Ladies and Gentlemen (Lourdes)
4 1/4 x 3 3/8 in. (11.4 x 8.6 cm)
Medium: Polaroid, Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
Current Location: Baruch Art Gallery
Although Andy Warhol’s work was initially controversial for its apparent unconventional aesthetic, he quickly achieved both critical and commercial success. In the 1970s and 1980s, Warhol’s celebrity arguably eclipsed his art, although he produced several innovative bodies of work during this period. Andy Warhol was fascinated by nightlife culture, the LGBT community and drag culture. A drag queen is a person, usually male, who uses drag clothing and makeup to imitate and often exaggerate female gender signifiers and gender roles for entertainment purposes. In modern times, drag queens are associated with gay men and gay culture, but they can be of any gender and sexual identity.” People partake in the activity of doing drag for reasons ranging from self-expression to mainstream performance. Drag shows frequently include lip-syncing, live singing, and dancing. The story behind this work is that he had a friend approach a group of glamorous drag queens and asked them if they would be willing to model for “a friend” for $50. That friend happened to be Andy Warhol, who photographed the drag queen models and included them as some of his iconic muses utilizing a three-fourths angle with his Polaroid camera. Warhol later chose 10 of these photographs for his silkscreen series “Ladies and Gentlemen,” which portray the queens as confident, coy, and vulnerable. The photos were taken in 1974, which correlates to he rise of drag as an art form dating back to theater as well as “ball room” culture. These works currently sell for $15,500 to $40,000. I find this work to be super pleasing that Warhol pushed boundaries and provided a platform for the unknown underground artists in the 70’s.
The following label was written by Elena Freije Urdaneta:
Note: (Lourdes’ gender is not known. However as she is presenting as female in the photograph, we will use she/her pronouns.)
Lourdes looks at us, head tilted. She holds our gaze, steady and expectant, almost like she just asked a question and is waiting to hear the answer. Her eyebrows fly like wings across her face and her lips are two precise red bows. She wears a ruffled blue blouse, round white earrings and a necklace. Her short hair swings to the side, the flash of the polaroid reflecting off her skin. With its plain background, it could almost be an office photo of a secretary. Instead, the portrait of Lourdes belongs to a larger collection of portraits of trans women and drag queens titled Ladies and Gentlemen by Andy Warhol in 1975. London’s Tate Modern displayed the collection publicly for the first time in 2020, including a finalized painting of Lourdes. Warhol, born in Pittsburgh 1928 is easily one of the most well known artists in the world. One of the leaders of the pop art movement, Worhol investigated the intersection of art, celebrity, and advertisement. Fascination with fame inspired iconic portraits of celebrities ranging from Marylin Monroe to Mao Zedung. Marsha P Johnson, the famed activist, is among the photographed for this collection. A museum dedicated to Warhol’s work exists in his native Pittsburgh and his works are housed in collections at colleges and institutions around the world. In contrast to the iconic portraits of famous celebrities, we know almost nothing about the subjects in Ladies and Gentlemen, including Lourdes. Warhol recruited his models at a local bar and all were Black and/or Latine. The anonymity of Lourdes plays against her direct gaze into the camera, demanding you to see her. Only six years after the Stonewall Riots, queer culture itself was still dangerous to inhabit and exhibit. In fact, Warhol’s own sexuality was actively debated and discussed during his lifetime. Lourdes appears in her own Red White and Blue.