Ever since the rise of social media and queer-centered programming such as RuPaul’s Drag Race (airs Fridays at 8 pm if anyone is interested). The global appreciation for drag and drag culture has shot to astronomical heights over the last few years. However, drag has been an important form of entertainment and expression since ancient times. These days, drag and drag culture have expanded to become a very inclusive and supportive network of artists that bring their own styles and flavours to the broad spectrum of drag culture. For this round of Top 10 Instagram Moments, we’ve found a group of queens and drag artists whose stunning personal styles and personas have made for some really amazing Instagram moments. Here are the most stylish and stunning drag moments of 2017 so far!
Valentina‘s has quickly stolen the hearts of drag race fans and social media perusers alike. With her infectious personality and uplifting optimism, Valentina has already shown herself to be a clear front-runner among the shows pick of stunning queens… and only two episodes too! Apart from her showstopping appearances on Drag Race, Valentina recently appeared on Access Hollywood for an interview about her career and experiences on drag race. It seems that this queen is making herself right at home in the spotlight where she belongs.
A staple of modern club kid culture, Ryan Burke is the go to Instagram account to follow if you’d like to see everything from Leigh Bowery inspired costumes to high fashion glamour looks. This look right here really encapsulates what Ryan is all about; graphic avant-garde looks are what she does best!
Milk is another queen that came from the new era of club kids. Her conceptual, and more recently, gender fluid and androgynous looks always have either a political or social motive behind them. Recently, Milk showed the world just how she felt about her home country’s current president. Now, this look isn’t the most glamorous, but it serves to show that drag can be more than just female impersonation. It can be a cry for justice and truth in uncertain times.
It seems like this season of Drag Race is going to have it’s most recognisable, copied, and envied queens of all the seasons. One perfect example of this is Sasha Velour. This New York city drag icon has been the face of Brooklyn for years now. Proving that New York produces some of the best drag acts in the world. And for good reason, just look at her fashion sense. It looks like she has Manhattan oversized Comme Des Garcon realness on lock.
The most beautiful thing about today’s drag scene is that inclusivity has become a main focal point for many of the world’s queer havens. In the past, drag itself was a strictly cis white male profession., now, drag has evolved to include everyone. No matter their age, body shape, skin colour, religion, and gender. Yes, that’s right, even gender too! Never has there been such a rise in women taking interest in drag like there is now. Take the ever stunning Sigourney Beaver. Who’s out of this world glamour and curvaceous body were the perfect mix to create this picture perfect Jessica Rabbit meets Daenerys Targaryen outfit.
Queen Pearl is part of the iconic Drag Race alumni of season 6. Along with winner Violet Chachki, Pearl is regarded as one of the most original and iconic drag queens in recent history. Recently, Pearl drag persona has evolved from vava voom blonde bombshell to fully realised drag artist. In this look, you can see her vast theatrical influences. Pearl has everything covered here, from Venetian carnival sleeves to a gorgeous Midsummers Night Dream headpiece.
Peppermint landed her rightful place on this list for something extra special and important. Peppermint is actually the first contestant in Drag Race history to enter the competition as a transwoman. Unlike other contestants on the show who began their transitions after their appearances on the show, Peppermint walked into the workroom as a proud (and exceptionally stunning) transwoman of colour. Here we see Peppermint giving a taste of black culture and beauty, 1980’s flare, and New York spunk all in one.
Like I mentioned before, Drag and Drag culture are no longer identified in a singular form. These days, everyone can express their individuality through makeup and costume. Take Instagram user Ryan H. Who’s stunning makeup looks go far beyond the realm of his Instagram makeup artist contemporaries. I definitely think CoverGirlshould open up another more spot on their Cover boy roster for this uber-talented lad.
More and more women are finding empowerment in their sexuality and femininity by doing drag. Queen Creme Fatale is one of them. With some of the most outrageously beautiful and versatile painting skills. Here we can see the extent of Creme’s skills, serving a high fashion, high glamour club kid fantasy.
