Photo by Peter Pabón
Every March 17th, New York City and a multitude of Irish communities in the United States and all over the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – a dedication to the patron saint of Ireland. The celebration is meant to honor the arrival of Christianity in the country and the overall heritage of Irish culture. But that’s not all.
In places like the Big Apple, apart from the huge outpour and festivities, the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Parade also has a long history of bigotry and ignorance. Toy designer Sean Gallagher will tell you himself, how this year is yet another to add to the list, where organizers continue to ban the LGBT community from participating.
To protest the overt discrimination that’s about to go down, Sean has decided to create a version of a popular Japanese toy known as the Tamentai Robo, in hopes of speaking up about the issue. He proclaims that the Irish were colonized and enslaved, “So there is no excuse for any person of Irish decent to look down upon anyone else, no matter their race or sexual orientation or appearance. Much less have an unspoken rule that the LGBT community isn’t welcome in their celebrations.”
Mass Appeal spoke to Sean about his work’s significance. Here’s what he had to say:
Mass Appeal: What are Tamentai figures and what’s your history with them?
Sean Gallagher: The head sculpture is a geometric shape, a polyhedron made on a gem shaping table. Object (toyasobject.com) uses a hexagon and one of its 3D forms, the icosahedron, in the branding. Tamentai is the Japanese word for polyhedron.
This led me to try out a head design based on the brand, inspired by Bucky Fuller’s research on geodesic domes as sustainable and affordable structures. I was also very inspired by Brian Flynn and his work on the Crystal Mecha toy.
The toy is based on a Goggle V kit, as homage to an un-produced much larger toy: the Jumbo Machinder Goggle V.
It was only available at ToyFairNYC 2014, with only three left over for online purchase. People ranging from Todd McFarlane, Ashley Wood, and Brian Flynn are amongst some of its fans and owners.
MA: What do you hope to protest and accomplish with the sale of your figures?
SG: I want to raise awareness about the LGBT community being excluded from the parade while also questioning my own Irish heritage, asking myself, “What am I doing about this?” Using toys as communication vehicles is a new thing. So I just hope people get the message and like it.
MA: Do you have a personal story/incident about discrimination that’s happened to you or anyone during St. Patrick’s Day?
SG: Every year at every the St. Patty’s day parade in NYC, you overhear a little racism, bigotry, homophobia and discrimination etc. Obviously as the LGBT and other communities are not really present in the parade, it’s not as forefront as the people you see harassing others at say, the Mermaid Parade.
One of the most memorable incidents was two older cops on duty working a side parade in the Upper East Side about four years ago. They referred to a small group of Puertorican guys – two of which were holding hands – as, “Look at this fucking mixed-breed, faggot trash.”
MA: Why is it important for the Irish to acknowledge that they’ve been colonized and enslaved?
SG: So as not to forget their past. If you’ve been treated less than humanely, as a culture – you’d expect more empathy from these cultures towards others. Also to give others who may experience discrimination at St Patty’s day events a little access to these facts. They may come in handy.
It’s also important to acknowledge the Irish’s plight. It is just as swept under the rug. So maybe by sharing both of these groups suffering we can all come together.
A limited run of the LGBT Robo Muscle toys are available by pre-order, but orders close at 12PM EST on Tuesday, March 18th.
The toys are hand-modeled, molded and casted in green pearl resin by Kris Dulfer. All packaging is hand cut and folded and made in house. Even the plastic case. This particular release also has a new added magnetic joint system. The shoulders are on a steel bearing, and the body has magnets.
Help chop down some discrimination and place your order ($40) here.