Debbie


By Corinna ‘Mermaid’ Tomrley

 

When Debbie Harry confirmed that she is bisexual and had indeed had those rumoured affairs with women, queer girls’ hearts rejoiced across the land. Of course we don’t need confirmation that a star is queer to fancy them, or for them to even be queer, but it’s nice if they do come out, yes? ‘Women are more sensual’, cooed our Deb. Oh, my but we’re flushed… and damp…

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Debbie Harry at 71 is as hot a goddess as she’s always been. Hotter. She is one of the superstars who is incomparable to anyone else (indeed Blondie were unlike anyone else) and who will always have a huge impact on the culture, no matter what she does.

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He style, her attitude, her sexiness. Oh. Mah. Gawd. Debbie, we love you ❤

Debbie was punk and disco and old Hollywood and slut chic and believed she was the adopted child of Marilyn Monroe. She was pushed down your throat partially dressed hyper sexuality that if you dared touch uninvited she’d kick you in the teeth. Now she is advanced style fuck age appropriate in your face drop dead gorgeous goddess fierceness. Debbie Harry, we love you ❤

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Fun fact: Debbie is one of a group of uber fabulous divas who are 70/71: Cher, Dolly, Liza all turned 70 this year and Bette Midler is also 70 (she’ll be 71 in December). So what was it about the years 1945 and 1946 that produced such queer icons, we wonder? Cuz also born then were Divine, John Waters, Goldie Hawn, Priscilla Presley, Jaclyn Smith, Susan Tyrell, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Susan Sarandon, Suzanne Sommers, Patty Duke…

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Ethel Loves… Adrian+Shane


 

When Adrian+Shane appeared in the first issue of Loverboy Magazine I was instantly smitten. Their art continues to delight, seduce and intrigue. With Judy and Liza being subjects of their work and ideas of queerness and identity at the forefront I needed to discover more about this amazing art partnership.

Corinna: I’m going out on limb and presuming you are a romantic couple as well as an artistic partnership? If so, what came first love or art or did both crash together at the same time?

Adrian+Shane: Haha, yes, you’re right to presume we’re a couple. Love came first. The art was never planned. We met at Christmas 1997. Shane was studying at the Glasgow School of Art and I was still living in Ireland. A month and a half after we first met I visited him in Glasgow for Valentines weekend and bought a massive bottle of Absolut vodka in the airport on my way. One evening, we sat on the floor of his student flat listening to the Spice Girls and getting drunk on the vodka. I began doodling in a sketch pad, then I passed it to Shane and he painted on top of my drawing. We passed it back and forth. This was the beginning of our collaboration. Over the weekend we filled ten pages in the pad with drawings, paintings and collage. We’ve still never shown them to anyone. The following year we had our first Adrian+Shane exhibition

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C: How does your work life balance pan out?

A+S: After the gym every morning we drive to our studio. We usually have a brief meeting to decide what needs to be done and we spend the day working on it. We finish at around 7pm depending on what we’re working on. If we’re in the middle of a big project we’ll work until midnight. Then do it all over again the next day. We generally work 7 days a week. We get a break when we go on holiday.

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C: Do you have a pretty solid and consistent vision as Adrian+Shane or do you, as two separate artists, have differences where you have to drop an idea because it’s not where you both want to go?

A+S: In general we both know what Adrian+Shane is and we have very similar likes aesthetically. But every now and then one of us will have an idea that the other doesn’t like. When that happens we either make adjustments to the idea or we bin it and move on.

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C: Your piece ‘I Was A Gay Child’ is so stunning and resonates for so many queer boys, I am sure. Is this strictly a gendered piece though, do you think? I was considering it in terms of being a queer woman and wondering what I’d depict for my own gay childhood. I wasn’t a ‘tomboy’ (shudder at THAT word, but you know what I mean, I hope…). I think I’d have Lynda Carter, Daisy Duke and Cat Woman in the background for mine but I don’t know what toy I’d have in the foreground.  Probably a Barbie tbh because I coveted them and all I had was my sister’s hand me down flat footed Sindy who was horse-crazy and Sloany. I couldn’t relate. I craved the glamour of old Hollywood and girlie things that spoke to me from within my queerness. Or I’d have a Spirograph because I used to think of Busby Berkeley chorus girl formations as I twiddled it… What are your thoughts on my rambling explanation here in terms of queer formativity, childhood and gender? And I’m thinking of it all from outside the binary as well…

A+S: We love the way you think. When we make art it’s generally from our own perspective. We grew up secretly fantasising about other boys/men and sometimes wanting to play with girls’ toys. It might be interesting to do a version of it from a queer girl’s point of view.

