To coincide with Pride Month, The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) presents Legends of Drag: Portraits by Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus. The photo exhibition will showcase both national and local drag elders, who have played a significant role in creating a safer space for today’s queer community and championing the art of drag.
Since RuPaul’s Drag Race burst onto our screens in 2009, drag has slowly but surely been making its way into the mainstream. What was once an underground art form for the queer community, drag has now been accepted and embraced by people all over the world who love the glamor, wit and talent of the drag queens that perform.
Photographers Harry James Hanson and David Antheus shot the project over a four-year period, traveling coast to coast. They visited 16 different cities to meet and photograph the drag queens featured in the exhibition, and in total the pair shot 81 portraits – each in a unique location and with beautiful floral elements.
The aim of Legends of Drags was to capture the divine nature of the art form out on the streets, instead of in a studio or on stage where it is usually shot. Each portrait is a collaborative effort between the two artists and the model, who helped to decide on location, styling and what flowers to include. Portraits are shot using a range of natural light and artificial light, which creates a harsh yet unapologetically glamorous feel to the images.
In total 23 portraits will be on display at MOWA, featuring local queens such as Christina Chase, BJ Daniels, The Sugarbaker Twins and Karen Valentine, as well as some well-known national queens.
"Legends of Drag is colorful, celebratory and revelatory – sublime camp in-keeping with the subject," said Laurie Winters, MOWA’s executive director. "MOWA is delighted to debut this unprecedented body of photography and to give these artists their first museum exhibition anywhere. It will certainly not be their last.”
The ongoing photography series Legends of Drag: Portraits by Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus has already been featured in Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, the New York Times and Rolling Stone, and it will be open for viewing at MOWA from 27 May to 21 August 2022. There will also be an opening party on 27 May, a live drag show on 10 June and an artist talk on 12 June.