A new exhibit shows the living legacy of three decades of SF Drag Star Juanita MORE! — and his collection of hats


A San Francisco treasure and enduring icon of the local nightlife scene, Juanita MORE! has always been After just a drag queen. But defining what and who she is, as a person and a character, requires a thorough look back at her 30-year-to-date career, one that hasn’t been undertaken so far.

On Friday, the San Francisco Arts Commission unveils its exhibition Juanita: 30 years MORE! in his gallery inside the Herbst Theater building. It’s an impressive, if not completely comprehensive, look at Ms. MORE!’s art collection, portraits of herself by dozens of artists, Pride party dresses, awards, hats and even jewelry – a kind of unique retrospective on a drag performer and tireless LGBTQ fundraiser who has herself become a living work of art.

But if you suggest it’s all about the ego—or even the exhibit is about it—Juanita is quick to push back.

“It was never really about me,” she tells SFist. “I am only the vehicle.”

In statements on the show, which runs from September 30 to November 12, Juanita says, “I have never claimed complete ownership of Juanita’s achievement or activism,” and “I was the vehicle that brought it to life through the work of many talented artists, non-profit organizations and a community that I consider my chosen family.” And she insists that this exhibit is primarily about those other artists.

Juanita with photos of her naked dinner parties. Photo: SFist

But there are things, like Juanita’s ongoing series of “Naked Dinner Parties” in San Francisco and LA – which are documented in a collection of 10 photos in the exhibit’s so-called “Smut Room” – that are like performance pieces themselves which she can take exclusive credit for. And his drag performances, which are rare these days, are also his own work.

“I definitely control my image,” Juanita told SFist, adding again that she “considers[s] it’s a great honor to collaborate with so many talented artists.”

But, when pressed, she says, “To answer your question about me taking credit, I’m the boss.”

The beginning of the exhibition is a reconstruction of the walls of Juanita’s Tenderloin studio apartment, which are themselves an archive of Pride party posters and the various portraits artists have made of Juanita as the icon of drag over the years.

One of the art walls, a tribute to Juanita’s apartment with works by Matthew Benedict, J. Manuel Carmona, Timothy Cummings, Ariel Dunitz-Johnson, Farika, Sean Freitas, Serge Gay Jr., Gooch, Koak , Scooter La Forge, Simon Malvaez , and others. Photo: SFist

The artist and curator of the exhibition Marcel Pardo Ariza tells us: “I think a lot these days about intergenerational dialogue and archives. Pardo Ariza says preserving the “archives” of Juanita’s career was central to this show and wanted to make sure people could see the art and the person who accompanies the character.

“Juanita’s practice embodies so much that we need more of right now – collective care, bringing people together, valuing and elevating the work of artists, centering fun, friendship and collaboration,” Pardo said. Ariza.

Some of that fun and community came in the form of parties, and Juanita hosted hundreds of them. Visitors to the exhibition can get an idea of ​​what the nightlife looks like via QR codes on the exhibition cards for each of the dresses, which take you to the photo galleries of the party where she wore the dress.

And perhaps the bulk of that archive, the dresses designed exclusively by Mr. David (aka Glamamore) since the two began collaborating one night in 1992, are only on display in microcosm here.

“It’s only about half a percent of the clothing archive,” Juanita says, pointing to a fantastic dress at a model who recently lived in a trash bag.

Longtime Juanita fans will remember Mr. David Couture’s May 2016 fashion show at the de Young Museum, which featured a larger selection of the more than 3,000 looks he designed for Juanita. in three decades. But here there are just a few greatest hits from past Pride parties – including the pink tulle number below with the matching hat, which has a carried away by the wind-meets-the Oscars vibe of the 1950s.

“It took 600 meters of tulle,” says Juanita.

Photo: SFist

Juanita MORE! took her drag name from a now nearly forgotten but Oscar-nominated black character actress whose career peaked in the mid-20th century, Juanita Moore. But when asked if Mr. David’s glamorous Old Hollywood-esque dresses made the character drag or vice versa, the answer is a bit more complicated.

“In the beginning, Mr. David and I created the ‘shape’ of Juanita,” she says. “Naturally, we wanted it voluptuous – because this visual evoked another vision of my last name.”

Photo: SFist
Photo: SFist

And Juanita never fails to praise her longtime collaborator and designer.

“The most fantastic part of Mr. David’s design for me is his thinking about how I want to feel and where I might be going – he even considers whether I’m going to be sitting, standing or climbing stairs. This attention to detail makes him the most creative person I’ve ever had in my life,” she says.

“Juanita: 30 years MORE!” opens Friday, September 30 at SFAC Main Gallery, 401 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 126. Opening 6-8 p.m. Show runs through November 12. On October 6 at 7 p.m. there will be an evening of drag performances Juanita PLUS! look-alikes.” And on October 28 at 7 p.m. there will also be a Halloween-as-a-gallery birthday party, with costumes required.


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