This post in the Process series highlights the work of VCFA MFA candidate Todd Hilgert. Over the course of the past two years, Todd has been relentlessly exploring the contemporary American political landscape, creating work that is activist in nature, imbuing the surface with a pop sensibility, yet which asks deep questions about the assumptions of culture and society through a Queer lens. Design educator Michael Worthington has repeatedly stated that good design work is both “smart and sexy”, meaning that it must have seductive form and thorough conceptual thinking. Todd’s work has both: highly politicized and personal approaches to the contemporary condition filtered through catchy, colorful, highly nuanced form.
These works are the beginnings of a series meant to analyze the ways in which queer sexualities are selectively embraced by the mainstream. People have become much more favorable of gay rights, but the range of acceptable gay expression remains rather narrow.
The moral for many lessons of diversity is “once you get to know _______, you realize they’re just like you!” Minorities are lent humanity in association to the majority, but not on their own right or merit.
Camping: For All Queers
This book explores the world of camp in its various incarnations and celebrates some of its modern purveyors. The magazine itself is a satire of Boy’s Life the classic guide to scouting and training manual for budding masculinity. Camping is a look into a world that celebrates queerness in the same way heteronormative ideals are treated.
Camping is both a guide to what camp is and an example of a camp artifact designed according to camp aesthetics as I interpret them. In “Notes On ‘Camp’,” Susan Sontag equates Camp to homosexual taste. Gay men elected themselves the arbiters of a twisted type of taste and fashion creating a function for ourselves within the greater society. Camp is irony turned art form and a quintessential aspect of Queer design.
A playful look at gay typography combining illustration and letterform. I like creating and consuming work that exposes how some of our ideas of obscenity can be rather arbitrary or silly. Someone offended by the word is probably not offended by the content and vice versa, but the word describes the content.
A surface design project influenced and inspired by contemporary gay male language and pop culture and the camp qualities of Victorian era or Art Nouveau wallpapers. It was conceived as a mix of direct queer male sexuality and the camp sensibilities popular in gay media. This was one of my earlier deliberate forays into creating “Queer” design in the program.
A fun illustration of my husband meant to be a sort of “drag” style of caricature or portrait.
Memorial: Orlando The United States is a country plagued by unnecessary gun violence and unjustified murder. The summer of 2016 felt like a particularly violent time with videos of police brutality being frequently released online and the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history occurring at Pulse Nightclub.
Memorial: Sterling Crimes like these occur almost daily. These are two posters in a series commemorating the victims of violence in the US.
Protect Your Family
Too often the needs of trans people have been set aside in the fight for queer rights. It was ultimately the strength of trans women and drag queens refusing to succumb to brutal treatment during police raids that set off the Stonewall riots, an important turning point in the so called gay liberation movement. However, although trans people have always been part of the greater queer community and contributed greatly to the gay rights movement, there have more recently been some arguments to take the “T” out of LGBT.
There are distinct rights issues surrounding gender identity versus sexual orientation, but trans issues have been historically ignored in favor of gay issues like marriage equality. This has created a fracture on both sides, but I believe we are stronger together. We make natural allies and I think it is dangerous to divide this already tiny, marginalized group.
Misinformation and outrageous statements have become regular political strategy. Most of these flyers are designed from a kind of bait and switch approach in which the counter message is woven into the common false narratives.
The form is meant to reflect kind of cheap, experimental flyers enabled by desktop publishing. I was obsessed with WordArt as a child, so it is fun to resolve these kind of tacky design tropes into a more refined composition.
Redefining the Rainbow
The rainbow flag created by Gilbert Baker for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom day and has become the most recognizable symbol for the LGBT community. Since its creation, the rainbow flag has become an archetype for myriad “rainbow” flags in various colors for every conceivable queer identity or subculture starting with the leather pride and bear brotherhood flags. The rainbow flag has associations with diversity, unity, and even Dorothy’s friends from the Wizard of Oz, but the meanings of each color originally stated by Baker are virtually unknown; two have even been eliminated for manufacturing reasons. These less practical alternatives are meant to convey more aspects of the Queer experience. It can be confusing, complicated, and even chaotic to be a Queer person in a world created mostly by and for straight individuals. There’s also a darker side of Queer life with discrimination, high suicide rates, and addiction that is not present in the cheerful rainbow.