Gerard Gaskin’s Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene – of which the photographer will discuss and sign copies at a special Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center event co-sponsored by the Center for Photography at Woodstock this Saturday afternoon, March 29 – is one of those epochal works that not only fits the times like a glove, but also represents a new vision. Its glimpse into the mostly Latino transgender dance club scene mirrors past glimpses by the likes of Diane Arbus and Andy Warhol, yet adds an element of contemporary glamour from intervening years of fashion celebrity to the mix.
What are the house balls that Gaskin’s sumptuous black-and-white and color portraits take us into? Think in terms of high-spirited, late-night underground pageants where gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, come together as members of distinct New Orleans Mardi Graslike clubhouses to strut their stuff runway-style, competing for trophies in categories based on costume, attitude, dance moves and “realness.” It demonstrates the innate artistry in self-fashioning, as well as the role that theatricality and ritual play in bringing pride and meaning to that which feels marginalized in all of us.
Legendary, made up of portraits and documentarylike photos taken at events in the New York area, Philadelphia, Richmond, Virginia and our nation’s capital, was selected from 200 entries in the sixth biennial First Book Prize competition. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Gaskin has seen his freelance photography published in The New York Times, Newsday, Black Enterprise, OneWorld, Teen People, Caribbean Beat and DownBeat; and the bills paid by a growing amount of record label work.
He was an artist-in-residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock and has won numerous grants and awards, while also seeing his work shown in a growing number of galleries and museums. For more on the artist, visit www.gerardhgaskin.com.
“Gerard Gaskin: Legendary” artist talk & book-signing, Saturday, March 29, 3 p.m., Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, 300 Wall Street, Kingston; (845) 331-5300, www.lgbtqcenter.org.