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C: Can we talk about ‘Judy Fucking Garland’? I adore this piece and not just because I’m a card carrying Judy nut (in every sense, darlings). It encapsulates the deification of Judy – classically understood as The Gay Men’s Personal Diva. But also, for me, sums up the cultish deification by The Good Judy Fans – those who will not see her personified and portrayed as anything but fun, pure, happy, sexless. The fact that you have the word ‘fucking’ in there will piss off a lot of them and that makes me particularly happy… anyway, I digress (as I usually do on the topic of Judy). Your JFG is one of the best pieces of Garland art I’ve seen because it has a multitude of readings but is also simply joyous. What are you exploring through this and the related Liza piece?

A+S: We fucking love Judy. As little Irish gay boys we grew up watching her on TV every Christmas in The Wizard Of Oz. About a year ago we had the idea of using the line “Judy Fucking Garland” in a painting or T-shirt. After creating several designs we were dissatisfied with, we put the idea on the back burner and every now and then we’d return to it between working on other projects. Catholic imagery has always played a part in our work and combining the text with an image of the Virgin Mary gave it a whole new meaning. It’s powerful. The paintings were exhibited in a show in Dublin in June 2015 and caused a lot of controversy. The gallery received letters from life long customers demanding that the paintings be removed etc. Meanwhile the T-shirts we made depicting the same image have been flying off the shelves.

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C: Some – unimaginative – people might not quite see how pop art and pop culture can be used to explore social commentary but it’s there in your manifesto and I definitely see it in your work. I think the subversiveness of camp is very, very underrated and one of our main weapons and tools. Can you say something about how your art takes on social critique and explores identity? There’s a particularly powerful thematic blurring of catholic and queer iconology there, too.

A+S: Pop art and social commentary go hand in hand as far as we’re concerned. Pop art was always about reflecting what was going on in society. That’s what we like to do, hold a mirror up and show off the ridiculous. We like to burst bubbles, including our own and try to disturb what’s comfortable. People get set in their ways and don’t like change and anything different.

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C: Madonna is an artist who excels on stage: discuss (I used to work at the Astoria in the 90s. I can’t believe that they actually got Madonna for G-A-Y. Gutted I missed that. Adore your video piece that came from it). In your opinions, is she still as powerful up there on the boards as she was in her Blonde Ambition/Girlie Show heyday?

A+S: We love her. She still has plenty to say. We just saw her current tour “Rebel Heart Tour” and she has just as much energy as she’s ever had. People have been bashing her for years. It’s so ridiculous that she’s criticised for being 57 when in fact she should be celebrated. I guess it’ll take her death for the masses to examine her career and really appreciate how fucking incredible she is.

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C: Your work ‘It takes balls to be a fairy’ challenges the stupid anti-sissy mentality in gay culture and celebrates the nancy boy instead. Is this something that’s particularly relevant to your artistic voice and message?

A+S: Growing up in an environment where boys were boys, played football and were masculine. If you didn’t match that stereotype you were singled out. Even now within the gay community “feminine” guys are looked down on. We love embracing these words that are used to bash and humiliate gays. Words that have been used against us. Taking them back, owning them and using them in a positive way. Queer, fairy, homo, faggot, poof, queen. We love them. ’It Takes Balls To Be A Fairy’ is by far our most popular T-shirt.

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Interview by Corinna Tomrley

Read more about Adrian+Shane in Loverboy issue 1

 

Ethel Loves… Punchy Players!


