Wednesday, November 29, 2023


I’ve completed my volunteer photography of the new Granite Creek Trail Mural and have concluded my involvement with the project.  Dana Cohn, the Muralist, was a joy to work with and everyone on the project has been great, save one…

Barbara Nelson, the founder & main fundraiser for the Granite Creek Trail Mural.

Unfortunately Barbara has chosen to take a hostile & belligerent attitude towards me.  She’s been making disparaging comments about me behind my back and has tried to undermine my credibility all the while accusing me of doing the exact thing she’s doing.

Do not believe any of Barbara’s comments about me, she’s just an angry person.

Back in July I was working with Barbara to publish a book about the mural.  Barbara’s inability to communicate and lack of knowledge of graphic design or deadlines made it obvious to me that the deadline for the book publication would not be met, among other problematic issues.  Her pushback & combativeness made it clear to me that I had to go.  After all, as an unpaid volunteer, I really don’t need to deal with someone’s ignorance & nastiness for free.  So I left & I shut up.  I did uphold my promise to photograph the mural work-in-progress and did so until its completion in October.

I’ve never said a mean or disparaging word about Barbara or the project although Barbara has accused me of such.  It is Barbara who is bad-mouthing me.  Do not believe her.

In every creative endeavor there’s inevitable conflict.  Usually this resolves itself because we’re all on the same team, with the same goals.  But Barbara seems to operate from a position of negativity & there’s nothing I can do about that.  Although I bear no animosity towards Barbara I am hurt and disturbed by her words.  I will not work with her again in the future, but if you should hear anything about me from her, please consider the source and consider her words in the light of this information.

Thank you.  I wish I didn't have to write this.

Monday, July 17, 2023

The Drag Show

A photographer’s takeaway...

Were you one of those kids like me when told not to do something it made you want to do it even more? Whenever I was told something was bad, or not to do it, it made me more curious about it. Oh it’s bad? Well then it’s probably pretty cool and I should find out more about it and maybe do it. Even as a kid I wouldn’t trust someone else’s opinion, I had to find out for myself. It may be a kid thing but I still think that way today.Nowadays there’s plenty of people in positions of power, authority and influence admonishing us not to do certain things they’ve declared ‘bad.’ I look at those as suggestions and put them at the top of my to-do list. 

One thing that really stuck with me after last year’s midterm elections was a certain Arizona Gubernatorial candidate who really brought the idea of Drag Shows to the forefront. That candidate ran an anti-drag queen campaign. It’s ironic but I never really thought about Drag Shows much until it was brought to my attention by a certain person on TV who wanted to ban them.If you were to believe the advertising you’d of thought drag queens were the bane of civilization as we know it --worse than terrorism, inflation, Covid-19 etc. That’s right, flamboyantly dressed men wearing wigs and high heels, singing and dancing are the four queers of the apocalypse and if you didn’t elect that one candidate to stop them we’re all doomed. Passively watching this vitriol stream out of my giant flat-screen TV I was left with but one thought:

I gotta go see a drag show! 

Over the span of nearly fifty years I’ve done hundreds of magazine and newspaper photo-assignments that have taken me all over the country to photograph all sorts of things. I’ve photographed Governors and Presidents, serial killers and CEOs, fashion models and freaks, but I’ve never photographed a Drag Show. So I offer a Big Thanks to that drag-hating candidate for calling my attention to Drag Shows because the next time I see one advertised, I’m going to photograph it. 

My Drag Show photo-op came in June of 2023 when I saw advertising for “Drag Time” right here in Prescott. I called up the producer of the show and offered my services as Official Photographer. Cool! They’d get the use of my photos, I’d get free admission and access to “The Queens.” Booking the assignment was quick and easy but we did have to have one rather unusual discussion. Towards the end of our conversation I had to ask, apologetically but necessary, “Given the, um, the times we’re living in, uh,how’s your security for this event?” I was assured they were cognizant (woke, to use the correct definition of the term) of current societal biases and there would be extra security with more Bouncers and other Security Personnel. All of us, from the audience to the performers would be safe. The Friday and Saturday night performances would be at The Federal (upstairs in the downtown post office) which could already be considered a “secure” site. The Sunday performance which would include a fundraiser for an HIV clinic would be at The Raven. This concerned me somewhat as it is street-level with a lot of windows and not quite a secure-able as The Federal. Talking with a Raven bartender before the show he mentioned that the restaurant had received threats of protests. With that in mind I photographed the show with one eye looking through the viewfinder and the other eye on the door. I really hoped not to photograph something horrible. Fortunately (and what should be normal) no protests or violence occurred at any of the shows and everything went off problem-free. I think it’s kind of sad that we even have to think about this stuff but that’s the country we’ve created for ourselves. We should be better. 

