The Alice Austen House presents Stonewall at 50, an exhibition by artist Collier Schorr. 15 intergenerational portraits of LGBTQ+ activists and artists, celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. This project, generated by partnerships made in the Stonewall 50 Consortium, an organization committed to producing programming, exhibitions, and educational materials related to the Stonewall uprising and/or the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, brings together participants of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising with activists who have followed in their footsteps.
As part of the heady New York art world of the late ’80s and early ’90s, Collier Schorr’s early work mined the vernacular of postmodernism to create photographs that toe the line between documentary and fiction. Often using her subjects allegorically, Schorr’s work navigates the auspices of identity politics to ask beguiling questions about the nomenclature of selfhood. By introducing autobiographical referents and post-appropriation aesthetics into her practice, Schorr’s ongoing body of work negotiates the fluid nature of authorship and performance in relation to portraiture.
Produced by Paul Moakley and Victoria Munro
Funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, Humanities NY, New York Community Trust, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts
Agosto Machado is a Chinese-Spanish-Filipino performance artist and describes himself as a "pre-Stonewall street queen that coincided with all the things that were happening in the 60s, with the anti-war gay rights, and black power movements." He recalls, "We were the minority in a minority, the outsiders, the have-nots."
According to Machado, those who encountered Marcia P. Johnson in the neighborhood had a "religious experience" with a "patron saint." Machado frequented Stonewall, marched regularly during the 60s and was also part of the Gay Liberation Movement. He speaks out about discrimination by white cis gay and about how the voices of trans women and people of color within the LGBTQ were silenced.
Chella Man is a 20-year-old, deaf, genderqueer, queer artist currently transitioning on testosterone. “Every day left me exhausted as I performed traditional femininity.” Born in Pennsylvania he move to New York to study virtual reality programming at The New School, while creating art on the side. His main focus is to educate others on issues regarding being queer and disabled within a safe space.
Since May 2017 he has been inspiring us on his YouTube channel. There, he started sharing his struggles with gender dysphoria. Now with almost 200K subscribers and over 2M views in just a single year, Chella is one of this generation’s leading voices on inclusivity and representation.
His transparency and bravery caught the eye of modeling megabrand IMG, who has just signed Chella as one of their newest faces and was just cast as Jericho on the DC’s Netflix series, Titans.
Pidgeon Pagonis, born 1986, is an intersex American activist, writer, artist, and consultant. They are an advocate for intersex human rights and against non-consensual intersex medical interventions.
As a child, Pagonis, who is queer and nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, was diagnosed with androgen insensitivity syndrome. They were not told of this condition, but instead were raised as a girl, told that they had ovarian cancer (when they had no ovaries, but internal testes), and subjected to a series of surgeries to alter their genitalia. Pagonis learned about intersex traits during their freshman year in college, while attending a lecture at DePaul University. They subsequently accessed their own medical records, and learned the truth about their condition. “What I wish the doctors did differently was just leave me alone,” says Pagonis. “It’s really that simple. Inform my parents that I had an intersex variation. Intersex is natural, healthy, beautiful.”
In 2015, Pagonis created the hashtag campaign #intersexstories for Intersex Awareness Day. The campaign attracted a huge following, with many intersex people sharing their stories and educating the public. Today they continue to tour around the country, advocating against non-consensual “corrective surgeries."
Sean Saifa Wall was born and raised in the Bronx. He attended Williams College and today is an intersex activist, artist, writer, and public health researcher living in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the former board president of InterACT, a legal advocacy organization protecting the human rights of intersex young adults and is a co- founder of the Intersex Justice Project (IJP), a project whose mission is to #endintersexsurgery.
He said his activism is fueled by anger and love. “Anger at what was done to my body without my thorough informed consent, and love for what remains of my body and to protect a future generation from those violations,” he told NBC OUT.
Saifa has been published in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, Untold Stories: Life, Love and Reproduction, Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics journal, the Washington Blade, and The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Healthcare.
Jay Toole, born in 1948, grew up in an Irish Catholic home in the South Bronx during the 1950s. At the age of 13, Jay returned home with the classic butch haircut of the day, a flat top. Her father threw her out immediately, with no one and nowhere to turn. For the next 8 years, she lived on a park bench in Washington Square Park, a unique vantage point for viewing the evolution of the 1960s in the West Village.
During her time on the streets, she was arrested for crimes such as sexual deviancy resulting from not wearing 3 articles of women’s clothing and much more. Jay was also beaten and abused by the NYPD regularly; she has visible scars on her leg to this day.
Jay was incarcerated at the Women’s House of Detention, and she knew Sylvia Rivera, Marsha Johnson, Valerie Solanas, and many others. Jay co-founded Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), a progressive non- profit organization committed to promoting economic justice in a context of sexual and gender liberation.
Eileen Myles was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was educated at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. They moved to New York City in 1974 to be a poet, and subsequently a novelist and art journalist. They gravitated to the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, where they studied with Ted Berrigan, Alice Notley, Paul Violi, and Bill Zavatsky. From 1984 to 1986 Eileen was the artistic director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project.
They have published twenty volumes of poetry and fiction including Not Me (1991), Chelsea Girls (1994), Cool for You (2000), and Skies (2001). Recent books include Sorry, Tree (2007), The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art (2009), Inferno: A Poet’s Novel (2010), I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975-2014 (2015), Afterglow: A Dog Memoir (2017), and Evolution (2018).
Myles is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Arts Writers grant, four Lambda Book Awards, the Shelley Prize from the Poetry Society of America, and a poetry award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. In 2019 they’ll be teaching at New York University and Naropa University. They live in New York City and Marfa, Texas.
