Atlanta’s Art-Drag: 4 artists reflect on their inspirations, audiences, personae and plans
I met Aubrey Longley-Cook over coffee last fall, and among many invitational whispers, he told me I had to meet Lavonia Elberton, Jared Dawson’s drag persona. Aubrey showed me the first portrait of her that he was beginning to embroider. With so few stitches, it was already tender. Lucky for me, I stumbled upon Lavonia performing poetry at WonderRoot a few weeks later. She was so on fire, I now follow every Atlanta artist that Aubrey recommends. When I reached out to him to pull this conversation together, he was as happy as me have the opportunity to listen and learn. And so drag performers Jared Dawson, Corian Ellisor, and a Roar a’ Thunder met early on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago to talk about their work and their communities. What is left out of these excerpts is a lot of laughter, hand gestures, and simultaneity. And dogs barking. The coffee shop where we met is also a dog park.
a Roar a’ Thunder: I hate the words ‘cutting edge,’ but it’s keeping on the cutting edge of what’s radical and what’s subversive. I feel like the things that are happening with art and drag now are kind of where the last little bit of radicalness stands on drag, because it’s gotten so mainstream that you have suburban housewives who know what drag is, who have seen examples of contemporary drag, and so, a lot of my drag is very concept-based and radical-based. The forefront of that is some of the art-drag that I do and some of the art-drag I see others do, keeping the radical edge as the root of drag as an innately subversive act…. Also, I think all of us have been artists in a different medium before we got into drag, and I think that we’re all very influenced by what that medium was before we started doing drag. I did musical theater for a really long time – I did the Rocky Horror Picture Show for almost 5 years, and then I was also a visual artist and a sculptor, so I love the dynamic of the musical theater-ness of me, and the outrageousness that comes with that, and also being a conceptual artist, talking about objectivism and the human form, and how we incorporate materials into performance, and blurring the line between where the materials and performer stand as two separate things—they merge together and form one thing. That even happens with make-up. The difference between the drag queen and the make-up.
Corian Ellisor: My question always is who am I? Identity, identity, identity. In the past year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can be anything. I can be a boy one day. I can be a girl one day. I can be a boy-girl, I can be a girl-boy. I can be a thing, I can be a she, whatever, and embracing that, and seeing where that takes me. I’ve decided that my drag persona has a lot to do with Claire Huxtable. I feel like, growing up, she was the shit woman. Not only was she taking care of the house, but she was a lawyer and she was beautiful and she spoke Spanish and she could sing. TV was a big thing for me growing up, and she was it, she was the woman. Shoulder pads and all. She was feminine and masculine. She was just a really strong person. What’s interesting in drag in Atlanta right now, at least in the circle that we’re going in, is that it’s not so super concerned about being a woman. Like, ‘I want you to think that I’m fish,’ ‘ooh you are so fish….’
Jared Dawson: We’re from the ocean, but we ain’t fish.
Aubrey Longley-Cook: I think that’s representative of a lot of Atlanta’s drag community, with groups like Armorettes…
JD: It’s a different blurring. The Armorettes are like, ‘We’re dudes in dresses and we’ve got balloon tits.’
CE: We’ll try to give you a little concept…. I want the over-arching thing. I do have a message, and I’m serious about my message. But, I’m trying to entertain. Entertainment is my number one thing. For people to be like, ‘That bitch is funny, she’s pretty.’
