Two Muslim men sit intertwined, kissing, in Bhai Log, by illustrator Mohammed Fayaz. It’s a scene Fayaz created to highlight the normalcy of the lives of queer people of color not depicted in mainstream art spaces.
“I have a responsibility in the images I am putting out into the world,” Fayaz tells The Creators Project. “Am I going to contribute to the same ideas of beauty and bodies that have come before me, or am I going to reflect the truth as I know it to be? American media at large treats whiteness as a default, and variances from that perspective are rarely as textured as I want them to be as a viewer.”
The characters Fayaz creates can be seen laying in bed cruising the internet, sitting in parks smoking weed, or hanging out on stoops. These realistic portrayals of LGBTQ people of color, with titles like Productivity and Escalating, explore what it means to be visible in everyday settings. Works like Muslimamis also challenge mainstream gay notions of beauty.
“Stereotypes are constantly perpetuated and massaged into the consciousness at large,” says Fayaz, who was born and raised in Queens. “That's not the world that I know, that's not the world that queer people of color who congregate around the world know. We live amongst one another, we love and hurt one another, and we chill on the stoop in the summertime with a blunt with our hair in braids. I want to capture what's going on so that we can look at this reflection and embrace the beauty we're steeped in.”
Fayaz's digitally-rendered images have found an audience worldwide. Tumblr recently featured Rukhsana with Cap on its dashboard. The portrait of a girl, dressed in a gold sari with a backwards baseball cap, garnered thousands of notes. The illustrator believes that putting his work out in spaces where LGBTQ people of color form communities is important because the portraits seek to create a visual vocabulary.
He uses his Mojuicy tumblr to form bonds with queer people of color from around the world. “For the pieces that I've been releasing publicly, its almost entirely digital work, and I work through pencils, inks, and colors entirely in Photoshop,” explains Fayaz, who recently showed his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
“I keep a running list of places I've been, boys I've loved, moments I really cherished, all of this is swimming around my mind and I call on those when I'm sitting down to work on a new piece.”
To view more of Mohammed Fayaz’s portraits, click here.