exhibition: ‘gillian wearing and claude cahun: behind the mask, another mask’ at the national portrait gallery, london

Self Portrait c.1927

“…the life of spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. It is this power, not as something positive, which closes its eyes to the negative as when we say of something that it is nothing or is false, and then having done with it, turn away and pass on to something else; on the contrary, spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that converts it into being.”

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George Wilhelm Frederich Hegel 1807 ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’, Preface (trans. A. V. Miller 1977), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 10

See more here.

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The Real Betty Boop.

Betty boop

They might have drawn Betty Boop white, but her history is black. The character was actually stolen from Cotton Club singer Esther Jones — known by her stage name “Baby Esther” and the baby talk she used when she sang songs like “I Wanna Be Loved By You (Boop- Boop-BeDoo). Her act later “inspired” cartoonist Max Fleischer to create the character Betty Boop and Esther tried to win the rights back to her character until the day she died.

From Madame Noir.

Gladys Bentley [1920s]

Gladys Bentley [1920s]

Gladys Bentley (August 12, 1907 – January 18, 1960) was an American blues singer during the Harlem Renaissance

She moved to New York at the age of 16, and her career as a performer skyrocketed when she appeared at Harry Hansberry’s Clam House on 133rd Street, one of New York City’s most notorious gay speakeasies, in the 1920s, as a black, lesbian, cross-dressing performer.

She headlined in the early thirties at Harlem’s Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. She dressed in men’s clothes (including a signature tuxedo and top hat), played piano, and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience.

Bentley was openly lesbian during her early career, but during the McCarthy Era, she started wearing dresses, and married a man at the age of 28 named Charles Roberts. Roberts later denied that they ever married.

She died, aged 52, from pneumonia in 1960.