Esopus invites you to a conversation between artist, documentarian, and community activist (and Lower East Side legend) Clayton Patterson and editor Tod Lippy next Wednesday, July 12th, starting at 6pm at the Tompkins Square branch of the New York Public Library. [DIRECTIONS] The evening will center on Patterson’s ►Pyramid Portraits, his stunning photographs of the inventive drag performers at New York’s legendary Pyramid Club in the mid-1980s, a selection of which are featured in Esopus 24.
“Up to that point, drag had been about referencing movie stars like Bette Davis or Judy Garland,” notes Patterson in an accompanying interview in the issue, “but the queens at the Pyramid Club invented entirely fictitious characters.” Those characters, embodying everything from space aliens to goth punks to suburban housewives, were created by performers including Tabboo, Hapi Phace, Sun PK [aka Peter Kwaloff], RuPaul, Maze, John Sex, Lypsinka, John Kelly, and International Chrysis, all of whom posed regularly for Patterson’s portraits. The photos, which were taken by Patterson in the dressing room of the club over the course of several years, chart the boundless creativity of these artists, who, with little or no money, managed every week to create new personas, each more outrageous and compelling than the one before.
The conversation between Patterson and Lippy will be accompanied by a number of visuals, including a range of other photographs by Patterson of the Lower East Side. Audience members are encouraged to bring questions (and memories!) for an open discussion afterward. There will be a book-signing following the event.
ABOUT CLAYTON PATTERSON | Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, artist and activist Clayton Patterson emigrated with his partner Elsa Rensaa to New York City in 1979, eventually moving to a two-story sewing factory and storefront on Essex Street on the Lower East Side. In the early 80's, Patterson began exhibiting the photographes he took of the local residents in the space's front window. Over time, he amassed an exhaustive photo, video, and audio archive of every aspect of the Lower East Side, including his pioneering videos of the Tompkins Square Park police riots in 1988. Patterson has published several books, including ►Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower East Side and ►Resistance: A Radical Political and Social History of the Lower East Side. His photos were the subject of the exhibition Clayton Patterson: LES. Captured at ►Kinz+Tillou Fine Art in New York in 2009, the same year ►Captured, a documentary about Patterson by Dan Levin, Ben Solomon, and Jenner Furst, was released. A selection of this ►Pyramid Portraits were shown at Esopus Space, New York, in 2010 [Photo of Clayton Patterson by Jessica Lehrman for Vice.com].
Esopus is published by the Esopus Foundation Ltd. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn, NY. Past and present supporters include the Coby Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, VIA Art Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York State Council for the Humanities, New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, the Strypemonde Foundation, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, the American Center Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the Fleishhacker Foundation, the Mondriaan Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Art, the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, and more than 500 individual donors.