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An orgy of lines and laughter: The Art of Yigi Chang Markham-raised artist and illustrator uses art to explore queer culture, the complexity of sexuality and to crack a couple of dick jokes along the way

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In preparation for our interview, Yigi Chang laid out a table full of his artwork and crafts. He had coasters featuring the gaping anuses of men, which he carefully painted, felted, resined and assembled. He had cum rags with open-mouth portraits, a button with a golden crown of cocks and an intricate penis bookmark. He was drinking coffee out of his signature “Cup of Joe Mug”; with a naked man doing the backstroke, erect cock poking out of a swimming pool of his own cum.

Chang’s art, especially in his crafts and prints, convey a visual joke. The images are often so ludicrous in concept that it is difficult to always categorize his art as strictly erotic. His work is intended to lift the spirits of his audience. Laughter is Chang’s method, but he ultimately uses it to dispel the shame and guilt associated with sexuality.

“There’s a lot of baggage that comes with sex and I want to alleviate all of that,” said Chang. “I want to remove the historical, negative stigmas that are associated with homosexuality.”

Eminent Coronation Yigi Chang

“If I can make someone laugh, I can break the tension, frustration or anger that’s directed towards me. I feel like that’s a footing that we are now sharing together.”

While Chang has obviously embraced this expression of sexuality, practicing erotic art as a teenager was not without that shame.

Growing up in Markham, Chang recalled not having access to a large gay community. As a teenager who often found himself home alone, he had to explore sexuality and sexual experiences through his art. He used his art as an excuse to watch pornography on the early Internet, insisting that he was just looking for photo references.

There’s a lot of baggage that comes with sex and I want to alleviate all of that. I want to remove the historical, negative stigmas that are associated with homosexuality. 

 

Yigi Chan
Artist

With the help of porn and sport and fitness magazines, Chang was improving his sense of anatomy and refining his line work. But Chang was still embarrassed the moment that he finished, and he would draw over the same page with another nude body, gradually obscuring each image.

“I sort of built up this layered and linear style, and that’s how I disguised what was going on,” explained Chang. “At the end of the day it would be like this line orgy where no one could be distinguish what was happening. Every now and then you would see an explicit part; you’d see a little butt here, you would see a foot there and then have to delve into it to unravel what was happening.”

As much as Chang attributes his artistic interest to being a horny teenager left to his own devices, he is recognizes that his fixation on sexual subjects is a result of his queer experience.

Bumper Buns Yigi Chang

“As a queer youth you are confronted a lot, through societal norms… you’re forced to question your sexuality.… Oftentimes for me art was ‘art as therapy’, but it was self-directed therapy. I couldn’t even recognize that it was a moment for myself to reflect… and to process. It was a way for me to process my queer experience growing up.”

Chang continued to thrive in the arts throughout high school, ultimately leading to his enrollment at OCAD University where he received a BDes in illustration. He decided to use his thesis to bring queer culture to an unfamiliar audience, with his own dash of absurdity, fantasy and visual humour.

Queer as Folklore is a series of illustrations that present modern day fables that explain the mythological origins of gay culture. Some of Chang’s personal favourites include the origin story of the “Glory Hole”, which are holes in wall used for anonymous sex, but were originally invented when unicorns teleport into men’s bathroom stalls and accidentally drill holes in the walls with their horns. Chang depicts a half-dog, half-human “Self-Sucker” that originated oral masturbation, and a mythical, giant pair of scissors that lesbian couples use to untangle their pubic hairs.

A Humble Tumble Yigi Chang

The tonal decision behind Chang’s work goes beyond visual gag. Queer as Folklore invites those outside the LGBTQ+ community to not only understand their slang and language, but to participate in this tongue-and-cheek and humorous attitude that is sometimes forced onto queer sexuality.

“I think it was something that Dan Savage… who is a sex columnist [said]. As a queer person, when you come out, you have to go to your [parents] and say, ‘Hey I’m gay’. What they hear is ‘Hey I suck dick’. Subconsciously that’s the image that they are seeing so you’re always confronting the extreme image. So you have to deal with it a bit of irreverence. I think humour has always been the coping mechanism.”

By alleviating the tension and seriousness of sexuality, Chang’s work both embraces the power of sexuality, while recognizing and combatting the cultural and political forces that try to control that power.

Chang’s artistic journey has been one of liberation, not just for himself, but also for an audience that he has invited to share in his love for sexuality. It is in this love for the body and a love for laughter in spaces where there once was shame that is apparent in every line he draws.

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Author: Daniel Arauz

Daniel Arauz is a fourth year philosophy student, connoisseur of Hamilton’s food scene and avid napper. Daniel has made many contributions to the Silhouette as News Staff Reporter, Features Reporter and two time Arts & Culture Editor. He has introduced Culinary Class Acts and Power Hour, where he plays cliché 80s music that starts and ends with "Total Eclipse of the Heart."