Drag Face 

Looking at drag culture through the controversial portraits of Legendary Children

In mid-September, it suddenly became a little harder to see all the photographs at Gallery 1526's Legendary Children exhibition. That was when gallerist Melanie Bell agreed to cover parts of three photographs of Atlanta area drag queens in response to complaints raised by the manager of a business sharing the gallery's commercial space. He called the images porn.

The calls for censorship such as the one over Legendary Children almost always involve an act of ventriloquism — someone is constantly speaking for someone else: unnamed customers, faceless museum visitors, or that sociological trump card, "the children." The complainer is usually just the first link in a chain of deferrals to someone else's sensibilities deemed to be more delicate than one's own.

Legendary Children, which included photographs by Matthew Terrell, Jon Dean, Blane Bussey, Blake England, and Kevin O, stepped right into a messy set of questions about pornography, though the photographs themselves were posing entirely different inquiries. What makes you you? What's real and what's not? Who's outside and who's in?

  • Jon Dean
"Violet Chachki"

Jon Dean's portrait of Violet Chachki was one of the photos that caused the stir. It doesn't matter whether the creamy, white substance at the corner of the lips in the background is faux spunk or the real stuff. What matters is that we can't know for sure either way. That's an irresistible provocation. Next to those besmirched lips, the drag queen in the front looks tame by comparison. The background becomes the foreground and vice versa.

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