Gilbert Lewis is a figurative painter focused on documenting the queer male experience. Though much of his career was spent on portraiture of young men in his local Philadelphia, his consistent involvement in Philly’s queer scene and his work as an art therapist at a local nursing home also endeared Lewis to his greater community.
Originally from Virginia, Lewis first moved to Philadelphia in 1963 to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and later the Philadelphia College of Art. He was also awarded the prestigious William Emlen Cresson Memorial Travel Scholarship in 1967, which he used to travel to Italy and study the works of 14th century Sienese painters and the artists of the Florentine Renaissance. Through this education, Lewis honed his skills as a painter of watercolor and gouache. These earlier years also saw Lewis become a fixture of his Philadelphia community and find his niche painting young queer men and elders.
Lewis, Untitled (Striped Portrait), c.2000.
Untitled (Young Man in Disco Shirt), c. 2000.
Untitled (Young Man with Nose Ring), c. 2000.
Lewis, Portrait, 2000.
Lewis’ experience as a mainstay of Philadelphia’s queer community was reflected in his portraiture. The network of friends and acquaintances that he built in the city regularly sat for his portraits and were encouraged by Lewis to bring their favorite cassette tapes or CDs to play while he worked. Over the 20 years Lewis spent working as an art therapist in a nursing home, he invited many of the home’s geriatric residents to sit for his portraits as well. …
Linda Simpson is one of those New Yorkers who makes you remember why you love New York. The downtown drag queen has seen it all, and documented a good chunk of it with her camera. The list of people she’s photographed, and befriended, is long and illustrious. Having moved to the city back in the early ’80s from Minnesota to study at NYU, Linda quickly became a part of the downtown scene hosting parties and publishing a street zine called My Comrade. Linda was there when RuPaul, Lady Bunny, and Leigh Bowery were making names for themselves in local East Village bars like the Pyramid Club. She got to know Joey Arias, Tabboo!, and Justin Vivian Bond.
This year she released her coffee table book The Drag Explosion, which features candid photos of those I just mentioned, plus many others. The book is a love letter to her community and to New York. Early one April evening we sat down with Linda to discuss the book, her life and her first impressions of some of the people that make this city so special.
We love the book, it’s so fun to look through. So much queer New York history and so many interesting people. How did you end up in New York City? I grew up in Minnesota. I originally came to New York for school. I went to NYU for about a year and a half. I actually dropped out and then moved away for a while, but then I came back and went to FIT. …
The second day of the drag festival's 10th anniversary celebration at Knockdown Center gave us more iconic looks from the best of today's drag scene.
Justin Vivian Bond is the definition of a multi-hyphenate, an actress, singer-songwriter, artist, and writer, the list goes on, but maybe the most accurate title is cabaret phenomenon. Vivian’s star first rose with the success of Kiki and Herb, a self-consciously camp act where Vivian played Kiki DuRane, a broke-down showbiz diva, and Kenny Mellman her pianist, Herb. Since then she’s established a singular career that spans Broadway, opera, musical albums, and an autobiography. Vivian’s good friend actress Gwendoline Christie caught up with the powerhouse over zoom. The duo had a rollicking good time reconnecting. They discussed everything from human contact to tips on how to stay juicy.
I want to see your eyes. Can I see them? I’ll show you mine crying.
Oh, sweet heart. How are you? I’m all right. I had a crazy night last night, but I just got off the phone with my psychoanalyst. He was very helpful. He said this wonderful quote, that healing comes from doing unto others that which was not done unto you. It’s taking it one step further than those lazy Christians.
Not only are you one of our greatest living performers, a modern-day Maria Callas, but you’re also effortlessly beautiful. How do you stay so juicy? That is a very good question. Obviously I hydrate, I drink water. I’m from the South where it’s very dry, it just leeches all the moisture out of your brainstem. It’s sort of like magic mushrooms, you’re basically tripping.
So if you want to have an out of body experience, dehydration will take you there. …
With his body at the center of his durational performances, Martiel pushes his own limits while also calling attention to deplorable histories.
Perhaps we should start at the beginning; could you speak a little bit about what it was like coming up in Cuba? When did you begin performing? I started working in performance in 2007. I remember that back in the day I was studying goldsmithing at the San Alejandro Art Academy, and alongside my jewelry work, I was also making unconventional drawings. I say unconventional because the materials I was using to make them were not traditional, like oil or acrylic paint, or even using a canvas. I was using different pigments, such as iron oxide diluted in vinegar, coal, beeswax, and blood. And it was the use of my own blood, specifically, which catapulted me to working with my own body. To extract my blood and make drawings, I had to go to public clinics and ask the nurses on duty to perform a phlebotomy on me. At first they agreed to do it, but as I started coming to the clinic more often, they began to either decrease the amount of blood extracted or refuse to do it altogether. This caused a great deal of frustration, since I couldn’t materialize the type of work I wished to make. That’s when I had the idea of using my body as an object and a subject of my conceptual interests, without having to depend on a third party. This is how I came to realize my first performance.
I am blown away at your roster of past performances; you are quite prolific. …
The biggest drag festival celebrates their 10th anniversary
Celebrating the release of the capsule collection between the Ace Hotel Brooklyn and the streetwear brand Y, IWO.
She's is a true force of nature. She’s an activist and, in her own words, a “fearless woman” working tirelessly to advocate for trans liberation. She tells us about her mission, her inspirations and the kind of world she’s trying to create.
I love to start every conversation with a bit of joy and positivity. So what is bringing you joy right now, Qween? At this very moment, well, in terms of today on the 14th of June, what’s really bringing me joy is the love that I felt yesterday. It was the second annual Brooklyn Liberation March at the Brooklyn Museum, organized by Black queer and Black trans, intersectional community members, and activists who wanted to create a safe space for community and particularly the transgender community, the transgender youth. People came from all parts of New York City, also from Jersey, from Upstate, from Philly, from D.C. They really came out for liberation.
When you look in the mirror, who is Qween Jean to you? Queen Jean is a bad girl. She is a fearless woman. She’s curvy, she’s beautiful. She’s dark, she’s rich, and she loves to smile. That’s who I see.
How did growing up Black and trans in Florida inform and influence your activism and the community that you cultivate today? Growing up Black and trans in Florida, honestly, I felt alone. I felt a lot of doubt. I questioned everything about myself. I questioned so much that I considered and contemplated, you know, “would it be better if I wasn’t here? If I wasn’t alive? If I wasn’t a burden to the people who said that they loved me?” And to be honest, I think as soon as I moved away, I actually made a promise to myself that I could never go back to that headspace. …