Exhbit Touring Schedule
September 9-December 4, 2011
Vermont Folklife Center
December 9, 2011-March 31, 2012
Burlington City Arts
January 11-February 9, 2013
Chaffee Arts Center
February 23-May 18, 2013
Vermont Arts Exchange
North Bennington, VT
June 3-30, 2013
St. Johnsbury, VT
July 8-21, 2013
Chandler Music Hall and Gallery
October 4-November 2, 2013
MAC Center for the Arts
Janurary - February 2014
Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center
Artist’s Statement, 8/15/11
In 2002 I began taking photographs of drag queens getting dressed backstage for the monthly drag show at the Rainbow Cattle Company, a gay bar in Dummerston, Vermont.
I was mesmerized by the lengthy and meticulous process of transformation— layers of pantyhose pulled on, waists cinched, breasts created, eyeliner drawn, false eyelashes, wigs, jewels, nails. I zeroed in on the moment—was there a moment?— when the switch was flipped from man to woman.
But it wasn’t all about photographing. All month I looked forward to the time I spent backstage. I loved being there, being part of it. I felt like I was hanging out with my girlfriends while we dressed for the prom. I was sucked into the world of banter and camaraderie in that smoky basement room.
My photos of the Ladies were shown in Vermont, Boston, New York, Cape Cod, even Phnom Penh, Cambodia. But all along, I felt like an important part of my own experience there was missing from what I was presenting to viewers.
In the fall of 2010, eight years after I began taking photographs, five years after the bar closed, Greg Sharrow of the Vermont Folklife Center and I began interviewing the five main members of the troupe, now performing as the Ladies of the Rainbow Lounge. In this exhibition, for the first time, the voices of Mama, Kitty, Candi, Sophia and Mercedes—the Ladies of the Rainbow Cattle Co.—join their images. Now, the project feels whole and complete.
I went into the basement with curiosity, an interest in how drag queens use dressing up to explore different parts of themselves. I didn’t think I had much in common with someone who dressed as a drag queen, but I emerged wishing I had more in common—more guts to explore a different facet of myself, to be courageous and outrageous, to write my own life story rather than follow a prescribed path that I feel I “should” walk. My time with the Ladies has prompted me to ask myself: how can I achieve that degree of freedom of expression in my own life?
So, here’s my promise to you, Ladies: I commit to following your example. I commit to forging ahead and doing what I love, being who I truly am, even if it isn’t what I think society expects of me. I admire you. You have changed me. This show is for you.