The Internet is – of course – full of wonderful things. Still, just when you think you’ve seen it all there is even now the occasional surprise and the occasional gem. Then there is something so superb that you realise that there was a little gap in your heart and soul that was just waiting for this thing to come along and take up residency. That’s what happened when we first saw a Punchy Players video. So brilliant, so funny, so GOOD; were we not guffawing so hard we’d say we were speechless. The genii behind Punchy Players are Chris and Jeff who have an obvious love and affection for their subjects. We know from our fellow Hollywood-obsessed queers-n-queens on the Interwebs (including some of our very own Mermates) that there is quite the hardcore obsessive following for Punchy Players – as well there should be. As much as we constantly need more Punchy Players for that spot we have reserved for them, we also needed to know all about the PP world. So grab your Cream of Wheat, your Mounds, your Joys and your good powdered donuts and enter with us into the day-to-day worlds of your favourite Golden Hollywood divas.

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How did the idea for the first Punchy Players film come about?

CHRIS: Jeff and I share a similar sense of humor and admired many of the same classic stars and TV shows. We would laugh a lot together and make up dialog when watching TV or just talking about our favorites. I told Jeff that I felt there was a project we could do together, and that our combined abilities could create something fun, but I wasn’t sure what it would be. One day Jeff was singing the old Cream of Wheat product jingle as Judy Garland. It was hilarious. I told him to record it and I would put some visuals together for it and share it on youtube. We’ve done quite a few more episodes since that one, but “Judy’s Cream of Wheat” continues to be a favorite.

JEFF: We each contribute equally to the ideas and the lines for each episode. In general I oversee the audio and Chris oversees the visual production.

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We like to think of the Punchy Players going around doing Judy, Liza and Ann Miller impressions all the live long day. Are we close?

JEFF: Yes, this is actually quite accurate. We find ourselves speaking as these characters in a variety of real life situations.

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Exactly how many hours of The Judy Garland Show has been watched to perfect that impression? And what do you love about her?

JEFF: I have been fascinated by all things Judy since I was four years old. I have every episode of her TV show committed to memory. She is a complete original. Her persona is so warm, unique, and delicious she is almost indescribable. As much as I love her singing. I have always been entertained by her way with words.

CHRIS: Judy had such a beautiful quality that was so rare and perfect. She was a combination of so many things. She could do it all. Jeff does such a wonderful, spirited impression of her. He emphasizes her fun side. I really like that.

Do you don an Ann Miller wig when recording the dialogue (she hopes…)?

CHRIS: I try to make Jeff wear one but he said it itches and is way too heavy.

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Part of our staunch fandom of Ann Miller (apart from the wigs) is her aggressive defence of hyper-glamour. What do you love about her?

JEFF: What I love about her is that she holds nothing back. She is very honest. In spite of being wacky and funny, in nearly every interview I have seen with her, she has a longing for the Old Hollywood system that kept stars looking their sparkly and spangly best.

CHRIS: Ann always looks her best and goes around with her microphone, even in her house. She’s always ready for her public.

How do you decide which divas to use in your films?

JEFF: There are two factors involved. First is, who do we love. Second, and I often wish this was not so, it comes down to who can we imitate.

CHRIS: Yes, we try to include our favorites. They are a great motivation and joy.

Who might we see in future episodes? Any old-school/current diva crossovers?

JEFF: Someone we both adore who has not yet made an appearance is Doris Day. We are trying to work her into a future episode.

CHRIS: We haven’t done as much with current divas mostly because we are such big fans of the old-school ones.

You made a film especially for a Judy Garland fan event, ‘Judy in Hollywood’. How did that come about? And so… ehem… do you take requests? (Cough… Ethel Merman… cough) 😉 ❤ xxx

JEFF: Judy in Hollywood was a request from a friend of author Coyne Steven Sanders. Steve happened to be a friend of mine who wrote the definitive book about Judy’s television series called “Rainbow’s End”. When his friend asked us to create a special video for his Judy fan event, we were honored. It was meant to be a surprise for him. I slipped and told him we were planning it and he was excited. The sad part is that Steve died suddenly, and never saw the finished product. We dedicated the piece to him.

