It's not unusual for a colorful crowd to garner as much attention as the art at some openings, especially when curvalicious club personality/curator Lenora Claire is involved, but at Claire's latest, the crowd was the art. She and scene queen/door diva/DJ Phyllis Navidad unveiled their new Koreatown art space, Pop tART Gallery, this past Saturday in a bold yet bare-bones way: nothing on the white walls inside the space save for taped off corners where the photographs of noted shutterbug Austin Young will be placed at another show in a little over a month's time.
While the opening may not have featured any finished product on display, what we did observe was a lot more interesting: the process of art and the chance to become a part of it.
The idea behind Young's "Your Face Here" show is simple: patrons purchase a portrait and get to choose its size and placement in the gallery, smallest going for $100 and the biggest going for $500 (a bargain considering Young's fees are often in the thousands). The rest, including which shot from the shoot is ultimately used is left completely up to Young. Subjects will see them for the first time at the official "Your Face Here" opening along with everyone else.
At the gallery premiere event, Young had a mini-studio set up in the front of the space, complete with a glam squad of makeup artists and wild hair by Purple Circle. In addition to celebs like Margaret Cho and Debbie Harry, Young is known for his work with the drag and "tranimal" community, and many of the makeovers reflected his flamboyant tastes. Since the gallery is all windows up front, the shoots took on a fishbowl-like quality, with the fete's overflow of friends and fans viewing nose-pressed-to-glass from the outside at the bustling pose-fest on the inside.
From grandmas (well, aunts) and teen-agers to art peers (Plastic God and pin-up princess Olivia) to rockers (Kim Fowley, Steve Stevens and E! TV star wife Josie) to bloggers (Perez Hilton), Young shot quite an eclectic mix on Saturday, some of whom had worked with the photog before, many who had not. Said Hilton, who's posted Young's video work on his popular gossip site, "He's great. He can make ugly people look pretty... even me."
Taking the idea that anyone can be transformed by makeup and good lighting ala Glamour Shots in the mall and putting it in the hands of an industry pro like Young has shockingly, never been done before, at least not like this. With the omni-presence of party photo booths and the narcissism of social networking putting a renewed focus on self-image and sharing, "Your Face Here" feels conceptually now, even while it's got a retro Warholian flair about it. With this show (which will be unveiled at another bash on March 5), Young cements his stance as LA's contemporary answer to Andy himself.
Yours truly snatched up some nice real estate Sat. for a 5x7 shot (we'll be posing at a later date, possibly the next shoot at Mr. Black -which Claire co-hosts- at Bardot, on Feb 8). There are still some spots open. Check the website for size and placement availability.
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In addition to Young's big unveiling, Claire (whose previous shows, at now-shuttered Hollywood art hub World of Wonder have received national attention) already has another sure to be bodacious exhibit scheduled: "realiTEASE" show by pin-up
photographer Danielle Bedics that'll feature the girls of Reality
TV (Bad Girls Club, Rock of Love) as pinups.
See more pics from the party in this week's Nightranger slideshow.