JD: I guess I have a fairly different access point for all of this. I did my undergrad in creative writing, and started looking at graduate programs, and I’m trying to beat two thousand people out for four spots and I’m trying to get funding and I am not that dedicated and I am not that interested, what can I do? I know! I can be two people at once! And so I thought, ‘If I were a drag queen I would be this, and if I were a drag queen I would be this,’ and at the same time I was really getting into the Lacanian school of linguistics and psychological development, which basically teaches that when you’re born, you are this animal thing, that you only become a human through the acquisition of language, and because of this acquisition of language, you use this frame of language to reference everything in the world. So, learning this, everything you look at is language, and because language is a symbol, you’re ultimately interacting in this exchange of death and the not-thing all the time, and I got fucking depressed. And I was talking to someone who said, ‘If everything is made of language and you can make language, then why don’t you make things what you want them to be? Why don’t you see that as a position of power?’ So I started looking at my writing as spell crafting. When I sit down to write a story or a poem, I’m trying to create, and trying to engender this emotional, spiritual, physical response in people, and that is using my energy to affect their energy. And a big part of that is finding a union between the masculine and the feminine, the conscious and the unconscious mind. So I started to look at doing drag as… OK, Jared, Jared Dawson, is a creation in my mind for me to deal with the world, so if I’ve gone through these 20-odd years and created this persona of Jared Dawson, why don’t I create another persona, to handle these other elements of life? And slowly Lavonia began to gain more time and more money and more weight, and now my closet is like, my clothes fit in here, and Lavonia’s fit in here, and there’s wigs on the side, and shoes underneath. What inspires me is finding that power of creation, where you get to be anything you want to be, you get to make people think anything you want them to think, and you get to incorporate everyone in an audience in your spell work. You’re there, and you’re like a channel. Everyone is gagging and eating you up and feeding you energy and you’re like, ‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’ and what are you going to do with that?
Thursday was the Capricorn new moon. So, my performance that night was my new moon ritual, it was my spell for my new moon for accessing my Capricorn energy. And so, really, Corian talking about how we’re not trying to be fish… You know, I’ll do beard, you’ll do beard, we’ll all do beard. When you’re not exerting your energy trying to be an illusion, that frees up so much energy to put in other places. For Aroara, that’s radicalism, that’s connecting with people, that’s subverting the system. For Corian, it seems like that’s having a fucking good time. And for me… I also want to come back to that question of who am I? When you start asking that question… Because you have to create a whole new persona. Who am I as Lavonia? I now will refer to moments where I’m taking a bit of Lavonia and I’m giving it to Jared. Now that I’ve created this second persona, these two personae are in conversation with each other. Jared having green hair or purple hair or painted nails is all Lavonia energetically transferring into Jared. If you can make one persona, why not make two personae? And if you can make another persona, you can make it whoever you want, once you find that position of power and creation, and really getting in touch with your ability to generate. It spills over into your life in such crazy ways.
ALC: As a gay male embroiderer, my work is constantly mixing feminine and masculine. Because the practice was very feminine, my intent was to bring a masculine viewpoint to a traditionally female art form. And my subject matter and imagery is usually very much within the realm of the masculine. And this was kind of my comfort level for a while as I became comfortable being a male embroiderer. I think that, after getting a lot of work out, I’ve gotten past the part where I need to impart a masculine viewpoint on my work and have become comfortable in what I’m creating enough that it doesn’t necessarily have to be an upset in that way. I’d also been wanting to get into portraiture, and I’d been really trying to think about people that I knew, the world that I have access to, friends that I have, community that I knew, and who deserves to be documented, who is doing something amazing, who really is just under-documented. And I’ve become more and more involved with Atlanta drag culture, and it just kind of dawned on me one day as an idea, to do portraits of drag queens, and it seemed in some ways totally outside of my comfort zone, an embracing of the feminine, with the color scheme and the imagery, and the models. I’ve done art projects before that are very inner mind, inner subject matter, inner imagery, that’s all lovely and great and resonates within me, but I feel like work like this just projects out into the world and is so much more accessible for other people.
JD: We’re dealing with abstract concepts, we’re pursuing artistic endeavors, we’re involved in mental conversations with ourselves, so there’s plenty of darkness, plenty of depth, plenty of introspection, and being a fucking drag queen, or working with drag material, is license to be irreverent, flippant, to be capricious, and take all this energy and let it all go, let it all out, and explore it in a whole new avenue.
CE: What I’m always striving for—this is really cheesy, but—community. It’s bringing people together, so that’s why I started Glitz, because we are these people who are not necessarily mainstream, and it’s important that we have a voice, and people are really responsive to it, people want to see it.
AT: The thing for me is this ‘who am I?’ I came out as being transgender-identified about 6 months ago. There have been a lot of drag queens who have come out as trans-identified, but it’s a whole lot hairier for me, literally and figuratively! Also, coming from the fact that I used to weigh 340 pounds, and I’ve lost like 150 pounds, and the way that my body interacts with the world on a very fundamental level. Some of my drag is very angry, this anger that I have about being a formerly fat person. I guess that’s why some of it is in people’s faces, as far as…
JD: You angry? No! Hot glue all over your stocking-ed body?
