Art-drag collision finds Atlanta queens ‘In Heat’

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That sweltering feeling isn’t just the July temps beating down on you. It’s also a simmering that only comes when the gay Atlanta artist collective known as Legendary Children turns up the heat.

With a summer theme that is as much hot and bothered as it is hot under the collar, the Legendary visual artists and their drag muses are back to push the boundaries of their mediums. “In Heat” promises an innuendo filled multi-media extravaganza in a one-night-only affair of edgy performances, films, installations, drawings, photos and sexy “slave” go-go boys at Mammal Gallery on Saturday. The event includes a reception with a special “In Heat” performance piece, followed by a drag showcase and dance party with DJ Vicki Powell.

Legendary Children hit the local gay zeitgeist with full force in its buzz-worthy debut last year. The next generation of alt-queer artistry in Atlanta returns on Saturday with eight drag and nine visual artists in tow. They’ll present an array of Southern queer interpretations of what it means to be “In Heat,” says Jon Dean, one of the group founders and artists.

“We all have our different takes on the theme and that will hopefully add more layers to the show itself,” Dean tells Project Q. “Personally, I think of frustration – sexual or otherwise. The queer experience can often be very maddening. There are still those that would call our images from the first show ‘pornographic.’ When people are constantly trying to silence your creativity, you get a little heated. And I hope they’ll see this show as a big ‘fuck you… sorry not sorry.’”

For “In Heat,” Dean collaborates with photographer and videographer Blake England, as well as multiple local drag up-and-comers, on video projects (top teaser NSFW, and Brigitte Bidetphoto above).

“We have created a big fetish video that will be projected during the opening reception,” he says. “It’s filthy and makes me uncomfortable.”

Fellow Legendary artist and co-founder Blane Bussey has seen his share of controversy over his works, too. He agrees that it only pushes him to continue and informs the trajectory of his art, but he points out that the collaborations he does with queens in public spaces may even make a difference in society’s perception as time passes.

“The reactions on the shoots went smoother than they have ever gone before,” Bussey says of creating his “In Heat” photos. “Last year, we had gone to Centennial Olympic Park and were kicked out after 15 minutes. This year, security was telling the queens that they were beautiful and asking to take pictures with them.”

Bussey sees “In Heat” as an opportunity to look back at summer memories (“Float” with Mo'Dest Volgare above), and a vintage feel is part of the experience.

“I wanted to recreate things I associate with my summers here as a child – going to the pool, going to Six Flags, running around in nature,” Bussey says. “I also shot it at all with film so it's even more nostalgic for me than usual. It was important for me to talk about how things move on – technology moves on, bars move on, people die, we die, and well – what do we want to leave behind? What do we want people to remember?”

Bussey will also contribute a retrospective installation consisting of old photographs of established and gone-but-not-forgotten Atlanta drag queens. These queens set the stage for today’s Legendary Children and deserve recognition, the artist says.

“When the first show happened, there was a lot of upset like ‘Who are these queens? I've never heard of them. How come such and such a queen isn't in this show?’” Bussey remembers. “I really wanted to pay my respect to these queens. If there's anything I want Legendary Children to be, I want it to keep talking about Atlanta and the people in it. It seemed relevant for this show because it's our first show back in Atlanta in almost a year.

“All the photos I'm using came from a mountain of scrapbooks and photos Nicole Paige Brooks loaned me,” he continues. “They cover many pictures of Nicole, Shawnna Brooks, Phoenix, Raven, etc. There are a ton at Backstreet and other places that no longer exist, along with a scrapbook of different ads/articles from that time from publications like David.”

With plans to collaborate with Out On Film in October and other surprises in the works, the Legendaries are turning 2014 any way but loose, so keep an eye on them. And if you’re still on the fence about attending Saturday’s show – and you shouldn’t be – take Dean’s explanation of the collaborative process as a reason to get out and support local art.

“Atlanta is thirsty for something that’s a little weird and nasty,” he says. “I also think there’s something exciting about a group of young artists who are doing it for themselves. When you don’t have the budget or the manpower, you have to get extremely creative and that’s where the magic happens. We also try not to take ourselves too seriously, so you shouldn’t either!”

“Legendary Children: In Heat” takes place Saturday, July 5 at Mammal Gallery, 8 p.m. Visual artists include Bussey, Dean, Blake England, Kevin O, Maggie Towe, Matthew Terrell, Sunni Johnson, Tomas Espinoza and Sean Peterson. Drag artists include Brigitte Bidet, Edie Cheezburger, Ellisorous Rex, Jai'Ne Van Michaels, Kryean Kally, Lavonia Elberton, Mo'Dest Volgare and Violet Chachki. Buy advance tickets.

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