Lastly, we have Urban Decay Cosmetics. Who have realised that queens aren’t just an entertainment highlights anymore but they’re also great business women and marketers as well. With the launch of their Makeup Meltdown and Rehab cosmetics products, Urban Decay invited queens @THEONLYALASKA5000, @JIGGLYCALIENTEOFFICIAL, @SUTANAMRULL, and @KATYA_ZAMOto test drive their products to see if they work to prep and wipe away the toughest of makeup looks.
For the month of April, we invite you to consider perspective: new perspectives or looking at something from a different one. Art is allows us to engage with perspectives we may not normally encounter, to use metaphor as a way to connect and understand. While these exhibitions are all vastly different in content, they will really make you consider your own point of view in contrast with that of those around you.
FEMME FUTURE: WRESTLING WRESIDENCY (MARCH 27TH—APRIL 9TH)
It shouldn’t be too hard to see wrestling as a tool for storytelling. Consider the luchadores of Lucha libre from Mexico: the masks, the dramatics, the history. Wrestling is, at its core, bodies interacting with other bodies and communicating through movement.
The League of Lady Wrestlers aren’t aiming to tell stories in their exhibition at the Gladstone Art Hut, but their goal is to convey ideas about feminine identity and empowerment through wrestling performances set up in the hut and a documentary by one of the league members. Intrigued? We certainly are.
Think, for a moment, about every relationship you have online. Now consider what would happen if your interactions within those relationships occurred in real life. That’s part of the thought process behind the group exhibition at the Xpace Cultural Centre this month. The interactive exhibit, a collaboration between Ronnie Clark, Marlon Kroll, Sophia Oppel, and Timothy Truong, aims to construct a new reality around participants based on connections and constant feedback. The installation is looking at something we are only just beginning to skim the surface of in our own society: the ethics of the Internet and its consequences in real life.
Japanese artist Naoko Matsubara will be the featured artist at Abbozzo Gallery for the month of April. Matsubara’s reputation as a skilled printmaking artist precedes her, with accolades from Carnegie Mellon University and a previous teaching position at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Matsubara’s work is absolutely stunning and demands to be seen in person. Luckily for us, we’ll have the chance for a whole month.
Most of you are probably familiar with the phantom limb; the idea when the person who loses a limb is haunted by a feeling, maybe an itch or an ache, where the limb used to be. In her video exhibition at Trinity Square Video, artist Karilynn Ming Ho examines the phantom limb sensations as unrequited longing, as a way to navigate an increasingly disembodied world and our relationships to representations of bodies that are not genuine.
Think of a curse word. Right now. Maybe you can say it out loud, or maybe you can’t, because swear words hold context and connotations when used. Your character is usually reflected negatively by the curse word. But what about when we really need to say one?
We live in very strange times. Letting loose some expletives is, frankly, one way to cope with the madness of our current world. This is what visual artists Diego De La Rosa, Abbey Laura Pauline Gagnon, Greg McCarthy, and Dermot O’Brien are looking at in their group show at Gallery 50 this month. Through their own media, these artists will respond to the swear word-inducing times we live in.
February is a month of storms. There are certainly the literal kinds; the snow squalls and ice storms and blackouts that always seem to find Canada in the months where spring is but a touch of warmth in the back of our minds. But there are other storms we find ourselves in, both political and personal. To fight these destructive forces, there are organized protests, raised awareness, and education given wherever it can be found.
This month, we invite you to consider awareness and perspective through art. The list we’ve compiled of our choices of exhibitions this month are tied together by an idea: It’s time to hear histories that challenge the dominant canon and time to look at our culture from a different perspective.
NASTY (JANUARY 21ST-MARCH 4TH)
With major events unfolding in the United States, this exhibition at the Daniel Faria Gallery is more relevant than ever. This all-female exhibition takes that now infamous phrase “nasty woman” (of course referring to Hillary Clinton, the woman who wanted to run a country) and expands upon it until the sheer ridiculousness of the phrase cannot be ignored.
