In San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood sits Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a small, windowless locale that’s the only remaining gay bar in an area once known for its nightlife LGBTQ attractions. It features an evening-length drag queen show, which is the subject of photographer James Hosking’s intriguing images.
Hosking first visited Aunt Charlie’s in 2009 after moving to the city from New York, and he was drawn to the older entertainers there. What was their connection to drag when it was “illicit and less accessible,” and why do these people continue to perform? “They open themselves to ridicule because of their age, yet they seem to relish the opportunity for provocation and confrontation,” the photographer told Slate.
Hosking’s curiosity played out by photographing three performers at Aunt Charlie’s during 2013 – Collette LeGrande, Donna Personna, and Olivia Hart. He also teamed up with journalist Jeremy Lybarger for a story published in Out Magazine, and completed a documentary about the drag queens titled Beautiful by Night.
It’s in these gritty candid photos and film that we see just how laborious performing is. Putting on makeup, wigs, and costumes can take time a lot of stamina that only gets harder with age. And with all that effort, audience members can sometimes be disrespectful, Hosking tells Slate, “But, for the most part, I think the joy comes from the audience’s excitement and pleasure, which creates a feeling that everyone is there to have a good time together. I imagine that makes all the bullshit worthwhile. The tips don’t hurt either.”
Check out the documentary to hear the drag queens talk about their experience and to see the transformation process take place.
These marble and bronze sculptures of Kevin Francis Gray‘s are beautifully mysterious. They are classical in technique, but completely contemporary in subject matter. Gray chooses figures and characters – “the freaks and oft-romanticized street tribes of the East End” he see on the streets around his studio in London and then turns them into striking statues. Covering them in beaded veils or shrouding their faces with draped cloth, he manages to surround them in mystery.
His piece called ‘Ghost Girl’ superficially looks like a classical Greek or Roman sculpture, but is actually an earnest, tender view of a modern city girl, with a urban-ghetto-gothic twist. Poking out from underneath her veil is a skull tilted down toward her feet. She has her arms casually wrapped behind her back, but bear the markings of self harm. Gray renders many of his subjects from live sittings and recalls sketching the different faces:
One of the subjects has intense agoraphobia. Another was the first subject whom I really, truly didn’t like. He was so dark, a complicated psychopath. But I was determined to capture that. Some of the subjects could only sit still for an hour, because they had to go get high or whatever. (Source)
All of Gray’s pieces have a dark history to them, but he sculpts them so impressively they transform into something majestic, almost mythical.
What I’m trying to do is create a juxtaposition. The surface is glossy and consumable, but look deeper beneath that and you’ll see a darker underworld. (Source)
If kinetic art “is art from any medium that contains movement perceivable by the viewer or depends on motion for its effect,” (Wikipedia) then “Electronic Traces: Memories of Dance” by Lesia Trubat González is the most literal form of kineticism. In “Electronic Traces” González has adapted ballet pointé shoes to create digital pictures, recreating the dancer’s movements.
“We focused on the ballet shoes themselves, which through the contact with the ground, and thanks to Lilypad Arduino technology, record the pressure and movement of the dancer’s feet and send a signal to an electronic device. A special application will then allow us to show this data graphically and even customize it to suit each user, through the different functions of this app. The user can then view all the moves made in video format, extract images and even print them.”
Many people desire to capture the beauty of physical movement in art. Heather Hansen’s “Emptied Gestures”, previously covered on Beautiful/Decay, also seeks to document the movements of the artist’s body as she lies on a huge sheet of paper and holds charcoal in her hands, tracing her choreographed performance. “Electronic Traces,” however, is more than an artist’s tool.
“Dancers can interpret their own movements and correct them or compare them with the movements of other dancers, as graphs created with motion may be the same or different depending on the type of movements executed and the correction of the steps and body position.
This is a project that can be extrapolated to other dance disciplines and the applications are multiple, from self- learning or dance classes to the graphical representation of live performance.”
Particularly evocative is the subtitle, “Memories of Dance.” Video can film a dance as it occurs; photography can elegantly freeze a particular frame. But like a memory, the sketchy lines of E-Traces capture the movement but lose the specificity of the moment. (Via Juxtapoz)
Each year, Japanese photographer Ariko Inaoka journeys to Reykjavik, Iceland to continue a very special project: the annual documentation of identical twin girls Erna and Hrefna.
Although Inaoka met the sisters in 2006 at a casting call for a photo shoot, she did not begin regularly photographing them until three years later when they were nine years old. Since then, she has returned to Iceland—a country that she cites as “the place for [her] creativity and inspiration”—each year to document the girls’ growth and to capture their unique interactions.
While all of Inaoka’s photographs of Erna and Hrefna convey an undeniable focus on her subjects’ youth, they also speak to something deeper: their strange and powerful bond. According to Inaoka, the twins are never apart and even share a seemingly telepathic relationship with one another.
