At the end of February 2004, New York illustrator and graphic designer Mirko Ilic had an assignment: come up with a meaningful image about gay marriage and the legal battles that were beginning to foment. Minh Uong, then the art director of the Village Voice, commissioned him to design and illustrate a cover because he had recently seen a cover that Ilic created for the New York Times Book Review, when I was art director, showing a personification of lady Justice. He requested that Ilic, who is well known for his symbolic acuity, create something with Justice as the focal point.
The title of the article was "I'd Leave the Country, but My Wife Won't Let Me,” and it was about a lesbian couple and their lengthy travails prior to the time when legalizing gay marriage was gaining momentum. “I didn’t think the Justice image was enough because the issue was also about freedom,” Ilic recalled in a recent email. “I was thinking I needed to incorporate the Statue of Liberty as well, to represent the freedom part of it.”
Inspired by Alfred Eisenstaedt’s 1945 V-J Day Life photograph capturing the moment a sailor and nurse kissed during the revelry in Times Square, Ilic thought that “having an image of two ladies—Liberty and Justice—kissing seemed right.” He positioned statues in a similar pose to the one in that famous photo, which has had its fair share of parodies and homages, and voila! Transformation.