The streets of New York are one of the most eclectic views I’ve ever seen. However, there is someone who is making them pop a bit more lately. Splashing her message all through New York is Johanna Toruño. She’s a Latinx street artist determined to be heard and is not stopping anytime soon.
Toruño is the founder of the Unapologetic Street Series, a street art series that is exhibited at public spaces, such as walls, utility posts, and mailboxes. Through her art, she hopes her work can be thought-provoking enough for the people witnessing it.
“I have a lot to say,” Toruño told Teen Vogue. “Street art is the most natural way for me to express that.
She travels all through New York with her materials, like a tub of glue and her posters, a lot of the time. Her impeccable vision is highlighted through her fierce messages displayed within her art. All through her vibrant art, she makes it a point to shine light on important figures, some which have included the pioneers that have paved the way for political resistance. She’s especially inspired to showcase figures who have historically represented the LGBTQ+ community.
She told the Huffpost, “pride initially was not about a rainbow. It was about a brick being thrown,” reminding us of the roots of the LGBTQ+ movement at Stonewall in 1969.
Toruño understands that the LGBTQ+ community is indebted to a certain extent to the influences of trans people of color from the past, so she gives them a place in her art to immortalize them. This has brought her to pay homage to those who have been at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ movement, such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.
Her inspiration to create street art is something that forcefully became intertwined with her life.
She was born in El Salvador in December of 1989 and emigrated to the United States with her mother later on in life. During her childhood, there was a massive war taking place. It was a war zone in many areas of El Salvador and survival became uncertain for many. By the end of this gruesome war, there over 75,000 war victims. She witnessed the unpredictability of the war unfold as a child and it left its mark on her as it did for many Salvadorians.
Toruño recalls that street art was something the war left behind. Political art drawn on murals and posters was not uncommon to the streets of El Salvador. Even though she was a child then, she quickly understood that type of art gave people a voice and that was very impactful to her.
She’s also been inspired by showcasing her own love as part as one of her passion projects alongside with her girlfriend, Amy Quichiz. Toruño thinks it’s important to present the youth with different representations of love. She remembers not having anyone to look up to when she was growing up because society’s narrative back then was consistently heteronormative. However, thanks to her transparency, she has had people tell her that she’s helped them understand their own queerness. This speaks volumes, especially if you understand how difficult can be to be someone of the LGBTQ+ community.
Her passionate work is planted in many places in New York. Through her work, you’ll be able to loudly see her thoughts and dedication.
Walking past some streets of New York you’ll be greeted by some of her greatest works, like the posters titled “The People’s Alexandria’s Ocasio-Cortez” and “Niñas Sin Vergüenza.” She created AOC’s poster after one of the many times some Republicans were condescending towards her. Now, some of these politicians have the pleasure of seeing her face drawn in streets they frequent. As for “Niñas Sin Vergüenza,” she brought this piece into the world after she had some photos taken with her girlfriend. This motivated her to create a street art collection that depicts their romantic relationship.
Her art, without a doubt, makes a strong presence whether you like it or not. If you ask me, everything she does is so meaningful and necessary to society. Let’s hope she can continue stimulating people’s minds. Perhaps she can eventually incite thought-provoking conversations not only in New York, but also in the rest of the world.