The evolution of this half dance, half illusion show is showcased through a series of artwork, personal photos, rare vintage footage and costumes and will be on display through the summer to provide a glimpse into the past life of an art form that is enjoying a resurgence in today’s modern world.
As early as 1880, burlesque was performed as a means to an end for financial and economic reasons, so a woman could support herself and her family. But now and especially since the 1990s, burlesque is a form of expression that draws men and women to live shows, and draws even larger crowds to box office hits.
“Contemporary burlesque performers draw upon the craft of their ancestors|Photograph of Blaze Starr, Unknown Artist, c. 1950] to create art that centers on the sexual body, using the removal of clothing to make social and political commentary, celebrate creative self-expression, as well as promote a culture of female sexual empowerment and body appreciation,” says Sarah Forbes, curator at the Museum of Sex.
The Nudie Artist: Burlesque Revealed features select objects from the 1880s to the 1950s in the form of photography, fine art, and film. My particular favorites are the original photographs from Leland Bobbé, who along his wife Robin Bobbé, worked collaboratively with burlesque performers to craft portraits, which removed them from the stage and exposed them as individuals. The art of burlesque is to always remain an illusion, but through his pictures you see past the performer and into the art of their personality. Soon enough, nudity is the last thing in the photo that you even recognize.
|I See Red, by Amber Ray, 2010]Footage from Behind the Burly Q, a film by Leslie Zemeckis, runs on a loop in the exhibition. The film features interviews and back stage moments with musicians, authors, strippers, club owners, and explores the personalities of burlesque from this era. Making an appearance in the film are Tempest Storm, Blaze Starr, Dixie Evans, and Alan Alda.
It’s all about self-expression, and bringing together a high point in the exhibition is Luma Rouge, who used her background in fashion and dance to capture her audience and relay to them her intensity in her illustrations. The drawings are bold and daring images, yet despite the nude subjects, the absolute beauty in these drawings is suitable for personal pleasure, or in this case, a museum.