Chiquitita, the artist formerly known as Juku, Juku for now and before that Harajuku, has been performing in the Brooklyn drag scene since she was 18 years old. Her recent rebirth as Chiquitita came about after co-starring in a transcendent performance of the Abba song of the same name with one of her favorite people, Charlene Incarnate. We asked one of our favorite people, drag performer Baby Love, to sit down with Chiquitita for a one-on-one conversation. The duo are good friends, and even host a podcast together, Shows BK. we had no doubt the conversation would get real deep, real quick.
So I’m here, reporting live for GAYLETTER from my living room. So formal.
I guess I don’t really know the full story about what’s going on with you and the magazine. They told me I had to do this or they would kill my family. I’m kidding. I’ll just say it. I love talking about myself. They asked if I was interested in doing a birth of Venus shoot, sort of in parallel to like the birth of me, because I just changed my drag name to Chiquitita after a year and a half of contemplating names. It is a rebirth in a way. I don’t know where it’s going to be in the issue, but I hope that it’s the cover because it’s really stunning.
Why did you change your name? I started doing drag when I was 14. I chose the name Harajuku when I was 14, 15. …
This autumn, Shamir released his seventh full-length release, Shamir. Our favorite countertenor has been taking his time to nurture his craft, game, and it-ness in Philly’s DIY scene. Since Hope and Revelations (both released in 2017), Shamir has released the full-length statement records Resolution (2018), Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw (2019), and Cataclysm (2020). These document Shamir’s artistic growth from cutie caterpillar eco-nerd toward the winged pop star we encounter, cocoon-less, on Shamir. We love to see it. I spoke with the artist in the late summer about pop stardom and visibility, the butterfly, mental health, Scorpio, Capricorn, the Oracle Twins, and two pairs of twin moms. Peep our star-crossing conversation below.
I noticed you began to use the butterfly image during Revelations, and by now it’s really flourished and multiplied. What does the butterfly help you symbolize? It was always a natural thing. It’s weird, one of my closest friends lives in Ottawa, and there’s a moth outburst there. At first, we thought it was butterflies, but he actually did some research and talked to his neighbors, and it’s a moth outburst. They’re blind; they run into you and hit you, and that shit hurts, you know? Anyway, I told him, “moths are cousins of butterflies,” and then I sensed this tingle — this was literally yesterday — and I was brought back to another time in my life. At the beginning of middle school, that’s when I was an eco-nerd, I had three different fish tanks in my room. …
The 32-year old Serbian artist never shows his face but is very open about his emotional attachment to sneakers
A pro wrestler from Nutley, New Jersey who fell in love with the sport in high school. He believes that working hard and being yourself is the best way to stand up to the bullies.
How did you become a wrestler? Before pro wrestling, I played baseball from little league through college. I was an NCAA Division I athlete at Seton Hall University. I wanted to play baseball professionally. Eventually it didn’t really work out there and I transferred over to Montclair State University where I continued to play baseball. And also I got a degree in TV and radio production. I’ve always been a pro wrestling fan. As a child, I was pretty shy. I was timid. I was very skinny. So, becoming one wasn’t really an option. I would have loved to, but I just didn’t know how. So, I played baseball. I fell in love with that, played that through college and then once I got to my final year, I started having pain in my elbow and I just kind of lost my love of the game and I stopped.
There was this time period for five to six hours [a day] that I was used to being on a baseball field, for the last 11 years, which I was having trouble filling. So I wanted to find something fulfilling that I could fill that time with — a lot of filling. [Laughs] Pro wrestling has always been my second love. It was my first love and then baseball kind of took over, but it kind of popped back up. I forgot which hurricane it was, but it delayed my friends from moving into their dorms and we were bored. …
By making portraits of trans and non-binary people in memoriam, the Boston-based artist faces the challenges of representation.
How do you represent a person who is no longer here? How do you humanize someone who has already been dehumanized? George Floyd’s murder, along with so many others before and since, has become a lightning rod for this discussion. Should images of police brutality and its victims be circulated to demand systemic change by spreading awareness or do these images desensitize us to horrific violence, making a spectacle of Black death? Since the beginning of 2020, at least 40 transgender and gender-nonconforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means, the majority Black and Latinx transgender women. Representing these individuals has its own politics of optics; often the media uses the last photograph taken or whatever pictures their family allows for publication. But the memory of someone does not exist in a snapshot, or to be more clear, a photo is maybe best used more for rejogging the recollections of those who actually knew the person rather than providing real, substantial context for a life. Perhaps portraiture offers an opportunity to better render the complexity and the humanity of those whose lives ended tragically, but who were so much more than just victims.
Artist Anthony Peyton Young’s ongoing project Say Their Names memorializes Black lives through prismatic fragmented collaged portraits. His series started representing individuals taken by police brutality, but it’s since expanded to include all different Black lives, including transgender and gender-nonconforming people of color who have been the victims of hate crimes. While Anthony believes positive queer role models and images of transgender women as powerful, prosperous, and glamorous are important, he also demands we do not ignore the dark reality of the continuous violence against Black bodies. …
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. …
Straddling the line between abstract and erotic, New York City-based photographer Benjamin Fredrickson’s wedgie portraits have quickly garnered acclaim, each featuring glistening globes split by taut stretched fabric.
Benjamin, originally from Minnesota, became interested in photography as a teenager, and moved to New York City over a decade ago. His photographs are often very personal, and self-portraiture makes up a large part of his oeuvre. He says that photography has been a way for him to break out of his shell, exploring his own body and sexuality. We spoke about his process, his inspirations, and beautiful butts.
What pulled you to photograph wedgies? I was making work for a different project and while a model was shifting his underwear he accidentally created a wedgie. His skin was already lathered in oil and had a nice glisten to it, and he had the perfect wedgie butt. The tension created by the pull of the underwear caressed and spread his butt cheeks in such a way that really turned me on. I liked the idea of something being so sexual without it being explicitly pornographic. The wedgie leaves something to the imagination. You know that there is a butthole under the fabric just waiting to be pulled aside and exposed, but it’s not. It remains covered. Since that day, I’ve been a wedgie enthusiast.
I’m fascinated by the contraptions that pull the underwear in your photos. Why did you decide to use these instead of hands? I created them as a creative way to make a wedgie pull without having to use hands directly. …
In conversation with Stuart Horodner, the Director of the University of Kentucky Art Museum, the painter discusses cruising in rural areas and his current exhibition, Between Two Suns, an installation organized by MARCH in an abandoned farmhouse in Kentucky.
Hi Aaron. How’s Hudson this morning? How long have you lived there now? It’s a nice cool morning with great light in the studio.
How important are the conditions in the studio for you? In what way?
The amount of space to work, the connection to a domestic setting. The spaces I think of you working in are all relatively intimate. It’s very important. I like a rather small studio as my work is not that big in scale. The studio being in my living space is important to me as of now as I like to be able to walk in whenever I want.
Seems like some of what you are making work about is people (men) in a state of naturalness, as if caught between the bedroom, bath, kitchen, etc. I have been focusing on cruising the past 6 months, men resting, waiting, watching action happen around them. The fact that they are set in a rural moment allows them to rest more in my eyes. There is a real art to being patient.
What was the impulse to take on “cruising?” And this brings up the fact that you’ve always worked on one specific series at a time. How are these new images coming about…through drawing, photos? Cruising came about when I was thinking about my faggot tattoo, and why I have it — being called faggot and being made fun of before I came out for being very “theatrical.” Hiding in plain sight led me to thinking about how we hide our desires, how we look without being caught and how we occupy space, how desires dictate that risk factor for occupying space and being forced to travel for those desires. …