"Clowns have made a comeback!"
When we were casting “The Clowns” to be photographed for GAYLETTER Issue 8, we looked for queens who’s makeup operated within the vein of what is visually understood as clown. Happy, sad, goofy, kitschy, macabre. Even if queens weren’t explicit in their clowning, their beats are paintings, and we read for gestures that pointed toward the ubiquitous performance style. Some of them knew they were clowning, and some didn’t think to much about it, but if we saw a clown, we called the queen.
Some of the clowns flew in for the shoot, some of them rolled over the bridge from Brooklyn. And some came straight from the gig. Before they touched up their hair and sharpened their frowns, we asked them to step into frame for testing. It’s not like we’d never seen a drag queen half-out of drag before, but the particular mixture of sweatpants and sneakers, or overalls, or knitwear represented what Tyler Akers, writing for Issue 8 calls the “complex, colorful relationship between queerness and clown culture.” He posits there has never been a better time to debate the conjoined politics surrounding the art forms considering the omnipresent the national conversations around LGBTQ+ issues, and the rise in popularity of queer phenomena like RuPaul’s Drag Race.
We wanted to hear from the queens who became clowns. What was their inspiration? Is clowning kind of important? “Since court jesters,” HinkyPunk said, “clowns have been a voice of truth veiled in humor or farce. …
More photos of drag queens? Yes!
This past weekend, RuPaul‘s DragCon arrived back in New York City and it was exactly the right dosage of drag queens needed to push us through the absence of RuPaul’s Drag Race on TV. Since GAYLETTER had a table and several photographers on the ground, we spent the three day convention (see photo libraries — Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3) out of drag and uncertain of how all of these queens and kids were beat for the gods from sun up til sun down. Three days is a lot of makeup, hairspray and tucking tape. Not to mention fashion, there was a lot of that there. Oh, and screaming! And, if you were there to see the industry big-wigs (no pun intended) like Katya, Alyssa Edwards or KimChi, there was a lot of waiting too. Now that the weekend is over, we do kind of wish there was another DragCon to look forward too.
We all really enjoyed ourselves. We are big drag fans, and not just drag race fans. Dragula, Drag Race Thailand, good drag, bad drag, kiddie drag, mommy drag. You name it we yassss it. So we ran around behind queens all weekend to see what they were wearing and to clock their makeup in person. It was, as they say, gaggy.
You probably are wondering, more photos of drag queens? Lord. Well, we know, but simply take these 12 portraits by photographer Jason Leavy as a bonus and beautiful closure to our coverage for DragCon NYC 2018. …
Featuring Rupaul, Alyssa Edwards, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Miss Fame, Peppermint, Aquaria, Bob the Drag Queen, The Vixen, Asia O'Hara, Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams, Abhora, Vivacious, Nicole Paige Brooks, Carmen Carrera, Tammie Brown, Disasterina, Miz Cracker, Kameron Michaels, Kim Chi and many more
There's always a new queen in town
Unlike Valentina, Drü Holiday has really been doing drag for 15 months. Andrew, though new to publicly doing drag, is no stranger to the late night magic the medium so often emotes. Like many other younger, internet-bred drag queens, Drü began painting in the comfort of her own bedroom at 2:00am after everyone had hopefully gone to sleep. “I’ve been practicing since I was 14,” she told me over email. She worked at her face and learned the rudimentary aspects to a solid beat. “Then I really tried to realize who I was as a queen,” she said. “That took years to figure out.”
Drag in its present context is more art and less hobby. While the history of drag rests in political commentary and clownish-entertainment, the rise of RuPaul’s Drag Race has asked the world to take a more serious look at the many styles and forms of expression that are under the drag-umbrella. Whether it’s practicing your paint, learning to sew, or gaining the confidence to get on stage, drag – once a completely outsider performance medium – has become a multi-million dollar commercial industry. Queens travel the world performing and sign major contracts with television networks. Alas, none of this would be possible without RuPaul Charles, and what better place to have your drag recognized and your art validated then at the annual RuPaul’s Drag Con?
