Artist Claudia La Bianca Goes Beyond Murals to Empower Women

Claudia La Bianca
Photography by Stian Roenning
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Claudia La Bianca never took an anatomy drawing class. Instead, her lessons about the human form were learned as a child. Night after night, the wide-eyed, golden-locked dreamer sat backstage at her big sister's lingerie fashion shows in Sicily, where she gazed at beautiful, scantily clad models strutting on the catwalk.

"Our parents never stopped us from expressing ourselves through art," La Bianca says. "Our town was small-minded, but we had freedom as kids."

Born into a relentlessly artistic family, La Bianca flitted through countless creative disciplines before arriving at her true calling: street art. Though she initially earned less than a couple hundred dollars per week — barely enough to cover the expense of paint — the gritty, tattooed feminist quickly became a worldwide sensation, famed for her superhero-like murals that portrayed female empowerment. Now, at 39 years old, the mother of two says she's preparing to reinvent herself as an artist once again.

The youngest of four children, La Bianca grew up surrounded by artists: Her brother is a filmmaker, her sister a runway model, and her oldest sister a lingerie designer with clients such as Victoria's Secret and Calvin Klein. Soon enough, La Bianca became an artist herself, known as "the crazy kid in town who painted Sicily's walls."

Unfortunately, in high school, she was bullied by her male peers for her weight. Tormented, she dropped out and in 1997 moved to Miami, where she became a club promoter for Living Room, Liquid, Crobar, and the Space Terrace.

Seven years later, her brother died. Grief-stricken, she applied for admission to the New York Film Academy in the hopes it would "bring him back into [her] life." During the next decade, she produced and directed national commercials, two feature films, and a television show for PBS. Her work drew attention from Oprah, DreamWorks, and Steven Spielberg, who scouted La Bianca for his reality show On the Lot in 2007.

Then, in 2014, one of her friends, a Wynwood gallery owner, asked if she would paint a mural for his building. On a whim, she agreed. "I hadn't painted in ten years, but the reaction I got was so amazing." Eventually, calls for commissions flooded in.

"I had found my way back to painting," she says.

Initially, La Bianca's pieces rarely sold for more than $100 each. Nonetheless, she persevered. "I figured if I could plant a mural in every corner of Wynwood like seeds, soon I'd have a forest."

Inspired by the sensuality and power in Italian expressionist Renato Guttuso's paintings and cartoonist Guido Crepax's comics, La Bianca began evoking female empowerment and independence in her own murals — themes that spoke to her female clients.

Before long, her portfolio included installations across Italy and in Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles. Her pieces sold for more than $4,000 each.

This past October, La Bianca discovered her newest passion: sculpting. "I fucking love it," she says, adding she hopes to show her sculptures in public squares and large exhibitions someday. "Instead of doing 30-foot-tall murals, I want to do 30-foot-tall statues. It's my new love."

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