ARTIST STATEMENT / PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
I create bodies of work that explore gender, artifice, and spectacle. Utilizing directorial, curatorial, and anthropological processes, I showcase exuberantly irrepressible personalities who revel in challenging clichés and taboos to rethink and reimagine the gender construct. A sampling of subjects include Girls Girls Girls - the world's first and only all-female Mötley Crüe tribute band, and Tazzie Colomb - the world's longest competing professional female bodybuilder and powerlifter. Since 2019, I have been working exclusively on Life is Drag - the largest archive of drag in the United States.
Drag is a poetic synthesis of painting, sculpture, sound and performance. It is also an amalgam of self-discovery, transformation, permission, actualization, revolution, utopia, community, catharsis, and ultimately - radical self-expression. Drag is ART - and life IS drag. With drag under attack in the United States, I believe we must share these bold, brilliant, and binary pushing performances now, more than ever, to ensure exposure for artists and ease of access for those in communities that are hostile to this vital and important art form.
This project documents the most innovative and singular performers - selected from a wide range of locations, backgrounds, cultures, and ages - who are currently exploding onto the national alt-drag and neo-burlesque scenes. This ever-evolving archive includes documentation of both performances and interviews, and began in March of 2019. I have since created 350+ portraits, showcasing 200+ LGBTQIA+ performers - collaborating with them in my studio, as well as during residencies in New York City with The Cell Theatre, Satellite Art Club, and Bushwig; in Pittsburgh with The Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Alloy Studios, the Blue Moon Bar, and Bloomfield Garden Club, in Cincinnati with Wave Pool Gallery, and in New England with 3S Artspace.
(Below images: Life is Drag at The Cell Theatre, New York, New York, 2021)
Life is Drag is about celebrating this experimental and expansive form of art and its wide range of practitioners and manifestations. It is about creating a record - an archive - of these brilliant but ephemeral performances, from dive bars to art galleries, city streets to grand theater stages. It is about trying to properly document and share these wildly diverse acts and profound stories that will surely open minds and capture hearts.
(Below images: Life is Drag at Symphony Space (in partnership with the NY Municipal Art Society, New York, New York, 2023)
This project began in early 2019 in my Brooklyn studio with a collaboration with local drag and visual artist, Untitled Queen. I then worked with selected performers from Ohio and Kentucky for a mid-career retrospective in my hometown of Cincinnati in the summer of 2019. In January-February of 2020, I worked with 20+ New England-based drag artists as part of a residency and exhibition (postponed from May 2020 to May 2021, owing to the pandemic) at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
From the autumn of 2020 until the summer of 2021, I was an artist in residence at The Cell Theatre in Chelsea NYC, where I expanded Life is Drag in the midst of the pandemic to include neo-burlesque performers and performance artists whose work explores gender performativity. I also spent a few weeks in the summer of 2021 working with drag artists in Pittsburgh, documenting their performances and interviews at culturally significant local venues such as the historic Blue Moon Bar and Kelly Strayhorn Theater, as part of my Bloomfield Garden Club residency. This was followed by a whirlwind 2-night "residency" in NYC in September at Bushwig - where I documented 30 performances down the hall from the main stage, as part of Bushwig's 10-year anniversary.
My 2022 residency in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio included creating video portraits of performers from the drag haus ODD Presents, members of the neo-burlesque troop Smoke & Queers, and other alt-drag and burlesque artists from the tri-state area. This residency also included a solo exhibition featuring this ever-growing archive, as well as multiple live performance events. In December of 2022, I began my 2nd residency at The Cell Theatre in NYC, where over the course of the next 6 months I added 100+ new video portraits to the Life is Drag archive. In June of this year, I organized panel discussions about this project (also featuring pop up art exhibitions and live drag performances) at Symphony Space, co-sponsored by the Municipal Art Society of New York, and also at The Cell Theatre, in conjunction with Franklin Furnace & CADAF.
