A conversation with Clayton Patterson at Tompkins Square Library

July 12, 2017

On Wednesday, July 12th, Esopus hosted a conversation between artist, documentarian, and community activist (and Lower East Side legend) Clayton Patterson and editor Tod Lippy nat the Tompkins Square branch of the New York Public Library. The evening centered on Patterson’s "Pyramid Portraits," his stunning photographs of the inventive drag performers at New York’s legendary Pyramid Club in the mid-1980s, a selection of which are featured in Esopus 24

“Up to that point, drag had been about referencing movie stars like Bette Davis or Judy Garland,” notes Patterson in an accompanying interview in the issue, “but the queens at the Pyramid Club invented entirely fictitious characters.” Those characters, embodying everything from space aliens to goth punks to suburban housewives, were created by performers including Tabboo, Hapi Phace, Sun PK [aka Peter Kwaloff], RuPaul, Maze, John Sex, Lypsinka, John Kelly, and International Chrysis, all of whom posed regularly for Patterson’s portraits. The photos, which were taken by Patterson in the dressing room of the club over the course of several years, chart the boundless creativity of these artists, who, with little or no money, managed every week to create new personas, each more outrageous and compelling than the one before. 

The conversation between Patterson and Lippy was accompanied by a number of visuals, including a range of other photographs by Patterson of the Lower East Side. Audience members brought questions (and memories!) for an open discussion afterward. 

This event was part of an ongoing partnership between Esopus and the New York Public Library.