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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Tennessee Loveless tells queer stories through art
by Nina Matti
2017-09-20

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Tennessee Loveless is sick of talking about his color blindness. Yes, as a full-time artist, it can be a challenge, but it's something he's learned to work with and embrace. He'd rather focus his attention on his art, specifically on his latest project, "Drag Landscapes."

For this series of paintings, Loveless has interviewed several drag queens from around the country about their lives and identities. He then creates portraits of each queen, overlaying the most important words from their interview over his depictions of them.

"Because I'm so Southern, I want to tell a story and I want you to understand it," Loveless said. "[Drag queens] are objectified as performers. No one knows where they came from, and no one cares. That's a problem for me... These people are magical and there's a whole story about how they got there."

Drag has always been a big part of his life. When Loveless ran away from his home in small-town Georgia, he found the community he needed in the drag community of San Francisco.

He experimented with performing as a horror queen under the name Demanda Refund. "I was the worst," he said with a laugh. "I was actually terrible."

His time in drag helped him learn though, about himself and about humanness on a larger scale.

"Drag is this acceleration of ourselves," Loveless said. "To be able to cross genders, forget the binary and let go of the rules. When you break those rules, you become more human."

He found his true calling when his drag mother Puta Nesca asked Loveless to paint her portrait, a work that Loveless credits his career to. With his subsequent paintings, Loveless wanted to take it a step further. He wanted to "take their life story and fuse it into a portrait." Thus, "Drag Landscapes" was born.

Loveless developed the project as his MFA project at the University of Georgia, and he plans to take it international in the coming months. He is packing his bags to travel the world for the next five years, painting drag queens in every stop. "I'm really putting all of my eggs in one basket," Loveless said.

The project is being developed into an eight-part documentary series and hopefully, he said, it will soon become a book. "The whole point is to emphasize queer lives and the struggle to get to where they are and why they are who they are," Loveless said. "I want to break that barrier and tell the stories of queer lives."


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