CHRIS: “Audrey Airlines” was a request from a friend as well. We’ve received several requests from fans and we may surprise them with one or two in the future.

We’ve been reliably informed by our Mermates that lines from Punchy Players films get quoted on an almost daily basis (example: “I looked behind the dresser and there was Howard Keel!”): did you know this? How do you feel about this? Was it part of your ultimate goal to have people pretending to be Judy Garland snooping around Ann Miller’s house?

CHRIS: We quote our favorites from the comedies and stars we love, so to hear that people have fun quoting the lines we have written is very flattering. One person said he went into a store and started doing the lines and singing about candy bars as Judy. Too funny! Some have said that thinking about the dialog often has them laughing in waiting areas or in situations where they wouldn’t normally be laughing, causing others to wonder. We’re honored and glad that we’ve brought some smiles and laughs.

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Did you expect the cult following you’ve built on the back of these films?

JEFF: I think Chris always had a bigger vision for Punchy Players. My nature is to be more skeptical, and I actually worried that people might not understand what we were spoofing. I am happy I was wrong.

CHRIS: I’m not sure I expected quite the reception that our productions have gotten, but I did sense the irresistible possibilities of such a project. It’s great to connect with all of you who enjoy the comedy and love the same classic personalities and entertainers that we do. Fans of Punchy Players have been so friendly and we’re happy to have heard from so many lovely people.

Most of the featured talent in your films are no longer with us but some are, such as Miss Julie Andrews and Miss Liza Minnelli. Do you know if they are aware of your work? Would a Miss Andrews Herself or Miss Minnelli Herself cameo be a dream for the future?

JEFF: I would be thrilled to hear that they approve. I would also not ever want to offend them in any way, and we have put a lot of work into having these stars maintain their dignity. We love them, after all.

CHRIS: We’ve enjoyed putting these pieces together because we’re such admirers of these stars. If one of them did make a cameo at some point, yes, it would be a dream come true and you’d have to pick me up off the floor.

Could an extension of Punch yPlayers films perhaps be an actual Ann Miller Frog Collection? Just for me? Please? Think of the revenue you would rake in…

JEFF: Isn’t that Frog hilarious? The first time I saw that Chris’ visual of that wig on the frog’s head, I laughed myself sick.

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If you could live (perhaps briefly, to consider your nerves) with any of the Punchy characters, who would top your list?

JEFF: I am afraid if I lived with any of them my illusions might be shattered, but I have always wanted to sit and laugh with Judy Garland. I would not say no to meeting or knowing any of them.

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CHRIS: If I had a choice to spend time with one of them, I think I’d have to choose Julie Andrews since I’m such a fan of hers. I think that one of the reasons I thought of concepts like Judy Garland in a grocery store, is that I’ve often daydreamed of how fun it would be to just hang out with favorite stars in everyday situations. I know that many people, including us, feel that our favorite celebrities and shows are like old friends that bring us comfort. Punchy Players is a way to live those moments and spend more time with those we enjoy, even if just in make-believe.

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Punchy Players on YouTube

Punchy Players on facebook

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Ethel Loves Wayne Hollowell


We at The Ethel Mermaids love a good recommendation. People who’ve hung out with us or hung out on our facebook page get a pretty good idea of our sensibilities. So when Mermate Jussi recommended artist Wayne Hollowell to me, Corinna Mermaid, we knew that our message had solidly permeated our devoted Ethelites. We haven’t been this excited about an artist in a very long time. I immediately invited Wayne to become an Honorary Mermaid by featuring him here on Mermania. We like to support, profile and chat with kindred spirits. Wayne is certainly that. But also, so much more. His art depicts those we love but in such a way as to truly tap into the Ethel Mermaids’ ethos: camp, queer, New Kitsch from old kitsch and a celebration of the spirit of the Diva and high-gay icon. With his new show ‘Drama Queen’ opening on the 26th June in New York’s Michael Mut Gallery, the timing could not be more perfect to share with The World of Ethel the work and the amazing artist who is Wayne Hollowell.

Describe your journey to becoming an artist?

