Opening Saturday, March 19th, from 6PM - 9PM
On view through Saturday, March 19th
Join us to celebrate the run of the exhibitions AUTHORING ALLURE by Erica McKeehen & IN TRANSITION by Daija Guy on Saturday March 19th from 6-9pm!
About AUTHORING ALLURE: “I perform burlesque because when I am on stage, I am finally the woman I always wanted to be… fully embracing her body, her identity, and being unapologetically herself.” — Miss NYXon, Chicago burlesque performer
In the winter of 2016, just after the Trump election, I was invited to my first burlesque show by my friend Kitty Tornado, who was a new local performer at the time. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would see — but more importantly, I was unsure how I would FEEL, confronted with sexuality that was both overt and celebratory when every morning I grimaced at my own reflection of enlarged pores, crooked teeth, and stretch marks. I don’t want to say that nudity and the female body made me uncomfortable, when held at a safe distance, but performing sexually or in the buff did seem like a scary phenomenon. Once performers took to the stage and began unraveling their individualized acts, I started to glean quite a bit of excitement from both the audience and the humans in the spotlight. One of the most compelling components of these performances was the music, which was blasting from multiple speakers, filling the dark room with everything from slow strippy showgirl jazz to aggressive rock and roll. I was most enthused that burlesque seemed to mean a lot of autonomy and choice — choice of costume, choice of choreography, choice of music, choice of emotional tone. I immediately saw the art form as something special, something personal, and something that seemed to breathe exhilaration into a space, enlivening everyone in it.
Fast forward to the following year; after taking several classes, I suddenly became a member of a local burlesque ensemble and found myself juggling rehearsals and performances every week. I was embedded in a community, and even though we no longer perform together, the people that I met through burlesque have become some of my closest confidants and truest friends. I have photographed several local performers since discovering and participating in burlesque, starting with Kitty Tornado, who first introduced me to performing.
These portraits have evolved over the years but my interests in identity, sexual expression, bodily autonomy, feminism, burlesque, and the broader scope of sex work have persisted. As I continue to make photographs about the burlesque community in Chicago, I work to demonstrate the transformative and deeply validating natures of sex work in general. Though some show minimal environments, all the portraits on display were made indoors, in private, with available light, and many were made in the performer’s home. I welcome the brief but intimate visual encounters with the performers and consider our work together a true collaboration in helping them be seen as vibrant, strong, confident, and unique. I also recognize the performative qualities of their individual presentations, even in a space with no stage and just me to bear witness. They show both vulnerability and sensuality. Athletes, dancers, singers, actors, artists — no matter their background before coming to burlesque, performers become consummate entertainers who carefully craft every component of their art and present their personas with powerful sincerity that is wholly worth our attention.
About IN TRANSITION: As humans, we are always evolving into a new state of being. This transformative state is what I capture. My self-portraits are exposed moments of my endless metamorphosis. Each image is a different version of myself at different stages in my life. These stages can be weeks, days, or months apart. No matter the length of “time”—there is change.
About DAIJA GUY: Daija Guy is a Chicago-based photographer and wheat-paste artist who captures moments and strips them down to their core, specializing in self-portraits, lifestyle and fashion.
She is bright, bubbly, fun and gets her inspiration from train rides, sunlight and pondering what’s under the surface of life. She creates to explore the endless shift of her being and uncover the truth that is within her.
About ERICA MCKEEHEN: @ericamckeehen (she/her) (b. 1987) is an American photographer raised on Coca-Cola and rock and roll in rural Bucyrus, Ohio who currently lives and works in Chicago. She received her BS in Commercial Photography from Ohio University, her MA in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago while working as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.
Guests must provide proof of vaccination and remain masked while in the space. A bar will be available for purchase. Interested in dining in Split-Rail before your visit? We recommend making a reservation.