Latina Muralist Sand One Celebrates Women At The Margins

Viva

When you see a Sand One original, you know it. With big eyes, big attitudes, and big pockets, the spray painted dolls created by East Los Angeles born artist and entrepreneur, Sand One, are the epitome of street diva femme. Raised by a single mother, graffiti maven Sand is of proud Mexican and Guatemalan ancestry, something that is reflected heavily in her work.

All of Sand’s dolls boast a name, story, dream, and hustle. Never shying away from the ultra feminine, Sand creates dolls that seamlessly merge the girly and the street. Many of are endowed with elongated eyelashes and razor sharp acrylic nails, reminding us all that femme does not inherently equal fragile. Her diva caricatures are larger than life, splayed across entire walls, taking up space and echoing a message of girls and women empowerment.

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Sand’s works are part of the LA landscape and her dolls can be seen all over the city in various hoods and barrios, eating elotes, counting money, dumping boyfriends and plotting their next moves. In an interesting switch up of typical gendered stereotypes where women are usually depicted as sex objects for male desires, Sand paints men as play things and teddy bears: small, soft and dispensable.

“I don’t draw men, I draw teddy bears. Boys are toys, don’t stay stuck. Buy a new one and keep it moving,” she says adamantly. The active subjects in Sand’s art are mujeres. She paints women that are larger than life, that love hard and take no sh*t. Sand describes her dolls as young women, between the ages of 15 and 35: “My dolls and bad bitches, they’re rude, and they’re selfish with their time.”

When Sand first started painting Dolls on the sides of trucks and buildings, they were not imbued with the weight and meaning that they are known for now. “My dolls had no meaning. As I got older and started painting more,” she explains, “I met other women and heard their stories, and my dolls began to evolve and change.” It was in 2010 that Sand began to create dolls with names, personalities and stories. One of them, known as Stacks, is a hustler. Her boyfriend, a teddy bear known as Blue Panda, is a weed dealer. In true f**kboy fashion, Blue Panda cheated on Stacks, so Stacks did what she had to do— left Blue Panda on the street, and kept it moving. Another one of Sand’s character’s is named Cakes. “Cakes is for the dark skinned girls. Cakes is for the Black girls and the dark skinned Mexican girls, las Oaxaqueñas,” Sand notes. Like Cakes and Stacks, each doll that Sand brings to life has her own identity and character traits, a quality that draws so many women to Sand’s work.

When one thinks of fine art and art collectors, rarely do we think of Latinas from East LA, much less single mothers, strippers and hustlers. Art collection is often reserved for the white, affluent and connected. Sand One, however, is confident that her work and vision are more than worthy of the “fine art” moniker, and the people that buy and appreciate her art challenge the notion that art collection is solely a white or elitist enterprise.

My can shakes bring all the boys to the yards 💸💫

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

The fans who collect Sand’s art are women that connect with her work on a deeply emotional level: “They understand where I come from. They’re women like me and they get the meaning behind my dolls like Smooth Hustler and Mascara.” She insists that although her art is valuable, she wants it to be accessible and affordable to her fans and collectors.

Like the subjects of her work, Sand is a go getter and an entrepreneur who always has new projects underway. Most recently, Sand designed her own line of leggings and phone chargers, which feature her doe-eyed beauts front and center. A Sand collector (like Betsey Johnson, for example) might own a $5,000 painting on canvas, or a $10 air freshener or phone charger. Sand has branched out her production to include products because for Sand, “creating products is a way for my collectors to have my art. A product like a charger is more affordable than a canvas.”

While hustling and financial gain are major themes in Sand’s work, heartache and rejection figure prominently in the lives of her dolls. “Part of being a woman is heartbreak,” she adds. “Girls, my collectors, see my dolls in the streets on their daily commute. My dolls have been with them through abortions, miscarriages, single motherhood, jail time.”

After 3am 💅🏼💸💫

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

And although her dolls experience relationship drama and deal with soft toy fuckboys, they don’t allow emotional pain to keep them stagnant or to derail them from their dreams and goals. “Put your feelings in a box and get this money,” Sand pontificates. Her philosophies toward relationships and sorrow have a lot to do with the realities of living life female, especially if you don’t come from money and have safety nets to fall back on in times of crisis. There are many women who don’t have the luxury of taking time off to mourn after a major life event or crisis, for example, who have to get back up and continue working in order to survive and take care of their loved ones—even in the face of immense sadness or trauma. Sand’s work speaks to women who work hard because no one else is there to take care of them.