AT: I’m the weird person who is hot gluing weird things to their face.
ALC: Do you find that act of tapping into that anger helps alleviate it? Release it?
AT: I think maybe not as much alleviate as cope with my understanding of my anger. I grew up with parents that were a whole lot older than the normal. My mother was 39 when I was born, and she was also disabled and so I grew up with ‘be quiet.’ I was a very shy child, very low key, and then I started doing theater, and that was my first contact with people in general, because I was really isolated as a kid. My mom was agoraphobic and I was home-schooled from the 5th grade and we lived out in the middle of nowhere. Theater was, first of all, a social experience for me. I learned how to relate to the outside world because of theater. So much of how I negotiate with humanity started with this kind of art. I was also homeless for almost a year, in varying degrees and respects. The entire time I did Dragnique, I was squatting in an abandoned filling station in Chosewood Park, with no electricity or water. The first night that I squatted in there, we hadn’t moved my bed in yet, and I literally fell asleep on a giant pile of my own drag, kind of wondering ‘how did I get here?’
JD: A nested bird.
AT: Pretty much. Who I am can kind of be trailed by my relationship with drag. After a year of Aroara, regardless of what my intent was, this character came out. Once people learned what a Roar a’ was…
CE: You couldn’t do anything else.
AT: No. a Roar a’ came out as this translation of what I wanted, but I had never done this before, and so it came out as what came out.
CE: But also you have no control over perception.
JD: It’s an organic process on your part, but it’s also an organic process on the audience’s part, where it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re going to pick that up, I guess I’m going to go with it.’ There’s a sense of exploration. Because we’re not following that ‘OK, we’re in a pageant, so this is how we paint, this is how we dress.’ It’s like, ‘Who is this person? What am I?’
CE: It’s also not, ‘I’m trying to be the next drag superstar.’ Which… there’s nothing wrong with that. Those people work hard.
JD: Atlanta doesn’t have a drag bar, and I think each one of us engages audiences differently. This girl can dance [at Corian]. I can’t dance. People are like, ‘Oh, that girl is having a seizure!’ or ‘She hurts! Someone get her some shoes that fit!’ I feel like other queens get a mirror, put their song on, and are doing shit in front of the mirror, thinking ‘I look good.’ I’m just going to be weird and creepy. Lavonia Elberton’s true genesis came from a game that a friend and I play when we’re on road trips. As we pass exit signs…
CE: Uh-huh, I saw that shit! Lavonia Elberton is an exit off I-85!
JD: When you go north, there is the town of Lavonia and there is the town of Elberton, and I was explaining this game to my friends, like ‘Lavonia Elberton is a witch who lives in a trailer in the country, and she used to live in an orchard, but the highway came through and they cut down all the trees, and she feels really bad about all the birds that come through, so she has birdhouses and feeders, and people come to her for Tarot spreads and for voodoo, or hexes that they need.’ And so talking about this began to create the character. So what’s the access point for audiences for this character? Being weird and having fun, and people really respond to breaking that mold of what a drag queen typically looks like. You see an illusion, or fish, walking into a bar, and you’re like, ‘oh her paint’s good, her pad’s good,’ but when I came out of Noni’s the other night after the Miss Edgewood Pageant, a couple of straight people were walking by, and this woman was like, ‘Oh, you scared me!’ I said, ‘Well, you scared me too’ and kept walking. I guess that’s sort of my access point, trying to take everything that a queen would normally do, and just not fucking doing it.
JD: Honestly, RuPaul’s Drag Race has changed the name of the game, it has created the next drag superstar, American Idol, this whole pageant mindset that’s approaching our culture—all of this is based on the Internet, and how information is so accessible to us now. Our own sense of self-worth and impact we can have is growing to an unhealthy degree. We reach this point of, ‘Everyone should know about me. Everyone should love me.’
AT: This global audience. And with these queens, once they reach that state, they kind of leave behind their geography in a lot of ways and just become this identity, which is amazing in its own right, but particularly for me in my work right now, it’s really an investigation of a local scene. That story can be lost, I think, in the documentation that is currently being done of the drag world. The ways audiences can participate… Documenting the local scene documents the local queens, and also documents the local audiences who go out every week and support their queens and give them a dollar. The audience is just as important as the queen sometimes. Certainly in creating the act. If there’s no one to respond to that energy, it won’t go full circle.
