There are people in my life who have monumentally changed the course of my direction by their presence. It so happens by strange coincidence that all of them happened to have been drag queens. Much like my dual brain operating as Hansel AND Gretel, I have been following my path by finding drag queen crumbs to my destiny (to which Im hoping is more about success rather than about pushing a witch into an oven)
Back in 2000 I had met two men in Richmond Virginia on my travels from the South to the North. I had just left my apartment in Atlanta, and on the way to my new home in Philadelphia I had lost my place. I decided to travel around the Carolina’s and Virginia that entire Summer and happened to run into these two guys in one my random travels. They happened to be living in Richmond for the Summer but were returning back to school to their home in Santa Cruz, California.
Throughout our friendship on the East Coast, they kept on telling me that I was meant for the West Coast, and kept on trying to convince me to get out to San Francisco as thats where they thought that I belonged.
Doubtful, but curious, I eventually bought a ticket for Halloween. They were going to take me to this mountain town North of San Francisco called Guerneville (otherwise known as Russian River) for this event called Russian River Massacre. And sure enough I arrived in San Jose and we drove for hours up past San Francisco and Sebastapol, through the vineyards at night and up the thin winding mountain roads of Northern California to this small, barely inhabitable town of Guerneville.
As we arrived into the main strip, music was blaring from the local resorts, while men in gothic drag giggled and drunkenly clicked and clacked their heels on the asphalt in front of our car at the street intersection. I was taken out of the car and walked with my friends along this gravel road up to a massive bonfire filled with strangers that looked like me. In the thick of them was this towering glittering glamazon in a gorgeous outfit, high heeled boots, and massive black hair laughing hysterically with the crowd and creating this infectious laughter among other people.
This was my first introduction to the horror queen herself, Peaches Christ. I was starstruck, and mostly because I had never seen drag like this in my entire life (in person). In all my residences along the east coast, I had NEVER seen a drag queen like this. She embodied everything that I personally wanted to be when toying with my own perception of drag, and escalated this heightened level of acceptance and awareness in queer performance art. Within the second that I met Peaches Christ, my years of questioning myself, second guessing myself, feeling weird about my tastes in style in homonormative culture suddenly dissipated within a blink of an eye. Yes eccentric drag on television shows, movies, and documentaries were validating, but this was the first real life experience I had to compare it to.
I was starstruck in California, and Peaches Christ was the reason.
That night was a dark sparkling tornado of fire blowing drag queens, experimental indie horror films, and lip sync performances of punk rock/new wave groups that I grew up listening to and dreaming of performing as a kid. I remember dancing in the mirror and performing as Siouxsie or Kate Bush in the mirror, and countlessly being scolded by my parents when caught… and here I was, on a mountain in California, watching my new found peers and role models living it out loud. My shirt was covered in soot, glitter, fake blood, and powdered sugar and I was walking around comatose from sensory overload like a zombie infant. I had watery eyes and my mouth was agape, I couldn’t process anything because I was far too much in love with the minutes surrounding my hours to understand what time actually was.
The next morning I woke up in a bed inside a tiki hut full of drag queens. Some of them were sleeping in the bed, some half on the bed, and the rest were all over the floor. The person sleeping next to me was still in her dead 1960’s airline stewardess outfit. Her special FX scars were somewhat in tact on her face, while the rest sojourned to her pillow. I grabbed the hotel sheet, which was covered in dried fake blood, make up, and remnants of someone’s false eyelashes, and wrapped it around my body. I quietly tip toed around the sleeping bodies, the high heels and wigs, and opened up the tiki hut door to the outside.
When I opened up the door, the sight of palm’esque trees littering against mountains encased in a deep white clouds ricocheted back into my eyes. I had only, up until this moment, experienced California at night. I immediately sat down in the dirt, grabbed my cell phone, and called my roommate in Philadelphia and told her I was moving to California.
Later in the day I had talked with Peaches Christ and let her know how much I loved her event, and how that I never knew all of this actually existed. As far as I knew in my East Coast brain, this kind of life was just on television for shock value, it was a dream, a pipe dream even. I never knew that this was graspable. She told me, she too was from the East Coast, Maryland even, and that these worlds do exist.
That day I put on horse blinders and set on a quest to leave Philadelphia and move to San Francisco to be a part of this culture that Peaches Christ was a part of. And sure enough, I did. I eventually left and came to San Francisco, and even became a part of the legendary queer performance art and drag venue Trannyshack. This guided me to be a painter, and this brought me to where I am now. Peaches was a testament of rising from our circumstances to become what we want. Whether it be the doyenne of directors in horror cinema, or rising into pop art culture, we were people that just kind of did it because we knew we could.
I thank her for that inspiration.
Furthermore, this is a two part piece. I had originally painted this portrait in 2006, but unfortunately destroyed the painting during a rather awful bout of intoxication. In 2010 I repaired the piece by hand, and repainted her more complexly in my sobriety. I put her in saint like rays, because in all honesty, anyone who can convince a confused kid like me to follow my nonhomonormative dreams, and explore and nourish my queer weird experimental eccentric self, automatically becomes a saint in my eyes. A lot of my pieces that in rays, are in homage to those who got me to my path, and I’m sure more portraits are to come with this idealism in my work.