I grew up in rural North Carolina the only son of a preacher and a teacher (I had 3 sisters). I was BLESSED to have parents who did not question my obsession with Streisand at age six! I cannot remember a time when I was not drawing. I also was lucky to find a best friend in 6th grade named Zane who shared my Hollywood obsessions! We spent hours pouring over the latest movie magazines, obsessing over CHARLIE’S ANGELS and wearing out Donna Summer albums! My mom and dad sacrificed so much to send me to North Carolina School of the Arts in the 11th and 12th grade where I had the greatest teacher Clyde Fowler (he is quite a legend). He introduced me to Warhol and even better John Waters. Again, my mom and dad somehow found a way to send me to Atlanta college of Art and while I cannot say I learned that much from the teachers there I did learn a lot from my friends (including RuPaul who lived near the school).

Liz Taylor Virginia Woolfe by Wayne Hollwell Acrylic on canvas 36x36
Liz Taylor Virginia Woolfe by Wayne Hollwell Acrylic on canvas 36×36

You made some amazing art films with Rupaul – how did that working relationship come about?

I had kind of lost interest in painting and was thinking I wanted to be a director. I cast RuPaul in several video movies which we would premiere at the local clubs. He was so fun and great to work with and was just full of pop culture knowledge. We really worked our butts off making those movies and it was just so much fun! Ru was always a star! We made “Mahogany 2” and I did this epic called “Comes the Blood” about a girl born with the head of a hog in turn of the century GA who is in love with her gorgeous brother. It was totally inspired by “The Color Purple” but I am sure Ms. Alice Walker would not have been amused. I went to NYU film school for one year but I just really could not afford it. I spent 14 years in NYC just sowing my wild oats, waiting tables, working in a leather bar, a hotel – you name it! All the while, feeling so frustrated that I was not doing what I was meant to do, which was to be an artist. It took a while to get to the point (I’m in my mid-40s) where I finally gave in and just said “this is IT… you are going to do this… do what you were BORN to do” (years of OPRAH finally sunk in to my brain). So now I live in Virginia, very dull and I cannot wait for the weekends when I can open my pinot grigio, put on my Max Steiner soundtracks and paint my Hollywood idols and the characters that have haunted and fascinated me since childhood.

Bette Davis Margot Channing by Wayne Hollowell Acrylic on Canvas 36x36
Bette Davis Margot Channing by Wayne Hollowell Acrylic on Canvas 36×36

In the statement for your new show, Drama Queen, you twin camp with tragedy in relation to the women you depict. This really spoke to me: I’ve long been fascinated by how the tragic diva is intrinsic in gay iconology. It’s part of what draws us to them but it’s still hard to put a finger on why they fascinate. For The Ethel Mermaids bad art is about camp, kitsch and queer. It’s also about a true joy and love for the subjects. It’s affectionate as well as being sometimes humorous. When I think about the queerness of bad art it’s the queering, a queer subversion. And the subjects were usually queerly subversive in themselves. Does that make sense to you in terms of your art, your interest in these stars and characters, and what attracts you to these subjects?

I think I am the living proof that we are BORN gay and I do believe we share a special love and appreciation for art, camp, tragic divas, beauty and fun that is almost universal.

I remember the first time I saw “A Streetcar Named Desire” when I was 11 on the late movie! Even though I didn’t totally understand it I was quoting Blanche, absolutely obsessed with her (the trampy teacher seducing her students in a run down motel). My friend Zane was equally obsessed and we set out to see everything with Tennessee Williams’ name attached to it. I don’t know what it is that attracts us to these characters and the actresses that bring them to life but I know it is something a lot of gays respond to. I have facebook friends in Brazil that are obsessed with Joan Crawford.

My mom tried to make me play junior high football but NO WAY was I having that, lol. Child I was in my room listening to Barbra belt the love theme from “Eyes of Laura Mars” over and over and drawing pictures of Faye Dunaway!

You’re an incredible, accomplished artist. Would you align your recent work in any way to the Bad Art work that the Mermaids do?