JD: If a drag queen lip-synchs in a forest… Also, straight people are accessing drag a lot more. Performing for a straight audience is so much easier, because their minds are already blown. If there are no other drag queens in the audience, then there’s no one who’s like, ‘ooh, she can’t blend for shit.’ It’s safer, it’s easier. Thursday night, people were like, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I love straight people, they don’t know how I should be doing my make-up!’ It’s a totally different ballgame.
AT: It wasn’t until recently that I had this internal conversation of anger through drag. I like making people as uncomfortable… as they’ve made me. When that second part of the sentence came out in my head, it explained a lot. The more white-washed the club, the more extreme my drag tends to get. There have been rules made at the Jungle because of me. I’m a little bit more toned down when I’m at Mary’s, places where I’m more comfortable and where I have friends around me. Until recently, this was mostly subliminal.
CE: I’m from Houston, and there’s no drag. Well, let me say it like this. There are no drag queens around, we have a ‘gay-borhood,’ we have one drag bar, and it’s a trailer, and, literally, that’s where all the drag queens are. So, I didn’t grow up with drag culture at all.
JD: Girl, I’m the son of a pastor.
CE: ‘Girl, you go sit in that trailer, it’s called Cousins.’ I’ve been in there like twice.
AT: You should perform there.
CE: Should I?
JD: Let’s just get a trailer for Atlanta.
CE: Cousins 2.
AT: Kissing Cousins.
CE: Moving here, the whole drag experience has been like, ‘Oh, this is not what I thought of it at all.’ Here, every gay bar you go to has some sort of drag culture infused in there. I’ve always been fascinated by it. My mom would go to work, her shoes were on my feet as soon as she left. I was in her closet. It was just something I couldn’t really explore living there, I had to move somewhere else. Corian in Atlanta is way different than Corian in Houston, because I just know that they’re not ready. But Atlanta is, and it has allowed me this Ellisorous Rex that is the MC, that is the host, that is all about getting people together, that community, the performer…. We won’t ever have a voice unless we come together and we get people out and we get people thinking. Some things we do are successes and some things are not, but it’s all a success. A lot of people are talking about doing things and not doing them. It’s amazing how you’ll do something and people will say, ‘Well, I would have done it like this.’ Well why didn’t you? So, let’s just keep congratulating each other, and keep uplifting each other, keep moving.
AT: The work that you’ve done with Glitz has been… I started out a little bit before y’all, and, God, it was frustrating.
JD: I’m at the year mark. You were there way before.
AT: The space that you’ve provided with Glitz is such a relief to me. Seeing a community of artists grow, and seeing the people who come.
CE: It was really important to me that it’s not a drag show. That’s not the construct. It’s a queer variety show. Anything you want to do, you can do. You can expect to see anything.
JD: Something that I found in my artistic work, especially writing… The biggest priority isn’t what you’re creating. The biggest priority is creating and holding a space where an audience can access something about themselves and believe in something about themselves, and find fulfillment and satisfaction in that quality they don’t currently possess in their own life. Doing drag is a way. For us, it’s escape. If I go to the bar, I’d rather be Lavonia than Jared, because there’s a shield, there’s a person between Jared and everyone else. That allows me a sense of escape, and when someone sees this fucking country ass witch bitch doing whatever the hell, they feel like they can do whatever they want. When I see Corian dance, I feel like I can dance too. It’s a ritual that creates and holds sacred space, that allows an audience to access something about themselves that they don’t currently feel. Coming back to gay versus straight audiences, everyone’s escaping, but I feel like gay people have made an art form out of escapist entertainment. When you provide that space for an audience that doesn’t necessarily possess it in this venue, there’s such an energetic exchange and a sense of ‘Oh my god, yes! I can possess that space too!’
ALC: What about goals? Short-term. Long-term.
CE: To stay alive.
JD: Cricket, cricket, cricket….
CE: To not die.
JD: Goals? To buy some more foundation. I am almost out! I’d like to start using three tones instead of just one. That’s a short-term goal. Maybe to get some make-up that’s not dollar section Target. I don’t know. Goals….
