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Student-created exhibit aims to bridge gap between drag and art

  • Photo from Art is Drag exhibit
  • Photo from Art is Drag exhibit
  • Photo from Art is Drag exhibit

Posted on November 06, 2017

Kaylee and Rachel Britton, drag artists who happen to also be twins, have combined their artistic abilities to create drag makeup portraits that have been displayed around Michigan and beyond.

As the Grand Valley students continue to expand their collection of portraits, the duo is striving to showcase their work for public audiences. The next stop for their showcase is the Exhibition Space in the Mary Idema Pew Library. “Art is a Drag: The Library is Open” will be on display through November 30. 

Multiple events will take place in conjunction with the exhibit. There will be an opening reception, followed by a Q&A with Kaylee and Rachel on November 6 at 7 p.m. in the library's Multipurpose Room. On November 8 at 3 p.m., "Information Literacy is Not a Drag!" will provide a hands-on workshop covering the ways that LGBTQ+ knowledge is produced and catalogued through library systems. “Drag Queen Story Time” will also be held on November 17 from 6-9 p.m. in the Exhibition Space. During this time, the drag performers will engage with the audience before putting on a drag show and reception.

Kaylee is an illustration major who is passionate about creating meaningful drag makeup concepts and Rachel is a photography major who captures portraits that showcase the beauty of this art form. Rachel said they hope the exhibit will bridge the gap between drag and fine art. 

The duo have almost doubled the number of portraits in the exhibit since it was on display in the Padnos Student Art and Design Gallery in Calder Fine Arts Center in February. Both of them have personal connections to their work because they often perform in drag during various events across Michigan.

Rachel said that the drag portraits helped the twins explore their gender identities.

“Drag was a way of questioning my gender identity for a really long time and being able to do drag helped me play with masculinity,” explained Rachel. “I’m a drag king and at first I was trying to be super masculine and it just didn’t feel right to me so then I started playing with more colorful stuff and ridiculous patterns.”

Kaylee takes a different approach to drag and performs as a drag queen that is inspired by the witchy person Kaylee is outside of drag. Kaylee's drag character, Salem Massacre, was a witch who was tried during the Salem Witch Trials and Kaylee is working on a comic that will illustrate her whole story.

“Drag is a way for me to indulge and express my interests in femininity,” Kaylee said. “I consider myself to be more masculine when I'm out of drag, and even when I see ‘women's’ clothing that I like the shape or pattern of, I imagine it on Salem, not on myself.”

Erin Fisher, University Libraries library program manager, hopes that the exhibit will allow viewers to consider broader themes of gender and identity. 

— written by Marissa LaPorte, student-writer