This is a time when “nasty women” are everywhere: threatening to men in positions of power, unapologetic in their outrage, and unafraid to be depicted as ugly. Nadia Belerique, Valerie Blass, Shannon Bool, Aleesa Cohene, Kara Hamilton, Kristine Moran, Jennifer Murphy and Elizabeth Zvonar use their respective disciplines to play with images of women and gender at a time when every new step forward for gender equality is met with belittling rebuttals.
Gallery 555’s current exhibition is another show with female creators with works tied by one of the art’s most prevalent themes: transformation and new beginnings. With an all-star lineup featuring award-winning artists Amy Bowles, Rebecca Chaperon, Anna Pantcheva, Kate Puxley, and Stacey Sproule, this show promises a visual feast of gorgeous contemporary art, but it will also ask questions and make the viewer consider their own transformative experiences as well as the possibility of new, untouched spaces within the mind.
Highly recommended to anyone feeling a little existential lately.
When we consider jobs, we consider the uniform. Every position has one, whether we are conscious of it or not. Some jobs have an easily recognizable uniform that is in and of itself an icon — consider firefighters, doctors, and garbage collectors. Some have more conceptual uniforms, but when you put a group of people with that job in a room, the patterns become clear — consider teachers, government workers, and fashion retailers who reflect the brand aesthetic.)
As part of their winter exhibitions, the Harbourfront Centre has gathered the work of 39 designers to present workwear in our modern world. They explore uniforms’ inherent ties to power and position by creating uniforms for invented, hypothetical jobs for a new, hypothetical society.
(If you’re like me and have a habit of examining the wardrobe choices in Black Mirror a little too closely, I have a feeling this will be the show for you.)
SHAME AND PREJUDICE: A STORY OF RESILIENCE (JANUARY 26TH-MARCH 4TH)
For a long time, Canada has worn the “nice guy” label with such national pride. We put ourselves above the United States and Europe with our supposed peaceful history. Really, our history is just as wrought with people and government continually doing wrong towards Indigenous peoples as any other country. This is not a new concept, but it is still not being acknowledged enough.
Kent Monkman’s show at the University of Toronto Art Museum is a bold acknowledgment of the elephant in every room, the airing out of Canada’s dirty secrets. Monkman’s incredible solo project uses paintings, sculptures, and historical artifacts to tell the story of Canada’s history from pre-confederation to the present, all through the eyes of the Indigenous people.
A Space Gallery’s multidisciplinary exhibition has Canadian artists telling stories of the violence and control of imperialist forces in colonial states. The exhibition includes works by Kahdija Baker, Livia Daza-Paris, Michael Greyeyes, John Halaka, Siamak Haseli, and Gita Hashemi. The works span across media and continents but are all representations of the experiences of the colonized. The works are meant to be representations of “revolutionary grieving,” according to the exhibition’s webpage. Based on that description alone, I imagine this will be an exhibition that will not only be emotionally harrowing but an education for every person who attends.
Art, at its most basic function, serves as media for expression. Whether that expression is eternally or externally motivated, the result is always a reflection of the person behind the creation. The artist.
One look at Scarlett Baily’s art and you can immediately make the connection between art and artist. In person, or at least our modern equivalent of in person, which is over video chat, Baily is as kinetic and light-hearted as her work. She’s generous with herself. She’s quick to laugh, yet takes time to be thoughtful in her words.
She is also an artist in the midst of transition.
Having started her career in New York City, the 30-year-old has now relocated to Mexico City, where she is learning the ways of a life with free time and connecting with her ancestors.
NG: Why did you decide to move to Mexico City? SB: I’ve lived in New York for almost eight years and I thought, “Yeah this is it. New York, there’s nowhere better in the whole world. I grew up in California, in San Diego, and I came to visit Mexico City for New Year’s in 2013. I got here, and I was like, “Whoa whoa whoa, everything I’m looking for in New York is here in Mexico City right now.” You feel this artistic, creative pulse, similar to how New York was in the 80s, when it was cooler, as they like to say.
I was here for two weeks and I went back to New York, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started putting my mind towards projects in Mexico City. While I was in New York, I was working as fashion stylist and doing window displays for Ralph Lauren and DKNY, and working on my art in secret at nighttime. I was able to get commission, started leaving my other job little by little and be solely an artist., but it wasn’t until another six months where I was one hundred percent living as an artist. You know, a lot of New York artists are trust fund babies. They know that their rent will always be paid in some way, and I thought, “Man, now I’m going to have to have a million jobs.” Laughs.