Wow! Thanks so much! I try to capture the sadness that draws me to these characters and also the camp which I love. I spend so much time alone painting but I LOVE every minute of it. I am the worst at drawing and each painting has about 15 versions underneath the final image. My sister Mary is a genius and always can tell me what is off about my drawings. I really could not do these without her. She gives me so many wonderful suggestions (the stars on the Little Edie painting were her idea). It’s just part of my process to consult with her, draw, re-draw until somehow I get the image Ok. I’m always amazed that I get it to look like who I am trying to paint. It’s always a struggle to get the eyes even, the nose correct, I am just a mess with proportions and I cannot draw ears and hands lol. I love the work you guys are doing. I think there is such a sense of fun and freedom and celebration in it! I hope my work conveys those same qualities! I think we both share a sincere love of our subject matter and so glad we are keeping these great ladies and characters alive through our art!

Oprah Vajayjay by Wayne Hollowell Acrylic on Canvas 36x36
Oprah Vajayjay by Wayne Hollowell Acrylic on Canvas 36×36

If you could have one of your subjects (alive, dead, character, your choice) sit for you in real life, who would you choose and in what setting?

I would choose Truman Capote! I just love him! I think he had such a wit and would have just been hilarious! I love he had martinis for breakfast and was such a gossip! The second subject would be a young Marlon Brando and I would do an extensive collection of nudes! Although Crawford is my favorite subject/muse, I think she would have intimidated me!

I’m relatively new to any kind of art scene and so far The Mermaids is it for me. Is there a gay/queer art scene either in your community, the US and/or online?)

I have found several wonderful artists on facebook who work in similar subject matter. Rocky Helminski and Mark Ritchfield are fantastic artists and a lot of their work celebrates the idols of old Hollywood. I don’t think it’s really “pop” art, I would say it’s kind of “pop” expressionism as I think our work has more feeling and emotion than “pop”, which tends to be kind of cold. I have been so amazed at the response to my work and it seems people really do enjoy the fun, the pathos, everything I am trying to put in it!

My first NYC show is 26-30 June at Michael Mut Gallery so my fingers are crossed! I’m so thankful to Michael Mut as well. I went and met him about my show and he was just so cool. He showcases a great roster of artists (George Towne is following me with a one man show) so I am humbled and so excited to be showing there! There are lots of great gay artists I have connected with just on facebook. The Leslie Lohman museum is a great resource and gallery!

Liza Minelli by Wayne Hollowell Acrylic on Canvas 36x36
Liza Minnelli by Wayne Hollowell Acrylic on Canvas 36×36

What’s next for Mr Hollowell?

I am doing two new series at the moment. The first is called “the GAY SAINTS” and is a series of portraits of great gay men and women who truly changed our world. From Harvey Milk to Bayard Rustin to Capote and Nureyev. I have around 12 done to date and I am planning on the series being about 50 portraits. I want it to be our collective KISS OUR ASSES to the DC monsters like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Boehner all our “leaders” who fight so hard to DENY gay men and women basic human rights (although they sure do not mind taking our tax money to fund their wars). I also want it to be a series that young gay teenagers can see and be filled with PRIDE and inspiration!

The second series I am working on is called “LONESOME COWBOYS” (a nod to Warhol’s film) but it’s a collection of homoerotic cowboy paintings of some of Hollywood’s tragic cowboys and of course the camp figures. Joe Buck, Jack Twist, Montgomery Clift in “Red River” and of course, Joan Crawford (my favorite cowboy) in “Johnny Guitar”.

I also want to do more figure work. The artists that truly inspire me are Rocky Helminski, McDermott and McGough, Warhol and Alice Neel. My dream is to just be able to paint full time and I am working hard to make that happen.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am so thankful to be an artist. I am thankful for the friends, teachers and my amazing mother who pushed and encouraged me. It’s not the easiest path but I am so thankful it is mine. I just look forward to making more art! As OPRAH said on her last show “To God be the Glory”! I LOVE Oprah as you can tell lol.

You can catch Wayne Hollowell’s show ‘Drama Queen’ at Michael Mut Gallery, New York City, 26-30 June. See more of Wayne’s work on his Web site and his facebook art page.

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