“Paris Is Burning” hosted by Gerard Gaskin

January 17, 2015 - 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

PARIS IS BURNING (1990) (71min)

As a closing event for our current exhibition, Trans*cending Gender, we are proud to host the film Paris Is Burning and equally proud to have local author/photographer Gerard Gaskin as our host.

Paris Is Burning is an American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. The film is considered to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, and critics have praised it as a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America. Most of the film alternates between footage of balls and interviews with prominent members of the scene, including Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, Angie Xtravaganza, and Willi Ninja. Many of the contestants vying for trophies are representatives of “Houses” (in the fashion-brand sense, such as “House of Chanel”) that serve as intentional families, social groups, and performance teams. Houses and ball contestants who consistently won in their walks eventually earned a “legendary” status.

Jennie Livingston, who was a NYU film student and who spent seven years making Paris Is Burning, concentrated on interviews with key figures in the ball world, many of whom contribute monologues that shed light on the ball culture as well as on their own personalities. In the film, titles such as “house,” “mother,” and “reading” emphasize how the subculture the film depicts has taken words from the straight and white worlds, and imbued them with alternate meanings, just as the “houses” serve as surrogate families for young ball-walkers whose sexual orientations have sometimes made acceptance and love within their own families hard to come by.

Author of LEGENDARY: Inside the House Ballroom Scene.

“Gaskin’s awareness of the effect the performers have on the audience is a crucial aspect of his vision. Through his lens, he conveys the showmanship these actors and artists exude, their knowingness of the spectacle created by their flair. . . . He shows us the power the performers have to reveal themselves through spectacle, to challenge viewers to recognize this display of selfhood. Regardless of our walks of life, we are all looking for safe spaces to express ourselves. Legendary allows us to bear witness to a group of people who are courageous enough to create their safe space.”—Deborah Willis, from her introduction

Gerard H. Gaskin a native of Trinidad and Tobago earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Hunter College in 1994. As a freelance Photographer his work is widely published in newspapers and magazines in the United States and abroad including; The New York Times, Ebony, King, Teen People and Caribbean Beat. Gaskin’s photographs have also been featured in solo and group exhibitions across the country and abroad including The Brooklyn Museum, The Queens Museum of Arts, Goethe-Institute Accra, Accra, Ghana and Imagenes Havana: Habana Vieja, Cuba. His work is represented in the permanent collections of The Museum of the City of New York and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. His first full book “Legendary: Inside House Ballroom Scene”. Gaskin’s has won many important awards, grants and residences in 2012 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize, 2010 Light Work’s Arts-in-Residence in Syracuse, NY. 2002 he was awarded The New York Foundation for the Arts Artist fellowship for Photography.

Free to the Public