AT: Just to let you know, something that I’m working on, when I get my financial aid money. I’m hopefully going to be wholesaling with Ben Nye, so I can start selling make-up real cheap to all the queens. I’ve had this idea of having a small home business of being the Mary Kay of drag make-up.
JD: Pink Cadillac, pink Cadillac, pink Cadillac.
AT: It’s just, I know what the buy cost is, and it’s outrageous.
JD: Talking about community, Corian facilitates it by being the mama hen, you are finding subversive ways to cut off cost, and to make things accessible.
AT: It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but then every time I get capital, I’m like, ‘Things that I haven’t had in 6 months!’
JD: Bills! Shoes! Pants!
AT: So that’s maybe a goal. Right now my goal has been not being tired. I got worn out from the last year, and I’ve just been recuperating. I became part of this intentional community, and part of what I do as part of that community is 25 hours of activism work a week. That’s either actual activism work, or doing things for the house to support other people’s activism.
JD: That’s a job. You have a certain amount of energy you can allot. Alright, so I’ve already got all of my first persona’s projects going on. I have to create a second persona, I have to fund that second persona, make that second persona do things, and it’s like you have to start pulling energy from other places and reallocating it. That has nothing to do with goals.
ALC: Sanity is a goal.
CE: Just to keep bringing people together.
JD: Learn the craft better. Get some new wigs.
JD: I go to a poetry reading and I look around, and I feel like it’s mostly people trying to look like they’re not bored. Let’s just be honest. You are listening to the sound of everyone smoking and drinking outside, because this person is going to talk about more feelings, and more grand truths. Poetry readings are painful. I look back to the 40’s, 50’s when poets were the fucking rock stars. They were jumping off of bridges, they were sticking their heads in ovens, tortured… And people were showing up and eating it up. And that energy is gone. It’s not gone, it’s moved.
CE: The Internet.
JD: It’s the Internet. If you aren’t flashing titties, if you aren’t .gif .gif .gif .gif .gif, people aren’t paying attention, because you don’t have to pay attention anymore…. So, if Jared shows up for a poetry reading, I have my poetry reading voice, I look up, half of you are looking, half of you are on Intagram. But if you show up and you’re a drag queen, a) everyone’s already paying attention to you and b) when you take the stage, people are going to set their phone aside, they are going to clear their plate. They’re like, ‘What the fuck is this bitch gonna do?’ And then, if that bitch pulls out a spell book, and circles the audience in salt, and begins an incantation to call on the corners, you have no idea what’s going on, so of course you’re going to pay attention. The reason people are bored at poetry readings is because people show up, they get up on stage and read their piece, and then they sit down. That is your stage, that is your space, that is your time, and if you don’t hold it, no one else is going to hold it for you. And if you bring extra to the table, of course people are going to respond with more energy, more interest. If you go out of your way to create a new space, rather than ‘My name is Jared Dawson and I’ll be reading these poems.’ That doesn’t stop anyone’s attention. But if you create a whole new space where people have to stop, readjust, and enter, you have them, you’re holding them.
CE: That’s interesting, because I’ve been thinking about what I’m doing as an artist. Creating community, yes, but creating atmospheres…
JD: Spells, girl, you’re making spells.
CE: Yeah, people enter a space…
JD: Oh! This is different.
CE: As far as dance-wise, you’re not just going to a theater, sitting down, being like, ‘Ok, that was pretty,’ and then walking out. Being able to create a whole world, a whole environment…
ALC: Perhaps less about, ‘I went to see a dance performance.’ It’s just a performance. Or you’re not even sure what it is.
JD: Reading poetry as Lavonia, people love it so much more than reading poetry as Jared, just because there’s no other drag queen poets, and if there is another one, I will Tonya Harding that bitch. That is my schtick, don’t take it! Or I’ll just have to set myself on fire. It really ties back to that malleability of Atlanta. There are already artistic, not just communities, but procedures, systems, machines. And in Atlanta you get to make your own, and because you are making your own, you find that niche, and it’s yours, and you’re more invested in it, and more protective of it in a different way. And also invested in the furtherance of it. What is Lavonia going to do for her next poetry reading? It always has to keep growing.
AT: My thing would be drag and activism, and negotiating that. Right now I’m in a space where I have to be an activist before I do anything else, and I miss drag. Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is how I got into drag in the first place. Then I got kicked out of the Sisters for being too radical with my activism. Being an activist drag nun was my way of integration. It’s what I was first before I was anything else. Now I’m trying to figure out ways I can incorporate my drag and my activism again, which has now recently been coming out as rogue nun.
