Taboos are thoroughly explored in Brooklyn-based artist Zoe Ligon’s collages, which seek to blur the boundaries of sexuality for therest of society. She began creating collages fouryears ago and today has an impressive portfolio of works which are sexual and visually challenging in content as well as aesthetically pleasing in execution.
One of the greatest things about collaging is the pleasure of shredding something into piecesand putting it back together again, completely transformed. Her ability to alter the value or meaning of an image or object by adding orsubtracting elements is thoughtful to the point of spiritual. “My creativity is like a virus that lies dormant in the body and then pops up to say hello in varying degrees of intensity, but can be coaxed out if I need it and it can [influence]other people.”
Emerging from a sexually aware generation, Zoe proposes that there’s still work to be done.”Can you imagine a nation full of leaders whoare free to express their love for their bodies and sexuality instead of enshrouding the entire subject in shame? Sex toys were illegal — ILLEGAL– in Virginia and Indiana until recently, and many more ridiculous sodomy laws still exist [in the U.S.] to this day.”
Fameless Quarterly: Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live.
Zoe Ligon: I call myself as a sex educator, but also as an artist. I work for an upscale women-owned sex toystore in Manhattan and also am an administrator/moderator for a popular dating website. I recently started a sexual health and education blog that has been very rewarding anda welcomed change of pace. I live in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in a beautiful townhouse with my super elderly cat. I’ve lived in the city for 4 years, and graduated from Fordham University with a psych degree. I’m a very zany high-energy person, going out every night, very animated all the time, always eating, and always going somewhere.
FQ: What do you love about living in Bed-Stuy?
ZL: My particular corner of Bed-Stuy feels like a classic Brooklyn neighborhood. It’s a very quiet street and I know most of my immediate neighbors. I live in a townhouse and my landlords live on the first two floors and they take amazing care of me; feeding my cat, re-parking my car when I’m out of town, etc. I have lived in many different places in the city and have needed to move because of price hikes and dangerous situations, so I am beyond thrilled to beliving in my current place.
FQ: What are your passions?
ZL: This will probably not come as a surprise, but definitely sex and sexuality. I love actual sex acts, but it goes beyond that. I always describe my passion for sex as being similar to someone who’s really obsessed and enthused about something like robotics, or Russian literature, or football. I find it interesting as a general concept. I nerd out over the facts and information. I enjoy thinking about and discussing the psychological and physical components of sex, all the sex toys that exist, subcultures of our society pertaining to sex, etc. I’d say the last 5 five books I’ve read have been sex education books, and I read them for leisure, not just as they pertain to my work.
Besides all that, I am also very passionate about: cheese, caf-tans, psychological thrillers,tropical fish, European animation and Caribbean music. Oh yeah! And, of course, my family. I am very close with my parents.
FQ: How did you first become interested in sex education and why is it important?
ZL: I’m not sure there was a point that I definitively decided upon it, but my coworkers and I generally say that no one stumbles into this profession accidentally, we all really want to do what we’re doing. To me it feels like a the natural direction my life took, because I can’t think of a single other thing I could be doing with my life at this moment that would feel more rewarding. It’s important for many reasons: It’s pretty widely recognized that sex education, particularly in the USA, just totally blows. I was actually privileged enough to attend a pretty fancy liberal (relative to most schools in the US) public high school, but sexed only consisted a one week section in a mandatory health class–I’m pretty sure the entire subject of masturbation was avoided. Can you imagine a nation full of leaders who are free to express their love for their bodies and sexuality instead of enshrouding the entire subject in shame? Sex toys were illegal– ILLEGAL — in Virginia and Indiana until recently, andmany more ridiculous sodomy laws still exist to this day. Guns, however, are defended as a basic human right. To the average person, an image of a gun is probably less intimidating and unusual than an image of a sex toy or genitals. I will defend dildos until the day I die.
FQ: How or where do you channel your inner child? Or is it a place?
ZL: I am still a child in many ways, so it’s not that difficult. I was always a rule-follower when I was a teenager, Iwould literally drink water out of beer cans to seem cool so asnot to break any rules. When I moved to New York, all of my experimentation began, so I feel like I had a late social puberty, yet simultaneously I think I really have my shit together for a 22 year old. I think that’s why I like New York night life, you can be wild and crazy while still feeling sophisticated. The spirit of childhood should span our entire lives.
FQ: Describe your artistic style and its influences or inspirations.
