Written By Danielle Herrera
The new Drag Queen exhibit at Spurlock Museum catches everyone’s eye through brilliant colored fabrics and and show-stopping ensembles .
This past week I was able to visit one of Spurlock Museum’s new exhibits, “In Her Closet: How to make a Drag Queen.” When I walked into the museum, this exhibit was the first to call my attention, specifically because of its outrageous colors scattered everywhere. There was a runway located in the center of the space that held numerous mannequins dressed complete in wigs and drag attire. In addition, smaller cases featuring jewelry and borrowed items from actual drag queens are displayed along the walls. The overall feel of the room was vibrant and invigorating, which was most likely created to be a parallel to the energy given off by real-life drag queens.
A piece that I found myself studying was a replica of the costume worn by Ma. Arte Susya Purisima Tolentino. I was initially drawn to it because its style varied drastically from the other dresses displayed in the exhibit. Instead of being flashy or revealing, this mannequin was dressed extremely conservatively, covered head to toe in all white fabric. This attire seemed to contradict the more popular sparkly attire worn by drag queens; however, as I took a closer look at the description on the wall I came to realization as to why this dress was the way it was. Maria Arte Susya Purisima Tolentino, the drag queen who wore this dress, is of Filipino heritage just like me. For that reason, I was easily able to identify the traditional Filipino aspects that were incorporated within this dress, such as the classic butterfly sleeves and head wrap. And yet, the overall conservative aspect of this dress most likely stems from the fact the Filipinos are known to be extremely devout Catholics, and dressing appropriately was a necessary part of the church life. In general, I thought this piece was extremely interesting because I was able to draw information and connect my own heritage to the artist to be able to understand the work on a deeper level.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed visiting “Into Her Closet: How to Make a Drag Queen.” The pieces were all captivating and extremely entertaining to read more about, and I can confidently say that if I had the chance I would visit the exhibit again, even in my own free time. I loved the experience and I would definitely recommend this museum to anyone who would like to see first hand what this fascinating art form is all about.
For more information, go to https://www.spurlock.illinois.edu/exhibits/profiles/in-her-closet.html.