Sand One: "I'm so mad ..... how do we sue someone in Mexico?"
On January 5, Sand One pulled into an undisclosed Tijuana strip mall where a questionable "doll" is depicted on an eyelash extension salon's signage. She activated her phone's camera, then zoomed into the doll's larger than life pupils and exaggerated eyelashes.
"Who the f-ck do you think this is?" she asks her 224,000 Instagram followers, then scoffs and knocks her head. "I'm so mad ..... how do we sue someone in Mexico?"
"She added her business logo, but it's still my doll."
The Los Angeles graffiti muralist turned "art mogul" and I spoke January 18, as she wrapped up her fifth doll-face mural in Mexico City in a little over a week. She requested that her Sand One stylized name appear in the article, as she's been signing on her eight-foot plus, spray-painted doll faces throughout the U.S. and now Mexico.
"I came home to the motherland, which is Mexico City for me. I'm painting on the street at no charge and just painting for the love of art, and then I'll go back to my real life."
"So what happened in Tijuana?"
"I already had this issue with this lady in 2017, where she was directly grabbing [downloading] the dolls from my websites and social media, and putting them on her propaganda, and not changing the look of my doll. And recently, I saw my doll on the sign. This one had some changes and tweaks, and she added her business logo, but it's still my doll."
I first met with Sand One in 2017 when she spray-painted the "Tooth Fairy" dollface mural on a dentist's office wall around the corner from our then-North Park pad by the University Avenue I-805 entrance. Sand One is not shy. For the last 15 years, she says she always asks for permission from the building owners or managers before "piecing" or "dolling-up" a wall.
Earlier this month, she says, "I went inside and spoke to the employee, but maybe that was the owner. I said, 'listen, we had an issue before. Please tell the owner that she needs to stop and have her make her own doll. And if not, I'm going to open a lawsuit if this continues.'"
"My dolls have been trademarked, that specific doll in Tijuana is my Smooth Hustler doll."
Edwin L.: "Somebody must've found out about Sand One and defaced the whole mural."
Up in Los Angeles, Sand One owns and runs two art galleries and multiple warehouses. Here she stores her dollface emblazoned merch — including lanyards, backpacks, purses, prints, pencils, and cell accessories. When we spoke in the North Park alley in 2017, many of the 100-plus purveyors wore Sand One's gear or clinched her merch in hand.
But not everybody lurking that day was a fan.
"The tooth fairy one is gone now," said Edwin L., the founder of the Mural a Month program in City Heights in September. "Somebody must've found out about Sand One and defaced the whole mural. It wasn't easy to restore, so they painted over the whole thing."
Word on the North Park streets was that taggers — not to be confused with art-muralists — in the area disapproved of the tooth fairy mural. Of Edwin's contracted 30 or so graffiti art murals painted between the 805 and 15 freeways by University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard, none was tagged on like Sand's piece to the extent it was unsalvageable.
"I was sad when I heard about that. I met so many of my San Diego fans there. I'm a woman in the streets painting dolls by myself, and I'm not here trying to take nothing from you. I'm just here to leave a doll and keep going with my journey."
Briskone's art. Briskone: "The similarities to Sand One are obvious: the way the head is tilted, the hair, the colors, etc."
While most commenters on Sand One's social media are positive, naysayers are critical of Sand's exaggerated doll features. Others — from seemingly predominantly male-owned profiles — say her designs are easy to "bite" and blame the sign maker rather than the Tijuana business.
Back on this side of the border, I reached out to well-seasoned artists, with a screenshot nabbed from Sand One's Instagram account depicting a side by side image of her doll compared to the Tijuana-rendering.
Briskone, a local muralist who's painted around the world, responded. "She worked for years developing her trademark style, and having someone bootleg it isn’t right. The similarities are obvious: the way the head is tilted, the hair, the colors, etc."
Sand One painted a backdrop for an outdoor eatery in Mexico City.
"What ended up happening in Tijuana before you flew out to Mexico City?" I asked Sand One.
"The lady there was oblivious to the situation and said, 'I have no idea who you are and don't know what you're talking about.'"
Briskone continued "I saw Sand One at Art Basel a few years back; she paid her dues. I believe people should be called out for biting. Originality is something that should be defended and respected."
Recently, Sand One painted a backdrop for an outdoor eatery in Mexico City. She posted a photo of the project with her sitting next to the woman who managed the spot. "When I was younger, I painted signs on the streets of Los Angeles and other cities to be able to earn a living," translates the caption of the posted photo. "I painted to give my mother money, and what was left, I used to paint dolls, and to pay for the expenses of my designs that I was creating with my clothing line."
"I'm the mother of these dolls, and I have carried them," said Sand One.
"Are you coming back to San Diego to paint a new doll?"
"Yes! I don't think about art politics or being territorial. I paint for the people, so when I go to different areas, I'm thinking about the moms, the girls that are going to college, everyone that's struggling, the men and women out there like me that have feelings and emotions that nurtured my success."