Sculptor Colin Christian talks Satan, his idol H. R. Giger and how he views women as superheroes
Sculptor Colin Christian is best known for three things: His 7 feet tall, anatomically correct, and terrifyingly endowed anime space babes. His “Trypophobia” series of maggot-munched body parts swarming with teeth where they don’t belong. And Miley Cyrus’ “pornicorn” outfit – two prosthetic breasts, one fake vulva, dick-shaped spurs, and a giant, glittery unicorn penis with light-up balls.
His list of fans and patrons includes CEOs, white collar criminals, Kanye West, and the Church of Satan. In honour of Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday, he put her head on the body of a buxom cyborg who towers at 10 feet on her knees, and then sold her to one of the biggest Hello Kitty collectors in the world. For a trifling $799 plus shipping, you can buy a life-size lower torso with a tentacle penis (his first male sculpture). And he is completely self-taught.
His hero H. R. Giger is to blame. When Christian was 15, he went to see Alien, and then “immediately” dropped out of school. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it was something to do with that,” he tells me. “And that was the only plan I had. Giger really kicked my ass,” He took a series of odd jobs but eventually opened a latex fetish clothing business with his wife Sas and then, in 1998, producing the first of his signature Glamazonians, which he first makes out of clay and plaster and then finishes in fiberglass and silicone.
The late icon’s influence runs through Christian’s work like a varicose vein. He’ll slip in a biomechanical texture here and there, or a xenomorphic curve, or Lilith’s blade-shaped horns. And although he draws his inspiration from other retrofuturist geek staples like Stanley Kubrick, Barbarella (“I saw that right when I hit puberty”), and Heavy Metal magazine, it’s the Ancient Aliens stuff that’s “always been there.” He tends to combine these old influences with the new, mixing Aztec art and L.A. lowrider culture, for instance, or seemingly incompatible references. That’s how he describes his upcoming version of Harley Quinn: “She has a baseball bat covered in human teeth. She has a teddy-bear backpack stuffed with fireworks that are covered in razor blades. Just kind of fun, cute, kind of Hello Kitty and Hostel sort of thing.”
We caught up with the Tampa-based and London-born artist to talk female empowerment, his provocative reputation, body parts, and his love for Giger.
How would you describe your style? What’s the Colin Christian signature?
Colin Christian: It used to be something, and now it’s something else. It was always based around an optimistic retrofuturism, and for the longest time, that’s really what it was. And the events of the last ten years have just eaten away at that optimism and I found these darker elements kept popping up. And it feels very honest to do that kind of stuff. That pure, poppy optimism which I loved so long, I still have that, but it seems inappropriate all the time. It doesn’t seem as honest, so when the darker stuff comes along, I just jump on it. Weirdly enough, it’s gotten me a whole different audience. I wasn’t expecting that. So it’s split between the lighter, more optimistic stuff and the darker, more realistic, more foreboding stuff, and I think everybody can just feel it. It’s that universal zeitgeist of oppression. It just transfers to the work, I can’t help it.
Who’s your new audience and who was the old audience?
Colin Christian: The old audience was generally richer people with big houses. They had room to exhibit and show large work. Again, the large stuff was very optimistic – space suits and the future and females. The female astronaut represents to me the ultimate optimism. That means basically we got ourselves together, we ditched the racism and all the bullshit and the money and the crap, because the only way we’re going to get into space is by everyone working together. So the female astronaut represents hope to me, that we got our shit together. And then I started with the “Trypophobia” stuff, and I suddenly got this much younger crowd come in. And they’re not interested at all in the happy stuff.
Your work seems to play a lot with hyper-femininity and exaggerated femininity. Why do you choose to depict these kinds of almost drag queen-esque, 7 feet tall Amazonians? Is there a political slant at all?
Colin Christian: I’ve been with my wife for a long time, and I know what she’s like inside. She has this calm exterior, but inside she’s fearless, a warrior, and my mother was the same. I do see women as superheroes. [The UPS guy arrives with his silicone]. I think that’s why women are demanding Wonder Woman right now. I think they’ve been given a raw deal for so long. I loved Alien, because it had Ripley – she wasn’t a guy, but she wasn’t pandering to anything either. My mother was the same, and my wife was the same, and I try to get that idea across. My wife can be very outrageous, especially when she wants to be. I think a lot of women can, they just choose maybe not to show it, but I like to see these pieces as very positive and empowering. I can see why people would think misogyny, I understand that, but it’s not where it comes from.
Speaking of empowered and outrageous, what’s the story behind Miley Cyrus’ “Pornicorn” outfit?
