In today’s crazy world, there is never anything wrong with adding a bunch of sparkle to it. New Jersey based artist David Ayllon subscribes to that notion as well, and his first show, Guise premiering February 3, 2018 at PO’P Gallery in Baldwin, New York looks to be as bold and as colorful as any show would be that featured some of the biggest names in drag.
Ayllon manages to capture both the sensitivity and the boldness of these heroes of the LGBT community in each shot. I got a chance to chat with David about how he fell in love with drag (along with his husband, the side split-tingly hilarious, Pissi Myles), who he would love to photograph, and what is next for this talented artist.
Michael Cook: You are featuring some of the biggest and most colorful names in your new art show; tell me about it.
David Ayllon: I am! The show is called Guise, and it opens February 3rd at PO’P Gallery in Baldwin, New York and runs until March 10th. It features a lot of drag performers who I’ve had the pleasure of working with, both friends and stars — people like Sasha Velour, Trixie Mattel, Bob The Drag Queen, my husband Pissi Myles, drag king Lee VaLone, and more! The photos span the last two years after I really found my voice as a photographer. I’ve imagined the show as a series of snapshots in the same universe. Some of the photos may have a slightly different vibe to them, but they all live in the same heightened, almost surreal, world.
What is it about the drag community that makes photographing them one of your biggest passions?
DA: As a comic book nerd, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of alter egos, and larger than life personas. It’s the idea that what makes you different actually makes you more powerful. And with that knowledge you can create the person you want to be. I think a lot of people in the queer community can relate to those themes. I’ve always seen drag performers as the closest thing we have to real-life superheroes. Drag performers have taken something that traditionally would get them to be ridiculed (over-the-top femininity/masculinity) and turn it up to 11. Then there’s the costumes, every good superhero needs a fabulous costume.
You are married to the hilariously talented Pissi Myles; what is it like being married to a fantastically creative person?
DA: In past relationships, I’ve always been the oddball creative one. I still remember on our very first date, and what a breath of fresh air it was that he didn’t look at me like I had three heads when I started talking about my art/design projects. Sure he looks at me like a weirdo for other things now, hahaha. But it’s great having a partner who feeds you creatively. For a long time when I first started photography, Pissi was my only model. I’m constantly inspired by all the amazing stuff he’s doing, and it makes me want to do more. We may not always agree on every creative decision the other person makes, but it’s way better than being with someone who’s only response is, “That looks nice.”
Who are some of your favorite queens out there? Anyone you have not gotten to photograph yet that you are eager to get in front of your camera lens?
DA: I have so many favorites. Too many to pick! I am contractually bound to say Pissi Myles first, of course. But many of the queens in the Guise show are my favorites as well, and I always feel fortunate to work with them. As far as queens I’d like to shoot… I’d love to do shoots with queens like Lady Bunny, Coco Peru, Jackie Beat… I’d also love to work with Ben DeLaCreme, Ongina, Raven, Bianca Del Rio, Detox…There are so many! If I could just shoot queens all day, I’d be ecstatic.
You are also a fantastic illustrator and have such an eye for detail. When did you know that you would be taking your life in a direction that was steeped in creativity?
DA: Thank you! Since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be an “artist” of some kind. At the time my plans were to be the next Van Gogh and sell lots of paintings, and then I got my hands on a copy of Photoshop in high school and it changed everything. As a graphic designer I get to incorporate all of my creative passions together — illustration, photography, and typography. I get to design fun stuff for my day job, illustrate cool pins for Strange Ways, and photograph incredible queens — all in the same week! I also never really had any other skills, and the job of Batman is already taken. So. It was a clear choice, haha.
Would you like to continue to have more shows featuring your work? Any particular direction you would like to take your work?
DA: The idea of having a gallery show was terrifying for me; it’s always just been easier to hide behind doing work for other people. But now that I’m going through the process and I’m almost at the opening, I definitely have an itch to do more. While I was trying to figure out what to call the show, I thought of some other name ideas that were good, but didn’t quite fit. I’m already planning photos for those other show names! One direction I’ve been wanting to try is photographing wrestlers. I was a big fan as a kid and I feel like although it’s hyper-masculine, it’s just as performative and ridiculous as drag in a way.
From a photography standpoint, who are some of your influences?
DA: I have a long list, but I think my biggest influences are definitely David LaChapelle, Gregory Crewdson, and Lindsay Adler.
What’s next for you?
DA: I’m already in talks to bring Guise to another gallery later this year, which is so exciting! Right now I’m on track to graduate with my Master’s degree in August from SCAD, so that’ll continue to take up most of my time. I already have a bucket list of projects to start as soon as August is over though!