A Feminine Lexicon: Johanna Toruño In Her Own Words

The new digital project “A Feminine Lexicon” by Arts Curating students Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli opened in May at museo.ferragamo.com.

Their project took inspiration from Museo Salvatore Ferragamo’s “Women in Balance”, an exhibition curated by Stefania Ricci and Elvira Valleri that celebrates the history of Italian women during the economic boom and the rapid changes in their identities. “A Feminine Lexicon” continues this conversation into what is considered feminine today through the works of eleven international contemporary artists and their testimonies.

In the digital exhibition, through audio recordings, all the artists describe their works and how they relate to a larger feminine lexicon in their own words. An excerpt of these reflections is gathered here for I’M Firenze Digest readers as a way to help them dive deeper into the exhibition. 


By Pia Diamandis & Elena Tortelli. Cover image: Johanna Toruño, Honor Your Queer and Trans Children Always, 2019, digital poster. Courtesy of the artist

“A Feminine Lexicon” artists include Los Angeles-based visual artist Johanna Toruño (b. 1989, San Salvador, El Salvador). Her work focuses on the importance of storytelling through accessible art in public spaces and the importance of queer representation.

In “A Feminine Lexicon”, Johanna Toruño showcases The Unapologetic Street Series, a series of poster art she pastes on the streets of American urban landscapes that reflect on social and political messages to support communities that are discriminated against through her queer and migrant lens. Her lexicon of protest is accompanied by floral bouquets from her garden in El Salvador, with colours and hues often linked to a traditional feminine aesthetic, which she lays claim to as symbols of strength for her messages of struggle.

Johanna Toruño’s The Unapologetic Street Series is featured in the Struggles section of the exhibition “A Feminine Lexicon”, underlining the challenges that feminine identities continue to face today in their public and private life, alone or together.

The Struggles section features works by Alfiah Rahdini, Johanna Toruño, Haruka Sakaguchi, and ChongYan Liu.

Johanna Toruño, The Revolution Starts Within Us, Within Our Backyards, 2020, digital poster. Courtesy of the artist

PD, ET: How would you best describe The Unapologetic Street Series? What has inspired you to create the series?

JT: The Unapologetic Street Series is a multi-medium political art project that utilizes public spaces through wheat pasting and community building. Large-scale posters and centering political messages of resistance and change adorn the streets.

It’s a culmination of my lived experiences with public art in my country El Salvador during the early 90s. After and during the civil war, political posters and murals were frequent as I was growing up.

I have known for a long time that political poster work is a tool of resistance worldwide for many generations, and my work is just a part of the long history of street art for the people. I hope that when folks encounter my work on the street or online, it poses a question or a conversation or a feeling that inspires them to reimagine the world in a way that is equitable, peaceful, joyful, that centers on rest and a thriving community.

Johanna Toruño, Black and Brown Femmes to The Front, 2017, digital poster. Courtesy of the artist

PD, ET: In your opinion, what are the current struggles that feminine identities face today in their private and public life?

JT: Current and systemic challenges that feminine identities face today are not only patriarchal but include the internalized misogyny and transphobia that plagues feminists’ spaces.

I would like to reimagine a community wherein all feminine identities are honored, valued, and acknowledged that all of us hold different experiences, privileges, struggles, and stories.

And that all those things impact the way we’re treated and the way we navigate around life. I look forward to a day, and I look forward to continuing in the work in my personal life and my interpersonal life in my community where I work towards a safer, equitable, joyful world for all feminine identities.


A Feminine Lexicon is an online exhibition curated by Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli, students in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze for Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, available at museo.ferragamo.com.

Johanna Toruño is the visual artist behind The Unapologetic Street Series. She lives and works in Los Angeles, USA.
Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli are undergraduate students of Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

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