Pussy Power: Andrea Cook

Pussy Power: Andrea Cook

Reputation is a strange thing. Particularly in the world of street art — where the mask of anonymity and the means of self-expression are one in the same. Through the grapevine, I heard about ‘Pussy Power’ before I met Andrea Cook

Andrea and I caught glimpses of one another at this or that art show, though, I didn’t know her well. I popped in to the Storefront Project to see her Source exhibition, where she was on her game, wooing collectors, and dazzling the scene. We didn’t get to talk much. 

Later, while interviewing Connie, owner of 3rd Ethos Gallery, I heard Andrea was doing a collab for Nuitlust. An aromatherapy product launch. It smelled interesting, so I hit Andrea up for an interview. We sat out in the back patio of 3rd Ethos. Andrea was very open, and articulate with her thoughts, as I asked her about feminism, creativity, and most of all, the meaning of Pussy Power.

Purpose

“Pussy Power debuted at the Museum of Sex in 2015. It was part of a show that was my first turn at doing something sensual, sexy, and feminine. Prior to that, all my art was about robots and technology, and how humans are turning into robots, and robots are turning into humans.”

The idea was to “create something that was more feminine.”

The exhibition featured a series of portraits of prominent female icons, among them women such as Oprah, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Beyoncé, as well as a self-portrait. However, the real show stopper was a Chanel bottle, inscribed ‘Pussy Power.’ People were lining up to take selfies with it. Andrea thought to herself, "Oh my god, the world is craving pussy power.”

Andrea’s arrival on the scene was not foretold. Before she started featuring in shows, she was an Upper East Side mom, with fantasies of street art. Her true desire was "to sneak out of the house and spray paint.”

Andrea grew up in the Midwest, raised by a single mother, who "was a career woman and worked her ass off” in spite of the obstacles. This inspired Andrea to be career-driven as well. So, Andrea became an entrepreneur - she opened the first co-working space in Indiana, and started a branding agency for law firms, and the legal community in Chicago.

Though her early career involved business creativity rather than a visual energy, Andrea believes “we’re all born as artists.” 

After moving to New York with her family, she found herself increasingly attracted to the allure of art. She started sketches, doing small pieces, and people started buying them off social media. Andrea thought “Oh wow, I like this.”

Andrea started hitting the streets, putting up wheat-pastes and stickers. The feedback she got was positive — “I get so many messages from women, who say it helps them.”

One anecdote in particular stuck with Andrea. A young woman was headed to a job interview at city hall. She was very nervous. In the bathroom of the building, she saw a pussy power sticker. The woman reached out to thank Andrea — the sticker gave her the confidence to nail her interview.

“I feel that’s what my purpose is, what my privilege is.” Andrea said. 

The term pussy power has evolved; its meaning expanded as Andrea explored the artistic concept. 

“When I first started it, it was like, where are the woman in media and film that represent the kind of woman I am, and the kind of woman I want my kids to see more of? It was hard to find.”

When I asked Andrea what it meant now, she said:

“Pussy power to me, just today, because it changes day to day, means having faith in yourself. Being a light in your darkest hour. Not having to rely on an easy life. Because women… we’re not here for an easy life. We’re here to make a difference. To be the salt of the earth and be the flavor of change."

As it is, it has not always been easy for Andrea. Beyond the general harassment all women must endure, her ambitions put on a strain on her family life. The mother of two daughters, Andrea has been trying to balance her career and family needs.

“That is probably, the hands-down hardest part.” Andrea said with open honesty, “I wasn’t able to find a balance. My desire to be an artist… trumped my family’s needs.”

Her family moved back to Indiana, where her daughters live with their father, while Andrea continues to pursue artistic ambitions in New York. 

“I visit them a lot. They’re very proud of me. My 16-year-old… texted me the other day, and said ‘I just want you to know mom, I think your career as an artist is swag.’” Andrea said, laughing. 

“Everything I do, I want them to be proud of me. With pussy power, I want to be this outrageous, provocative voice. And they’re not necessarily ready for that. Or maybe they are. My whole mission for them, is not to be ashamed of who they are.”

Toy Bitch

The street art world is as small as it is big. It may be global, but talk gets around quickly. I heard dirt on pussy power, and saw the beef play out on Instagram. Someone had tagged her art: Toy Bitch.

Toy, in street slang, refers to an untalented artist, someone who is just playing at it, without being the real deal. The bitch is self-evident. I don’t like to make opinions and judgements on rumors and assumptions, so I asked Andrea about it directly.

