Allison Torneros prefers to go by her art moniker, Hueman. Like a lot of street artists', her nom de spray is afraid of a good pun (hue as in color) nor gender-specific - but the fact that she's a female muralist remains a point of interest, especially to her many fans.
"It's valid sociologically but not artistically," Hueman explains. "For me, the murals are about scale, visibility, independence and ambition, just like everyone else." Still, a petite and polite woman putting on her game face and killing the side of a building is especially badass.
Hueman, 28 and a resident of downtown L.A., was born in the Bay Area town of Daly City in 1985. She grew up seeing graffiti on the freeway and an explosion of street art in Oakland and, especially, San Francisco. "It was thrilling and intimidating and generally male," she says. "I came to L.A. to get my B.A. from UCLA [in 2008] and it was everywhere - and with more and more women."
Her timing coincided with an increased acceptance of the genre, culminating last August in changes to L.A.'s Mural Ordinance that voided the heavy-handed, criminalized prohibition of murals, generating opportunities of which Hueman has been happy to take advantage.
In fact, her whole last year has been pretty insane. She did an amazing freehand interior-wrap mural, Ritual, at downtown's Think Tank space in October; completed a massive exterior at Larrabee Studios at the end of March; and, moments before sitting down to talk to L.A. Weekly, wrapped a collaborative mural with RISK at Third and Main Streets downtown via LALA Arts. She had commissions from Converse, Nike (a painting inspired by Kobe Bryant's 81-point game as part of an exhibit at Staples Center) and Revolt TV (the Studio A hallway at Diddy's network). She recently rocked a crazy 24-hour on-site painting show in Oakland for Hi-Fructose Magazine (a bastion of stylish lowbrow and street art) and showed in "Universe: The Art of Existence" (a cosmos-themed show at San Francisco's Modern Eden Gallery in April, curated by the editor of Warholian).
To what does Hueman attribute this success? Her work is flat-out gorgeous, of course, but there's something more to it. Maybe it's the girl thing. She's filling a demand and inspiring new audiences
She thinks about it differently. "In the last year I have really, fully found my style," she says. She feels that art can be generous, sexy and even a bit spiritual. She courts synchronicity. She has received the acceptance of the street-art community, which is now much less of a boys' club.
Her confidence will be on full display come June with her solo show at Hollywood's Project Gallery, featuring all new work. Tentatively called "Between the Lines," the show is, according to Hueman, "about finding hidden messages; obscurity and clarity; secrets; and looking deeper."
It's a perfect title, bridging the gap between her high-power murals and the more intimate studio art she's creating for the gallery setting. Her work often begins with her trademark practice of the random, energetic throwing of paint; only later does she interpret the composition, adding or teasing out images from the stream of consciousness. This technique was invented on an easel, and it still feels right at home there. So while this particular street-artist is not the usual suspect, neither is her art.
"I remember being, like, 17 years old and posting on MySpace - yes, MySpace - 'Where can I buy spray caps?' and all these dudes being so, like, 'Oh how cute, little lady!' But these days, it's they who follow me!" Except now it's on Instagram.
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