Identity

13 Surreal Portraits of Post-Human Creature Drag

Bay Area artist and performer Jader specializes in full-body interspecies transformations.

by Sarah Burke
Oct 25 2018, 8:09pm

"Dawn of Civil Twilight." Model: Hana Lily. Courtesy Jader. 

Jader isn't interested in being human. The Bay Area drag performance artist, make-up magician, costume creator, and portraitist dedicates his artistic practice to transforming into apocalyptic humanoids, campy aliens, retro-futurist mutant housewives, and anthropomorphic medieval royalty. A fixture at the unorthodox San Francisco drag-adjacent party Creature, and a member of performance group Toxic Waste Face (who will be performing at Art Basel this year), Jader's looks are constantly changing and are far from traditional high-femme drag. "As someone who is a double Cancer and very tied to my emotions, it allows me to really express how I’m feeling at that time in my life," Jader tells Broadly. "Sometimes, it's a lot more rooted in retro-futurism 60s psychedelia mixed with a post-apocalyptic tinge; sometimes it's a lot more goth and grunge and industrial. It really just depends on the day.”

Often utilizing full-body special effects make-up and prosthetics, Jader's looks startle, haunt, and sometimes provoke utter disgust—a reaction that he relishes. For him, it's not just about outlandish costumes; it's about unapologetically expressing his queerness—and in the process, expanding our conceptions of bodies, gender, and species, and flipping beauty on its abject head. "When I was younger I was never that confident and self-righteous, but now, as an adult, I feel like I’ve been different for so long that I've begun to find it really excited," says Jader. "I would never want to fit in. I want to stand out. I want to be bold. I want to make a statement... I want to create something that no one has seen before, I want to create something that so uniquely me, that it is my voice translated visually.

"I think back on the times in history that I have felt really connected to in terms of people doing things that were just so next level—like the excess of the 80s or the Berlin cabaret scene—and how, so often, that was a direct response against the oppression of that time," he adds. "And I think right now, so many of us feel so uncertain about the future; feel so terribly oppressed; feel like we’re not being seen. So if I have that confidence to come out and do this, it makes me feel like we are being seen. We are standing up in the face of people telling us to be small, to be invisible, to be quiet and instead being loud and being mighty and being huge."

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"Sugar Baby." Self portrait.
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"Nickel and Dimed by the Quarterback Sneak." Model: Alessa Schmalbach.
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"Immaculate Rejection." Model: Jillian Gnarling.
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"Dawn of Civil Twilight." Model: Hana Lily.
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"Crypsis." Model: Saturn Risin9.
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"The Same Song on Repeat Forever." Self portrait; "Mutanull." Self-portrait in collaboration with Toxic Waste Face.
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"Invisible Island." Model: Tyler Holmes; "Good Sport." Model: Tyler Holmes.
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"A Peach Cobbler Called Cheyenne." Model: Skin; "Cavity." Self-portrait.
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"Ambassadors of the Council For Interspecies Relations." Models: Jader and Skin; "Barnyard Royalty." Model: Jader and Skin.