Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Introducing the tumblr "Amy & Shaun" (a mixed-race love story)

A few weeks ago I received a lovely email message from Shaun, the creative talent behind the tumblr "Amy & Shaun."  He sent me a link to his tumblr, along with this description:
The pictures are not making any overt political or social commentary, but I think they send a very strong, positive message about the viability of mixed race couples, a love of oneself, and that love for oneself in the state in which we were made (without the need for processed hair and etc.), and, to some extent, a message about strong women and what they can do in this world.
Here's one of the pictures -- I particularly like it for its cheekiness!

I loved scrolling through the tumblr and seeing all these whimsical images of Amy & Shaun--especially the ones incorporating Shaun's background with Asian art (there are a few that look like he has plopped his characters in the middle of a Chinese painting).

So I decided to ask Shaun if he'd be willing to be "interviewed" by me -- a first for Mixed Race America.  I'll probably have to work on my interview questions, but I really appreciated the chance to chat more with Shaun about the inspiration for his art and his thoughts about inter-racial relationships.  Please do check out the tumblr "Amy & Shaun."

MRA:  What was your inspiration for the tumblr "Amy and Shaun"?  And where do you derive inspiration for your individual art pieces?

A&S:  Originally, these pictures were only ever meant to be a way for me to reach out to my love every morning to let her know just how much I love her, to remind her that her Shaun loves his Amy very very much.  I was going through a difficult time dealing with some personal things a year and a half or so ago, and Amy started sending me a picture each morning to help keep my spirits up.  After she'd sent a hundred of them, I decided that it was my turn to take over.  And I've never stopped.  I've drawn a picture every day for Amy ever since, and I don't have any plans to stop at this point.  Inspiration for each picture can come from all sorts of different places, but mostly from the fun of living my life with Amy.  If we go on a hike together, the next day I might draw a picture of us hiking.  If we see a beautiful sunset together, I might draw that same scene we had shared and draw us in it together.  Some times I'll see certain colors or patterns as I walk through my day, and they'll set off a chain reaction in my mind, imagining a picture around that color or idea.  It's really just daily whimsy, I guess I would have to say.

MRA:  Do you have a favorite art piece?

A&S:  Wow, choosing favorites from among our pictures is really really hard.  I usually really love whatever I've just drawn.  Until the next picture comes along, and then it becomes my favorite.  But I particularly like any of them in which I feel like I've done a particularly good job of making Amy look really really cute.  Because she is!  

Of our more recent pictures, I do love this one of us dancing cheek to cheek on the ballroom dance floor:

MRA:  Any plans to add text or to create narratives/stories that will accompany the pictures?

A&S:  I don't think so.  I really try to have the picture itself tell the whole story, or just convey a certain mood or feeling.  I do often add captions though.  But I probably won't ever do more than that.  I've been thinking about trying a few pictures that include multiple panels, like a comic strip.  That might allow for a bit more of a narrative if I ultimately do decide to try that.  To the extent that the pictures do convey messages about interracial couples or strong women of color, I definitely do not want to be heavy handed about that.  I don't think it's necessary and I don't think it would feel genuine if I tried to consciously do that.
MRA:  When/where/how did you and Amy meet?

A&S:  My life changed forever when Amy became a part of it.  I was sleep walking through a black and white landscape until Amy took my hand.   She came to me as a sweet, quiet song in the dark, gently waking me with a kiss.  And when she did, and my eyes opened, my world had grown so bright I was nearly blinded by it, with all the colors of life's palette flowing all around me.   
MRA:  What has been one of the most surprising things (in either a good or not so good way) that you've encountered in being an inter-racial couple?

A&S:  I'm not sure that much has happened to us that I would characterize as "surprising."  I think we are both highly attuned when it comes to detecting even very subtle forms of racism and sexism.  I am very much an optimist by nature, and I believe that people are capable of great good.  But I'm also a realist, and I see the world for what it is.  Very sadly, our world remains replete with evidence of humans' nearly infinite capacity to hate one another.  We hate the Other:  You part your hair on the right, while we part our hair on the *left*, and that is why we hate you.  That's why I can't say it's surprising when, for example, we're standing near a cash register, Amy in front of me, and we watch one white customer after another being casually asked if they need assistance, while no one says a word to Amy.  In many instances like that, I don't even think that these actions are conscious on the part of the counter folks.  I just think that, in situations like that, the people at the counter simply don't "see" Amy.  When Amy then tells me to stand in front of her, it's zip zip zip, instant service.  The white guy approaches and all bow down before him.  

We're changing and getting better.  But it's happening very very slowly.  And I've seen so much of this sort of thing during my life that none of it is surprising to me.  We don't let it ruin our day.  When we see it, we look over at each other and give each other a knowing nod.  Or make jokes about it.  Life's too short to let it completely ruin your day.  There are times when it can, for sure.  But to the extent that we can, why try not to let it get the better of us.
MRA:  What has been the reaction to your tumblr?

A&S:  So, as I said, the original idea behind these pictures was simply to express my love for my perfect angel, my partner Amy.  So the reaction has actually been quite a surprise to me.  I have a fairly considerable number of followers now, which is in itself surprising, as I'm sufficiently self-aware and self-critical to appreciate that these pictures are not "great works of art."  They're just simply little line drawings.  So the size of the audience that they seem to appeal to is something of a surprise to me, for sure.  And even more surprising is the fact that, at least so far, the vast majority of the tumblr's followers are young, black and African-American women.  When Amy and I began to notice this make-up of the audience of followers, it made us start to think about what else these pictures might represent:  that it's okay to be a part of a loving, interracial couple; that it's something to be celebrated, in fact.  That it's a wonderful and beautiful thing for a white man to be in love with a brilliant and strong woman of color.  When Amy and Shaun fight a dragon, it is Amy who takes the lead, with Shaun following behind her, but showing a great deal more trepidation about the encounter than his brave partner is.  In different scenarios, I might draw either of us in the role of the hapless or silly or scared and nervous one.  I think the important point is that we can both be strong, or weak, or scared, or foolish, or funny, in turn.
MRA:  If you were to give your tumblr a subtitle (something post-colon) what would it be?

A&S:  Amy & Shaun:  A Perfect Love.  I am nothing if not a completely hopeless romantic.
MRA:  What does the phrase "Mixed Race America" mean to you?

To me, that is a very succinct description of the future of this great country of ours.  I believe it was during the most recent census that we learned that white babies now make up a *minority* of all kids being born in America.  The great melting pot is finally starting to mix together our skin colors and religions and ethnicities.  I would guess that in as little as a generation or two, America is going to be getting very close to being a country of mostly yummy, caramel-colored kids.  Let's hear it for hybrid vigor!  

MRA:  If you had to choose between having either flight or invisibility as a super power, which would you choose?

A&S:  No contest:  the ability to fly.  To be able to soar among the clouds and the mountain tops, gazing down at all of the natural beauty on our little blue marble?  That would be incredible.  I used to have dreams about flying as a kid.  As for invisibility, well, I've seen both the Invisible Man and Hollow Man movies, and things always seem to end badly for those "a-pigment" types, so that's another good reason for going with flight.

No comments: