Nina Wright paints girls, but her work is not conventionally "girly." The women that she depicts have decaying skin, dismembered limbs, hairy legs, and bad tattoos. They are caricatures, but also much more real than most of the portrayals of women that mainstream media offers. Why? "The overdone aesthetic of portraying women as magazine-shoot-ready porno angels is not only frustrating, it's dull," Wright told me over email.
The work of the Oakland-based artist commonly known as NINA or Girl Mobb is everywhere — for those who pay attention to the nooks and crannies of the East Bay. It comes in the form of pursed lips and mascaraed lashes peeking out from behind a pink ski mask, and of grotesquely disjointed body parts pieced together to form a new kind of urban celestial goddess. In one mural, two dismembered hands with protruding bones and manicured pink fingernails form the letters "GM." The sign isn't for a specific gang of girls, but rather for a certain feminine mentality — an empowered redefinition of "girliness." "Girl Mobb ain't a crew. It's an ideal. A movement. It's like a pink Doc Martin stompin' on the face of boy-kind," she wrote.
Wright will display new works in the show Gritty in Pink, which opens at LeQuiVive Gallery (1525 Webster St., Oakland) on April 12. She is installing a massive, multi-painting piece that comes together to depict a badass blond wielding a can of pink spray paint and wearing a metal bustier and a belt lined with lipstick ammo. Each contributing feature protrudes from the wall, painted on intricately hand-shaped canvases with rubber borders made by Wright's artistic coconspirator, Cuss.
This piece doesn't just stand out because it's painted in relief, or even because it's massive, bright, and grotesque; it's also alluring in its gritty aesthetic. Wright wants to point out that women can't be contained within one category; rather, they exist as a constant oscillation between perceived dichotomies. Her work celebrates the versatility of the Bay Area woman, and the radical inconsistencies of the contemporary urban female that mesh to form an in-your-face authenticity. "The extremity of conditions and lifestyles in the Bay excite me and I like to show that in a light that gives it life, rather than negativity," she wrote.
When asked if she feels that the Oakland street art scene is male-dominated, Wright pointed out that there's a large community of female street artists putting work out there. She added that if it is male-dominated now, it won't be for long.
Gritty in Pink opens April 12 and runs through May 2. LeQuiViveGallery.com or 510-499-1789.