BlackManWhiteBaby's Radical Self Portraits Tackle Racial and Queer Identity (Photos)
By Zachary Zane
In a recent profile, LA Weekly describes the artwork of BlackManWhiteBaby as “self-portraits that explore racial and sexual stereotypes by boldly and shamelessly utilizing them as part of the imagery, playing with their meaning, and compelling the viewer to feel something about them.” The authors continue, “They are often hard to swallow, even for the most open-minded and not easily offended.”
OUT caught up with the artist, solely going by the name BlackManWhiteBaby, to learn more about what inspired his photography as well as how the current political climate affects his artistry.
OUT: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
BlackManWhiteBaby: Well I first started BlackManWhiteBaby on Father’s Day a few years ago. My father passed away and I woke up thinking, “If I were a dad what would I be doing with my son today?” I’ve always wanted to be a dad. So for fun and as a way of processing the loss, I posted a collage of me and a white baby doll interacting as if we were father and son. Best-selling author Christopher Rice loved it and reposted it on Instagram. It received over 300 comments that day. Christopher reached out to me personally and named me BlackManWhiteBaby. And here we are now!
I don’t really like to talk about myself. That’s a small part of the reason I only go by the name BlackManWhiteBaby when it involves my art. I prefer to talk about myself through the art. The art will tell you so much about who I am. It’s extremely autobiographical and it’s the place where I am most vulnerable. I will say I don’t have any agenda other than understanding, kindness, and love… and good health care for everyone!
What inspires your artwork?
Some of the inspiration for my artwork comes from the complexities of life. I’m searching for meaning. Not all of my works are statements and many of them are questions. I’m still learning along with everyone else. So it’s the search to understand this human experience that is a big part of what inspires and drives me artistically.
I get lots of direct messages in response to the photos I create. The n-word and faggot gets dropped on me every so often from those who obviously feel the need to do so. It’s doesn’t get to me. The loving and supportive messages I receive from young people in the LGBTQ community are so important to me and keep me going. They understand and relate to the BMWB project. I hope as I continue to be inspired by them, my art will empower these young LGBTQ individuals in return. When you’re born different, meaning not what is considered the norm, you are special, in a great way. I hope my art encourages these young individuals to do it well and do it big because they can!
How does the current political climate affect your work?
I wish it didn't affect my work. I’m actually trying not to let it. Unfortunately, I would have to be dead inside for it not to. These are tough times, even for those who are okay with our current administration.
As an artist living in this political climate I feel an uncontainable need to create and process right now! Most artists that I personally know are creating more than ever these days. It’s cathartic.
I don’t like how people discuss politics. It’s always a fight. So I prefer not to talk about it. At the same time, it does creep into my work. In one of my latest works, “Mass Shooter’s Club,” I acknowledge the need for better gun laws and control.
When I turn on the TV and see that 49 of my brothers and sisters were killed in a gay nightclub in Orlando I have to do something...I have to say something. And I did. I named the piece “49”.