All Exhibitions

Legends of Drag: Portraits by Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus

May 27–Aug 21, 2022

MOWA | DTN

Drag has officially transcended the underground and exploded into the mainstream. Queens today have great visibility—hard-won through decades of perseverance, imagination, and intergenerational support within local drag communities. Drag is not merely a pop cultural phenomenon, but in fact a subversive tradition with deep roots stretching back to antiquity.

Artists Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus traveled coast-to-coast over four years, visiting sixteen cities to meet and photograph the legendary entertainers featured in the exhibition. Hanson and Antheus produced stunning portraits of eighty-one queens shot on location and styled with unique floral elements. A selection of those portraits will be on display at MOWA | DTN in downtown Milwaukee.

While drag portraiture commonly situates performers on stage or in the studio, Legends of Drag spotlights their embodied divinity out on the street. By transposing the queens from nightlife to daytime, the photographers position each model as a fixture within her community. Mixing sunlight and artificial light is intentionally harsh, yet unapologetically glamorous. The resulting portraits are simultaneously formal, conceptual, and surreal, deifying each of their subjects.

No universal history of drag exists, and no two queens define the art form the same way. Legends of Drag’s wide-ranging cast of queens presents a varied and category-defying tradition. The spectacular images give viewers a glimpse into a world of code-switching, seduction, performance, survival, criminality, hostility, promiscuity, evasion, articulation, impersonation, devotion.

This exhibition is the very first for Hanson and Antheus. Their project has been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone.

For more info on the exhibition and related programming, visit the Museum of Wisconsin Art's website.

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