“Toy Bitch is a term street artists use to degrade another street artist…. meaning they’re not worthy.”

When Andrea first explored the idea of street art, she reached out to other artists for help. Someone referred her to an old 70s movie about the early days. In the film, part of the narrative follows a female artist dating a guy in a crew. They break up, and she leaves for a different crew. Her rivals call her a toy bitch. When Andrea watched the movie, she bristled at the implication.

I asked Andrea if she thought the artist who referred her to the movie meant it in a negative way. “Not really… it’s just part of the culture. It proves how women are seen as street artists.”

She felt that as a woman, she didn’t get the same respect, the same welcome, that perhaps a man would. 

This January, on returning home from the women’s march, she got off at her Bedstuy stop. On her piece - toy bitch. Naturally, she felt put down, but rather than stay there, she decided to get up. Andrea started wheat-pasting toy bitch as her own.

Pussy Power- Andrea Cook - Source.jpg

“I made the decision to reclaim that name. Not only toy bitch, but slut, cunt, whatever. All of them. They are stupid words that hold women behind. So I’m owning them. … They’re bullshit. And I’m calling out bullshit.”

Feminine Craft 

Though she made her start in New York, Andrea has shown around the world. Recently, she took a 2-year tour trip, doing a sold out show in Berlin, and Paris, where she had a residency. Andrea toured Europe, hitting Brussels, Amsterdam, and also doing shows in Montreal and Miami. 

Home in New York, we talked about the different scenes, from the Upper East Side to Harlem, the Lower East Side to life in Bushwick. Each is unique, and she has truly enjoyed her welcome in the Shwick. As Andrea’s moved about, her style has taken on different shapes and influences.

Andrea told me she looks up to Bradley Theodore, who was one of her first friends in New York, and to whom she holds a lot of respect. She also gave a shout out to other female artists — Claw MoneyGumshoe, and of course, Phoebe

In terms of the craft, Andrea found her outlet in wheat-pasting, because it jived well with her travels. She could paint a piece, roll it up, stick it in a bag, and paste it wherever she went. Andrea confessed she is still a little intimidated by spray cans, though, she experiments as she learns. Her go to medium is acrylic paints.

“I love the brush; I love the texture that the brush provides. …. I like to look at a blank canvas. It’s empowering, to just dip my brush, and not even know what the fuck I’m gonna do!” She said laughing.

By way of imagery, certain figures find prominence. For pussy power, the Coco Chanel bottle in particular has become iconic. Andrea felt it captured her audience in part because of what it symbolizes. 

“Feminism is such a needed attitude. [But,] it means something different to everyone.” She said. “The Chanel bottle represented that signature scent of being a woman, it was alluring, a little provocative, sexy."

One of the things that attracted me to her visual portfolio, was her use of color. Delicate shades of gold, deep blue hues, and neon pink — all tones that radiate with feeling. The sensuality imbued in her paintings also comes in part from her poetry — “that’s where I funnel a lot of my emotion, and [I] create the imagery from there.”

A poem she wrote for her Storefront Project show was about creation, time, and space — the universe as “created by pussy instead of a patriarchal God.”

Future

As we began to wrap up the interview, I spoke with Andrea about her upcoming projects and plans, and where the future would take her. She recently found out her art will be featured in a new book, Street Art: Paris. She was cheered that even two years later, her Paris work is still instagrammed weekly. 

Later, I stopped in at Andrea’s show with Nuitlust. 3rd Ethos was buzzing, as pink lights reflected off the spinning disco ball. Colorful art hung from the walls. The DJ was laying down some R&B and funk, and the scene was nothing but good vibes. 

The show was a success, and Andrea is looking to continue to evolve her style. 

“I don’t know if I’m stopping at pussy power. It’s just part of my journey. The next step is gonna be about human intimacy. And the need and fear of intimacy.” She continued, “Life is more than pussy power. It’s not just about connecting, it’s about belonging. It’s about love and empathy. I think that’s the track I’m on.”

For our closing, I asked Andrea if she wanted to give any advice, to young women artists, or anyone who takes inspiration in her work. She offered her thoughts:

“Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Don’t be afraid to speak your truth."

 

 

Photos Courtesy of Andrea Cook and T.K Mills

Master Your Makeup Struggles With These YouTube Videos

Master Your Makeup Struggles With These YouTube Videos

Should You Get Bangs?

Should You Get Bangs?