Meet the Gay Couple Holding Hands in That Groundbreaking NYC Subway Mural

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New York is the gayest place in the world. We all know this, right?  I don’t have stats on me right now, but you sign on to a dating app and instantly are bombarded with the profiles of a hundred men less than a few feet away. In short, New York is gay AF.

So why did it take so long for us to get some gay AF public art?

Well, it looks like we don’t have to wait any longer.

Not only did New York get a brand-new subway line and three shiny new subway stations, it also got its first permanent, non-political LGBTQ piece of public art.

After taking nearly a century to build, the Second Avenue subway extension in Manhattan opened on Sunday with lots of pomp and circumstance. Three new stations opened at 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets. It’s not really a whole new line, just an extension of the Q line, which now runs from the Upper East Side to Coney Island.

The 96th Street Station is especially bougie. One of the things making it extra fabulous is a captivating mural by Vik Muniz. “Over three dozen mosaic portraits depicting everyday New Yorkers waiting for a train adorn the walls of the new line,” Buzzfeed writes.

One of those portraits is of married couple Thor Stockman and Patrick Kellogg.

The couple is particularly proud of their participation in the project because they don’t feel represented in popular 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 tells The New York Post.

We reached out to Stockman and Kellogg ourselves to find out some answers to our own questions. Here is what they told us about the whole experience of being immortalized on the walls of New York’s subway—including the haters, why they haven’t seen it yet and what they hope is next.

Describe your emotions when you first saw the mural in person.

Thor Stockman: Actually, we haven’t. We thought we’d wait a couple days for the crowds to die down, and we’ve both been busy helping care for my former partner, in the hospital recovering from surgery. But we’re headed over there tonight!

We were told we would be included almost a year ago, and we were ecstatic! It was hard to sit on the news and not tell any friends or family. It especially meant a lot to me because I love all the subway mosaics here, my grandfather took up the hobby and I grew up surrounded by his work.

How does it feel to be representing a portion of our community who is very under represented not only in mainstream media but even gay media as well?

TS: I never thought we’d be representing anyone other than ourselves, but what a difference two men unashamedly holding hands makes, huh?  So I can see why people think we represent NYC’s entire LGBTQ community in public art, since we otherwise are so invisible. I mean, there are over 36 people in Vik Muniz’s mosaics in that station, so some of the other people are probably gay, too.

Patrick Kellogg: The positive attention is great. I hear there are sometimes lines of people waiting to take a photo is front of the art. Many couples are making a point to see that particular mosaic and be a part of it, and that’s wonderful. Holding hands is a gesture anybody can do, for any reason.

Courtesy of Thor Stockman and Patrick Kellogg

Why do you think so many people are drawn to this story?

TS: As a South Asian woman in The New York Times said, crying when she saw the mosaic of another South Asian woman dressed in a sari, “Representation matters.” I also think Muniz’s mosaics are so popular because they seem designed—full body, life-size, and colorful—to encourage interactive selfies with them. But also because they are amazing and beautiful works of art.

PK: I think I was surprised that the mosaic got so much attention. It’s just one of 36 portraits by Vik Muniz in the series “Perfect Strangers.” There are so many other great mosaics in the station that I didn’t think this one would stand out.

You’d have to ask Muniz about what his intent was as an artist. One quote from him that I read was, “They are just people you would expect to see. You would expect to see men holding hands.” I think Muniz would be surprised that this mosaic—out of all the political work he has done—would be confrontational. I think we are just supposed to be two New Yorkers waiting for the train … looking a little bored, not paying attention to any attention.

Have there been any negative responses and how are you responding to that?

TS: I should have expected all the hate spewed out on the internet—”Disgusting perverts!”—but I am still surprised by how upset some people get over something so minor as two men holding hands. Some are saying it will get defaced. But the big surprise was a lot of the criticism from gays and lesbians that we’re too white, too male, not queer enough, too old, too out-of-shape—you name it—to properly represent NYC’s vast and varied LGBTQ communities. And to that I kind of have to agree, but I also encourage everyone that if you don’t feel that the art out there represents you, to make art that does. Write the stories and songs, make the paintings and comics and films that show the world just how fierce and fabulous we are.

PK: I was shocked at the internet trolls. Upon seeing the mosaic, some commenters replied “yuck” (and worse, much much worse). It’s weird that two men holding hands would cause a strong reaction in 2017. We’re not even kissing. One webpage spun out a whole conspiracy theory about how this mosaic was trying to get more people to become gay, that Muniz was part of a “Hollywood cabal” of pro-gay artists churning out propaganda.

What do you hope is next?

PK: I moved to New York City in 2010 to live with Thor. I’m a huge fan of music. I try to see one or two concerts a week. I love reading about the New Wave and No Wave scenes in the ’80s, and I hope that could be remembered somehow by the city. If I was choosing art in New York, I’d love to see a tribute to the transgender activists of Stonewall like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, or Stormé DeLarverie. We need a memorial to all the gays who use to hang out on the Christopher Street piers, making New York great.

TS: I want to see a world where more same-sex couples feel safe to hold hands in public—and other displays of affection—until it becomes so common and everyday no one even notices. In short, more queer, more love and more art.

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