Del LaGrace Volcano – The Gender Terrorist

Künstlerfeature in: Devora Ran (Issue 04/ 2010)

 

Del LaGrace Volcano – the name says it all. The artistic work of this photographer and gender theorist is explosive, rough, dry, hot and strong. At the same time, there is a lot of grace in the respectful look he takes at the people portrayed. Volcanos photographic works are accompanied by a fundamental theoretical background as he collaborates with cultural anthropologists and professors.

It is remarkable how in queer studies, language is recognized as a tool of power and there is a highly intellectual awareness surrounding it. The result is a unique composition of aesthetics and intelligence. The photographs show a world full of colourful and very queer personalities, ranging from spectacular performances of sexuality and gender transgression to compelling portraits of people on the verge.

At the end of the last century, Volcano published an artist«s monography with portraits of Drag Kings (The Drag King Book, Serpents Tail, 1999). In their expansive buddy postures, dressed in leather jackets and boilersuits, with a touch of dirt and brillantine in their hair and with names like Jimmy, Jack or Duke, the Drag Kings seem to me much more gentle and much less tough than the Femmes pictured in his most recent publication (Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities, Serpents Tail, 2008), even though they adopt a more feminine dress code with high heels, sexy short skirts or big mama dresses and have flowery names like Morgana Maye, Meliza Banales or Celestina Pearl, with a wild hairdo on top.

Here emerges an interesting question: Which facts and features determine femininity and which masculinity? The body? To have or not to have a vagina/ penis/ tits/ beard/ short hair/ long hair? Aggression? Devotion? Toughness? Empathy? Indulgence? In the world of the queer community, these criteria regain their independence from social valuation and that really is a liberating sensation. The portrait Herm Torso challenges the idea that somebody has to decide what he or she is, a he or a she, and to choose ONE thing. But there is nothing to decide, the image says more than words. The mutated noughts and crosses game drawn on his chest gives us an impression of how unsuccessful binary ways of thinking can be.

Volcanos photographic art is a balancing act, which succeeds in revealing the inside and outside of his pictured subjects. An airy distance, to both the viewer and the portrayed person, leaves room to breathe, to speak, to look, to come closer, to get inspired. He achieves what is very hard to obtain in art: objectivity, love and the complete absence of lies.

 

Femmes of Power: Exploiding Queer Femininities. Serpent´s Tail, London 2008

The Drag King Book. Serpent´s Tail, London 1999

SUSN KOHL

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©Del LaGrace Volcano