Waiting for the first show to begin I noticed the audience was older than I expected. I was looking for the young, hipster crowd but I saw a lot of retirement-age folks. Yikes! People my age! Then it dawned on me, these are the Woodstock Generation people, the ones dropping acid and listening to Jimi Hendrix live. So it’s not really a surprise they’d come to a Drag Show! 

The show ran about ninety minutes. There were four performers or “Queens.” A drag show is essentially this: A man, or a trans person, or sometimes a woman, dressed in the most outrageous, extreme, sparkly, shiny outfits you can imagine comes out on stage, dances and lip-syncs a disco standard. While dancing and singing they “work the room” and conclude with some jokes and banter with the audience. They exit, the next Queen comes out and does their song. They sing/dance multiple songs and there’s a costume change for each one. The Queens are fun, irreverent, and bring an amazingly high level of energy into the room. They’ve got the moves, the comedy is good (more bawdy in the later evening shows) and it’s a lot of fun. I can’t imagine a Drag Queen has ever said, “Don’t look at me!” 

One thing I did not know about involved “working the room.” Unbeknownst to me, Drag Queens work for tips. (This seems to be a strictly American ‘tipping economy’ thing. In the videos I’ve seen from Drag Shows in other countries the Queens are on stage and not out in the audience grabbing cash.) People hold out dollar bills and the Queens dance through the room and pick up the cash. I’m not sure they make a lot of money but I doubt there are any billionaire Drag Queens. This is an overlap with strippers who also work for tips, leaving the stage with cash tucked into their garters. I can imagine this “stripper overlap” could cause the person who is predisposed to dislike Drag to make an unfair comparison with strippers and perceive a Drag Show as over-sexualized. Of course this is wrong but there are those who cannot be dissuaded from their false opinions no matter what. Those people should probably go bowling instead of to a Drag Show. 

Drag Shows aren’t especially sexual and these shows were restricted to ages over 21. You’ve got to figure if a person is old enough to fight in a war and witness all the associated horrors, they’re probably not going to be traumatized by a guy in a dress. Sure, there may be some dirty jokes or a few suggestive dance moves but nobody is “grooming” anyone or “turning them gay” or any of the things the angry and uninformed accuse them of doing. For those vocal anti-Dragsters who rant about “protecting the children,” they’re not. First, as mentioned, there aren’t any children in the audience. And secondly it’s important to remember that those who are most adamant about “protecting children” are really “protecting” themselves from people who are simply slightly different than they are. I’ve seen more provocative dance moves made by NFL cheerleaders, and that’s considered “family friendly” entertainment. Being completely serious, if my eight-year-old self had gone to a Drag Show my biggest takeaway would have likely been, “Whoa! Those ladies are tall!” Little me may have been mesmerized but definitely not traumatized. 

That person who lost (but said they won) the race for Governor advocated for banning Drag Shows. Banning stuff is actually anti-freedom. If someone doesn’t like Drag they have the freedom not to go to a show the same as others have the freedom to go. And thank goodness Drag hasn’t (yet) been banned because I had a really fun time at the three “Drag Time” shows I attended and photographed. Drag is niche entertainment, not for everybody, and that’s fine. We’ll know our society has really made some diversity-progress when we see Drag as halftime entertainment at the Superbowl. 

Dale with the Drag Queens

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

(Un) Well-Hung

As a rule, I don’t enter juried exhibitions.  Juried shows are just another form of the ‘pay-to-display’ scheme/scam and are a waste of time, effort and money ninety-nine percent of the time.  Occasionally, for the young artist especially, one can rationalize entering one of these ‘competitions.’  There could be cash prizes, or the juror may be someone influential that you’d like to see your work, or perhaps the exhibition venue is someplace you’d like to exhibit.  If you’re lucky enough to get your work juried into the show the usual (and often, only) benefit is having a group show to add to your resume.  Statistically-speaking, you’re not going to win the cash prize, you’re not going to sell any art and you’re not going to be ‘discovered’ at a juried show.

I do keep up with the ‘calls-for-entry’ but I’m highly selective to the point of only submitting to one or two of these things per year.  Although I’m very discerning I did chose to submit to what I thought would be an interesting exhibition recently.  Sadly, and all too commonly, my selection of the particular exhibition turned out to be an especially bad selection –but not for the reason you may think.

I picked up a flyer advertising ‘artist opportunities’ sponsored by an organization called:

The organization is a nonprofit and has been around for over twenty years.  Their mission statement seemed legit and the organization is involved in advocating for the arts statewide.  The theme of one exhibition really caught my attention: 

Source: Artists and their Inspirations

This is an opportunity for artists to share with others the source of what inspires them to make art and return to the studio day after day. The broad theme allows artists to share what they see, feel, and/or hear, and how that is infused in their art or interpreted by them. Each piece of art will be accompanied by a short statement about the source of what inspired the work. Each statement must not exceed 100 words.

