With a combination of powerful imagery, personal mission, and a unwillingness to be contained, artist Homo Riot has lit a fire on the streets of Los Angeles that can not be ignored. His unique vision has become a metaphor for the struggle of the gay and lesbian community at large, creative, persistent and destined. Part rockstar, part rebel and willing warrior…Ladies and Gentlemen: Homo Riot.
What is Homo Riot About? Homo Riot has multiple layers of meaning for me. Ultimately, it’s an extension of my more traditional art practice but the project has evolved and continues to morph in ways that keep me engaged and active on the streets. Homo Riot started out as an attempt to deal with the anger and rage I felt after Prop 8 passed. I wanted to get in people’s faces and speak directly to their fear, hatred and ignorance. My motto at the time was “give us what we want or we’ll fuck in the streets”, and that was what I tried to express through my imagery. My motivation is different now, I still want to press the religious-republican-moralist’s buttons, but my hope is that my work does more to engender pride among young gays and lesbians and the queer community in general. After the string of suicides last year among young gays, I realized that Homo Riot might be a vehicle for communicating to them through a medium outside of the mainstream. I also want to speak to the silent and closeted among us. Prop 8 didn’t pass just because the Mormons came in and invested tens of millions in slick ad campaigns and bumper stickers, it also passed because a lot of gays and lesbians stayed home and didn’t bother to vote. So I’d like to think that Homo Riot is also a “call-to-arms”. Don’t be so apathetic, don’t be ashamed, don’t betray yourself, get out, be seen and be heard.
The characters in your piece are usually adorned with “Kiss” style mask, that convey both the Rockstar and yet also a sense of anonymity. What is the meaning behind the mask?
Yeah, this is interesting. Anonymity and hiding has historically been a big part of life for homosexuals. I use the masks to explore the dichotomy between my strong belief in the need to be “out” and the deep-seated social stigma that is still present around being gay. It’s also a fact, that as street artists, there’s a similar need for us to protect our identity, so I think the masks can be seen as representing my own anonymity on the streets. The fact that the mask conveys a sense of “rock-and-roll” and menace simultaneously is very intentional.
Your work is bold in it’s declaration. The figures are often in a alpha stance, holding bats and men kissing unapologetically. How have people in the community reacted to your work and have reactions from the gay community been different from the straight community? Clearly I’m touching a nerve with both gay and straight people. It kind of blows my mind that my work gets mutilated so deliberately and violently. On the other hand, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You can almost feel the anger and frustration when you see how the pieces are torn and lacerated. I wish we lived in a world where images of men kissing didn’t freak out so many people. Maybe my work will help to desensitize the public. As for the gay community, the support is incredible. I get emails every day from people who see the work on the street and share stories about what it means to them. It was really this kind of communication that opened my eyes to the fact that I was doing more than just pissing off puritans. This imagery on the streets has a positive and powerful effect on the entire queer community.
This sexy woman on her back with a backdrop of torn pages from comic books is by artist Common Cents. This is one more of the series of works of feature women all throughout Los Angeles area. His work is usually always accompanied by the buffalo logo, yet I am unsure of the meaning. If anyone knows, let me know. I really like this piece.