Anyway, in Mexico City I started doing portraits. This really cool company called Archipelogo gave me their studio and I worked there for a week doing portraits of artists and musicians. After that I said, “I have to be here. I have to be in Mexico City.”
NG: Has living in Mexico City changed your art in any way?
SB: Yeah, massively and I really wasn’t expecting it to. It’s been really funny to be able to work outside of New York, just through that culture of having more free time and having time to eat and not being stressed all the time. I have so much more mental space to think of projects or ideas. Just the extra time I have now helps me be able to develop my projects. The biggest thing is, I can actually do projects just for fun and not just because I’m getting paid for them.
It’s hard to take any risk because you have to know you’re always going to be able to pay rent, you have to be able to go have drinks with your friends, otherwise you’ll have no friends, and buy new shoes because you want to be cool.
Here, I actually have the time to take risks in my art and do things not just because it’s on commission or from a big company. I’m actually able to have personal projects and develop personal projects. That’s been awesome. I do realize how important that free mind space is and how a more relaxed lifestyle can influence that.
NG: What are some of these personal projects?
SB: Right now, I’m in a really cool project. Every year, right before my birthday, I do this 30 days of 30 drawings. I’ve done portraits of just the face and full-body portraits, and this year a friend of mine said, “You should do naked people!” I had a private session at her house. I thought I was going to do her portrait and she asked, “Can I take my clothes off? Can we do this naked?” I was like, “Yeah, I never thought about that. Sure!” So I did 30 naked ladies over the course of 30 days and it’s mostly Mexican chicks, but I also promoted on Instagram and Facebook that I’m looking for models. Strangers from all over the world contacted me and sent me their naked pictures. There’s people from Spain, Romania, old friends from high school that said, “Oh, I’ve seen your project! I wanna do this!”
Going into the project of course, my intention was just to do something I enjoyed and get better at drawing the human figure, but we kind of uncovered this whole dark side of feminism doing it. The portraits are all women and while doing this, it was really hard to find models. A lot of ladies opened up to me about getting naked in front of other women and how they feel they’ll be judged. I thought that was a bummer, because here we are as ladies always talking about feminism. We always want to point the finger at dudes but really we have so much work to do amongst ourselves. Feminism really starts with ladies being nice to other ladies and embracing other ladies, not critiquing them saying, “Oh girl, your cellulite is bad.” Just all these comments that I think have really scared women from being vulnerable in front of other women. I thought, “Man, this is some serious stuff.”
With that, I blew up the portraits life-sized and have been painting them onto walls all over. I started in Brooklyn, then Boston, then Montreal and I just got invited by this gallerywhich is so crazy and exciting, this gallery called Loot in Mexico. They invited me to bring the whole series and paste it up all around this room. It was rad! It was really rad, and I was working with all girls on the project. For some reason, nobody had a boyfriend or a friend who was a guy. We woke up every morning, went surfing, which is also a really rad dynamic to have this physical activity in the morning and then be pasting. We did it in the most random places: on the side of corner stores, under bridges, kind of like typical urban graffiti art spots.
The reaction was really funny. The women loved it. There were paintings by this bridge women walked children home from school by and I thought, “Oh man, we’re going to get in trouble for putting naked people up on a school route.” But they thought it was nice and told us to keep it up. I think the culture in Mexico can be a bit… a group of girls making art on the side of the street is like whoa, what is happening here? This guy came up to us and asked, “What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Why are they naked? Don’t you think they’re going to excited the young boys of the town?” I was like okay, here we go. I studied art history so I’m ready. I have the tools to explain this. I just told him; everyday we’re surrounded by image of naked women and a majority of them are sexually charged, pornographic or an ad for a strip club. Here, a lot of the newspapers on the front page will have something really tragic that happened and a very sexy lady next to it.
