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Margaret Kilgallen died in 2001 from untreated breast cancer but she continues to inspire artists with her street art-inspired work that combines American folk traditions, sign painting traditions and her lifelong interest in typography and letterpress printing.

In this video by Art21, which was filmed in 2000, she is pictured with her husband, fellow artist Barry McGee, tagging trains. The two artists are associated with the Beautiful Loser movement, which became known for its DIY strain of art that incorporates images from everyday life into a stylized mosaic of lines, colors, forms, and faces. Her art, like those of her contemporaries, celebrates life, and in this video she talks about the lives of three inspiring heroines that she explains, “did small things but hit me in my heart.” These figures are banjo musician Matokie Slaughter, blues guitarist and buck dancer Algia Mae Hinton, and early 20th C. Olympic swimmer Fanny Durack.

This video is particularly special because it features some previously unheard interview footage with the late painter. It’s clear that Kilgallen may be gone but her art and memory lingers on, hopefully inspiring new generations with her fiercely independent style of art.

“And I especially hope to inspire young women, because I often feel like so much emphasis is put on how beautiful you are, and how thin you are, and not a lot of emphasis is put on what you can do and how smart you are,” she say. “I want to change the emphasis on what’s important when looking at a woman.”

This exclusive video and many more are featured in Art21’s 100 Artists, which celebrates the iconic artists that have been a part of the television series throughout it’s first six seasons. Discover all 100 artists at

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

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