Lenora Claire: P.T. Barnum With Boobs
Lenora Claire is one of America's weirdos, or, as she likes to describe herself, "P.T. Barnum with boobs."
Claire might look like something out of a cartoon, the busty redhead known for being out front with the edgiest trends-in-the-making, starting with the controversial 2007 exhibit of paintings of the cast of beloved sitcom The Golden Girls ... in the nude.
It all started when Claire stumbled across an erotic oil portrait of Bea Arthur on eBay, which she promptly bought for $100. "Golden Gals Gone Wild" quickly became an internationally renowned art show that also had a serious angle: to educate senior citizens on safe-sex practices, given the increased use of drugs like Viagra.
Claire says she has taken inspiration from former pinup model Bettie Page. "They say marijuana is a gateway drug, but Bettie was a gateway to so many things that are important to me now." With support from TV production company World of Wonder, Claire curated the 2009 show "Bettie Page: Heaven Bound," which featured paintings by Playboy illustrator Olivia, honoring the late model.
Claire applied her tongue-in-cheek humor to highlight another cause with her next show, "Merry Titmas," which celebrated breasts at the holidays. "My father's a psychiatrist, so maybe it was very Freudian of me to do that," she says.
Most recently, Claire curated "Your Face Here: Portraits by Austin Young," the inaugural show at drag performer Phyliss Navidad's pop tART Gallery in Koreatown.
By focusing the camera on the audience, Young turned the idea of a portrait studio into an evolving exhibit, in which his subjects were local characters such as Ann Magnuson, Prince Poppycock, Joe Dallesandro, Sutan Amrull, and Claire herself.
Outside of the art world, this homegrown club icon co-hosts a weekly Tuesday-night dance club at Bardot, Mr. Black's Dance Den — a West Coast franchise of the successful NYC institution, notorious for its bare-bottomed waitstaff.
Claire also has worked as an entertainment journalist, having written for local gay publication Frontiers. "I always say I'm the one straight girl who's managed to penetrate queer media." She also used to eat glass: "I was really into sideshows," she says, "and it just kind of came about."
These days, Claire is busy with her own serial docucomedy, Manthropology, as well as an online series about pop tART gallery. She's also making music with L.A.-based drag performer Jer Ber Jones. But despite all this, she still sees herself as an artist at heart — one who also wants to promote work by less media-savvy peers.
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