(Below image: Life is Drag at The Cell Theatre (in partnership with Franklin Furnace & CADAF, New York, New York, 2023)
Life is Drag has been exhibited at such venues as the Carnegie Museum of Art and Bunker Projects (PA), 3S Artspace (NH), Wave Pool and the Weston Art Gallery at the Aronoff Center for the Arts (OH), & Symphony Space, Satellite Art Club, Bushwig and The Cell (NYC). During future residencies, I will continue to add to this archive of video portraits and interviews, which will live online as well as in galleries and unexpected places in between.
If you would like to donate to this project, please click on the SUPPORT link above.
If you would like to join the mailing list, or bring Life is Drag to your town, please send me a message via the CONTACT link above.
(Below images: Life is Drag at Wave Pool Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2022)
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently living and working in New York City, Rachel Rampleman received her MFA from New York University in 2006. Since then, her work has been shown internationally at the Shanghai Biennale (Brooklyn Pavilion, 2012-13) in China, the Chennai Photo Biennale (India), JAM in Bangkok, Thailand, and throughout Europe at S.M.A.K. (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst) and Art Cinema OFFoff (Ghent, Belgium), Monte Arts Centre (Antwerp, Belgium), Terasa (Pilsen, Czech Republic), C/O Berlin, Die Fruhperle, and The Secret Cabinet (Berlin, Germany), and at VIDEONALE.16 at the Kunstmuseum Bonn.
Nationally, her work has been exhibited at such venues as the Carnegie Museum of Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, SPRING/BREAK Art Show, Cleopatra’s, Petzel Gallery, Smack Mellon, Auxiliary Projects, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, Satellite Art Show, The Frank Institute at CR10, Spectacle Theater, The Wassaic Project, Flux Factory, VOX Bizarre, Cynthia Broan Gallery, NP Contemporary Art Center, Satellite Art Show, Squeaky Wheel, Envoy Enterprises, Shoestring Press, The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, The Warehouse Gallery, SELECT Art Fair, The Last Brucennial, un(SCENE) Art Show, 80 WSE Gallery, Gowanus Swim Society, El Puente CADRE, Art Gotham, Rosenburg Gallery, Cantor Film Center, The Arts Center of the Capital Region, and Collar Works (New York), Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers University (New Jersey), Other Cinema at Artists' Television Access (California), The Wexner Center for the Arts, The Contemporary Arts Center, The Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts, Thunder-Sky, Inc., The Mini Microcinema, Semantics, and SS NOVA, (Ohio), KMAC Museum Louisville, The Lexington Art League, The Fountain Gallery at Purdue University (Kentucky), 1506 Projects (Washington), University Hall Gallery at UMass Boston (Massachussetts), Icebox Project Space (Philadelphia), PULSE Miami (Florida), The Flint Art Institute, (Michigan), The Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University and The Andy Warhol Museum (Pennsylvania).
(Below images: Life is Drag at 3S Artspace, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 2021)
Rampleman recently had a survey exhibition on view at the Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts (Cincinnati, Ohio) as well as solo exhibitions at VOLTA NY (New York), These Things Take Time (Ghent, Belgium), 42 Social Club (Connecticut), Carl Solway Gallery and The Neon Heater Art Gallery (Ohio), 3S Artspace (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), Bloomfield Garden Club (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Wave Pool Gallery (Cincinnati, Ohio), and an early career retrospective at The Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Art (CEPA Gallery) in Buffalo, New York. In June of this year, she organized panel discussions about this project (also featuring pop up art exhibitions and live drag performances) at Symphony Space, in conjunction with the Municipal Art Society of New York, and at The Cell in conjunction with Franklin Furnace & CADAF, as part of her 2023 residency at The Cell (New York City).
Her work has been reviewed in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Art F City, Paper Magazine, Artnet, DRAIN, Domino, ÆQAI, eyes toward the dove, HYPERALLERGIC, Gothamist, Berlin Art Parasites, the Fanzine, Seattle Pi, Absolute Arts, ÆQAI, and LeCool Bangkok, among others. She has also created curatorial projects with Vanessa Albury as The Sun That Never Sets for venues such as The Frank Institute at CR10 in the Hudson Valley and SPRING/BREAK Art Show in NYC.
(Below images: Life is Drag at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and Bunker Projects (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2021)