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Paul Brickman’s Drag by Definition is an assemblage of diverse and complex colors, personalities, styles, and contexts that all paint the perfect picture of Contemporary American Drag Queen Culture. This is an exhibition that pays homage to Drag Culture as it forays from a gay-community subcultural entertainment staple into the mainstream of today’s performance art movement. This show demonstrates the culmination of several decades of performance in the making- the Queens of today who have been molded and cultivated by their doting predecessors to be some of the most stunning and magical performance artists of today.
Drag Culture’s emergence from the closet is not simply an advancement of an entertainment form; rather, it is a reflection of a larger social movement toward wider tolerance and acceptance for marginalized or shunned communities. The evolution of Drag is both intertwined and parallel the history and progression that the larger Gay Community has made towards achieving basic human rights, equalities, and general tolerance from the non-gay community.
Why we did this show:
In the wake of both recent victories- (such as the legalization of same sex marriage in more than ten states)- as well as deplorable tragedy (senseless hate-crimes and murders of persons based on their sexual orientation), Drag by Definition is an exhibition that is meant to uphold and propel positivity in the overall movement towards tolerance and community growth. It is our stance as the curator and artist that the road to tolerance is paved with comprehension and awareness of other cultures.
Any good armchair anthropologist knows that to truly understand a culture or subculture one must be fully aware, if not immersed, in all aspects of the culture from tradition to mother-tongue. Drag has a very specific vernacular that is as uniquely playful as it is important. It is our hope that sharing some of this jargon our audience will have a further understanding of the culture, and perhaps adapt some of these fabulous terms into their own dialects. The association of imagery with text is intended to stimulate both eyes and intellect.
Featured Drag Queens
Each Drag Queen in the show was very deliberately selected to represent a term that is notably one of her own traits or an aspect of her persona. The selections herald from the Creme de la Creme of the New York drag community; some of the queens including Sharon Needles, Phi Phi O’Hara, and Ivy Winters all herald from the show that made Drag famous- Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Others such as Tatiana Steele, Jayne County, Leo Gugu, Leopolitan, Thorgy Thor, Holly Dae, and William Cherwin, and Holly Dae are all legends among queens in the New York scene. Their Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent have been an inspiration and are preserved in this photographs.
About Paul Brickman
Born and raised in New York City, Paul Brickman took an interest in visual and photographic arts from a very young age. Through his formative years, Brickman began a career in music and theater, which would expand into a strong interest of the fabulous urban landscape that surrounded him. Early on he developed a strong preference toward shooting individuals and candid streets scenes of New York life, which were prevalent and familiar in his everyday life.
Brickman developed an interest in New York City gay culture, in particular Drag Culture, at an early point in his career. One of his strongest and earliest bodies of work (which can be viewed as part of his American(t) Series) featured early interactions between the Westboro Baptist Church and New Yorkers attending the Gay Pride Parade. These images showed the polarization of the American landscape and lead to a series of photographic essays expanding upon the ironies and idiosyncrasies of contemporary Gay America.
Brickman’s most recent work is an in depth exploration of the intermingling of Punk culture and Drag culture. His groundbreaking photographs of Drag icons Sharon Needles and Jane County lead to Brickman’s inaugural documentary short Sharon Needles: Parental Guidance Suggested.
Paul Brickman currently lives, shoots, and loves Brooklyn, NY.
About Jasmine Wahi
Jasmine Wahi is a New York City based independent curator and the co-founder of Project For Empty Space, a nonprofit arts organization that is dedicated to bringing contemporary art to communities worldwide through the use of abandoned and unusual urban spaces. Wahi’s curatorial practice primarily focuses on addressing social issues through the exhibition and exploration of work by women of color. Her most recent focus has been on issues of gender/sexuality and urban culture, disenfranchisement of women of color within the urban context, and empowerment for young women through artist praxis. Her upcoming exhibition, The Least Orthodox Goddess (opening July 18th at Gallery 151, NYC) explores the interactions between religious iconography and female deities throughout the history of global art.
Wahi is currently Chair of the Board for Project For Empty Space, she also serves on the Board of the South Asian Women's Creative Collective (SAWCC), as a visual arts specialist. She is also a volunteer instructor at GEMS (the Girls Educational Mentoring Services network), and an advocate for women/girls sexual rights.
Jasmine Wahi currently lives and works in New York City.
This text was written by Jasmine Wahi, curator, art advisor, and activist based in New York City. Ms. Wahi, a graduate of New York University, focuses primarily on exploring socially pertinent issues such as gender, sexual, and racial identity.
As a curator, Jasmine Wahi’s mission is to utilize the power of contemporary art to foster education, understanding, and engagement about both art and social issues, injustices, and strengths. She is also the Cofounder of Project For Empty Space.
Yo can find more information about her on: www.jasminewahicontemporary.com