A few years ago, Bobby and I had a house warming party and a many very good friends stopped by. One of them was Cole, an artist and designer who is one of the most creative people I know – and he came bearing a very special gift.
It was a piece he created that had two people fused together, sharing a torso that held two heads with four arms and four legs. They were a party of conjoined people, two gleefully – and literally – becoming one. It was one of the best gifts we’ve every received, a wonderful, minimalist metaphor for cohabitation and, generally, being in a relationship.
These two guys weren’t just a one-off but, in watching Cole’s practice via Instagram, it became obvious that he had stumbled upon a unique, fantastic vocabulary to play with: he had made a duo that he calls his “butt buddies.” He shared these two bros for months and months and, very recently, shared where the project was going: a little book showcasing the antics of the two. Called Butt-Buddies and released by the fabulous Stolen Books, it features over a hundred works exploring where these conjoined characters can go and how they, confined in a rectangle, can explore meaning and space.
The resulting work is quite wonderful and, accordingly, I wanted to chat with Cole about his process and inspiration – and what these two faceless peeps really mean.
People who have followed your work know that butt buddies quite well. What goes into making these little dudes? Where do you draw inspiration?
Making them is a bit like a fever dream. Something will set me off, and then I just follow it. When I’m drawing them, I’m sort of mentally trying to put them in every possible situation, real and unreal. Visual or not. A feeling. An emotion. I want the Butt Buddies experience to be as rich and confusing as everyday life.
While I believe I know the answer to this, I have to ask for context: are the butt buddies two gay guys? Or are these more of blank canvas persons for anyone to project their butt and a buddy’s butt onto?
Their butts are blank, available for projection.
Butt-Buddies the book is billed as a “fairy tale.” Are there any similar fairy tales that you think your tale will fit well alongside?
Honestly, I don’t know. I read a lot of those stories in college, but I don’t remember any of their names. My favorites are always the ones that didn’t really make sense. Which I think is most of them, the Grimm ones. And I liked that.
This question is making me wish I made my fairy tale a bit more gruesome. A bit scarier. Cause I think of my book as a love story, and love is scary.
The book is in blue and white, a play between two colors, in two dimensions. Do you have any plans on taking the butt buddies into different realms, either into more colors or different dimensions?
I want them to exist in more public spaces. I really dislike control, and I feel like so much of how they live is under my control. When we did the book release in LA, Jupe and I each painted something from our books on the front of the store. And it felt great. It felt really right, to let them breathe fresh air.
I think it’s important for the things I make to live outside of myself. To give people a chance for rebuttal or response outside of a comment section, where people can add to it, or deface it. I think that’s important. I think a dumb fantasy of mine is to see people burn my books for heresy or something like that. Not that I want to set out to make work that offends, but I think wild ideas should be expressed regularly and live publicly. And if that means a book gets burned along the way, that’s great. It’s all part of our culture’s public conversation. This is how we figure shit out as a people, a populace. What we’re cool with or not. I think that’s why I like it. Ideally, I’m making work that is helping society figure its limitations and exceptions.
Will there be more tales of the butt buddies? What do you hope comes for your buddies-now-in-book-form’s future?
I think there’s always room for more butts. But where the butts go, I don’t know. I’d love to see them moving, but i’ve never done animation. I’m just trying to stay open with their butts and their possibilities.
Butt-Buddies is available now via Stolen Books. You can purchase it here.