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“I wanna put on for the single moms, the hustlers, the bad bitches, make-up artists, girls that sell waist trainers, strippers,” she says. Her work recognizes and embraces women who are often looked down on because their socio-economic class, race, and work fall outside the parameters of “respectable” womanhood and femininity.

Perhaps one of the major reasons why Sand has cultivated such a loyal following is because of the way that she actively engages her fans and followers on social media and in person. Sand utilizes Snapchat and other social media platforms to not only promote her work, but to bring her fans into the fold of her life and business. Sand is known to post extensive Snapchat stories, providing play by plays of her daily life and grind. Her fans are included in every step of her creative process, from the moment she wakes up in the morning to her late night sketching sessions before bed. Sand uses Snapchat as a way to disseminate information and advise to her followers on how to start your own business, get your name heard and seen, and rid any negative people from your life.

Classy California Chola 🔪💸💗

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

“Act like you have $1500 to spend every day. Don’t waste it. Don’t spend it on fuckboys,” she preaches, “don’t spend it on lurking, spend it on yourself. Double up on that life money.”

When Sand is getting ready to paint a new wall, she puts the word out to all of her followers so that they can join her while she creates. When Sand is painting a new doll in the streets of LA, you can be sure that a group of her followers will be there to join in her creative process: “When I climb up on a ladder to paint a wall, it’s a congregation of bad bitches that show up and bring the hustle.”

Sand also maintains an open studio where her followers can drop in, buy art and connect. As much as Sand gives to her fans, they give to her in word and deed. During our interview at Sand’s Downtown Los Angeles workspace, a Sand art collector named Evo came by the studio and handed Sand a custom leather wallet with one of her signature dolls imprinted on the front.

“This is dope,” Sand tells her fan “where did you get this?”

Evo, a Latina who has been following Sand’s work for about two years now, asked her brother to create the leather wallet as a gift for Sand and as an idea for a future business collaboration. Sand had no idea Evo would be bringing her a prototype of a new product featuring one of her dolls, and it was just a coincidence that I happened to be there to witness this warm moment between Sand and one of her loyal collectors.

I’ll be mommy and daddy 💗👶🏻 #mothersday

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

While Sand may have a loyal female following, there are a lot of men out there who are not so fond of her or her message: “This is a girl movement that makes guys scared. I’ve had female fans tell me that their boyfriends heard them watching and listening to my snap story. Their boyfriends told them to stop following Sand One.”

For a lot of her fans Sand is more than an artist, she’s a confidant and friend. “Girls message me and tell me their life story,” she divulges. “Girls have messaged me to tell me that their boyfriends abuse them and I’ve told them that they can be one of my art collectors once they dump their abusive boyfriends.”

One thing that Sand makes clear is that abuse from men is always unacceptable, a message that she consistently delivers to her followers. It’s not just insecure boyfriends that have a problem with Sand though. She’s experienced hate from male artists as well. “Guys have tried to come after me and take my walls,” she says.

In spite of any negativity or hurt feelings from men in the game, Sand has built the foundation of an empire for herself and shows no signs of burnout. Her art has taken her across the globe, from Miami to Japan, Mexico, Guatemala and Thailand.

Nothing 💸

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

In Thailand Sand was featured on the cover of the Bangkok Post’s weekly magazine, The Brunch. On her roster of impressive accomplishments includes collaborations with Urban Decay, Jeffrey Campbell Shoes, Sheikh Shoes, Red Bull, Levi’s and NBA Cares, to name a few. Always staying true to her roots, Sand continues to participate in Latino Heritage and Women’s empowerment events with the Mexican Embassy, the City of Los Angeles and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. Sand’s street murals have been featured in National Geographic and LA Weekly, and Sand has also been featured in segments and documentaries on Latin networks like Univision and Latination TV.

It seems that there is no cap on Sand’s imagination and the future is bright for this diva. We’re beyond excited to see what the future has in store for Sand, and it’s clear that on her way to the top, she’ll be bringing a gang of other women up with her: “I’m here to make money and to put on for other women.” —Mala Muñoz

Get a glimpse of Sand’s art and life here, or follow her on Instagram.