- Words and Photos by John Domine
Wonder Woman of Walls: Danielle Mastrion
Danielle Mastrion is a New York City-based muralist and painter. She was born and raised in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, a stone’s throw from Coney Island, where she would often spend the days of summer as a youth. In fact, it has been a long-standing dream of hers to paint in Coney Island, a dream which only recently came to fruition. Not only was she able to paint there, but she painted her largest mural to date at the iconic amusement park, Luna Park NYC.
I caught up with Danielle in Coney Island at West 30th and Surf Avenue to talk with her about her current painting project as well as some of the other ones she has in the works.
“The project I’m currently working on is an anti-gun violence wall. I was hired by the non-profit Everytown to do the mural, and they are working with kids from the Art Start program. The kids are producing a song about their experience with family members that have been victims of gun violence. It is for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which is coming up on June 2nd.” The wall puts a positive focus on the community, addressing gun violence in a proactive way.
On Sunday, the kids came out to help her finish painting the wall with figures dressed in orange to honor Hadiya Pendleton, a 15 year-old from Chicago who was shot and killed in 2013 and for the more than 90 lives lost each day to gun violence. Orange expresses the hope that our nation will be free of gun violence one day. After painting, the teens produced their music video in front of the wall, and it is set to air on June 2nd. (Check out www.everytown.org for more information.)
Aside from this piece, Mastrion has painted several other murals dealing with social justice, beginning with the Malala Yousafzai wall she did for The Bushwick Collective four years ago.
“That was the first time I ever did a more socially-conscious piece. I was like, let me do something other than the traditional celebrities, and paint someone who SHOULD BE famous. It was also my first, I guess, “Girl Power” piece, painting an important historical woman.”
“It really changed the course of the direction of the work that I do. It was the first time I realized that I have a voice and I can say something and educate with my walls.”
Continuing on this path, Mastrion worked at the Welling Court Mural Project with a similar vision. Together with friend and fellow artist, Lexi Bella, she painted with a social justice mindset.
“We realized we have the opportunity to say something, and that first year we did the wall the reports had just come out about the kidnappings in Nigeria. So we did a “Bring Back Our Girls” wall. It got so many comments and messages and coverage, so we said every year we have the opportunity to do something here, this is going to be our message wall.”
The following year, they did a “Save Yazidi Women” wall. And last year, it was a tribute to the “Gulabi Gang”, a group of empowered, pink sari-clad women.
“And I said, that’s like our Girl Gang, just with spray cans.”
This “Girl Power” theme has carried over into another project Mastrion is involved with, the Street Heroines documentary, focusing on the lives and work of female street artists around the world.
“Director Alexandra Henry is a documentary photographer, and she started this project 4 to 5 years ago when she began interviewing female street artists little by little and realized there is a common story beyond just being able to paint a wall…the physicality of the work, the dangers we encounter on the street. She saw a community of women with a bigger story that she wanted to develop into a full feature-length film. She went around for the next 3 years, to the UK, to South America, all over the US, interviewing women street artists and compiling their stories. It’s now in the final production stage which is exciting.”
She even painted a wall, together with fellow Street Heroine Lexi Bella, in Brooklyn, thanks to the support of Spread Art NYC.
So, what's next for this powerhouse of paint? She is currently working to update her Beastie Boys wall in the Lower East Side on Ludlow and Rivington at the original Paul's Boutique. She will be back this weekend to finish it up. Stop by and check it out if you are in the area.
Aside from that, she has a very busy summer planned for painting, so there will be plenty of opportunities to catch her in action. She is currently working on her second wall in Luna Park, which she will complete by Memorial Day, when the park opens to the public. And she was also recently notified that she will be one of the three artists for this year's New York Aquarium Mural Competition, completing a piece to address the pollution of our oceans. That work will get started the beginning of June.
If you want to keep up with all of her creative and socially-conscious projects, follow her on Instagram (@daniellemastrion) or check out her website www.daniellemastrion.com