Vaginal Davis flew in from her home in Germany and closed out the Art Institute's Visiting Artist Series last week. That statement sums up the who, what, and where without describing Davis, her work or her messege, but in her case the lack of definition is par for the course.
As a "drag terrorist," filmmaker (The White to be Angry), zinester (Fertile LaToya Jackson), lecturer, musician (The Afro Sisters), queercore originator, club star, muse (for, among others, filmmaker Bruce LaBruce and theorist Esteban Munoz) and personality since the 1970s, Davis (her name a tribute to activist Angela Davis) has defined the term "icon" long before it became common. That Davis fomented a movement that still impacts queer thought and sexual politics with no money and very little media exposure speaks to her resourcefulness and reach.
At the Art Institute presentation, Davis freely spoke about the definition of the word "freaky;" her take on the gay assimilation and bourgeois attitudes of the 1980s; Ruby Ray Moore's Black male stereotyped comedies; her claims about the punk scene's misogyny and racism; the mythology of the "Black Adonis;" and how race and sex affect one another.
As anyone who has seen or heard of her would expect there was also a great deal of saucy wit and comedy with Davis commenting on Justin Timberlake, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Dave Navarro and Merv Griffin. While discussing the abstract nature of Black freakiness Davis commented, "Sometimes a Black freak is so freaky they morph into whiteness. We have Michael Jackson as a role model there."