Remembering David Wojnarowicz, his search for some sort of grace, and why Everything He Made, He Made For Peter Hujar.
David Wojnarowicz had already lost so much to AIDS. But there was no bigger loss than Peter Hujar. So the day he lost Peter — November 26, 1987 — David asked their friends to leave the hospital room, to guard the door and not let the nurses in.
David got out his camera and took 23 photos, one for each pair of chromosomes in a human cell. He took a picture of Peter’s lifeless face, lips parted, eyes still wet; a picture of Peter’s open hand; a picture of Peter’s feet and toes. Like almost all of David’s photos, these 23 are black and white. We aren’t privy to Peter’s discolorations and wan skin, nor his pain and humiliation.
He wanted to offer some words in memory of his friend and mentor, his closest companion, but David — a poet prone to fiery, righteous rants — was speechless. “Nothing came from my mouth,” David wrote in his journal. “[A]ll I can do is raise my hands from my sides in helplessness and say, ‘All I want is some sort of grace.’ ”
After his own HIV diagnosis, in 1988, David would collage these photos into a painting, Untitled (Hujar Dead). Over the collage he printed a passionate paragraph condemning deathly homophobia and describing life with HIV: “I’m waking up more and more from daydreams of tipping amazonian blowdarts in ‘infected blood’ and spitting them at the exposed necklines of certain politicians or government healthcare officials.” It wouldn’t be the last time David threatened public officials. …
Jericho Brown, a poet originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, won 2020’s Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his 2019 collection, The Tradition. This is only the latest feather in Jericho’s hat — he’s been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts, and The American Book Award to name a few more. Written from a perspective both black and queer, his poems are imbued with the images, codes, and vernaculars that criss-cross his experience. In a conversation bridging Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, and Walt Whitman; burning down Walgreens and elite institutions; and the burgundy mystery that closes The Tradition, we wove a cat’s cradle from some of the threads his work lays so bare. Read on, then get lost in The Tradition for more of the story.
In past interviews, you’ve quoted Whitney Houston with the same seriousness as John Milton. There’s something radical about giving that much authority and intentionality to the female pop lyric. It’s usually completely disregarded. Diana Ross has always been my diva. Having her as my diva has helped me understand a lot about my life as a poet, about longevity, stamina, and how to make use of my particular talents. I mean, I feel like not having a diva is like living life without a zodiac sign. [Jericho is an Aries.] If I find out someone’s diva, I find out more about them than I do if I know their sign. It’s like having one’s own muse, or one’s own Greek god over your shoulder. …
With blankets created in collaboration with PAOM and refreshing cocktails provided by Supergay spirits
Archie Alled-Martinez is at the helm of a blossoming Spanish label that eschews trends and embraces sex. For this story the dancer Jean Lemersre modeled some of his most recent looks.
In the frosty chill of early 2020, we visited Louis Fratino at the Bushwick studio he shares with his partner, designer Thomas Barger. The open plan was split by the couple’s starkly different styles, the colorful romance of Fratino’s paintings both in conversation and at odds with the puffy and softly spiny architecture of Barger’s furniture. As their dog, Margaret, glowered sharply at us from her roost, the couple welcomed us graciously. With candor and charm, Fratino entertained my inquiry of his recent foray into sculpture and the current landscape of queer figurative painters. Our conversation often returned to the non-linearity of space and time — to the spurious notion of progress and the recognition that art history is not a monolith. After taking notes during our tête-à-tête, I sent him a series of questions.
How does the act of drawing compare to painting or sculpting? Drawing is subconscious and capricious. If art making is about revealing an interior self, then it is drawing that brings me there. Painting or sculpting becomes heavy because it asks to live in our world, which is burdened by rules of perception. Drawing can be anything from a written letter to a hair — it is more free to wander.
When you draw, do you make work from your own perspective, or from a state of astral projection, floating outside of yourself? It depends on the source of the drawing, which ranges from total invention, appropriating other artworks, or photography. When I draw from invention or memory, I am often several feet behind myself — seeing myself and others. …
There is an accessibility to the work of Daniel Marcellus Givens that is rarely matched. His marker drawings of bodies radiating auras, colliding and fusing together, kissing, wrestling, dancing, or flying through the air, in their abstraction, are at once both mysterious and instantly identifiable. They are unpretentious in their simplicity, being as much about the unfussy materiality of marker on paper as the metaphysics of meditation and love — difficult to describe, but easy to know once experienced.
