From Hamidah Glasgow’s interview with Lissa Rivera and BJ Lillis for Strange Fire:
HG: Clothing obviously plays a fundamental role in the images you create together. How would gender identity or gender fluidity appear in your work if articles of clothing were not part of the creation? I ask this because our identity is only partly made up with the “drag” that we choose to wear on a daily basis. Without the markers for where someone fits in there is a whole different space to explore.
LR: I can see where you are coming from with this question. Although I do explore various states of undress in the project, as an artist I have always been drawn to investigations of material culture. As much as I am interested in capturing BJ’s gender fluidity, I am also interested in dissecting a visual language that has greatly affected culture. The visual language of advertising, fashion and cinema is a powerful tool. Many of my interests stem from surrealism, and I strive to create images that have both potency and tension, advertising and fashion owe a lot to the surrealists. Surrealism in many ways is a study of symbolism, the mysticism of cultural icons, as well as the erotic drive. One of the most powerful ways to be free is to realize that everything is a construct. In this sense, I am building a world with BJ, creating a biography within an imaginary space.
BJ: I think that by stripping away clothing in layers, and in some photos leaving clothes behind entirely, we have tried to explore this question aesthetically. As for personally, I just can’t separate it out. I can’t imagine my gender identity as something outside of my place in society, in culture, in community, and in relationships. Without markers of identity, what is left? I’m not sure if it is possible to know. Naked and alone in the shower, with my eyes closed—even then, I am surrounded by objects, shampoo bottles, razors, towels, with tremendous symbolic meaning.