I told him we need an alternative to this imagery so the female body isn’t always sexualized. Women can be comfortable with their bodies and with each other and it sounds cliche, but just not always objectified. I think of this as more of a celebration than something sexual. It’s just about being naked in the world and feeling cool about it. He was a bit surprised when I had an answer for him. I think he’d been trying to scare me away.
So that’s one project I’m doing, the naked chicks. I’m also working on murals. I have a bunch here in Mexico City. I work a lot with this antique toy museum. I have a couple of murals there and I go once a month and do portraits of the kids. It’s definitely a fun time right now, I have to say.
NG: I wanted to ask you about the naked lady project. In those portraits, and as a reflection of your style, there’s a real lightness and humour that’s present.
SB: Yeah. Every time I have a piece and think, this is a very serious piece, it comes out funny.
NG: But do you think that’s important in your work? To have this sense of humour and happiness?
SB: I think it’s really important. My comic-y, happy aesthetic I have, I resisted it for a while. It has been really important with the subjects I used because the style communicates the whole mood of whatever I paint. I think it helps convey the message to the viewer, that joyful and, not childlike, but happy innocence. I’m not resisting it anymore.
I think I’m always a bit embarrassed about my style. My first job ever was when I was 15 at SeaWorld in California. I was a caricature artist and I worked with a bunch of comic book nerds. I was super young working with these major bros who had already finished art school. Of course, since I was kid I loved cartoons. I lived for Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. and Disney. I spent hours trying to copy the characters from every movie. I was a colouring book fanatic. That style stuck with me forever.
Most of my portraits I do between five and 15 minutes. In the finished picture there’s this immediacy and most of my models are live. Most of my naked chicks were live sessions over Skype and then a couple were photos because of crazy time changes. Being able to sit with them, talk to them, get to know them and create this piece live and very fast, there’s a lot of energy in them.
NG: When you moved to New York, did you feel that pressure to be a “serious artist?”
SB: Oh my goodness, always. I think because my style was rooted in theme park art, I thought, “Who are you kidding? You’ll never make it.” So, I studied the history of art and architecture in Spanish. I moved to New York and my first job was in public relations. I worked for two to three years in PR, then worked as a stylist. At night I did art for window displays.
I think the turning point was when I was doing another portrait project. My coworkers at DKNY saw what I was posting on Instagram. I think I had just opened my account. I got asked to come into the office and they have all these plans of putting my art in all the windows at DKNY. I was like, “Yes! Where do I sign, this is crazy!” They made this dope wallpaper out of my portraits. They put all the originals up in stores and they invited me to paint live.
After that, I thought, I can maybe do this, as a job.
NG: What was it like to make the transition to doing art full-time?
SB: It was so much self-talk everyday, like, “Don’t worry. You can do this. You’re not going to suffer. You’re not going to die.” It was scary, leaving a regular job and a regular income and not knowing what’s going to happen. But I was really lucky. I made the decision when I had a few commissions lined up. Very quickly, my art career became as demanding as my formal jobs. I was really grateful for the jobs before because I already had the rhythm of wake up and get this done. The timing happened perfectly. Had I jumped into being an artist when I was 15, I would’ve been a mess. I wouldn’t have known how to write an email or talk to people, you know, all of the aspects that are involved in running a business. I learned a lot from my PR job. Even though I was making less money, I didn’t notice because I was so happy. My advice to anyone would be just go for it. It all works out. It’s a little scary but huge rewards come from taking big risks. I feel like I got closer to a purpose here in this world.
NG: What do you mean by a purpose?
SB: Well, I think that everybody is born with a passion. People are incredible writers, musicians and scientists. When you negate that because you feel this pressure to do something else, you’re not allowing yourself to fit into the puzzle. We’re born with these passions because we have to use them. If everyone excursus these passions then we’ll all fit together and… we’ll have world peace! Laughs.
I was always an artist but I was never a full-time artist because I was scared. Once I got rid of the fear it was like, alright, things are flowing. Things are good.
NG: Is that message, that idea, something you want to leave behind as a legacy with your art?
