WHO’S THAT LADY? Heather Jeno Silva’s Forum Lounge, which has been running at the Contemporary Arts Forum on 1st Thursdays for several years now, continues to be the city’s edgiest and most experimental venue for performance. On Thursday, February 7, just two days before CAF’s annual Valentine’s fundraiser, Forum Lounge hosted Zackary Drucker, an up-and-coming artist from Los Angeles who has, along with her partner, Rhys Ernst, all the signs of becoming a major star on the international contemporary art scene. A graduate of both Cal Arts (MFA in photography and media, 2007) and New York’s School of the Visual Arts (BFA in photography, 2005), Drucker presented a pair of recent works, one a spoken-word piece with projected slides called “Bring Your Own Body: The Story of Lynn Harris,” and the other a short film called She Gone Rogue, which was directed by Ernst and stars Drucker.
With her medium-length, super-straight dirty-blonde bob, subtle makeup, and slim frame, Drucker makes quite an impression, especially when you consider that she was born a biological male. Likewise, her partner, Ernst — who was also present — cuts an enigmatic figure with his short, black hair and boyish frame, again especially given that he was born a biological woman. Together, the two constitute what they have termed a “reverse heterosexual” couple, a mind-bending state of affairs that provides the point of departure for much of their stylish, witty, and deeply subversive art.
Drucker kicked off the evening with “Bring Your Own Body,” a tribute/biographical monologue to the late transgender figure Lynn Elizabeth Harris. Harris, who was born a hermaphrodite in Orange County in 1950, was raised as a female through high school and beyond by parents who never reconsidered his gender identity, even when, at age 5, Harris developed male genitals. Harris’s mother and father were doting parents, and, through the auspices of a Los Angeles archive of gay and transgender documents and memorabilia, Drucker has come into possession of an extraordinary array of baby photos, family pictures, school reports, driver’s licenses, and other images and documents. By projecting an array of these images on a screen behind her while she recites the details of Harris’s odyssey, Drucker weaves a deeply disorienting tale. What is one to make of a life story that includes both beauty-contest wins as a woman (Costa Mesa Junior Miss, 1968), and an eventual and rapid self-transformation in 1983 at age 33 into the mustachioed man called Lynn Edward Harris? For Drucker, Harris remains both a cautionary tale — his life was sensationalized in painful ways by the tabloids and shock television — and a boundary-busting hero. Her final words sum up these mixed feelings in a simple question and answer: “Cause of death? Not enough love.”
SHE GONE ROGUE: After the mostly tragic narrative of Lynn Harris, the recent film that followed was more in the vein of comic relief. She Gone Rogue was commissioned for the 2012 Los Angeles Biennial and screened at the Hammer Museum in July. It’s a witty, anarchic romp through the twisted sensibilities of both its director and its star. Drucker plays Darling, a hapless waif wandering through a disorienting fantasy world that owes much to such queer film icons as John Waters, Andy Warhol, and Kenneth Anger. After receiving some psychic advice from the “Whoracle of Delphi,” Darling finds true love with Ernst, Drucker’s actual lover and the film’s director. Along the way, there are chattering novelty false teeth, an aging aunt played by Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn, and plenty of weird bling, including a rhinestone bedazzled walker. Crisp cinematography, clever banter, and dynamic editing all contribute to the film’s zippy, unconventional appeal. While none of this is for everyone, none of it is for no one either, and the more people who do try to wrap their heads around Drucker’s unorthodox approach to gender, the better, at least as far as tolerance and understanding are concerned.