Andy Warhol, Ladies and Gentlemen (Marsha Johnson), 1974

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), Ladies and Gentlemen (Marsha Johnson), 1974

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), Ladies and Gentlemen (Marsha Johnson), 1974. Polacolor Type 108, 4 ¼ x 3 3/8 in. Gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., 2008.40.94 © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Transgender activist and founder of S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) Marsha P. Johnson (1944-1992) poses here for a glamorous close-up. When asked in court what the “P” in her name stands for, Johnson replied with a reverberating twist on the “p” of policing conventions: “Pay it no mind.” In the Ladies and Gentlemen series of silkscreens drawn from Polaroids of black drag queens, Warhol painted his subjects in a flamboyant array of synthetic colors. But, even here in the frame of this Polaroid, Johnson’s working of her blonde wig—a defiant claiming of the artifice of bleached femininity that was also Warhol’s signature—raises provocative questions about the visual production of both gender and race on the surface of bodies and of the powers of the profile and the pose to position but also to poach.

Advertisements