Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Research for a painting.

2009 . 02 . 03 - Comments / Commentaires (0)

In my line of work, research is paramount. If I’m painting an individual, I need to meet the person and interview her-him; if I’m going to make work about an issue like the American identity, I do a lot of reading on the subject. But, while all this study is exciting and rewarding, it was only last weekend that I had a chance to engage in some research that was pure fun!

I’m painting Portland’s own Poison Waters. It’s a project I’ve been working on for a while, but, as I get close to finishing the portrait, I decided it was time to see Poison in action at Darcelle XV, a showplace featuring world famous female impersonators that was established 42 years ago!

souvenir picture with Darcelle XV

This isn’t the kind of research one does on one’s own, so I invited my partner and my parents, along with my uncle and aunt from Alaska, and my brother and sister-in-law from Nova Scotia as well as a few friends! Darcelle herself came out before the show to take pictures with the audience that had lined up.

two old twins and Dave

My father (right, with his back to us) hadn’t seen his brother (left, also facing away) in many years, but the two are eerily similar, down to their mannerisms and their style of dress. I’d told Dave (center) that the brothers are twins, and my father was explaining to my friend that it was a ten year birthing process. (Rick and Rob are not actually twins: my father is the elder by a decade.)

Nick and Wendy Seemel

Once inside Darcelle’s, my brother Nick informed me that I was “so dead” (in a way that only your sibling can) for bringing our conservative 84-year-old father to this event.

Darcelle's in Portland

photo by David

It’s true that, in the two weeks leading up to the evening, Papa had told everyone that he was attending only under duress, but I knew that in my sanctified status as the baby of the family I could get away with a lot where our father was concerned!

parents watching the drag show

Papa can’t say he didn’t enjoyed watching the show.

Celeste Towers at Darcelle's

He was partial to Celeste Towers since her songs were more in his style—slapstick comedy!

Poison Waters and my uncle

But Poison was undeniably the star for all of us. Here she’s admiring my uncle’s bald head…

Poison Waters and my uncle

...and my father (in the foreground) almost seems wistful, like he regretted not sitting on the aisle where he could have gotten a little more personal attention!

Poison Waters as Whitney Houston

Later, Poison did a Whitney Houston number and, during it, she removed my uncle’s glasses, kissed both lenses…

Poison Waters as Whitney Houston

...and put them back on his face.

lipstick kisses on eye glasses

photo by Jason

Jason, one of my friends who came along, snapped this delightful picture of my aunt showing off the prize!

after hours at Darcelle's

We were at the ten o’clock show and, at midnight, the female impersonators were replaced with male strippers (you can just make out one of them in the upper left of this image). And—would you believe it?—I still wasn’t “so dead” (though we did leave soon after I took this photo!). Everyone enjoyed helping me with my research!

- Second chance
- “Hand it over, sister.”
- I ♥ Kevin Cook!

CATEGORIES: - English - Events - Practice -

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