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About the Exhibition

Karen Valentine, Milwaukee


May 27–August 28

MOWA | DTN inside Saint Kate—The Arts Hotel

Drag has officially transcended the underground and exploded into the mainstream. Queens today have great visibility—hard-won through decades of perseverance, imagination, and intergenerational support within local drag communities. Drag is not merely a pop cultural phenomenon, but in fact a subversive tradition with deep roots stretching back to antiquity.

Artists Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus traveled coast-to-coast over four years, visiting sixteen cities to meet and photograph the legendary entertainers featured in the exhibition. Hanson and Antheus produced stunning portraits of eighty-one queens shot on location and styled with unique floral elements. A selection of those portraits will be on display at MOWA | DTN in downtown Milwaukee.

If documenting elders within a marginalized subculture sounds like serious work, Hanson and Antheus subvert that expectation. Legends of Drag is colorful, celebratory, and revelatory—sublime camp in keeping with the subject. Each photograph is a collaboration between artists and model, who jointly selected the location, styling, and blooms. The inclusion of floral elements enhances the queen’s uniqueness and allude to the ephemeral nature of drag itself. Both floral arrangements and drag complicate the boundaries between natural and unnatural, authenticity and contrivance. Flowers embody the fleeting yet timeless dimensions of beauty; their arrangement is artifice.

While drag portraiture commonly situates performers on stage or in the studio, Legends of Drag spotlights their embodied divinity out on the street. By transposing the queens from nightlife to daytime, the photographers position each model as a fixture within her community. Mixing sunlight and artificial light is intentionally harsh, yet unapologetically glamorous. The resulting portraits are simultaneously formal, conceptual, and surreal, deifying each of their subjects.

No universal history of drag exists, and no two queens define the art form the same way. Legends of Drag’s wide-ranging cast of queens presents a varied and category-defying tradition. The spectacular images give viewers a glimpse into a world of code-switching, seduction, performance, survival, criminality, hostility, promiscuity, evasion, articulation, impersonation, devotion.

This exhibition is the very first for Hanson and Antheus. Their project has been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone.

The accompanying catalogue Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age is available from Cernunnos, an imprint of Abrams Books. Purchase


Top: Mutha Chucka, San Francisco CA, 2018 (detail)
Left: Karen Valentine, Milwaukee, WI, 2020

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