Coyote Park is a 2Spirit (Korean, German, and Yurok Native) visual artist hailing from Honolulu, Hawai'i, and based in Tongva Territory (Los Angeles). Through their painting, photography, dancing, and filmmaking, Park creates queer utopia–a space of unity, freedom of self-expression, and love. They advocate for tangible change in major issues surrounding diverse, marginalized indigenous communities across the country.
Park establishes a new type of vivid imagery not only with their painted and photographed works, but also through their writing. They have a photo book, All Kin is Blood Kin, which will be released at a date to be announced later. The book celebrates family–both biological and found–as well as rebirth, sexuality, the body, and, above all else, love. Park is truly a poet of all arts; music serves as a vital component to all their art, from building a comfortable space with collaborators to curating film soundtracks and inspiration.
Park is currently collaborating with their wife, Tee Park, on a short film called Destiny in Sedona. The non-monogamous love story highlights intersections in culture and identity, with a 2Spirit, intersex, non-binary, and transgender cast. Park cites music as the backbone of the film, sharing the playlist created as inspiration for the work. Songs across a wide range of genres, such as "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors and "Deadly Valentine" by Charlotte Gainsbourg, have helped shape the energy and aesthetics of Destiny in Sedona. Check out the full inspiration playlist here.
We spoke with Coyote Park about their current projects and the profound impacts of music on their work. Read the full interview below and check out Park's work. Let us know what you think!
How are you today?
Today has been pretty magical! I’ve been feeling that about a lot of days lately. It’s cool waking up with a sense of excitement and I feel that about today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
How do the different facets of your identity impact your art?
All of my relations inform my art–culturally, spiritually, and emotionally. I am a 2Spirit Korean, German, and Yurok (Indigenous to Northern California) transgender artist… which sounds like a mouthful but there is a lot of inheritance that comes with that.
My Korean culture impacts my paintings. I paint a lot of landscape that is inspired by folk paintings I grew up around. Photography of mine has been impacted by a lot of Indigenous values and virtues; everything is collaboration-oriented and I try to stray from the idea of “taking” a photograph of someone. Instead, I lean into “making” a photo with someone. It’s a relationship rather than a product. I also make art with other people of trans and gender expansive identities and center that in the stories I tell. My writing, creative production, artistic direction, and storytelling is all inspired by some type of lived experience of mine.
"I try to stray from the idea of “taking” a photograph of someone. Instead, I lean into “making” a photo with someone."
What message(s) do you hope to convey with your work?
There are endless possibilities for us in these lifetimes: possibilities of happiness, intimacy, growth, exploration, and so much more than I can convey in words. My community is powerful, beautiful, and important. Love is and always will be the message.
Who or what first inspired you to become an artist?
Spiritually: My mother and my ancestors, their determination and strength. I feel so protected in their encouragement.
Artistically: My old art teacher in elementary school, who showed me this lesbian artist movie when I was young. It all kind of clicked from there. Being a kid and dancing to “When I Grow Up” by The Pussycat Dolls made me feel like I could be anything…So that was pretty inspiring. I knew I always wanted to create things (photo, painting, etc.), make up stories (writing, film), and perform (acting, dancing).
Who are your biggest artistic influences?
My biggest artistic influences are Buffy Sainte Marie (singer/songwriter), Robby Müller (cinematographer), The Handmaiden (Korean Movie), Momo Okabe (photographer), Qwo-Li Driskill (2Spirit Poet), Sevdaliza (singer/songwriter), and Nelson Morales (photographer).
What are the last three songs you listened to?
“Goth Star” - Pictureplane
“Cleo” - Shygirl
“Time of the Season” - The Zombies
How does music, specifically, influence you and your craft?
Music has influenced my sense of self and my experience with language. I feel so empowered when I’m moving to music or I’m walking through the world with music. I also feel like some of the dreamiest phrases I have heard were from a song, and that informs the ways that I write and the images I want to create. It changes the way I see myself.
What types of music do you usually listen to when creating?