Achebe Powell, born in 1940, was raised in Florida, graduated with a B.A. from The College of St. Catherine and an M.A. from Fordham University, and has resided in New York City for the past 40 years.
Powell has been an activist since high school, when she joined the National Conference of Christians and Jews. As an adult, Powell was poised to take leadership in many liberation struggles. Powell was a key player in the Gay Academic Union, the National Black Feminist Organization, and the National Gay Task Force. She was a founding member of Salsa Soul Sisters and the Astraea Foundation.
Powell has been a professor at Brooklyn College, a social worker, and an employee at Kitchen Table Press before she went on to diversity and anti-racism training, work which has taken her around the globe in the struggle for human rights and liberation.
Judy Bowen was raised in the South in a religious home and worked as a reporter for an evangelical newspaper. She was unable to conceal her transgender identity in her youth and moved to New York after witnessing racist and transphobic violence in Knoxville.
In New York, Bowen lived in Greenwich Village before the Stonewall uprising and worked in a club for men called Tango Palace. The club hired her because she “passed.” A friend told her to move to Christopher St, which she describes as a gay paradise. “It was like a runway,” she says. Marsha P. Johnson and Judy entered into an unlikely friendship, Marsha being an outspoken icon on the scene, and Judy trying to blend in. In the years following the Stonewall Uprising, she became an activist and started two transgender support organizations in New York City.
Today, at 74, she is an active member of The Center in Las Vegas, which supports the needs of LGBTQ people, as well as a champion of the Safety Dorm for transgender individuals at The Salvation Army, which houses and provides professional support for homeless transgender people in Las Vegas.
Zackary Drucker is a transgender performance artist who breaks down the way we think about gender, sexuality and seeing. The artist uses a female pronoun, and through her participatory pieces she complicates established binaries of viewer and subject, insider and outsider, and male and female in order to create a complex image of the self.
“I think that the best artists and visionaries are able to see around the corner.,” says Drucker. “I believe that queer and trans people are that inherently in their identities. We’re a manifestation of the future.”
Zackary is a producer of Transparent and has exhibited internationally at the Whitney, New Museum, and Performance Space New York.
In 2017, Drucker collaborated with the ACLU, Laverne Cox, Molly Crabapple, and Kim Boekbinder, in making a video about transgender history and resistance, called Time Marches Forward & So Do We. Drucker continues her art practice, working independently on film and photography projects. Her most recent work is featured in Aperture magazine guest-edited by Tilda Swinton.
Martin Boyce was at the Stonewall on the night of June 28, 1969. “The only place we had to go was Christopher Street,” Mr. Boyce, now 70 and a chef living in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, told The New York Times in an interview.
“Christopher Street was the one place you didn’t have to look behind you, it was all your people. Here was the one spot we had — now raided and ruined.” When the police told a group to disperse, he remembers, that night they advanced instead. “People who didn’t even want to do this, they just wanted to be free,” he said. “In 1966, I was extremely frustrated with the way gays were treated.” He was astonished by how the littlest drop of eyeliner would make people go mad, but by the Post-Stonewall mid ’70s he felt that he had no reason to shock: the word was out. If he was going to fight, it would be with political action.
Boyce sees his participation in the Stonewall riot as “a perfect event in my life because it let me live the kinds of dreams I had of seeing an equitable society. I was able to live my life, which I would have done anyway, but without Stonewall I would have had more opposition. So it turns out the times were on my side, which left me with a basically happy life.”
Bianey Garcia is a community organizer at Make the Road New York, a non-profit organization providing services and advocacy for Latinx and working class communities in Queens. “I Didn’t Choose to be An Activist,” says Garcia, “Injustice Pushed Me”.
Born in Veracruz, Mexico, transphobic violence forced her to relocate to Tijuana at 14 and later to New York City. As an undocumented, transwoman of color in New York, Bianey faced transphobic and racist policing and was incarcerated at Rikers Island. Later, she found support with other trans people of color at Make the Road, leading her to organize the first Trans Latina March, obtain a green card, and become an advocate for her community.
Since the late 1980s, writer, artist, and activist Gregg Bordowitz has made diverse works—essays, poems, performances, drawings, sculpture, and videos—that explore his Jewish, gay, and bisexual identities within the context of the ongoing AIDS crisis.
A professor and director of the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bordowitz was an early participant in New York’s ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), where he cofounded various video collectives, including Testing the Limits, an advocacy group within ACT UP, and DIVA (Damn Interfering Video Activists). While developing a visual language capable of communicating harm-reduction models to a broad public in his collaborative works, he made his own videos and television broadcasts, such as some aspect of a shared lifestyle (1986) and Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993), that juxtaposed performance documentation, archival footage, role play, and recordings of protest demonstrations, drawing influence from feminist conceptual art.
The artist’s prodigious career spans three decades moving between multiple genres including video, poetry, site-specific installation, and performance.
Merrie Cherry is a force in the Brooklyn drag scene. She got her start as the coat check girl at Metropolitan, one of Williamsburg’s early gay bars that set up shop off the L Train stop of the same name back in 2002. Cherry eventually asked the manager if she could host a drag party of her own and since that time has hosted the monthly drag competition DragNET.
Cherry has become a fixture at the performance art space and dynamic drag festival, Bushwig. "Merrie Cherry is loud, rambunctious, and full of life," says Cherry's drag daughter, Hannah Lou. Her experimental, pliable approach to performance and expressivity is what makes her drag so exciting.
In Cherry's drag family, showing up, stepping up, and having each other's backs are guiding values. "If you're not working, you should be at your sister's party supporting them. It's your sister's party!'