Brooklyn Street Artist Elle on Working in a Man’s World and Getting Hit on by Weirdos

The NYC muralist injects much-needed female prowess into the street scene.

In a scene dominated by men, New York City-based Elle Deadsex — whose work has been plastered over walls from New York to L.A. — boldly stands out for her iconic posters of panic-stricken eyes and psychedelic, wolf-headed females. A mysterious masked figure herself, she also sets herself apart with her broad (no pun!) skill set, using everything from stickers to wheat-pasting to spray paint to sculpture in her pieces. We caught up with this woman of mystery to find out how she maintains her cred.

How did you come up with Elle, your moniker?

Elle Deadsex: Some women graffiti artists, like 17 and Utah, were crushing the street. But many people had no idea that they were women. I wanted my name to be obviously female. I had been living in France for a year a while before moving to New York, and in French, “elle” means “she.”

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What inspired you to get involved in street art?

ED: I saw street art for the first time in Chelsea, and it spoke to me. Stumbling upon street art felt like finding hidden treasures in the city. I loved that it was accessible to everyone — even if one didn’t know where galleries were.

A lot of your work features female figures metamorphosing into animals with strong psychedelic colours. What is your message in that?

ED: So much of the world is male-dominated. My women figures represent strong warrior women — oftentimes, with an animal spirit of sorts. I think of them as protectors. The colors developed along the way: Things tend to fade into the street easily, and I wanted it to pop off the wall. I like the juxtaposition of bright colors and fluorescence against aging paint, ripped posters and flat-colored walls.

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Speaking of, how does the location effect how you paint?

ED: I think the most interesting work on the street always plays with, or relates to, its surroundings. I’m pretty excited to be heading out to Israel in a few weeks to paint-bomb shelters and army barracks, among a number of other things — which will be a very powerful experience. But up to this point, I would say the most exhilarating thing I’ve painted are billboards. The rush of climbing up — and the fear of falling off — is pretty nuts.

How does the street-art scene feel in NYC compared to the other cities you’ve painted in?

ED: I really enjoy painting and putting up pieces outside of NY — I think it’s amazing to put up art where people don’t have a preconceived notion of graffiti. The scene here in New York is pretty tight-knit and almost a small community, which can be cool. But didn’t we all leave our small hometowns to come to New York for anonymity and new experiences?

What your craziest experience painting on the street?

ED: While wheat-pasting, I’ve gotten chased by a man jacking off. And I’ve been asked on a date by one of my arresting officers — he told me how stoked he was to be holding my hands while taking my finger prints. Oh, and one time, a man pulled up in a car while I was by myself pasting on the side of a road at 2 am and asked what size my feet were. When I asked why he said, “Because I want your feet. I want to chop off your feet.” Fortunately, I’m a fast runner!

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Article by James Buxton

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