I started Political Clowns in 2016 as a way for me to get better at drawing and make-meaning of the political landscape of that election year. I began by taking photos from protests and drawing over them. At first, it was just some simple tracing to get my hand familiar with the forms of people holding signs. But I quickly realized that I didn’t have to be so literal, and that by distorting the image in some way I could convey a more radical politic.
As someone who participates in civic life, I have spent numerous hours listening to commission meetings of all sorts. While I love and value public comment, I also understand what limited impact it has on the actual process of governance. Too often, I have listened to hours of testimony from my neighbors about how cops are not keeping us safe or how we must prioritize and build truly affordable housing or how to center and prioritize Black communities, Indigenous communities, and other communities of color in decision-making on public services only to not have any of that labor honored and valued by our City.
One thing explicitly revealed to me in 2016 is how politics is theater, and that we are all players being played. So it got me thinking as I was tracing protest photos, what if the person I’m drawing was a clown, and what if I used their protest sign as a way to process the news I’m reading, the public meetings I’m watching, or the podcasts I’m listening to?
That’s how Political Clowns were born.
This past year, 2022, I revisited some of the clowns I had previously drawn. 2022 is a year where it’s become even more apparent that this isn’t just theater, it’s a fucking clown show. And it’s the Monied Ruling Class, which both political parties bow / kneel to, forcing us to live in this hell of a farce.
As I looked at my past clowns, I got inspired to update them and even draw a few new ones. My skill in drawing has improved quite a bit in six years. So, too, has my political tongue. I set to the task of making the clowns a bit more detailed and expressive, and I updated the signs with more radical messages that I think cut through the political noise. I then placed the Political Clowns on reimagined backgrounds of real places of political contest as related to the message.
This new round of Political Clowns is bolder than any of my work previously. Whoever wears a Political Clown tee, hoodie, or backpack is taking a stand, and anyone who sees you wearing it knows exactly what you believe.
As a queer living in San Francisco, I feel comfortable making and wearing these radical statements. I also know that it isn’t always the case that we can wear our radical politics on our sleeve. That’s why, as I looked at these new Political Clowns, I thought, “How can I use these as a starting point and create something equally as bold but safer to wear so us Queerdos could wear these politics anywhere?”
My mind went directly to abstracting some aspect of the Political Clowns as a way to hide their meaning. This “hiding in plain sight” concept is a tenet of most esoteric magic and is the basis of sigils. I've made other sigils before, and they inspired me to start transforming the text from the signs into illegible bold patterns. I then placed those patterns on to incredibly comfortable hoodies and joggers. I ordered myself the “Kingdom of God Is Hell on Earth” set and waited for their arrival.
Seeing these patterns printed on a whole sweatsuit was incredible. Putting them on was fucking powerful. I hadn’t expected confidence to overcome me as I pulled up the joggers, and after I pulled the hoodie over my head to complete the look I smiled so wide it made me giggle. It felt as if I had armor on, and no one else knew.
Going out into the world with my sweatsuit for the first time was an experience unto itself. I was running a quick errand, which was only a few blocks away. Twice cars pulled over to compliment me on it, and a handful of people I passed made a point to ask me about it. Everyone who said something was different. The best was that no one knew what it said, which meant I could say whatever I wanted about it.
That’s when the idea of Queer Comfortwear came to me.
So this new line of Political Clowns isn’t just about the tees or the messages. It’s about being bold enough to declare your radical beliefs in ways that make you feel good. It’s helped us here at Queerly Complex (John and me) look at what and how we do in a new light. In fact, it is the inspiration for us to redo this entire website so that we can better articulate our bold, radical vision of a Queerly Complex Cosmos that cultivates camaraderie, solidarity, and Queer Love through a complex of services, art, events, writing, collaborations, merch, and more for fellow Queerdos and our comrades.
Thanks for reading, and please check out our FIRST Political Clown, “The Kingdom" below.