Portraying drag

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Kubacak, Aaron Keith

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This project investigates the varied sub cultures of drag in the local Austin community. Through a series of multi-step ethnographic, arts-based research and visual coding strategies I created a project in which I asked and answered these questions: How do local drag queens and kings design persona, create a visual narrative discourse and construct unique gender identities through costuming? --And: How do the everyday, unique costume choices of local drag queens and kings create a dramaturgy that either supports traditions or creates new meanings in the world of drag as a whole? In exploring the questions of this study, I was able to understand how the design process is enacted and functions as I translated verbal interviews and images of drag performers into a body of representational visual work. In answering these questions I utilized a thematic coding method to pull meaning and context from a series of semi-structured interviews with five local drag performers. The questions I asked each subject related to their personal life stories, ways of performing onstage, methods of performing gender, inspirations, personal style and costume choice as they related to persona creation. In addition to these oral interviews, I also explored each individual performer’s archive of personal drag photographs in order to pinpoint a picture that reflected their drag persona and iconic drag costume. These images then became the source inspiration for a series of large scale paintings in which I collaged together the essence of each performer, re-encoding the information I gleaned from them via my own painting style, symbolic system of visual representation and discovering and utilizing a type of painterly visual story telling unique to the medium of ultra violet reactive paint. It was my hope in this process to highlight these unique local performers with celebratory honesty as they exist in this place and time in history


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