CE: I didn’t know you were a rogue nun!
AT: I’ve officially gone rogue. It’s public, it’s only been slowly coming out. Within the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the idea of queer nun-dom, there’s been… I’m definitely not the first person to have left SPI because they were too radical. There’ve been internal dissolutions. You have the New York House that separated from SPI in ’83, and then you have two different houses that are going on in Seattle, where you have the Mother House of Washington, and then you also have the Order of Saint Joan. I’ve gone out in rogue nun face a couple different times. I did some activism stuff that wasn’t specifically queer. That was my first time going out in rogue nun face. But we’re officially calling ourselves the Disorder of Irreverent Conception…. I became a queer nun because there was just something about it that called to me. Drag came after, and so it’s kind of like I don’t know how to not be a nun, because that was that tie between activism and outrageousness…
JD: It’s your access point.
AT: Yeah. I put on whiteface way before I learned how to do shading.
JD: You and me both, girl.
AT: I started out being an artist, then I became an activist. I was in Occupy Atlanta, I was a part of MondoHomo. I had these two worlds. San Fransisco has a history of activism and drag. Not really in a lot of other places. The thing with that is how do I get more people in drag interested in activism? Because there’s that pull that we’ve talked about. People listen to you when you’re in drag. People look at you when you’re in drag. If you’re going to go into the muggle world wearing what you’re wearing, people are going to look at you and listen and pay attention. And if you have a message behind that…
JD: You already have an interested audience who’s going to listen and who’s invested in what you say.
JD: Being a drag queen is all about not letting anyone know what is occurring internally. You are not scared, you are not nervous, you know everything, you are sure of everything, you look exactly the way you want to look. Because everyone will believe it as soon as you believe it. But as soon as there’s another girl, ‘oh my god, a stool, I can prop myself up, just a little bit.’ Hopefully they’re going to be looking at her, at least 30% of the time. I’m going to keep 70%. I don’t want 50/50, you know.
ALC: Part of me is like, ‘Oh, I wish it was me up there in my heels,’ but then I see Lavonia getting ready and I’m like, ‘No, no.’ But it does give me this real respect for it, and also this participation. Certainly, both of you [to Corian and a Roar a’] are queens that I’d like to incorporate into the cross stitch section of the show, which are going to be cross stitch portraits of queens in face, abstracted by the pixilation of cross stitch. Just that idea of documenting local scene, and local feeling.
CE: I think that documentation is really important and I’m bad at it.
ALC: Queens are terrible at it, terrible.
CE: I spend so much time, and then I have no video, no photographs.
ALC: Nothing. Also, I think there’s something to be said for alternative documentation. Certainly, that’s where I’m coming from. Certainly, with doing Lavonia… When I videotaped you for the animation, it was an early stage. And you were like, ‘Should I do contours, I don’t really know how to do contours, should I shave my moustache?’ ‘Let’s just do what you have, what you do right now.’ I feel like in the embroidering process, I’ve put things into it, and it feels like it captures your energy, and your essence in a way. By abstracting through threads and by… alternative documentation…
JD: You put your finger on the pulse of the scene right now. Boot-leg… girls figuring it out, coming together…
ALC: There’s a history of drag documentation, but lately, what you see is some shitty camera phone video capturing this beautiful performance that someone practiced for weeks, choreography, costumes, and it’s this shaky camera where you can barely see what’s going on. These people need more, they need more credit. I’d like for it to certainly be community building, certainly I’d love to have as many queens at the opening as possible.
CE: When is it?
ALC: September 27th. So, there’s some good while. I’m excited about working with queens to make all these portraits. I’m wrapping up the Lavonia animation as soon as possible so I can get to that part. I’m excited to be involved as much as I can, and just represent these people in a really lovely way. Not take away or appropriate, just add.
JD: That’s something I’ve learned from you—yes, it does matter what you’re doing, but if you don’t have an audience…. Through the process of documentation and through using the Internet, you can pull in such a different audience, of people who aren’t at the show, but they see the pictures, and they’re like, ‘OK, I’ll be there next time.’ And without that necessary tool of documentation, people don’t know. It’s information we’re creating, and if that information isn’t disseminated, then it doesn’t reach it’s full potential for power.
