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August 12, 2022

Andy Warhol’s “Ladies and Gentlemen”

Transgender women and drag queens were often the subjects of Andy Warhol’s work in the 1960s and early 1970s. For Ladies and Gentlemen, Warhol’s staff recruited most of these Black and Brown models from the Gilded Grape, a drag bar in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York. For $50 each, these performers agreed to sit for photographic sessions with an anonymous “friend” (Warhol). Those Polaroids served as the source images for the print series presented here.


To create his Ladies and Gentlemen series, Warhol took over 500 Polaroid photographs of 14 different models. By using a Polaroid camera to take photographs, it allowed him to capture images immediately and then share them with the model to decide together which ones they thought worked the best. A selection of were then enlarged onto silkscreens to create the artworks.

Equally, the Polaroid camera’s simplicity compared to a traditional film camera allowed for a more laid-back photoshoot setting and thus created more informal poses through spontaneity. The use of a Polaroid camera wasn’t limited to this series; however, often Warhol used this method to capture images of pop icons or paying customers. These models were not paying customers, though and instead were paid for their service. They were intended to be “impersonal” and “anonymous.”

Unfortunately, since this series was a commission, most of the models never saw the finished silkscreen portrait artworks of themselves (not knowingly at least) as the paintings were sent to the commissioner (Luciano Anselmino) right away. This also touches on the ethics of this series. Despite it being an exploration of performance and personality, it documents a community that Warhol was not a part of. The models had little say in the final outcome or where they would be shown.

Equally, the commissioner came up with the theatrical title and concept implies that they were less interested in the lived experience of the models and more about the dramatization of gender. Nonetheless, this series did (and still does) shine a light on the homosexual, drag and trans community that at the time was beginning to boldly embrace their sexuality despite the backlash.

Alphonso Panell

Andy Warhol – Ladies and Gentlemen: Alphanso Panell (1975)

After Wilhelmina Ross, Warhol made the largest number of portraits of Panell — 60 paintings out of seven Polaroids. Panell’s identity is known because she signed her Polaroid, with what is thought to be her birth name. Not much more is known about her.


Broadway

Andy Warhol – Ladies and Gentlemen: Broadway (1975)

Warhol created 19 paintings of Broadway from an original selection of 47 Polaroids. She signed one of her Polaroids but we know little more about her.


Helen/Harry Morales

Andy Warhol – Ladies and Gentlemen: Helen/Harry Morales (1975)

Morales signed one of her Polaroids as Helen Morales, and one as Harry Morales. Corey Tippin met Morales at the Gilded Grape. Warhol enjoyed Morales’s sitting so much that he asked her to return the following day, where she appeared without the bouffant wig. Warhol made 31 paintings of Morales and took 42 Polaroids.


Iris

Andy Warhol – Ladies and Gentlemen: Iris (1975)

During their photoshoot, Warhol took 36 Polaroids of Iris, three of which he went on to use for 26 paintings. While Iris did not sign her Polaroids, she has been identified by Corey Tippin, who knew Iris personally. We don’t know much about Iris’s life. She may have moved to Paris in 1977.


Lurdes

Andy Warhol – Ladies and Gentlemen: Lurdes (1975)

This painting is one of 28 portraits Warhol made of Lurdes. As with many of Warhol’s works from the early 1970s, he uses his fingers to mix areas of color. The orange silkscreen ink in this work makes the green background more visible, which makes it difficult to know which layer was added first.


Wilhelmina Ross

Andy Warhol – Ladies and Gentlemen: Wilhelmina Ross (1975)

Ross appears to have been Warhol’s favorite model for his Ladies and Gentlemen series. He made 73 paintings, based on seven Polaroids, 29 drawings, and five collage portraits of Ross. He also created five giant 10-foot canvases of her.


Marsha P. Johnson

Andy Warhol – Ladies and Gentlemen: Marsha P. Johnson (1975)

Marsha P. Johnson is the most famous subject in the Ladies and Gentlemen series, although Warhol only created two paintings of her. She was a fixture of the West Village scene and was often referred to as ‘Saint Marsha’ — when asked by a judge what the P. in her name stood for, she replied it stood for “Pay it no mind!”.

(This original article was written by Craig Berry, and published on Medium)




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