I have a large number of works that have interesting inspirational stories and I could easily write one-hundred words any of them.  This also caught my eye:

Cash & Ribbon Awards:

1st Place $400 cash & ribbon President’s Award $100 & ribbon
2nd Place $300 cash & ribbon People’s Choice Award, ribbon only
3rd Place $200 cash & ribbon Two (2) Merit Awards, ribbons only

And so I made the decision to spend forty dollars to submit three artworks for consideration by the juror.  I was gratified that two of the three pieces I’d submitted were juried into the exhibition.  


Here are the two artworks I delivered to the gallery with their 100-word inspirational back-stories:

 Seventy-Six Years

A painting titled The Angelus, painted by Jean Francois Millet in 1859 hung outside a classroom where Salvador Dali was an art student.  The Angelus was the inspiration for Dali when he painted Archeological Reminiscence of The Angelus by Millet in 1935.  I’ve always like Dali’s painting and in 2011 it became the inspiration for my own homage to Dali and Millet with my photo/digital artwork, Seventy-Six Years.  Coincidentally Dali painted his homage 76 years after the Millet painting and my homage to Dali was created 76 years after the Dali painting, hence the title, Seventy-Six years.  Interesting coincidence!


  Homage to Lorrence

Lorrence, my Grandfather, was an amateur photographer.  When he passed all of his Kodachrome transparencies, went to my Father who forgot about them for almost fifty years.  Eventually the Kodachromes came to me.  I scanned some of them, digitally cut-out the vintage people, and composited them into my own surreal works.  To honor my Grandfather’s inspiration I created this visual homage to him.  The camera in the foreground is an Argus C-3, the camera he used.  The Polaroid photo is a picture of Lorrence and the Post Office in the background relates to my Grandfather’s job as a Postal Inspector.


I thought both images were strong, fit the theme perfectly, with back-stories that were informative and inspirational.  I was very happy to be a part of the exhibition ---that was until I SAW the exhibition.

I drove nearly 200 miles (R/T) to attend the opening reception only to discover the exhibition wasn’t very well presented and one of my artworks was relegated to a dark corner, by an exit, and hung between the control panel for a security system and a fire-extinguisher!  To say it was a shitty placement is an understatement.  The few who did wander into the corner seemed more mesmerized by the blinking lights of the security panel.  My artwork was largely unnoticed.


Here’s how they chose to display my artwork:

As disappointed and embarrassed as I was I didn’t say anything to the gallery-people.  I’ve been around too long, and I know complaining, arguing, or making a scene is a worthless endeavor.  Irrespective of the transgression, the one who complains is always painted as the asshole, so I shut up.  They’re not going to accommodate anyway, so I don’t waste my time talking.  


It took me a while to find my other artwork because it wasn’t even hung inside the main gallery:


That’s my artwork in the upper left.
Displayed about four feet above eye-level & impossible see unless you back up
so far that the details are lost.


When this occurs the common excuse from the gallery is, “…oh, well, we had so many pieces that we fit them in wherever we could…”  Of course this is bullshit.  As I stood in the gallery, as unnoticed personally as my artwork, I spotted at least three locations in the main gallery where my work would have fit just fine.  But no, someone made a decision that the fire-extinguisher corner was best for my artwork.  And the other artwork would have also fit inside the main gallery and at eye-level too!

Their installation of the exhibition, and my works in particular, was thoughtless, uncaring, unprofessional, unworthy of my work, and deficient of any consideration of the art or artist.  The pride I’d felt in my work and its exhibition was instantly vaporized and replaced with hurt, anger and profound disappointment.  And it’s INSULTING!

If you’re not involved in the exhibition of artworks you’ve probably never even thought about this stuff, but to the exhibiting artist it’s a Big Deal.  No one wants to spend hours creating an artwork, and then spend money to get it exhibited only to find it relegated to some corner, or behind a door, or in the bathroom hallway, or any place that makes it difficult (or impossible) for the viewer to see.  AND it is SO EASY to install an exhibition where all the artworks can be seen.  All the gallerist or installer has to do is THINK.  Consider if they were the artist would they like their work in a particular placement?  Can the artwork be easily seen by the viewer?  Is the artwork displayed like it is a part of the exhibition?  


I’m thinking about attaching this to every future delivery of artwork:

Although they need to be instructed on how to do their jobs but this would probably just piss them off to the point where they’d hang my artwork upside down, above the toilet, in the employee bathroom.

 I’ll never exhibit again with the Arizona Arts Alliance.

February 4, 2023