“A lot of people don’t study their history,” bemoans New York drag pioneer Flotilla Debarge in Wig, the new documentary from Chris Moukarbel premiering tonight on HBO. The film charts the birth, ebb, and recent renaissance of the annual Wigstock drag festival, which had its heyday in New York in the 1980s and ’90s. By the time the festival disappeared in 2001—the final official Wigstock took place in early September of that year, just before the landscape and spirit of the city changed irrevocably—its attendees numbered in the thousands. It had become a scene staple. Wig is a colorful love letter to its subject matter, a suggestion that much of our contemporary drag moment remains indebted to the trailblazers of Wigstock. But in 2019, Moukarbel seems to argue, too few of us know about it. More →
Posts by Amanda Feinman:
Just blocks from the Knickerbocker / Myrtle M stop, El Sótano Art Space occupies the bottom floor of a residential building. Not much goes on on its quiet street; a small market draws groups of neighbors to the corner, but that’s about it. The gallery’s storefront, to the extent that there is one, is a label on a buzzer. To get down the stairs and into its exhibition space, you have to ring number 1. More →
The word “ethereal” comes up, more than once, in my conversations about Mike Sullivan’s design work and photography. I’m not surprised—it’s an appropriate descriptor. There’s a delicate fleetingness to everything he does, most literally because many of his masks and headpieces are made of natural materials. He gathers armfuls of flowers, feathers, and shrubs, and makes them into halos. Which means parts of his works, or sometimes even whole pieces, have limited lifespans. They literally die. More →
“The place that I really loved, the place we all went to, was the Cornelia Street Café,” says documentary filmmaker Karen Kramer. “We were just devastated when it closed. I almost can’t bear to go down Cornelia Street. But I have to, every day.” More →
Rachel Zeiss’s Ditmas Park kitchen is positively crammed with equipment. A 10-gallon stainless steel pot sits on the stove, almost touching the underside of the microwave; that, in turn, is hooked up to another large pot on the floor, via a snaking apparatus of tubing I keep losing track of. In between the pots, on a wooden chair in the middle of the room, sits a repurposed orange Gatorade cooler, the kind that gets turned over on proud coaches’ heads—it’s covered, all around its circumference, with stickers. One declares, in instructively bold lettering: “MAKE SOME BEER.” More →
About halfway through Moving Parts, the documentary about her life that premiered at Tribeca on Thursday, Trixie Mattel looks right at the camera from under her paint-relocated eyelids and says, “The more you get to fabricate the life you live, the happier you are.” That’s an apt mantra for the 29-year-old country musician/comedian/drag megastar of the small (and now silver) screen: Trixie has willfully fashioned her stardom into existence, has manufactured an entire pink-plastic empire for herself. She’s harnessed what she calls “delusional confidence,” to propel her career out from the gay bars of Milwaukee and into America’s hearts.More →
The Shed’s glossy lobby is mere feet from dusty Eleventh Avenue, but atmospheric light years away. When I walked through its glass doors on Wednesday night, I thought first about the luxury-home-meets-AI-laboratory in Ex Machina, where Oscar Isaac both lives lavishly and builds humanoid robots for a creepy corporation.
New York’s new multi-arts space on the Hudson is a futuristic-looking glass structure with a retractable roof and an enormous escalator that spirals up and down its eight-level spine. Making your way up to the theater space on the sixth floor is not unlike heading to the top levels of the Union Square multiplex, if that multiplex were magnificent in a mod, Hudson Yards way. If, as you wound your way up to see the fiftieth Transformers movie, you were in a transformer, and the river was glittering in every line of sight.
When, during the ninth-season premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the contestants were challenged to channel a Lady Gaga look, Sasha Velour—the Brooklyn-based queen who would go on to win the crown—drew from the “Applause” music video. And she killed it: the stark contrast of a black corseted waist above wide-legged white pants, and the facepaint that recalls, in smeared candy-bright primaries, Pierrot from commedia dell’arte.
Devin Person doesn’t always wear head-to-toe wizard garb while working with a client, but when he opens the door to his small Greenpoint apartment for me, he looks a lot like Gandalf: lengthy robes, a tall, pointed hat, a long white beard. I can’t help but crack a smile. “You have to embrace silliness,” he says. “That’s really good for someone.”
In this climate, titling any artwork Dreamers signals politics. Fittingly, politics is the main undercurrent of the album Magos Herrera released last year with chamber musicians Brooklyn Rider. Their collaboration, Dreamers, draws on musical and literary works from across Ibero-America, and everything sampled is, in some way, connected to themes of state violence and resistance. The musicians—who will perform tomorrow at Williamsburg’s National Sawdust—call these the album’s “connecting thread.”