RTL: You got into graff in the 90's, how do you think that shaped your style and experience with the culture, rather than getting into it today?
TOOFLY: I think because I grew up in the early 90's I had a lot of special experiences that helped shape the roots and essence of my work. There was an integral emphasis on our own style with the way we talked, dressed, and the music we listened to. Hip Hop was thriving in content, lyrical skills, and beats. Our "golden era" was DOPE! It had more of a "rougher" type attitude less "pop" and flashy and packaged like it is today. I feel like now you can buy or just copy style. Back then skill and talent came from you, and personal experience. Street bombing was at it's peek too, there were writers like Nato, Bruz, Muse, Sabe, Skuf, Revs & Cost and others hitting roofs and neighborhoods across the five boroughs. It was classic, gritty, and graphic. I loved it, I think the only color I saw back then was on polo gear. I knew then like I know now that I wanted to be the female reflection and representation of the time. There was just way too many guys doing it back then and not enough women. I saw and felt the imbalance.
RTL: How do you come up with your pieces? What gets you inspired to create them?
TOOFLY: I like to get my ideas rolling by my looking at a collection of images that inspire me. Everything from fashion photography, graphic design, and most recently indigenous and nature stuff. I also throw on some of my favorite love tunes, and mellow music to help me zone out. The creative energy that builds up during this process then just flows out of me and I'm able to put all my ideas and feelings into a piece.
RTL: You and partner Alice Mizrachi founded 'Younity' - a female urban arts collective, can you give us a little background and insight into what it's all about?
TOOFLY: For a while now maybe since 2003 I have been rounding up women who were down to get busy and paint at various hip hop and graffiti events. I found a lot of the time there was a low representation of women and I found myself outnumbered and having to deal with too much testosterone. It wasn't welcoming, so I set out to change that a bit. I felt strongly for women to represent their skills in these male dominated arenas but most importantly a place where they can feel respected and return year after year to paint and enhance their skills. I like to credit Lady Pink for helping us get the ball started back in 2002 at the Graffiti Hall of Fame. That was the beginning of our little movement so to speak. Friendships got started and the ones who were down to keep it positive and civil stuck around. In 2006 I met Alice aka AM who was passionate about taking her painting to the next level and begin to paint large walls. As soon as an opportunity came up the rest was history. That same year we attended the annual females in Hip Hop event called B-GIRL BE and on our way back to NY Younity was born. Our first project called "CROSSOVER" was an exhibition to showcase the creative works and talents of our friends with skills in graffiti, painting, photography, and handcrafts. I had finally met someone who didn't just talk about it, but was down to put the work in. Younity has since grown from being an art exhibition of 30 women, to a full on international 100+ collective with a team of dope women and youth. We are committed to empower women and girls, through art exhibitions, collaborative street murals, youth workshops, artist markets, and panel discussions. For more info about Younity you can check s out at: www.theyounity.com
RTL: You studied at SVA, how do you think this influenced your graff, and how do you think your graff roots influenced your approach to art school?
TOOFLY: At SVA I got the opportunity to learn how to use the computer and work with various design programs. Discovering this not only allowed me to master the art of self representation but it also empowered me to create anything I wanted digitally that would secure my future when it came to a steady paycheck. I got an early insight into the power of the Internet at the time too. My mom dished out what she could to get my first computer in 97 and I watched the graffiti culture and the world grow in consciousness before my eyes. The possibilities to help your work travel to other places just like the trains did back in the 80's was at your finger tips. You were able to connect with people, provide design services, get a business started, and just have a kind of freedom and tools to help shape the world you wanted around you. I feel without my graffiti background I would have been easily influenced by what they think is happening out in the career culture. I feel most of it hasn't even been created yet, because it's you who's gonna flip the script for what will in turn be what everyone calls your "career". I like to call it my life instead.
RTL: How did you get involved with Rooftop Legends and what are your thoughts on the event and the school?
TOOFLY: I was invited by the Friends We Love youth team rock a little artist video for their workshop. When I arrived at the rooftop I was in awe. This place is dope! I had been wanting to meet the organizers behind this place for a while now. When I finished the video with the youth team I was introduced to principal Scott, who put me in touch with the dean that runs this place - Jesse Pais. He was mad cool and gave me the green light to rock a wall and have it take part in their upcoming event ROOFTOP LEGENDS. Shout out to the New Design H.S., Principal Scott, and Jesse for hooking this up. More schools should take notice, this place is AMAZING!!!