Whether portrayed clutching matching dolls, donned in tulle tutus, or in playful positions, there remains a unique and haunting quality to the twins’ portraits—a certain je ne sais quoi that both speaks to and undeniably illustrates Inaoka’s declaration that she has “never seen such a powerful connection between any two human beings.” (Via Bored Panda)
Numen, a European design collective, used 27 miles of scotch tape to create their most recent installation at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. We’ve posted about Numen’s jungle gym and flexible staircase before on Beautiful/Decay, and they’ve caught our eye once again! Viewers/participants are allowed to explore translucent tunnels that weave around columns and down staircases, mid air. The installation belongs to a group show called ‘Inside’ that “delves into the murky territory of both physical and psychological interiority, thematising immersion, introspection, and probing of the depths of self.”
Numen says their intention was to…
“transform the whole building into a convulsive mind/body organism whose slippery inner limits a motivated explorer has yet to trace and confront. The stretched biomorphic skin of Tape Paris is marking the entry point of the whole experience, being a literal incarnation of an inner-directed, regressive environment – the sense of descent into the primordial always lingering around its openings.”
…A lot to basically say that Numen has created an installation that seems like throughways for blood cells or passageways through time, and looks like it would be incredibly fun to crawl around in. It’s impressive in terms of engineering, imagination, and entertainment value, and it’s not hard to see how it relates to “interiority”, though I wouldn’t have put it in such convoluted terms. I might sound bitter about their project statement, but that’s probably because I can’t get myself to Paris to experience the real thing! (Via The Fox is Black)
Food artist Tisha Cherry turns the mundane into magical with the use of simple foodstuffs. She creates art on Oreos with the sweet frosting acting as her “paint.” The results are portraits of Yoda from Star Wars, Snoopy the dog, Mona Lisa’s face, and more. The small, impressive works look impeccable and present a conundrum for those who have a sweet tooth: to eat or not to eat?
Cherry’s food art extends beyond the twistable cookies. On her Instagram, you’ll find food arrangements, portraits, and a love for The Simpsons under the hashtag #ArtintheEats. Her Oreos are the most impressive, however, just based on their 2 inch scale and craftsmanship. The white icing has a luscious texture with subtleties that look like they were applied using a palette knife.
If you enjoy these portraits, check out the work of Judith G. Klausner. She also created relief sculptures on the iconic cookies. Is this a tasty new trend in art? (Via Illusion)
Greek director, choreographer, visual artist and performer Dimitris Papaioannou has caught our attention with this strikingly simple video. Just under 4 minutes long, it is a short clip of the central segment of his longer show Nowhere (2009). Ominously lit, and eerily quiet, it is a strange experience to watch. The whole piece was performed by 26 people and is a testament to just how well Papaioannou can direct bodies to create unified, seamless actions. The arms of the performers stop looking like separate limbs belonging to humans and more like giant tentacles, or something very alien indeed. The arms are either moving on their own accord or in harmony with something unseen. It is both wondrous and unsettling to watch the action unfold.
Papaioannou is no stranger to directing large numbers of people performing synchronized movements. He has also co-ordinated the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. As we know, these shows are a finely tuned ballet of thousands of interconnected bodies and continuously changing patterns (the closing ceremony alone had more than 3500 performers).
His focus on composition and the overall harmony on stage probably owes itself to his training as a painter. Papaioannou has for a long time been interested in gestures; how the body influences mark making; or how we are able to express an emotion through the use of our skin and bones. Gradually though, he was drawn toward the immediacy of performing, and fell in love with the theatricality of the stage.
As a painter, [the Edofos Dance Theatre] was the place to create images; as a comics artist, this was where to tell my tales; and as a performer, this was the context in which to present myself. Furthermore, as I was to discover over time, this was the territory in which to inspire people, exercising my skills as a team leader. (Source)
In “Once Upon a Time, We Weren’t Stalkers,” artist Adam Mars creates all-caps slogans for the lost MTV generation. Spraypainted in boldface, each piece could be read any number of ways. Is it tragic? Judgmental? Ironic? How many different ways can you read a phrase like “Gluten Free Cunnilingus”?
In the past, Mars has taken online concerns offline, painting “000,000,001 Views” on a brick wall. The meaning there is clear: The virtual has no context in the real life. A clipped “Good Lay Bad Texter” highlights skewed priorities, and “Your Sex Tapes Need Some Sriracha” is absurdity writ large.
Mars’s latest exhibit seems to take on a different tenor. Though just as cheeky as before, there’s also an underlying nostalgia and a critical eye toward modern predilections. “I Stand By My Uninformed Opinions,” one says mockingly, starkly painted in black on white. Another pronounces, “The Last Offline Lovers” on a speckled candy orange background. In blue, almost sadly: “Longing For Your Divorce.”
Written out in so many words, Mars’s words are a declaration. He’s the man holding cardboard next to the subway, saying, “Apocalypse Tomorrow – 3 PM!” It’s also hard to argue with his sharp-eyed truth. After all, some of us were the last offline lovers.
“Once Upon a Time, We Weren’t Stalkers” is on display until December 20, 2014 at Gusford Gallery in Los Angeles.