While graffiti has long been unrecognized by institutions, for many writers it’s the art form they knew most intimately growing up. “Nobody ever went to Manhattan to go to museums,” said KayLove, a writer from the Bronx. “Graffiti was our museums.” The writer Sharon Lee De La Cruz, who goes by Uno Seis Tres—after 163rd Street, where she grew up in the Bronx—described a similar sentiment behind her work: “I’ve always wanted to make art for my friends and family who largely did not consume art via art institutions.”
De La Cruz got into graffiti while traveling on a Fulbright fellowship in Lima, Peru, in 2008. She painted with a hyper-femme, punk, all-female graffiti crew called Maripussy, who wrote “pussy” on walls and yelled “Huele a pussy!” (“Smells like pussy!”) in the streets. Echoing the feminist overtones of that crew, De La Cruz started off as MISS 163, but she soon noticed people paid closer attention to her name rather than her work. “I changed it to UNO SEIS TRES because I liked the neutral stance and thought it paid homage to my Latinidad and old-school graffiti heads,” she said.