Everyone and their dog wants to take pictures of burlesque. They even get into arguments about whether studio shots trump live performance shots. It’s no big mystery why people want to photograph burlesque… but it is a bit of a mystery why there seems to be such a paucity of other burlesque-inspired art. Which is why I get excited when I find someone like Skye Ferrante, who makes wire sculptures of burlesque, or realize that someone I’ve known for years is doing backstage sketches, or read a piece of writing that transmogrifies performance into words. All art is transformative by nature, turning something into something else, and burlesque, as a collection of art forms to begin with, is great fodder for artists.
Without cluttering up the joint with too many words, let me introduce Kenneth Browne, who wound up in New York and “became increasingly fascinated by the city and the diverse individuals he continually met, in particular the people involved in the Neo-Burlesque movement. Browne became attracted to the idea of capturing the performer’s attitude and confidence along with their elaborate costumes.”
I hit the opening night for his solo show at the Yashar Gallery, and dude had a bottle of Jameson laid on–class always counts, kids. The consensus favorite amongst the attendees was the glaring Weirdee Girl at the end of the room, in a dark wig and red headdress, her eyes smoldering over us. I was personally drawn to the small (and priced to sell!) study of Lil Miss Lixx hidden around the corner. The scale made the texture of the canvas more obvious, and more clearly plastic as a piece.
Browne took me down to his studio, where I got a glimpse of his series for an upcoming show in Delaware, “Divina in Candy Land”—a much larger scale, these paintings are big, and the color becomes splashily, wonderfully overwhelming. “I love it,” Browne said, and by that he meant working big. Indeed, the large scale makes these paintings something more than portraits, as they should be. His working method is more a combination of sketches and work from photographs, enabling him to put his models into strange environments and then take the time to recreate. (Apparently, DivinaGranSparkle actually did climb up into a tree.)
Have a look, get inspired, and get out to Greenpoint and see some art. It’s not all old dead Dutch people.
“Viewing Burlesque” runs until March 28th — Gallery open by appointment
Yashar Gallery – 276 Greenpoint Ave. Bldg 8, Brooklyn NY 11212
“Divina’s Candy Land” will show on April 6th for the first Friday gallery walk.
For more information contact Kenneth Browne.