ZL: My artistic vocabulary is actually pretty limited since I’ve never received formal art training, but I’d say there’s definitely some stained glass vibes going on. I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at other collage pieces because I honestly dislike a lot of collage work(although I do have a few stand-out personal favorites in the col-lage medium, such as Cameron Flynn Jones.) The cut-out body concept (“The Good Meat Removed” series) was the first idea I explored that felt organically born from my mind, but it’s pretty hard to be a collage artist without using images or concepts that haven’t already been explored in some sense. I’ve become very aware of this recently as it pertains to legal issues since I’ve been employed to make artwork for larger corporations. The laws regarding collage art are very similar to laws regarding music sampling, but I digress. I don’t even know how I come up with the things I make, sometimes my brain just farts things out.
FQ: Is “The Good Meat Removed” series your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
ZL: Hmmmmm. Well I really like that concept butI wouldn’t call it my favorite ever–I’m not evensure what my favorite would be! “The GoodMeat Removed” series is beautiful to me be-cause I have heard so many different interpre-tations of it from other people — it could beabout: censorship, the body as composite partsthat are meaningless separately, exploitation ofthe body within pornography, and so on. Yet, itdoesn’t mean just one thing to me.
FQ: Can you tell us a little about how you found your way to collaging or art?
ZL: Oh yeah, I remember the exact moment I decidedto begin collaging. I wanted attention. I was 17or 18 and had a HUGE crush on this artsy guy. I had been a dancer my entire life, but I want-ed to make visual images I could broadcast tothe world via the internet to get his attention. I sucked at illustration and painting and decided to begin cutting up images thatwere already beautiful to makethem beautiful in a differentway that I could sort of call myown. Well, I never hooked upwith that guy, and years laterwith a much more reputable CVI’m sure he still doesn’t give afuck, but I think it’s a total hootto acknowledge that I did it allfor a guy’s attention at the time.These days I still seek attentionthrough my work, but I’m cater-ing to a wider audience than oneteenage boy, and my intent goesway beyond pure attention.
FQ: I believe that any creativity I have is being temporarily lent to me by some divine energy, and it travels over me like a wave. If I’m not ready to embrace the wave at that moment, it passes me and goes onto the next person that’s ready for it. Is that something you can agree with?
ZL: Everyone’s different. My creativity is likea virus that lies dormant in thebody and then pops up to sayhello in varying degrees of in-tensity, but can be coaxed out ifI need it and can pass it to otherpeople. Okay, so like imagine a GOOD virus, like an awesome virus that helps you and doesn’t hinder you. It’s like that
FQ: Are you a night-owl or an early bird?
ZL: I think my nature is to be a morning person,but since I work the night shiftsat a sex toy boutique and am in-volved with nightlife I run on anight-owl schedule these days.
FQ: What are you trying tocommunicate with your art?
ZL: I’m not trying to communicate anything specifically, I justwant to start an open dialogueabout the subjects I choose. Imainly play off of the respons-es I get and it turns into moreof a conversation than me out-putting a message. When I useda genderless pseudonym as myartist name in years past (ZooLion), people would see my artin galleries or shows and assumeI was a man. Sometimes it feelsas though it’s not my art sending a message as much as it isthe actual act of creating it thatis the message.
FQ: What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
ZL: Again, everyone’s different, but I think exposing myself to as much stimuli as possible is what gets me going. Traveling to bizarre places, getting into dangerous situations, testing boundaries, and learning lessons the hard way. I love forcing myself to watch terrifying things that make me want to cry or faint or pass out or generally feel uncomfortable.
FQ: Are there any icons whose style you admire?
ZL: Walter Van Beirendonck, StevieNicks, that woman in A Clockwork Orangewith all of those penis sculptures in her house,and Barbara Streisand’s character in Meet The Fockers. I just asked my coworkers who arestanding right next to me as I write this andthey said my style is “futuristic art deco with alittle Stevie Nicks” so I guess that goes with all the aforementioned icons.
FQ: What do you skimp on?
ZL: Psh, nothing. Makeup, maybe? I dunno. Most of my makeup is the same shit I’ve been using since I was 13. I don’t mean that like I stick with the same brand, I mean that as in I literally have the same case of eye shadow as I did in middle school.
FQ: What do you splurge on?
ZL: Textile art and other random things I buy on Etsy at three in the morning when I’m drunk.
FQ: Your favorite color of the moment?
ZL: Mint green.
FQ: What is your next “must have” purchase?
ZL: A matching white latex halter top and skirt from The Baroness.
FQ: What’s on your bookshelf at the moment?
ZL: Sex ed boooooooooks. Female Ejaculation & The G-Spot by Deborah Sundahl and The Multi-Orgasmic Couple by Chia & Abrams are my favorites. I always put those books at eye level on my shelves so people can see how frickin’ cool and educated I am. Besides that, I love The Glass Castle, There Are No Children Here, The Martian Chronicles, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles–shit like that.
FQ: What can’t you live without?
ZL: My Hitachi Magic Wand!
FQ: Next place you want to travel to?
ZL: Trinidad and Tobago!