Growing up as an ‘80s child in Chicago, Givens was raised by MTV. He digested music videos as multidimensional art, exhilarated by their combination of catchy melodies, poetic lyrics, and hypnotic visuals that satisfy the senses and saturate mass culture. He often sat in the DJ booth as his brother spun tracks for parties, and later with a drum machine and keyboard sampler, he became a DJ too and also made his own music. “As a little kid, one of my best friends and I were really into Prince,” he remembers. “We watched Purple Rain every day for a whole summer. We were way too young, but I had a friend who could get us into the movie theater.” Later Givens and that friend decided to start a band. “We didn’t have any instruments, so we decided to make them with some markers and construction paper. We copied the [artist formerly known as Prince] symbol-shaped guitar, using rulers as the guitar necks. We’d hang out in the backyard lip-syncing to Prince songs. …
Introducing The GAYLETTER Back Page
River Wilson is an erotic film performer and artist. He spends his time between Montreal (where he grew up), New York City, and Berlin.
A few years back he self-published a book of nude photographs of himself shot by friends he’d made during his travels. For River, the book was a way to gain control over his fear of death. “I’m afraid of disappearing. So, this book felt like something I would hold until my old age. I could say, ‘Look at me when I was experimenting.’”
River has always been a sexual being. “When I was younger it would be like midnight and I would stay up jerking off to this show called La Nuit. It was like a movie but with sex; it was not even like full frontal. Sometimes I’d watch the story even after I’d finished jerking off, and I’d be like, ‘woah what’s she saying, where is she going?’ And when another scene would be hot, I’d jerk again.”
The reality of the porn business is vastly different than the expectations River had when he started performing. “I thought I was going to cum and get paid to just have sex. But oh my god — it’s such a thing! Behind the scenes, there’s a script and long hours. Sometimes you have to take Viagra if you can’t get hard. Sometimes you work with people that you may not find attractive, but you still have to perform because it’s work.” Ultimately, he’s more creatively fulfilled shooting with alternative porn directors. …
We captured Susanne's looks during a 5 week period while she was hosting her 'On Top' party via Zoom...
There is only one Susanne Bartsch. The queen of New York nightlife has been throwing parties for decades and nothing can stop her, not the first plague to affect our community, during which she threw balls to raise money for those most impacted, and not this current pandemic. Susanne is continuing to bring together the best of nightlife, but now online. The digital events she’s been organizing are a joyful escape for those stuck at home, and a lifeline for many performers who have no other way to earn a living right now.
Do you want to start with history or do you want to start with now? Oh, you know the history.
Well tell me a little bit about how you came from Switzerland and how you first got into doing parties? I came to New York for a love affair. It was February 14, 1981 and I came for love but I fell in love with New York instead. I loved everything, the energy, and the possibilities.
At the beginning, I was in the fashion business. I had a store on West Thompson Street where I was importing young English designers like Body Map, Galliano, people who were still in college then, Stephen Jones, Leigh Bowery, Rachel Auburn, and to grow I decided to put on a show called “New London in New York.” I did that at the Roxy in May of 1983. There was a line around the Roxy of people waiting to get in. …
Magenta low-key hates the color magenta. So how did this rising New York drag star end up with her name? Well, turns out an old lady in a coffee shop was the inspiration. In high school Magenta was sitting with a friend with “long ass pink braids” when an “old, old, old bitch” walked up to them and said “I love your hair. I had magenta hair once too.” And so “Magenta” was born. “All my friends hated the name,” she explains, “but I was like ‘It’s cunt! It’s gonna stick,’ and now it’s stuck.”
Magenta, who turned 21 this year, grew up “way deep in the Bronx.” She has been performing in New York for six years. It all started on Halloween at age 15. She woke up at 6 a.m. that morning so his mom could paint his and a friend’s faces before school. Afterwards they took the train from the Bronx to 56th and 3rd in full drag. Magenta acknowledges that it was reckless, but if they acted confident then nobody would fuck with them: “And that’s kind of what happened.”
Magenta is most inspired by Rihanna “because you can’t compete with the energy of a bitch who says ‘I can do whatever I want, say whatever I want, and wear whatever I want, and you’re just gonna eat it up.’” She’s also inspired by Adore Delano: “I love that bitch. She also looks like you can’t fuck with her.”
Magenta wears bathing suit by Just Cavalli, pants by Veronique Leroy, jacket by Vintage Saga Furs, necklace and belt by Chanel, vintage earrings. …