Pioneers in challenging traditional gender norms are amongst the subjects explored in a provocative new exhibition at Palm Springs Art Museum. Michael Childers: Having A Ball, on view through May 28, 2018, is highlighted by images of anonymous merrymakers at a 1975 Los Angeles drag ball, “Flaming Creatures,” and also features portraits of the enigmatic Andy Warhol and members of his famous New York studio, The Factory.
Best known for his celebrity portraiture, Childers brought the same sensitivity to the avant-garde personalities experimenting with gender play at “Flaming Creatures.” These striking black-and-white images anticipate the current culture of transgender awareness and gender fluidity. Through Childers’ penetrating lens, these figures radiate a cheeky playfulness as they experiment with makeup, wedding dresses, tuxedos, and feather boas to expose the artifice of traditional gender identity and the joy of self-expression.
(Above, left and right) 975 Los Angeles drag ball, “Flaming Creatures.” Andy Warhol in his New York studio.
“This exhibition captures an amazing time and place – New York and Los Angeles in the 1970s – when people were outrageous and free,” says Childers, who maintains a home in the Coachella Valley. In his portraits of Warhol, Childers uses subtle strategies of gesture, props, and doubling devices to go beyond the inscrutable icon that Warhol cultivated, bringing to light the artist’s complicated persona. Similarly, Childers photographed the avant-garde creatives and other flamboyant denizens who frequented Warhol’s Factory, uncovering the multiple identities at play when gender, personality, persona, and performance roles combine.
This exhibition is organized by Palm Springs Art Museum from The Michael Childers Archive, and is supported in part by the museum’s Photography Collection Council. A key image set of 800 works from the 1960s onwards comprise The Michael Childers Archive at Palm Springs Art Museum, the majority of which was acquired by the museum in 2016.
Michael Childers: Having a Ball
Through May 28, 2018
Palm Springs Art Museum
101 N. Museum Drive