At the Heart of Art Gallery in south Los Angeles anything goes. A mannequin with six tits adorns the ceiling. Cult flicks cast an eerie glow from a stack of pixilated 12-inch vintage televisions. Loud and color-soaked artwork created by women and queer artists cover the walls, making this gallery a work of art in itself.
Founded in 2011 by wives and queer activists Kenia and Bell Diaz (Ms. 3 is her artist name), the gallery provides a welcoming and liberating space for women and queer artists—acting as both a gallery space for visual artists and a performance space for drag queens and musicians alike. The couple also operates a private animal rescue—Mr. Blue the rabbit can sometimes be spotted in the small outdoor patio behind the space.
Back in September, we caught up with Scarletta Le Terre, Selena Blackwater, RaRa Von D, Shea Coco, Mahaliah Nakita, and Jacked Danielz— queens who perform at the Heart of Art’s bi-weekly Queenz of Chaos drag show, as they prepped for their performances and dished about their experiences in the drag community.
Drag is much more than a man dressed up as a woman. Instead, it’s a unique art form with an endless amount of possibilities for self-expression and artistic freedom; from queens who sing live, to ones who strip, to performers who pierce themselves on stage. Drag runs the gamut from campy or comedic lip-syncing to emotionally driven performance art. Some queens simply perform as a hobby. Many sew their own costumes entirely from scratch. Others dream of someday being on the televised drag competition RuPaul’s Drag Race that exposed and, to a certain extent, normalized drag in popular culture.
Drag blurs the gender binary and liberates an individual from their given identity—you create a persona for yourself and embody your own creation.
Every queen has her own individual beat—for Selena, it’s outer-space themed performances and outfits. For Scarletta, a self-proclaimed “punk princess” who hosted the show that evening, it’s singing live.
While drag queens perform primarily at gay bars and nightclubs all over southern California, the Heart of Art provides a more intimate space for performers to hone their craft, and for audience members to fully appreciate it.
As Selena says, “It’s about being something completely different from what you are.”