Digbeth Arts Space are proud to announce 'Dragged Back To My Roots' - A Personal Journey, which is a two week exhibition by Dusty O inspired by a reality that was unreal. A present that is hopeful and desperate. Dreams that won’t go away and a desire to be heard even if the message is muddled and confused. A mixed up, muddled up world. His world.
We caught up with Dusty to discuss his incredible personal journey, which added context to his work. We began to understand that Dusty Os' creative flow is underpinned by a story that few of us would get the chance to experience if we lived through several lifetimes....
The exhibition launches with a private viewing on Friday 30th November and runs from Saturday 1st to the Saturday 14th December 10:00 until 19:00 daily.
“I have never made a conscious decision to do anything. I didn’t intend on doing drag for 30 years when I left Birmingham. I left because I had a broken heart and didn’t feel as though I fitted in. I had always been aesthetically obsessed and looking good w as probably my main priority. However how I thought I looked good wasn’t particularly main stream or accepted at the time”
New beginnings in London
“ London allowed me to explore my thresholds and when people started paying me to do it I was encouraged and pushed myself to the edge of my male self. I developed an alter ego and turned her into a pre-internet mini brand . It worked but I never planned a thing.”
Success in London
“She took me round the world and introduced me to the high life and low life of club culture. I played records, hosted clubs, recorded records, did television, I starred in my own sold out Xmas shoes at Leicester Square Theatre for 6 years playing up to 80 shows a season, I mingled with pop stars, ran successful club nights, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on designer clothes, took drugs and drank the bar dry . Soon they called me the Queen of Soho, but I didn’t plan or even think about it much. It happened. Then it finished.”
"The last ten years of my disco existence had been focused on Madam JoJo’s where I held my hugely successful club night Trannyshack. It had paid for a hedonistic and luxurious existence. I was treated like royalty and all I had to do was spend most of my income on beautiful clothes, wigs and shoes and spend 3 hours painting my face before going out. Then JoJo’s closed. Overnight. The phone stopped ringing. I had been deposed."
"Then the tax man slammed me with a bill so huge it emptied every account I had and maxed out 3 credit cards, I was burgled and every camera, computer and piece of electrical equipment my husband and myself owned was stolen . We had nothing. I got a job in my friends hairdressers in reception and gradually my rehabilitation into civilian life began."
Back to reality
"Who was I though? I had spent 25 years being someone I had created. People related to her not me. I had forgotten who I was. Forgotten that I had things to say and do and that I didn’t have to pretend any more. I was poor but free and the slate was clean. London club land had dropped me and some revelled in my descent. I made new friends. Real people doing real jobs. People who didn’t spend their life creating an illusion around their identity."
Painting as therapy
"I began to paint my feelings. It was a bit like writing a book but I allowed colours and cartoon like gargoyles to do the talking. I had spent 30 years painting my face and now I was painting my thoughts and feelings. I knew little about “art” and I still don’t. All I know is that I enjoy doing what I do. That it’s necessary for me. That it’s real and that all those years in drag with its extreme life style were in fact my process years, that everything I do now is a result of those years. That my research was extensive and real and that somehow it has saturated me and bit by bit through painting and scribbling I am confessing. It’s glorious and liberating. It’s also true and real and authentic to me."
"My reality has always been my own. I create it. I always have. I live it and believe it. My paintings are like vomit. They are my thoughts splattered on to a canvas. I have no trained skills and the most I can do is to try and convey a thought or an idea or a past experience through something child like almost and naive. Don’t mistake that for innocence though. My pictures are not. They are riddled with vice and lies and hideous people doing unspeakable things. That has been my experience of life."
Dealing with ignorance
"I have been on the receiving end of people ’s ignorance since I started experimenting with myself and in some ways it’s made me bitter . In the 90’s I was nearly murdered in my own house by an idiot neighbour with homophobic tendencies. My defences are high. I choose to disguise them behind a highly artificial barrier of colour and couture. Distraction plays a part in my work. It always has."
Welcome to my world
This collection of my work is a greatest hits of ideas , thoughts , experiences, past , present and future. It’s a montage of truth and deceptive images . A reality that was unreal . A present that is hopeful and desperate. Dreams that won’t go away and a desire to be heard even if the message is muddled and confused. A mixed up, muddled up world. My world.
'Dragged Back To My Roots - A Personal Journey an Art Exhibition by Dusty O runs from Saturday 1st to Saturday 15th December at Digbeth Arts Space, Zeliig, Gibb Street, Digbeth, B9 4AT with viewings between 10:00 and 19:00 daily.