In such an unabashed celebration of self-expression, photography righteously takes center stage, either sneaking into eccentric performances of L.A.’s avant-garde theatre and film circles or illustrating fierce misfits posing for the camera. Steven Arnold captures Meza under dramatic make-up in a black and white photograph of a staged and propped moment from 1983; Laura Aguilar’s Plush Pony portrait series from the early 90s chronicles lesbian life through a bunch of regulars frequenting the namesake bar in the Eastside of Los Angeles; or Tosh Carrillo’s intimate never-before-seen images of his friends and lovers manifest the queer life outside stage glamour in domestic settings.
For a little more funk, stop by the stills from Judith F. Baca’s 1976 performance Vanity Table, in which Baca subverts Chicana stereotypes in her hyperbolic gestures. Snaps of L.A.’s underground music scene of four decades ago prove the inherent alliance of queer and punk, affixing the Latinx influence on the era’s grungy figures, such as the Bags and Nervous Gender.
Not to be overlooked are Meza’s large-scale paintings ranging from a homoerotic merman to a bundle of abstract curves, rendered not quite differently from another with equal emphasis on the unexpected vibrancy of black and grey as well as the sensuality attributed to form. The absence of vibrant colors in these paintings refers to his diagnosis as HIV positive in the early 80s.