It would probably be dramatic to preface this entire post to say that Jackie Beat changed my life as a kid, but to not make some mention of her presence altering my path as an artist would make this painting entirely useless. This piece that I’ve painted isn’t about just a drag queen, a writer, a comedienne, or a musical artist. This piece, and really ALL my portrait pieces, are about the force of someone, the presence, and… often the integral history of their influence of myself and the public.
When you are gay, awkward, colorblind, weird, and ginger in the south like I was (let alone anywhere else), the cards on being accepted are clearly not in your favor. On top of that, validation and seeking identity, a common factor in our travels from youth to adulthood, tend to be more chaotic when our personal microcosm of peers don’t identify with us. It is that very factor that made us feel small, worthless, weird, and nonexistent, which are a series of critically detrimental feelings in our time of seeking our place in the world.
I know I felt this way growing up in Georgia. I was criticized for my ‘gayness’, my posture, my voice, my lack of enthusiasm for sports, my body, my music taste, my style. Even after I came out, I had the hardest time identifying with my gay peers because of my taste in things were just not parallel. I felt awkward and strange, and I desperately wanted to fit in somewhere and to be understood.
My first exposure to finding any kind of validity was accidently finding and watching Doris Fish as Captain Tracy Daniel’s character in Philip R. Ford’s VEGAS IN SPACE. Transfixed on this movie, my friend attempting to ween me off, showed me “Wigstock The Movie” in her house.
I didn’t talk the entire movie. I tried to eat popcorn, but none of it ever landed in my mouth when I attempted to eat it. I just sat there, like a zombie with popcorn all over my lap, watching this incredible movie that was about things that actually existed. Furthermore, Jackie Beat was the character that I centered on. She wasn’t straightlaced like so many of my gay peers that I knew, and certainly not drag culture which seemed to focus on modern pageantry. She was the closest thing to queer punk rock that I had ever witnessed.
I was transfixed.
Jackie Beat was avant garde to me, she was punk rock, she was kicking ass and taking names, and in my gay southern starry eyed brain… she was the closest thing that I could identify with..
..and that brought me lots of comfort around so many years of feeling lost and awkward.
Fast forward many years of me eventually getting out of the South, moving all around the country, becoming a residential drag queen at Trannyshack in San Francisco, switching to being a drag portrait artist and moving to Los Angeles.. and there I was finally to meet Jackie at Casita Del Campo before one of her shows so I could snap a picture of her for my upcoming show (that was to be at PopTart in LA).
It was my whole world coming into a full circle, because I don’t think I would have ever gotten to this point or be mildly successful if I hadn’t watched Doris Fish in Vegas in Space or Jackie Beat in WigStock. They were the first to validate me to let my freak flag fly and ‘screw the rest’ who didn’t get me. They were the first to let me know that everything was going to be okay. So when I snapped her picture and took the photo home and worked on her portrait, I wanted to convey the very essence of how I saw Jackie, and not just Jackie.. but her irresistible force.
This piece is divided into rays to give off a multidimensional contrasting sun ray burst. This communicates an infinite explosion from the very depth of her character, and we the viewer from seeing it, are in direct contact of its effect. This piece is about the power of individuality, and the beauty of being a beacon to a sea of lost kids searching for their shore of being understood.