ALC: When I describe the show that I’m working on to a straight person… Last night I was talking to this girl, and she was like, ‘We have been trying to go to a drag show for weeks. We ask our friend Anthony. He’s this gay guy, he always goes to shows, and he never calls us back. We just want to go. Can we go to one with you?’ People have this interest. And they’re not going to go by themselves to a gay bar. They know where to go, but they don’t know what time to go. They have interest, but no access. I love the idea of saying, ‘Come to this gallery opening, you will see queens in face. They’re not going to be performing on a pedestal. They’re just there. See them, talk to them. It’s just informal and lovely.’
JD: Get to know your local ladies.
Jared Dawson is a yoga teacher, blacksmith’s assistant, and artist living in Atlanta, Georgia with his pit bull, Bascom. He received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Georgia State University. He is an active member of Atlanta’s underground literary community. He teaches a workshop series at WonderRoot that uses meditative and magickal practices to examine and inspire artist’s creative processes. Most importantly, he channels Lavonia Elberton. Lavonia Elberton is a poetry priestess, a grey witch, a phantom huntress, and haunted by the ghost of glamour. She is an entertainer, medium, and shamaness living in the metropolis of Atlanta, GA. From a land forgot and a time lost, she is charged to walk this earth as the everwoken. Over the centuries she has studied the arts both dark and creative. Lavonia uses these to explore the spectrum of performance through numbers ranging from shimmying across the dance floors of dive bars in queer cabarets to spellcraft studies in experimental video projects. She will be featured alongside other Atlantan queens in Aubrey Longley-Cook’s September show, “Serving Face.” Lavonia wants you to know that she loves each and every one of you and she really never meant for the Bubonic Plague to turn out so deadly.
Growing up in the northern suburbs of Humble, Texas, Corian Ellisor always knew he waited to entertain. In Kindergarten, his teacher asked him daily to dance for her. His best friends were Janet and Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul and Madonna. He would spend countless hours in the living room glued to MTV perfecting all of their dance moves. After taking some dance classes in high school, Corian decided to attend the University of Houston. Still unsure of a major, he took a few more dance classes in college. It was complete culture shock! They were serious about dance: thinking and talking about it. After falling in love with the intellectual side of dance, he decided to make this his major. Thus, his tumultuous relationship with entertainment began. Fast forward a few years when Corian moved to Atlanta Georgia. He decided to take his entertaining persona to another level. This is where Ellisorous Rex was created. Cryogenically frozen in a vault next to FM-2030, Ellisorous Rex was thawed, dusted off by Corian in order to destroy anyone who spews hate. She wants to spread community, love and performance. Ellisorous Rex is a dancing queen with high heels, high concepts and highly choreographed dance routines. She draws a lot of her inspiration from Claire Huxtable of the Cosby show; representing strength, beauty and big shoulder pads. Currently, she hosts a monthly queer variety show called “Glitz” at local gay bar MARY’S. Her agenda is simple; to bring people together who would not normally be in the same place. Through diversity and tolerance, she is trying to make the world a better place in her own special way.
Aubrey Longley-Cook was born in Hartford, CT in 1985, and he received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2007. He studied both animation and embroidery while in school and draws inspiration from building work frame by frame and stitch by stitch. Aubrey’s work investigates the union of animation and embroidery and draws narratives from the dialogue between the two art forms. He is a recent recipient of a Idea Capital Grant, and his work was featured on the cover of Atlanta Magazine’s Southern Issue. He will lead a 4-week cross stitch workshop in partnership with WonderRoot during February and March. Participants will learn the basics of cross stitch while working together to create an embroidered animation composited from the frames. The work will be displayed as part of Serving Face, his solo show to open September 27th at Barbara Archer Gallery in the Inman Park neighborhood of Atlanta, GA.
a Roar a’ Thunder (otherwise known as Sister Aria Gunadusum’n of the disOrder of Irreverent Conception) is a queer, trans* identified performance & visual artist, writer, activist, radical faerie and heretical queer nun (twice over). They are currently working on a self-published collection of autobiographical self-photography, articles and visual art discussing mental health, body image, self-love and legitimacy entitled P△TCHWERQ.