A part-time artist is attracting controversy for his photos in which petite white women are draped around his neck as scarves.
Nate Hill, 36, is a self-described performance artist. The New Yorker’s latest stunt, titled Trophy Scarves, is intended to draw attention to the social complexities surrounding mixed-race relationships.
Hill says that the act of posing in a tuxedo with nearly-naked women around his neck is meant to draw attention to an ‘issue in the public now about black men who might think of being with white women as a status symbol,’ he told MailOnline.
The project began four months ago, he says, with both professional photographs as well as a series of Instagram mirror selfies.
Hill has already amassed over 7,500 Instagram followers to his account @TrophyScarves.
His images are intended to provoke an extreme reaction which he hopes will ‘inspire self-examination,’ in the minds of the photos’ viewers.
‘I don’t want to tell people what to do with their lives,’ Hill said of the racial issue to which he is trying to drawing attention. ‘I just hope they would examine their motives, that’s all.’
Hill himself is the child of a black father and white mother, making the issues associated with Trophy Scarves feel ‘close to home,’ he says.
He added that ‘I am not really black, I’m half black but I don’t really identify as black.’
For that reason, Hill says that he feels like he is role playing when working on the Trophy Scarves series.
‘For me its role playing, I’m playing the role of a black man,’ he told us.
According to Hill, the experience is also one of role playing for his white female subjects too.
‘I just assume she is playing the role of a white woman,’ he said of the models’ work, also adding ‘What difference does it make about me or how I feel about the models, the more important thing is the issue in the public now about black men who might find white woman to be a status symbol.’
But more than a racial issue, Hill’s scarf images have drawn blowback from the feminist community as well.
Social media responses to his project currently range from ‘F****** disgusting,’ to ‘How the f*** would y’all be reacting if it was a white man “wearing” a black woman????’
However many people are showering the project in adoration as well. ‘Looks like a great way to stay warm,’ reads one comment posted to Hill’s Instagram feed.
Hill admits that the issue that Trophy Scarves highlights ‘is really complicated because there are always going to be people upset that women are objectified in the piece.’
Hill even blatantly admits to that objectification, stating ‘Yes I mean [the women] are scarves – they couldn’t be more objectified, but I did that to make a point.’
He says that he finds some of his subjects on Craigslist, but that most come through word of mouth.
Hill himself is married. He told Vice that his wife ‘tolerates’ his artwork, but that she is primarily shielded from its viral acceleration.
‘I blocked her on Twitter, so she can’t see what I’m doing,’ Hill told the magazine. ‘She just followed me on Instagram, so I’m probably going to block her on there too.’
For him, art is a part-time pursuit. He holds a full-time job at an Upper East Side lab that breeds fruit flies for medical testing.
Hill’s interest in art began during college where he would ‘bum around the art studios and hang out with artists.’
It’s there that he said he quickly learned how ‘some art is more about the idea rather than the execution or talent.’
Trophy Scarves is just the latest project in his growing resume of performance art stunts. Hill’s previous outings include White Power Milk, a ‘sarcastic’ online project that offered to sell milk which had been gargled by Caucasian women.
Another stunt, Death Bear, entailed Hill venturing to women’s apartments to collect painful reminders of their past – free of charge.
While the latter stunt received a lengthy write-up in the New York Times, Hill says that he has never formally been accepted by the fine art community.
But he has no intention of being the world’s next Marina Abromovic, the critically acclaimed ‘grandmother of performance art.’ ‘She is cool, but personally I like to have contact with people on a one-to-one level,’ Hill told us.
‘That is the one thing always missing for me in a gallery context or a museum.’