Thursday, June 9 / 6:30P
PORTRAITS BY HARRY JAMES HANSON AND DEVIN ANTHEUS
Join CoPA in welcoming Milwaukee natives Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus who will speak with us about their amazing collaboration, Legends of Drag. Featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, this vibrant project is visually stunning and bursting with joy.
Drag has officially transcended the underground and exploded into the mainstream. Queens today have great visibility—hard-won through decades of perseverance, imagination, and intergenerational support within local drag communities. Drag is not merely a pop cultural phenomenon, but in fact a subversive tradition with deep roots stretching back to antiquity.
Artists Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus traveled coast-to-coast over four years, visiting sixteen cities to meet and photograph the legendary entertainers featured in the exhibition. Hanson and Antheus produced stunning portraits of eighty-one queens shot on location and styled with unique floral elements. A selection of those portraits will be on display at MOWA | DTN in downtown Milwaukee.
If documenting elders within a marginalized subculture sounds like serious work, Hanson and Antheus subvert that expectation. Legends of Drag is colorful, celebratory, and revelatory—sublime camp in keeping with the subject.
Each photograph is a collaboration between artists and model, who jointly selected the location, styling, and blooms. The inclusion of floral elements enhances the queen’s uniqueness and allude to the ephemeral nature of drag itself. Both floral arrangements and drag complicate the boundaries between natural and unnatural, authenticity and contrivance. Flowers embody the fleeting yet timeless dimensions of beauty; their arrangement is artifice.
While drag portraiture commonly situates performers on stage or in the studio, Legends of Drag spotlights their embodied divinity out on the street. By transposing the queens from nightlife to daytime, the photographers position each model as a fixture within her community. Mixing sunlight and artificial light is intentionally harsh, yet unapologetically glamorous. The resulting portraits are simultaneously formal, conceptual, and surreal, deifying each of their subjects.
No universal history of drag exists, and no two queens define the art form the same way. Legends of Drag’s wide-ranging cast of queens presents a varied and category-defying tradition. The spectacular images give viewers a glimpse into a world of code-switching, seduction, performance, survival, criminality, hostility, promiscuity, evasion, articulation, impersonation, devotion.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW
Drag is an art form. No universal history exists, and no two queens define drag the same way. Legends of Drag’s wide-ranging cast of queens presents a varied and category-defying tradition.
While mainstream drag may be preoccupied with youth culture, this exhibition celebrates elder queens and the fundamental role they have played in securing rights for today’s queer community. Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus have documented the unsung heroes of local dives, the performers who have championed their art form for decades—even risking their safety. “It’s easy to get excited about the international stars on Drag Race, but it’s important to think about recognizing and supporting the queens who have long been using drag to create a vision for the future,” says Hanson.
“The portraits honor the legacy of these queens as survivors, trailblazers, and cultural ambassadors who have helped paved the way for the new generation of queens today.”
BEAUTY: FLEETING AND ETERNAL
The inclusion of floral elements enhances each queen’s uniqueness and alludes to the ephemeral nature of drag itself. Both floral arrangements and drag complicate the boundaries between natural and unnatural, authenticity and contrivance. Flowers embody the fleeting yet timeless dimensions of beauty; their arrangement is artifice. Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus collaborated with each model to select the setting, styling, and featured blooms to capture their persona. The installation of artificial florals within the exhibition similarly gestures to individual portraits while capturing the essence of the exhibition as a totality.
Please RSVP for this unique experience, you are invited to bring up to (1) Guest.