW! WOW! Long Beach, Maeva Martinez, or KASHINK, as she’s better known, is painting a very important mural at The Center on 4th Street. It’s not quite finished, but this piece of street art is arguably one of the most Long Beach-relevant works going up during the week-long street art festival.
It represents the LGBT community, its struggles as of now and sends a positive message of looking toward a brighter future. A future that encompasses, at the least, a lot more dancing and a lot less tragedy. The Long Beach Post was able catch the prolific Paris native at The Social List during the POW! WOW! Long Beach family dinner, where we stepped outside to chat about the mural, her life as an artist and why she wears a mustache.
So do you know what you’re going to paint?
I usually improvise. I don’t know how it’s going to look exactly, yet, but I have an idea. Is that I’m painting on the LGBT center and I want to paint a characters dancing in reaction to what happened in Orlando and also because we had two major attacks in Paris also last year, so I wanted to react to that and paint people dancing and spread a message like let’s all keep on dancing.
I like the spontaneity of it. I like finding myself in front of a wall and getting inspiration from what’s going on around me, how I feel, the situation gives me inspiration.
What is your connection to the LGBT community?
I did a big project in 2012 and throughout 2013 called 50 Cakes of Gay and it was back then in support of gay marriage and equal rights. My work is pretty much activist. I don’t always do gay-related stuff, but it was also one of the subjects that was important for me because there was a huge protest against gay marriage in France back then, and I wanted to react to that because I found it very shocking that all of a sudden all these people were willing to put that much energy against some other people’s rights, because in France we protest a lot, but usually protest for our rights, not against other people’s rights. So I found it really shocking.
And as a street artist I think we have a chance to spread our messages and sharing our ideas so I think it’s worth having something to say when you want to paint outside. And also the attacks that happened in Paris, especially the one where it was a similar attack to the club in Orlando, because they did kind of the same thing in a club in Paris, and it was in my neighborhood, so I really felt again, really touched by what happened in Orlando. I could really relate to what happened there.
Image courtesy of KASHINK. The artist has clearly explored Long Beach a little more since Monday.
Is this your first time visiting Long Beach?
I’ve been to LA before, I’ve painted some walls in LA before, but I didn’t really know about Long Beach. It’s great. It’s like, so far what I’ve seen is pretty cool. People are relaxed, they’re laid back. The beach is not far. And especially here in the neighborhood where I’m painting, it’s a pretty cool neighborhood.
When did you start painting walls and why?
A little bit more than 10 years ago. Because I think at some point I was drawing and doodling at home, but spray paint was very attractive. I thought that the idea of painting on any surface and pretty fast was interesting, so I wanted to try it. And once I tried it I was like, ‘Alright, that's my thing. That’s what I want to do.’ So I had some friends who were graffiti artists and they encouraged me and basically I started painting more and more and bigger and bigger, adding more and more colors. All the money I had I would spend it on traveling, so I got to meet other artists from around the world, here and the US and other European countries. It’s great because little by little you get to know other people you can share your passion with. It’s like a network, in the end.
Do you feel like a minority as a female street artist?
I feel like artists are a minority, anyway. Also I think there was always less women in arts, anyway. I always take this example, it’s so easy to name five male painters who marked art history, but name like three women painters, it would be harder. But I think it’s changing now. There’s more and more street artists, to start with, so there are more and more women artists, as well. And I think it’s pretty great because it gives a new energy to the scene, as well. Graffiti, back then, when street art was not that big and graffiti was really the most important scene in, also in Europe, there were fewer women I think. So now street art, muralism, is more figurative. So I don’t know, I couldn’t tell why there’s less women street artists, it’s very weird, but there’s less women in many other fields, and street art is just one of those. I could talk about that forever, but I know you’re not going to write it.
Can you talk about your mustache and what it means?
I’ve been wearing this mustache every single day for the past three years now; I draw it on. At first I was wearing it only for openings and performances in public because I thought it was like a persona, but I felt like I wanted to keep at some point and I challenged myself to keep it more and more, so first I would just wear it for the openings and then keep it for the way back home, then I would keep it all day, then I would keep it for a couple of days, then I would decide to go to the food market on Sunday morning and see what happens, then I would go to wherever, stores and different parts of the neighborhood, see what happens.
In the end it was all good, because I’ve always been eccentric and I think in the end, for me it’s like a joke on the aesthetic cults and feminine makeup. Two symmetrical lines are okay here, (points to eyebrows) or here, but if you put the same lines somewhere else on the face, especially here above the lips, it becomes the opposite of feminine makeup. Whereas femininity is pretty much defined by… I mean makeup is one of the definitions of femininity.
I find it interesting to question the habits that we have. Like no one thinks about questioning anything, like no one thinks about questioning putting plastic bags in your boobs in order to make them bigger, it’s all good, but putting these two lines on my face is really going against the rules for real. Because I’m challenging femininity and also the idea of women having to look good. I think we have a lot of pressure about that, that we’re not supposed to look… We’re supposed to look pretty, and attractive, and I think the mustache is pretty much the opposite of that and I think it’s interesting.
And also, last thing is that, there are other cultures where beauty is defined by many other body modifications or tattoos or whatever kinds of stuff, so I figured why not come up with my own little tradition?
The Center Long Beach is located at 2017 East 4th Street.