09 Jul 2011
One of my all time favourite queens whom I never, regretfully, had the delight to meet was Jerome Caja. A pioneer of the the current wave of art trash drag - way back in a San Francisco of the 1980s and ’90s. Caja was one of those scintillating and lapidary creatures that, though they live in our world, they are not of it. There is a scattering of images and work on the web, a handful of articles and a book or two - but you get the feeling that there is so much more that needs to be seen, heard and lived.
Caja's daily existence was the great levelling of all creatures; the expiration of shame and hubris; a sense of universal order from disorder. And all who witnessed were participants, captured by a Queen, themselves ruled by allegory, caricature, disguise - and the cutting away of disguise.
Caja had a prolific artistic output, especially painting. Yet these are no ordinary paintings. Often tiny, painted on lids or ashtrays, they involve layers and layers of nail varnish, mixed with many of the other bits and pieces any queen may find in the bottom of her drag bag - old nails, broken lashes, glue, plastic shards of something, disease, the ashes of a dead lover - that kind of thing. And the subject matter is as if Hieronymous Bosch and Goya have driven through the gay parade on a combine harvester stolen from the Vatican and then shrunk the resulting collage to exquisite cameo proportions. These artworks are as astonishing as they are beautiful, as confrontational as they are true, as hilarious as they are full of love. They are as prescient now as the day they were exhaled from Caja's iridescent mind. With titles like Eggs Having Turkey Dinner, Flossing with Jesus, Alice Jacking Off Her Rabbit, Charles Devouring Himself, and my absolute favourite painting in the world, Bozo Fucks Death.
Jerome Caja is one of the gaggle of drags in the photograph at the end of my previous post. It warms me to know that our very own New York Nelly correspondent for this blog, Miss Angelo, was once Caja’s room-mate. And through that New York Nelly, I feel the warm yellow glow of Caja’s odyssey.
If ever I wished for the protection of a patron saint - it would be Saint Jerome Caja.
Posted by Corky!