The convention, which takes place in Los Angeles and New York City, has become the place to be for drag fans and drag stars alike. …
With a special performance by Christeene
Penny Arcade has been performing for 50 years. That alone is something to applaud. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into celebrating longevity alone, but Penny has been producing powerful and relevant work for every one of those 50 years. Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! Is undoubtedly her most important work. The show came out in 1990 at the height of the censorship culture wars, lead by fuck-face conservative politician Jesse Helmes. Penny has performed the show in over 30 cities, in dozens of countries. This Friday she is performing the show at the newly renovated Performance Space New York on 9th St. It’s a super cool, massive space that has been under renovation for about a decade (maybe not that long, but it’s felt like it.) “At Performance Space New York, Arcade will be joined by a star-studded cast of erotic dancers including Blaine Petrovia, 2017 USA National Pole Dancing Champion; Kevin Aviance; and Jantina, aka the Burlesque Booty Queen; among others.” The show has always featured erotic performers, Penny tells us why they’re so important: “Erotic dance is a powerful feminist art form, it is the only thing created by women that controls men, unlike the myriad of things men have created to control women.” I mean, how can you not love this woman? See you Friday Mama! You can attend other performances on May 11, 12, 17, 18, 19.
One of my favorite things, as a young and impressionable queer person, is finding out about artists for the first time and really opening myself up to their work. About a month ago, we published an interview with Jacolby Satterwhite — an artist who thrives on the cusp between performance and visual arts — by writer Omar Nasir. That interview was my introduction to Satterwhite; it was about his multilayered series Blessed Avenue, which is part installation, part visual album, and part performative statement on consumerism. This Friday, May 4th, Satterwhite is performing the first concert version of Blessed Avenue. The audience will be “introduced to a phantasmagorical world of bodies and machines, exploring such themes as desire and sexual freedom, while drawing inspiration from such diverse sources as gospel, acid house, and modern dance. The work in progress incorporates acapella songs originally composed by Satterwhite’s mother, Patricia, as she struggled with mental illness. They are reimagined into an electronic and visually stirring odyssey. In collaboration with the electronic composer and musician Nick Weiss, this performance features live vocals and new choral arrangements around Satterwhite’s latest musical and animated film.” Satterwhite’s concert is part of the Rubin Museum of Art’s performance series Refiguring the Future, which over the course of this month and next will also feature work from Morehshin Allahyari and Shirin Fahimi, as well as Juliana Huxtable.
BUSHWIG took over the Beaux-Arts Court for a special Bowie-themed showcase
When I met Abigail Lewis she pulled out a few inches of very thin glass. “So, I’m making clothes out of this idea,” she said. She told me it was borosilicate, most commonly used in the medical profession, but that there was underwear, shoes, a bra and some other pieces at her studio in Harlem. Fast forward 3 months later, and Abigail — designing under A/DAPHNE — will finally unveil her hand-woven glass structures. “_IN is a collaborative performance installation in a bedroom. Lit by cell phones and computer screens, five artists will interpret glass garments by A/Daphne while reacting to the bedroom as a site of self-imagining and public solitude. Aarron Ricks, Alexandra Marzella, Craig Monteith, Nash Glynn, and Whitney Vangrin confront related themes of vulnerability, the body, gender, sexuality, social entrapment, and transparency. As a mode of self-presentation and a social construct, clothing is dependant upon its wearer, and from this stance A/Daphne facilitates the perspective of artist-as-wearer.” The cast — who all have backgrounds in various performance styles — will wear A/Daphne designs and channel their own styles of performance into the clothing medium. On view at the decadent space currently under the control of curator Emma James, viewers are invited into the space at their own discretion. Having seen the pieces and met the cast, I know the evening will be sexy, as well as totally serene. When I asked the cast what they were planning, they laughed. “To rehearse would be to lose all authenticity,” said Aarron. _IN will extend A/Daphne’s interest in the material paradoxes of glass, how it is both fragile and strong, protective and threatening.
On Tuesday the latest issue of The New Yorker arrived in my mailbox. Naturally, I screamed. Joan Acocella, for those who do not know, is a staff writer for the magazine covering mostly dance, and sometimes other shit, but her dance writing is where it’s at. I breezed through her most recent article on Terrence McNally’s “Fire and Air.” The play follows the mythic relationship between the Ballets Russes’ Sergei Diaghilev and the camptastic Vaslav Nijinsky. “The play has only one set,” Acocella explained. “Two gilt-edged mirrors, a scattering of gilt chairs — and only six characters.” It turns out, GAYLETTER knows one of the actors. James Cusati-Moyer is “much handsomer than the real Nijinsky,” according to Acocella. I can attest to that. James is gorgina. Directed by John Doyle (at Classic Stage Company), Fire and Air explores the “rich history” of iconic-lovers Diaghilev and Nijinsky during their time spent working inside of the iternant dance company. I haven’t seen the show, but I desperately want to. The stage-direction mostly calls for scenes backstage with the characters in the company, so the script details Nijinsky’s past lover, Prince Lvov (there’s a whole other juicy gay-romance there), and his hairy ass. Lord knows I love a furry hole — I guess Nijinsky did too!