I try to choose slow music, like songs by Black Belt Eagle Scout or Kim Jung Mi, when I’m painting landscapes. It allows me to concentrate and take time, slowing down my pace. I feel like some of my favorite paintings have taken a long amount of time and that I paused to return to them. I need to be better about that, and music is a reminder of just allowing myself to sit with a piece. I enjoy putting on a vinyl record with my wife and working on things around the house; we usually play the soundtrack from A Star is Born with Lady Gaga. I recently got three records that I am excited to listen to while making art. One was a gift, Illuminations by Buffy Sainte-Marie, and the other two I got for myself: Strikes by Blackfoot, and Queens of Noise by The Runaways.
When working with others, how does music affect the atmosphere? What do you listen to with them?
When working with others I tend to ask what people want to listen to and just hand my phone for them to type it in. I want the music atmosphere to be an extension of the person I’m with, and I’m just happy to exist in their comfort music with them. I am going to do a new photo series working with trans couples (I’ll be posting an open-call in mid-January) and I will be asking them to play a song for me that reminds them of their relationship or that they both play a lot when they are together. I’m really looking forward to being able to witness and appreciate that. For my wife and I, our wedding song would probably be the song we would choose. It’s Lauryn Hill’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”.
Does the music you listen to differ based on the medium you’re using (painting, photography, filming, etc.)?
Photography is more shared music with others that brings ease (think of music equivalent to rain noises), painting is my pleasure music (folk rock), and movies that I am currently art directing have soundtracks. The soundtracks and sounds that I have been putting together with artists have a whole range of highs and lows.
How has your work dancing at a trans performance space allowed you to channel your higher self through music?
For the event I produce and dance at called “Alejandro” (@alejandrosnight) in Los Angeles, I am always ascending through music. One of the songs I recently performed to that I felt the most embodied in was “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (the Joan Jett cover of The Stooges’ song). It was so hard and electric–a song that sounds the way my gender feels.
“The Morning” by The Weeknd was also a hit for me in terms of energy and what I do best when I perform. What I do best, by my wife’s words, is captivating an audience through deep, sultry movements that I can make into subtle gestures and build up the chorus to the pole.
I did “Bawdy” by Shygirl and flew from the sky, slamming onto the stage with my knees. My knees were fucked, but the moment was worth it. I felt like time had slipped for a moment and I was entering another dimension. That was my best attempt and success at teleporting.
What is your new film about?
Destiny in Sedona is about a 2Spirit shapeshifter, Ryder (all pronouns), who is moving from Los Angeles to Sedona to live with her primary partner, Destiny. Their ex joins the journey to make peace with their changing dynamic and explore their new horizons. Along the way, they come across a cowboy from nowhere, a new flame in the desert night, and reunite with their chosen family. The film is a testimony on love in freedom, not ownership; just like the land, who is a character on her own. It has an all QTBIPOC cast with Indigenous leads, and it reflects the community.
"The film is a testimony on love in freedom, not ownership; just like the land, who is a character on her own."
Is it a short film or a feature length film?
It’s a short film. The director, Tee Jaehyung Park, has yet to make a feature length film, and I have not creatively produced one yet. (I will one day!) This project is the most ambitious and largest project we have done yet, with a total of 8 cast members, multiple locations, and all details pulled into what will be my proudest work.
How long have you been working on the project?
My wife and I conceptualized the film in mid-2021. We currently have our producer, Janine Uyanga, our cast is confirmed, we are working with a cinematographer, and we will be announcing the socials and kickstarter, as well as be more public about it on January 22, 2022. We plan to film in Summer of 2022.
How did you come up with the concept?
This film was born out of necessity. It has a lot of core experiences that I never see in films: gender expansiveness, non-monogamy, indigeneity, chosen family, and more. I was thinking about stories that feel like experiences I want to see in a moving picture and collaborations that I could build with my partner, who is a filmmaker.
Are there any collaborations within it?
The whole project feels like Tee and I’s baby. The entire project is a collaboration; the cast has a very collaborative feel, where the characters are mirroring the people that portray them. Even all of the visual and sound artists we are working with will be a fun collaboration to experience, especially once I start connecting with wardrobe, makeup, etc…Collaborating with the cinematographer is also going to be fun for me as a photographer and visual artist. I am excited to act as one of the leads, Ryder, and to really capture this story through my body and voice.