Colin Christian: She’s awesome. She’s really a lot of laughs. I did these LipSex pieces – that was a distillation of how I felt about female empowerment, basically took it right down to a single image, a kind of “fuck you” sort of thing and attitude – and loads of people tagged her in it. And eventually she saw them, and was like “Holy shit, yes.” And she called me on the phone and she said, “So what can you do for me?” We went back and forth for 45 minutes, and we decided I’d make a costume for her. I came up with the idea of the Pornicorn right then and there, on the spot, talking to her, and she was like, “Holy fuck yes, let’s fucking do it.” Of course, there was no time, and I’d set the bar way too high, but it had to be done. It got to the point where I was literally making these 11-inch foam dicks that were supposed to be shipped by FedEx that day, and I was literally throwing handfuls of glitter on them as they were getting stuffed in the box. They were still wet and soggy and glitter everywhere and LEDs, and it was that time that they had to be overnighted for her costume change.
“It got to the point where I was literally making these 11-inch foam dicks that were supposed to be shipped by FedEx that day, and I was literally throwing handfuls of glitter on them as they were getting stuffed in the box” – Colin Christian
It worked out really great, and of course it caused this giant stink. It was hilarious – we wet ourselves laughing at it all. I had made her these boobs and a pussy, because you could show art on Facebook, you could show nudity. So she could be naked, because it was fake, on Facebook and on the internet, which is surreal. It was so stupid. She could have a fake vagina that looked real, and that’s okay, but she couldn’t be naked. We wanted to make that sort of point, that it’s all so stupid. I got death threats.
A lot of your work combines the very grotesque and the very beautiful. Do people ever accuse you of being edgy or provocative and how do you respond to that?
Colin Christian: I’ve had some people say “you’re just doing it for the sake of it”, but that isn’t true. I don’t do it unless I’m feeling it. Some days it feels like I want it to be beautiful, and some days it’s not. And some days, it depends on the news I’ve had or whether my mortgage has been paid or not. It seems to rest on the way my life eddies in and out. It’s always reflective of how I’m feeling. If everything is going well, it’s usually happy and poppy, and if it’s not, then it’s like “oh shit.” If there’s teeth all over the face, clearly something happened.
Speaking of which, what’s the story behind the Smoking Goat of Mendes?
Colin Christian: That was sanctioned by the Church of Satan. They also sanctioned my “Trypophobia” show. They put that up on their page and everything, which I was actually thrilled about. Nothing pisses people off like Satan. It’s a guaranteed way of pissing somebody off and somebody’s ready to get outraged, or they think I’m off fighting babies or something.
“You put sexual organs in front of an American audience and they just lose their fucking minds. There’s this weird kind of oppression. It’s obvious the Puritanical thing is still there. And it’s such an easy button to push”
It’s a combination of Wiccan ideas and the pentacle, how we’re connected with the way Venus travels around the world. And frankly, you put sexual organs in front of an American audience and they just lose their fucking minds. There’s this weird kind of oppression. It’s obvious the Puritanical thing is still there. And it’s such an easy button to push. And I’m surprised that people still allow themselves to be pushed by it. So I’m trying to make it so it isn’t so shocking anymore. It isn’t shocking. It’s kind of fun. I plan to do a whole figure, which would be both male and female. There’d be a dick and boobs, everything going on everywhere.
What body part are you the most fascinated with or inspired by and why?
Colin Christian: I’m really, really interested in lips. Female lips. I saw a Fantastic Four comic when I was nine, and it was the way that Jack Kirby had drew Sue Storm’s upper lip and her teeth. She had a slight overbite and it just fused in my brain. And so now it’s like a touchstone that’s always there. It’s a combination of the lips and the teeth, it’s fascinating stuff. I think the teeth, maybe there’s something that connects, on some primal level. I don’t know what it is, but people are very interested in teeth.
You’ve posted on your Instagram famous women’s faces as inspiration for your work. What sort of facial structures are you drawn to the most for your work?
Colin Christian: I’m really drawn to very geometrical [faces]. They’re almost sculptural. Zoe Kravitz, Debbie Harry and Rosario Dawson, they have these really strong bone structures, with very sharp cheekbones. They almost exist as living sculptures, they are the ones I find most fascinating. Of course, ones with more delicate features are very beautiful, but I prefer something that’s a little more angular. I find it really fascinating on a sculptural level.
What sort of response do you hope to elicit with your sculptures?
Colin Christian: When I was very young, 14 or 15, and I saw a piece of Giger’s work, it absolutely floored me. And it actually changed my life. It made me focus. And what I really want to do is do that for somebody else. I want to do that so some girl or guy sees it and says, “You know what? I love that, I’m going to take what he’s got and I’m going to make it my own.” If I can do that, because I haven’t got any kids, then I’ve done my part for civilisation. I’ve helped push it forward, I’ve made a difference. That really is the bottom line. If someone can use my work as a sounding board to use their own voice, there’s nothing better than that. That’s all I can hope for.
You want to be someone else’s Giger.
Colin Christian: That’s exactly what I want to be. I feel it would have all been worth it.