03.19.12

Garage Magazine’s Very Modern Nursery-Rhyme Cover

Unafraid to push any buttons, the new magazine Garage dives into the gay-marriage debate with a provocative issue on love and sex—and the cover will make you do a double take.

“Harry the Hare Is Expecting,” proclaims the latest issue of Garage magazine, under a cartoon image of, yes, a very pregnant hare wearing Jil Sander and his partner, Frederick the Fox, decked out in Prada.

It’s not easy for a publication to follow a debut issue that featured a Damien Hirst–tattooed vagina on the cover just a few short months ago. (Not to worry: there was a butterfly sticker covering the private parts on newsstand issues so as not to offend curious eyes.)

But Garage, a glossy favorite of artists and designers, has inserted itself squarely into the national conversation once again. Amid the overturn of Proposition 8 and the approval of a gay-marriage bill in Maryland, the entire second issue is devoted to the changing nature of love and relationships. The idea lends itself to innumerable cover subjects, yet it’s most interesting that the magazine transformed something as innocuous as nursery-rhyme characters into a commentary on where the country is headed.

As Garage founder and editor Dasha Zhukova explains, the cover inspiration came from the happening called Homosexual Wedding organized by artist Yayoi Kusama in a downtown New York loft in 1968. “Kusuma appointed herself the High Priestess of the Polka Dots while officiating the wedding of two gay men, and she designed a large bridal gown that both men wore,” Zhukova told The Daily Beast. “I think Kusama’s consolidation of politics and art, fashion, pageantry, make a political statement that was really the inspiration for the animated cover that we put together.” (The issue is on select international newsstands now.)

At the time, Kusama’s demonstrations were meant to provoke and protest the Vietnam War. Now, at age 82, Kusama is the subject of a wide-ranging exhibition at the Tate Modern. Her work seems relevant now more than ever, and outfitting “Frederick the Fox” and “Harry the Hare” in high fashion puts a contemporary spin on the whole homage.

The rest of the magazine ranges from a thought-provoking interview with education firebrand Michelle Rhee, who says it’s important for kids to regain a competitive spirit instead of constantly praising them, to a sit-down with the always entertaining sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who discusses her job at a New York City Planned Parenthood office in the ‘60s, where her first thought was, “All they do is talk about sex!” The theme continues with artist Julian Schnabel having a very frank conversation with his daughter Stella about love and sex. “We wanted to tackle the topics of sex and relationships today in a fun way, but in a broad and investigative way,” said Zhukova. “More cultivation than titillation.”

There’s plenty of both. The features are interspersed with dozens of gorgeous photo shoots, and there’s plenty of clever art direction at play. Excerpts from the inbox of writer Derek Blasberg are printed in a wickedly funny column titled “Emails from the Edge,” with only the senders’ names redacted. (Woe is the friend described in one missive as a “speedballing, nose-bleeding crackhead.”)

“We wanted to tackle the topics of sex and relationships today in a fun way, but in a broad and investigative way. More cultivation than titillation,” said Zhukova.

That illusory hold the Internet has on the world is also explored. As goes our browser windows, so goes the nation. David Brendel looks at the effect the digital world has on the bedroom. “The pent-up global libido came tumbling out through new digital pathways,” he writes, as he wonders if this is also the beginning of the end. “We dictate what the Internet brings us,” said Zhukova. “If the Internet is a reflection of our demands, it’s a fight between our need for love and our need for sex. I think that the Internet sort of sides with sex … and it’s funny when we say ‘the Internet’ because it’s really us, the users.”

But what about those well-dressed animal cover stars? It’s all well and good for adults (inarguably Garage’s target audience) to view these reimagined fairy tales as progressive takes on society, but how long will it take for parents to crack open “Harry the Hare Is Expecting” at bedtime for their children? “I think the struggle to come to agreement and decide what the next generation will be taught always leaves something like nursery rhymes somewhere behind the times,” said Zhukova. “But I would love to think that each specific generation grows up to leave a previous generation’s mistakes or prejudices behind it.”

Hare—er, here’s hoping.