You mentioned that music is the backbone of the film; How so?
Destiny in Sedona is our take on a western film, with a lot of iconography that is born out of those tropes. We are going to be using a lot of instrumental guitar moments, synth, and songs that I was going to have friends contribute to very key moments to the film. The bright lit club, ocean movements, driving through Arizona, and fading into the reds in the sky are all visual moments that you can imagine us showing with music.
Can you reveal any of the songs used?
My lips are sealed! I want to tell you more, but because we are filming this year and haven’t signed off rights for music yet, it is all still in the works.
I can reveal, however, the songs that inspired it. This is a playlist made by the director (Tee Jaehyung Park) and I:
“Hotel California (Spanish Mix)” - Gipsy Kings
“Lo Chiamavano King (His Name is King)” - Luis Bacalov, Edda Dell’Orso
“Hot Blooded” - New Constellations
“Get Out of My Head” - Sofia Bolt
“We Gotta Get Out of This Place” - The Animals
“Folsom Prison Blues” - Johnny Cash
“Cortez the Killer” - Neil Young, Crazy Horse
“Get Me Back in the Game” - LL Burns
“Deadly Valentine” - Charlotte Gainsbourg
“In The City” - Anika
“Cowboy Song” - Thin Lizzy
“Juarez” - BOYTOY
“Riders on the Storm” - The Doors
“Gold” - John Stewart
What is something you wish more people knew about you?
I wish people knew that at the end of the day, I’m a person. It sounds minimal, but in the age of social media, quarantining with being mainly online, being far from each other's day-to-day in-person selves… it can sometimes create a gap in the ways that we treat each other. I get the most awfully transphobic and queerphobic messages online (when I already deal with it in person) and there are expectations of what I should constantly show up as. Sometimes I just want to take a nap with my wife, make some tea for us, document these moments we have now, and make art. I don’t want to be expected to play a specific role in life, I want to exist, and existing is enough when it feels like you are against the world. I want to create worlds within worlds and dip my feet into the warm water I set for myself. I want the people close to me to know me and I want to know them–for us to hold each other’s hands. It’s simple and pretty gay of me to say.
"I don’t want to be expected to play a specific role in life, I want to exist, and existing is enough when it feels like you are against the world."
Talk a little bit on your experience as a transgender person of color and a 2Spirit person in the creative community.
It sometimes feels like begging for access and trying not to let the desperation mentality overtake you. Do you know what cool shit I would make if I had the money, power, and institutional leverage? There are so many queer other era pieces, niche lived experience films, gallery shows, and photo books that are on new fields of ideas–outside of the same Andy Warhol art–that would make people feel hopeful. There are novels, poetry books, and more. I don’t want to give up anything and I won’t, so I will do what I can with my own power until those that have the means to uplift us pay attention. I don’t want to hurt my vocal chords asking for that attention; I’d rather say a soft and loving word to the people that will listen beside me. I want to create for myself at the end of the day, and I hope my work means something to those that come across it.
How can the Intersect audience best support the LGBTQ+ and 2Spirit communities?
Don’t just hire us as your publicity coin, your “brand new face”, or your diversity check mark. We are leaders, innovators, and people of change that deserve power in our own right and recognition. This is in terms of QTBIPOC makers and dreamers… As for 2Spirit communities, we have always been here and are not emerging; people are just now realizing how fucked up colonialism and mass murder is and are noticing our presence. We don’t need sympathy; we need accomplices to disrupt and have our leadership at the forefront. Pay your LGBTQ+ artists, circulate some accessibility funds for trans folks, ensure that Indigenous issues are at the forefront of the conversations happening around you, where our ongoing genocide is being recognized and fought against. We need to question lies we have been taught and collaborate with more people who have had these lived experiences.
"Pay your LGBTQ+ artists, circulate some accessibility funds for trans folks, ensure that Indigenous issues are at the forefront of the conversations happening around you, where our ongoing genocide is being recognized and fought against."
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you/your work?
I want people to know that my work saved my life, and that I will keep doing it until my heart stops beating. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. There is a reason why my people call art medicine. It carries me through this life feeling healthier in all aspects and brings me purpose.