Amberella, the Philly street artist who puts up those recognizable hearts with punchy, in-your-face statements on walls around the city, has expanded her reach to Los Angeles.
The West Chester native’s collaboration with California-based online boutique “Spiritual Gangster” is notable for its simple message to love oneself.
Per Amberella, the opportunity to wheatpaste hearts someplace other than Philly and promote her body of work through commercial means is much more about exposure (SG’s Instagram currently has nearly 680k followers).
For her, the phrase feels like a culmination of her heartfelt (pun definitely intended) bodies of work.
“It’s the heart that says it all,” the artist told Billy Penn. “I finally found myself.”
From catcalls to goth hearts
Born Amber Lynn, Amberella learned paste-up technique while studying photography at UArts in the early 2000s.
“Once I got into the streets, I fell in love with the idea of sharing work whenever I felt like it and anonymously,” she said. “It was nice to work through whatever I was dealing with in life…and kind of release that into the universe.”
In 2011, she created a body of work that focused on street harassment in Philadelphia, which comprised a wheatpasted drawing of a naked black woman juxtaposed with different visualized catcalls and audio recordings that she’d collected since she moved to the city in 1999 for college.
It wasn’t until Amberella started wheatpasting hearts after a breakup that she began to receive more attention.
After ending an unhealthy relationship in the mid-2010s, she began wheatpasting “power hearts” with loving, inspirational reminders for herself around the city in places she regularly passed by as she turned inward to work on herself. She also began wheatpasting “goth hearts” which are more vulnerable and occasionally, sassier than her “power hearts,” though both are equally popular on social.
“I got into therapy to get to the root of things. I made huge lifestyle changes and studied many different practices. I began pasting the power hearts for myself in places I frequented as reminders for myself to keep going,” Amberella explained.
Not only was Amberella seeing her work celebrated online, but she was also receiving letters from bystanders and survivors of relationship abuse, from Philly and beyond. Per Amberella, this was the moment that she felt the least alone in her battle to move forward from that toxic part of her past.
National recognition comes calling
It was about a year ago that Spiritual Gangster emailed Amberella asking if she’d be interested in collaborating.
“I cried when I got that email,” she said. “I had been following their brand for a while and recognized them as people that actually had meat behind what they were doing.”
Per their site, Spiritual Gangster wear is meant to encourage “the high vibration practices of living in gratitude, giving back and choosing kindness.” This ostensibly translates into oversized jumpsuits and form-fitting patterned leggings for a hefty price tag, but SG does put money toward a cause: For every item the boutique sells, proceeds are donated to Feeding America.
For Amberella, being a “spiritual gangster” means being invested in personal growth and having the willingness to be authentic and look within first.
“The message UR ALL U NEED is a reminder to first love yourself and be rooted strongly in yourself,” she explained. “The idea is that you must first embody that self-love and care before you can truly share that love.”