The 72nd Street station on the new Second Avenue subway line will feature a mural with a gay Manhattan couple holding hands and is meant to send a powerful message to commuters about the normalcy of gay New Yorkers.
Thor Stockman, 60, is pictured holding hands with his husband of 3 ½ years Patrick Kellogg and is part of Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s series called “Perfect Strangers”— a collection of life-size mosaics of regular New Yorkers.
Muniz said the purpose of the series is to show the different kinds of people that commuters see on a daily basis and it makes sense to include the two men.
“They are just people you would expect to see,” said Muniz, who splits his time between New York and Brazil.
“You would expect to see men holding hands.”
For Stockman and his husband, finding out they were going to be featured “was like winning the lottery.”
The photo that became the basis for the mosaic was taken randomly three years ago in Brooklyn when Stockman and his husband met up with a friend who was working on the project.
“We were hoping maybe we’ll get a nice portrait print out of this by standing there for five minutes,” Stockman said.
Little did they know, they’d get a call three years later saying their image would be cemented into a subway station.
They were asked to keep it under wraps while the specifics of the installation were still being sorted but when they were finally able to tell their friends, the reaction was joyous. Kellogg said it wasn’t just exciting because it was him and his husband, it was exciting because it was the sort of image of gay men that isn’t typically seen in pop culture.
“Our friends were happy that this is gay representation on the walls of New York City, but our friends were even happier that this is gay representation that is not incredibly beautiful and skinny,” Kellogg said.
His husband added, “They were just average-looking guys like us.”
Stockman is pictured with a full beard, a flannel shirt and a bulky jacket and pants. His partner Kellogg also has a full beard and is pictured in khaki work overalls with a large black duffel bag.
While the sight of two men or two women holding hands is far from rare in the Big Apple, artwork depicting their love is, according to Jonathan David Katz, an expert in gay art history.
Katz said there was no other example of a permanent, non-political LGBTQ public artwork in New York City besides the new mural. He referenced art works like George Segal’s “Gay Liberation Monument” near Stonewall Inn and how it commemorates a single political moment—not the day to day normalcy of gay New Yorkers.
Katz added the work is long overdue in a city that’s “ostensibly the epicenter of both the art world and the gay movement.”
“What makes it a turning point is it isn’t gayness singled out and made the theme. On the contrary, the work naturalizes gayness within the fabric of the city, and in so doing, that’s actually an even more powerful message,” Katz said, who was the former executive coordinator of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale University.
The chief curator for the project Nicholas Baume said the work reminds him that it’s a “common occurrence to see a gay couple holding hands waiting on a subway platform in New York City.”
“It’s great that it’s no longer a taboo for men to show this kind of everyday affection.”
The station and art work will be open to the public on Jan. 1.
With Post Wires