No One Can Touch Us

Lauren Silberman

2019 - Ongoing

New York City, New York, United States

The in-between has always been the place that interests me most – a place of ambiguity, exempt from definition, and rich with possibility. Images of drag queens, photographed at home in various stages of becoming inhabit this fertile and undefined place. While making these images, it has become clear that my subjects are beyond female/male impersonation and that their transformation is beyond gender; they become a more heightened, more pure, more extreme, and more essential version of themselves. Drag parodies and subverts the mainstream, using feminine ideals, pop culture, and the fashion worlds by exaggerating them and turning them back in on themselves. This place of transformation is as empowering as it is subversive for many of my subjects through the infinite possibilities of the “self” that they create; as Madame Vivien V boldly exclaimed during our shoot “when I’m in drag, nobody can touch me.”

These queens celebrate fantastical beauty by using makeup and costume as tools to express extreme notions of the feminine. In other examples, the artistry isn’t about this extreme femininity at all, but about pure self-expression; a version of drag in which anything goes and a nod to fluidity in an increasingly non-binary society. The new drag queens present to us a new possibility of what it simply means to be, by creating a new mythology of the hero/heroine in the everyday. A new ideal, their personas are visual expressions of self-determination, celebration and reclamation of the self through extreme makeup and costume. This work is a celebration of ambiguity, radical self-expression, and metamorphosis.

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