Alina is a Latina drag queen, and when she comes bounding onstage at New Moon Bar in Wilton Manors, her alter ego is "Amuse Bouche," an alienlike performer dolled up in a milk-white mask of makeup and black latex. Her partner, although they never perform together, is Jessie, who drags as a man with a white shirt, mustache, soul patch and sideburns.
The Hollywood drag entertainers, photographed together in a seductive pose, are part of photographer Kim Cohane's exhibit "Our Faces: Our Youth Tell Us Their Stories," a nine-image chronicle of LGBTQ creative types living in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. But to Cohane — who's not a photographer but works in social-media marketing in Broward — the performers are close friends, each using drag as a creative outlet and as a catharsis.
"Alina has a lot of difficulty with stage fright, so she uses the medium of drag to overcome that shyness," says the Wilton Manors resident, 36, who identifies her subjects by first name only to "preserve privacy because they don't want to be completely outed."
"This is how you're supposed to see them," Cohane says, "in a creative moment, when they're at their most expressive, when they're feeling their most exhilarated. That's what I wanted to capture."
"Our Faces" will debut with a preview opening on Feb. 21 at the Stonewall Museum and National Archives in Fort Lauderdale before its official run from March 1 to March 15. Cohane, who has volunteered for LGBT nonprofit groups since age 17, says her photo project, begun last year, sought out guitarists, painters, writers and pianists whose "creative energy inspires me and everyone around them." The resulting text-and-photo series is stamped with the sort of empowering overtures — sexual freedom, resilience over "labels," an emphatic optimism for one's own gender identity — that Cohane has tried to foster for two decades.
Each photo is overlaid with the artist's personal statement. The guitarist "Wolf," who identifies as a "non-op transguy" with a "passion for stencil art and spray paint," is depicted here in a moment of revelry clutching a guitar with a lightning bolt on the strap. "It's one of my favorites," Cohane says. "It's pure expression, that joy in his face. The lightning bolt is sort of like an exclamation point on the joy."
In another image, Stef, a self-described "musician" and "industrial designer," talks of her fervor for playing violin and "anything with strings," and sits against a backdrop depicting a sketch of Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic photo, "V-J Day in Times Square." Sheen, also of Wilton Manors, reveals in his statement that "my identity as a transman has had a profound effect on my artwork," and holds up a painting of an androgynous figure curled out on the beach.
"I didn't want the photo alone to tell the entire story," Cohane says. "I think that it's because I'm so comfortable with words and how they convey the struggle of making sense of a world that is not so accepting to you. And their singing and music and writing — that's what makes it easier to bear."
Our Faces: Our Youth Tell Us Their Stories
When: 4:30-6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 (preview); March 1-15 (opening reception 6-8 p.m. March 7)
Where: Stonewall Museum and National Archives, 1300 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Contact: 954-763-8565 or StonewallNationalMuseum.org