I wanted to get involved. But instead of just using social media and talking about being open minded, I wanted to have skin in the game and really put myself out there.
Founding this clothing line was my first step towards promoting free self-expression and sexual freedom. I wanted to use my artistic ability to try to help us find some common ground regarding sexuality and gender.
The human head has a set of characteristics that have traditionally been associated with either male or female. Any decent art book concerned with realism will explain this in the first two chapters. For instance, a male head's shape and jawline is more square and straight lined versus a more round and curved head and jawline of a female. Hairlines noticeably differ. Female mouths and noses are smaller than males, etc.
I set out to challenge myself to depict human heads in a kissing pose, but with ambiguous gender. And interconnected, so that it could be metaphorically meaningful. I realized to satisfy gender ambiguity I could mix the characteristics that have traditionally been associated with both male and female on the same head. And to satisfy interconnectedness, I realized that if I could find a proper angle of embrace, then the kissing couple would remain intact as I tessellated the image vertically (with a nod to M.C. Escher).
The figure on the left has a slightly more curved jawline than the figure on the right, and thus 'slightly' more feminine. The figure on the right has a straighter head shape outline as well, which is traditionally masculine. Their hairlines are similar, but the hairline of the figure on the left is slightly more expressive, which is traditionally feminine. Also, the nose of the figure on the left is straight, smoothly curved and pointed, which is also traditionally feminine. But it is slightly oversized, which is traditionally male. The eyebrow of the figure on the right is more refined, which is feminine.
Basically, I drew the figure on the left with more female traits and vice versa regarding the figure on the right. And yet, the figure on the left is in the foreground, subtly leaning into the dominant position of the embrace. The figure on the right, drawn with more traditionally male traits, subtly leaning back, has a more submissive position.
The image is drawn with minimal detail, so when I say 'drawn with more traditionally male traits' we're only talking about one or two more.
My hope is that the genders you see will depend on how your mind prioritizes traits of the human head. So, if many people were in a room looking at this image, I'd believe it would be impossible to agree on the genders of the kissing couple. Indeed, I asked my mom what were the genders of the kissing couple and she said she saw two women kissing. My dad sees two men. I personally see a male (left) and female--my perception prioritizes the eyes and eyebrows. But my perception is biased because of the source material used to draw the image.
Regardless of which genders you see, it's interesting to note that I made the heads share the same 'head space' not just from the front because they're kissing, but from the back as well. So, if you see opposite genders kissing, then sharing the same 'head space' from the back of the head is metaphorically a psychological hermaphrodite.
Yes, this image is meant to provoke, but it's also meant to help increase awareness of the conversation surrounding sexuality and gender.
Ultimately, this is about sexual freedom and having an open mind. And, no, I don't have to be homosexual to have empathy and compassion for the LGBTQ community. I believe having the freedom to express ourselves is crucial to empowering marginalized communities.
We are different people, of different colors and backgrounds, sharing borders, interconnected and connected by one love.
I welcome you to Mercury NYC.