SB: Yes, for sure! This wasn’t even my original message. I remember listening to Lauryn Hill Unplugged and she totally talks about this, the importance of our passions. I’d love to leave this legacy or this motivation. I have two younger sisters. I think about them all the time and I’m always preaching this message of you have to do what you love. Following your passion is important. Our passions are gifts. Finding your happiness comes from exercising them.
NG: Do you see yourself staying in Mexico City?
SB: I really do. At first, I didn’t really have a plan, but when I think about leaving, I get depressed. And it’s a really exciting time here. There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on: political turmoil, social injustice and it’s so in your face here. I think because of that, the creative set here is really using their art to speak out and come together. There are harsh realities people are faced with everyday here and it’s motivating people to have more solidarity.
In New York, the style is very individual and very private. That’s great and I enjoyed that, but here it’s a very collective approach. I think great art movements come from that. When you think of great movements of the past, like Dada and Expressionism, these came out of great tragedy. These artists came up with new ways to express themselves.
I must note that part of being here is exciting because my grandparents were Mexican. I feel like I’m building a cultural bridge between myself and my grandparents. There’s always this identity crisis that comes from being Mexican-American but not really knowing about Mexico or not speaking Spanish. I think a lot of my journey here has had a lot to do with going back to your roots. It had a cool and comfortable feeling that way like, ah, I’m back with the ancestors.
NG: How does that feeling affect the creative process?
SB: Even though I didn’t grow up here, in this weird way I feel connected. It’s kind of funny, I feel this obligation to be really thoughtful in what I do to respect my heritage. I feel, in many ways, like an ambassador for my family. Really, truly building a bridge and creating something in the motherland.
Follow Scarlett Baily on Instagram to see more of her art.
As the nights continue to grow longer and colder, we find ourselves entering a shift in mood. With the beginning of October comes the anticipation of Halloween and brooding weather.The everyday things around us take on a mysterious air for the season, and we’re all putting on masks to match.
In our list of suggested art exhibits to check out in the month of October, the mysterious is not so literal. Mystery, in the case of art, comes not from the art itself, but the reaction is draws from you. Half of its power lies in its ability to ask questions, and there are some exhibits this coming month that will certainly get you thinking.
The Amoebic Workshop: A Submerged Exhibition (September 21-October 23)
Can humans claim exclusivity to making art? This is one of the main questions asked by Critical Distance’s current exhibition. This multidisciplinary show features artistic works by Jessica Drenk, Gabriel Lalonde and Claudia Wieser that look at the amoeba in a metaphorical sense. The other part of the exhibit has a tank of for-real amoebas creating their own “art.” The goal is to get us thinking about what it means to be an artist, and why we only save that title for ourselves.
Immigration is not a new concept. Immigrants are not a brand new type of people. The last year, however, has been one with “the immigrant” at the forefront of our news and discussion. In the Koffler Gallery’s latest exhibition, a group of Canadian artists from different backgrounds examine displacement and identity construction through the experience of the immigrant. The exhibit will expand outside of the gallery space in Artscape Youngplace, moving into common areas and the exterior of the building.
Waiura; Indigenous Movie Monsters (September 27-October 29)
This is the exhibition premiere for partners and collaborators Rona Ngahuia Osborne and Dan Mace. Presented by A Space Gallery and imagineNATIVE, the exhibition features three videos connected by waiura, the Maori word for “spirit.” The videos use sound and personification to explore the Earth, the stars and human ritual.
Why the @#&! Do You Paint? Go Figure (October 4-November November 28)
The Gladstone Hotel’s annual painting show has only been running for two years, but it promises to be an eye-opening experience. In the 2016 version, curators Spencer J. Harrison and Lukas Toane have compiled a show that breaks down the dominant voices of figure painting and presents a new narrative. This exhibitor aims to open up a dialogue reflecting on the history of figure painting and how we view the body.
Toronto’s international contemporary and modern art fair is now 17 years old. Held at the Metro Convention Centre downtown, it is a celebration of contemporary Canadian and international art combined with a series of lectures and panel discussions called PLATFORM. Wether you are an avid modern art fan or someone who’s curious about it, this is the perfect opportunity to learn and discover more about it.