Don't ever hire me as your stylist.
That's what I learned looking at the many penises of John Criscitello at The Factory. I've never been particularly brand-focused in my fashion, but my lack of brand knowledge and recognition became painfully clear as I puzzled over why Criscitello's show revolved around The North Face puffy vests. Sure, I was familiar with the brand and the object. But why were Capitol Hill's finest penises alternately pissing on, ejaculating over, and coming inside them? A lambasting of fake outdoorsy people who spend too much money on hiking gear? A searing commentary on the comfortable, anonymous uniform that men can (and do) wear to literally every occasion? Surely, if it's Criscitello, tech bros and Bellevue wives had something to do with it. I just couldn't figure out what.
Criscitello is the creator of a series of popular anti-gentrification posters that have recently sprung up around the Hill. Relying on a mix of slogans and straight up smart-assery (Bellevue Wives Matter, We Came Here to Get Away From You), he seeks to provoke an instant reaction while drawing a line between the Hill's old guard and Amazon arrivals. That reaction depends on whether you're in on the joke, or the butt of it (deserving or not). It's not surprising, then, that his paintings seek to provoke as well: how else to interpret a show filled with slurs, golden showers and titles like “North Face Gang Bang?”
I tried to dig up meaning behind the shock value for a while before giving in and Wikipedia-ing The North Face. And then it all fell into place. The North Face company—as likely everyone but me knows—was founded in California, and is owned by a giant conglomerate on the East Coast. Ah, there it is. A perfect symbol of corporate greed, California excess, and encroachment on the Northwest's local outdoor companies. A visual shorthand that continues Criscitello's outrage against new tech employees fleeing the Valley to hole up in overpriced condos on the Hill and stamp out gay culture.
With the iconography of the vest now illuminated, I could now interpret the Vest paintings as a symbol-laden trio of possibilities for the gay citizenry of the Hill. Three options: rejection, acceptance, and transformation. “North Face Gang Bang” shows the penis wielders—symbolic of the “native species” of the Hill, nevermind the lesbians—rejecting the foreign interloper of the vest. Against a turbulent, seething purple background a circle jerk of penises makes a mockery of the vest and considers it worthy only for wiping up. GTFO, in painting form. Then, “Fist Vest”--with its rich green background and a man's O face in the blurred depth of field—shows the Hill's acquiescence to the new California overlords. If you can't beat 'em, get fucked well by 'em, preferably on a bed of green. Finally, in “Piss Vest”, there's apotheosis. Rendered in the turquoise and gilded gold of a medieval rood screen, the vest is anointed and transformed into a golden object worthy of veneration. The vest is brought into the circle of penis wagglers, and accepted in its new form. Hallelujah, it is Piss Christ reborn.
The moral of the story? If you have a penis, use it for good. Or to transform things. Or to piss on corporate shills from California. Or something. Just don't let me dress you for any music videos any time soon.