‘Warpaint’ Offers a Fascinating Look at Gender Expression and Presentation

Artist Coco Layne's examination of gender presentation and expression is one of the most amazing things we've ever seen.

Coco Layne warpaint

Your talking point for today: This stunning photo collage. Created by artist Coco Layne,  Warpaint examines through photographs how subtle changes in hair, wardrobe, and makeup choices can make some major impact on gender expression and presentation.

According to the Huffington Post, Coco first got the idea while applying for jobs. “I’m a relatively feminine person most days, but I had both sides of my head shaved at the time,” she wrote in an email to HuffPo. “Without makeup, I looked more masculine than I did before, and the hair I had wasn’t long enough to part down the middle. I ended up wearing a black bob wig and a lot of makeup to the interview.”

She landed the job, which was at a women’s retailer; when she revealed her real hair to her managers, they told her that they were fine with it as long as she kept her hair parted down the middle with the shaved sides hidden while she was at work.  The experience of how she played with gender presentation stuck with her, eventually evolving into Warpaint.

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Coco, who identifies as a femme queer woman, explains that she usually falls somewhere on the third or fourth row of the collage. “Sometimes I feel like being upper femme and I’ll wear a lot of eye makeup and lipstick,” she says, “while on other days I won’t do anything besides fill my brows in. I love makeup because it allows me to play with my presentation.” She goes on to say that while her appearance may fluctuate, her identity does not: “I never felt like I was wearing a disguise at any time…. Warpaint comes from the perspective of a cisgendered queer woman of color, so it reflects my own unique experience and isn’t meant to speak for other queer people, although our experiences may intersect in some ways.” The most important point, she says, is that gender presentation is not gender identity or sexual orientation. “Playing around with gender expression is strictly an avenue to explore my identity as a queer person not my sexual identity,” she says.

Food for thought, no? Coco also made a stop-motion film showing the transition from the first photo all the way to the last one—check it out here:

And be sure to check out Coco’s website here.

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor. Tweet me! @luciapeters

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