|Years active 80s – present|
|Name Vaginal Davis|
|Also known as Dr. Vaginal Davis, Vaginal Creme Davis, Mistress Veronika V'intrest, The Walking Installation Piece, Graciela, Miss Bricktops|
Origin Los Angeles, California
Occupation(s) musician, zinester, hostess, gossip columnist, author, performance artist, experimental filmmaker
Role Performance artist · vaginaldavis.com
Genres Punk rock, Experimental music, Queercore, Performance art
Record labels Mr. Lady Records, Dischord Records
Nominations GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding New York Theater: Off-Off Broadway
Movies She Gone Rogue, The Lollipop Generation, The Advocate For Fagd, Can I Be Your Bratwurst, The White to Be Angry
Similar People G B Jones, Rick Castro, Rhys Ernst, Ian MacKaye, Telemachos Alexiou
This is not a dream vaginal davis
Vaginal Davis is an American intersex-born, genderqueer performing artist, painter, independent curator, composer, and writer. Born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles, Davis gained notoriety in New York during the 1980s, where she inspired the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn's prevalent drag scene. She currently resides in Berlin, Germany.
- This is not a dream vaginal davis
- Personal life
- 19701989 Career beginnings
- 19891999 Bands
- 20002009 Move to Germany
- 2010present Performance visual art and teaching
- The Afro Sisters
- Black Fag
- Cholita The Female Menudo
- Pedro Muriel Esther
- Zine ography
Davis has kept her exact birth year, as well as the name she was given at birth, private. Growing up, Davis lived with her mother, originally from Louisiana, and four older sisters. Her father was of Mexican descent, and her grandfather of German descent, Davis claiming his ancestors were of the von Hohenzollern dynasty. Davis' mother was a revolutionary feminist and community activist in the South Central area, and planted food gardens in vacant lots to help feed the homeless, impoverished, and marginalized peoples of the area. As a young child in the Los Angeles public education system, Davis was accepted into a program for gifted students, where she was first exposed to and developed a love of theatre and opera.
Davis' name pays homage to activist Angela Davis, and considers Davis' involvement with the Black Panther Party and activism as a whole to be one of her biggest inspirations, explaining, "They came into the schools, they had guns, and they took over. They were teaching us all these revolutionary songs and chants and what not. At that time, when Angela Davis was the most wanted woman in America, I was just fixated with that image of her. By the late ’70s I had decided I sort of wanted to sexualize her name and become her, more or less. So I started in the late ’70s calling myself Vaginal Davis. I started to perform– or tried to perform– at these gay clubs in Los Angeles, in Hollywood. The people in these clubs, they would look at me and say, ‘Vaginal Davis? Well who are you supposed to be?’ And I said, ‘Well, Angela Davis– it’s a homage to that.’ And they’d say, ‘Well who’s that?’ They didn’t know who Angela Davis was."
1970–1989: Career beginnings
Vaginal Davis' band the Afro Sisters released their first seven-inch EP Indigo, Sassafras & Molasses, produced by Geza X with Amoeba Records in 1978. The Afro Sisters opened for the Smiths on their first American tour, as well as the Happy Mondays.
Vaginal Davis is often associated with the formation of the Queercore zine movement. From 1982 to 1991, they self-published the zine Fertile La Toya Jackson, focused on the imaginary adventures of a skateboarding, pregnant Jackson, and hailed by The Advocate critic Adam Block as “A veritable John Waters film of a skinny ‘zine.” Bruce LaBruce described the zine as "an underground rag that featured SoCal punk scene gossip, photos of hot Huntington Beach surfers and wistful musings by Miss Davis themself." Through Davis' job at UCLA's Placement & Career Planning Center, she was allowed free access to a Xerox machine to publish the zine.
In 1989, Davis formed the band Pedro, Muriel, and Esther (PME) with Glen Meadmore. Davis had previously sung backup vocals for Meadmore, with RuPaul. PME disbanded after releasing a four-song EP on Amoeba records.
Davis formed the band Black Fag in 1992 with Bibbe Hansen. Black Fag's album Passover Satyr was released by Dischord Records that same year and was produced by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. The band's 1995 album 11 Harrow House was produced by Hansen's son Beck.
In 1995, Pedro, Muriel, and Esther reunited for a performance at the Queercore '95 festival in Chicago. The band later released their first full-length album The White to Be Angry, produced by Steve Albini in 1998 on Spectra Sonic Records.
2000–2009: Move to Germany
In Los Angeles, Davis has hosted and DJ'd a range of performance and music events, one of the most prominent being "Bricktops" (2002–2005), a weekly salon/speak-easy inspired by vaudevillian Ada "Bricktop" Smith. they also hosted and DJed a Sunday afternoon music event called "Sucker" (1994–2000). Davis and artist Ron Athey curated and hosted GIMP (2000–2001), a monthly night of performance art.
In 2006, Vaginal Davis moved from Los Angeles to Berlin, Germany.
In 2009, Pedro, Muriel and Esther reunited in a 20th-anniversary show presented in New York City by Participant Inc. as part of Performa 09.
2010–present: Performance, visual art, and teaching
Davis' performance piece "Speaking from the Diaphragm" ran from May 15 to 27, 2010, at Performance Space 122. The show parodied television talk shows and featured interviews by Carole Pope, Jamie Stewart, Joel Gibb, and Glen Meadmore and was co-hosted by Carmelita Tropicana and Jennifer Miller.
In January 2012 Davis participated in the J. Paul Getty's "Pacific Standard Time Performance Festival, with "My Pussy Is Still in Los Angeles (I Only Live in Berlin)" at Southwestern Law School, Louis XVI-style Tea Room (originally Bullocks Wilshire Department Store). April 2012, Davis debuted live her band Tenderloin as part of the festival "Camp/Anti-Camp: A Queer Guide to Everyday Life" at Hebbel am Ufer. Tenderloin's line-up consisted of Felix Knoke, Jan Klesse, Joel Gibb, and Vaginal Davis performing under the alias "Dagmar Hofpfisterei.". In August 2012 the band was invited by curator Anthony Hegarty to perform at this year's Meltdown Festival at the Southbank Centre in London with Kembra Pfahler and the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. After the performances Tenderloin released the music video for "The Golden One" that featured drag queen the Goddess Bunny and was directed by Glen Meadmore.
From November 9 to December 16, 2012, Davis opened her first major solo exhibition of solely visual art (as opposed to performance art), titled "HAG – small, contemporary, haggard" at the Participant Inc. in New York. The name of the show is based on the gallery that Davis hosted in her Los Angeles apartment from 1982–89.
Davis has also taken to traveling to various universities and other educational institutions in recent years to give lectures on her life experiences, having hosted a talk on youth hosteling at New York University's Performance Studies complex in November 2015, along with German actress and friend Susanne Sachsse. From December 1 to 5 of the same year, Davis teamed up with avant-garde music group Xiu Xiu when they composed the score for her radical re-imagining of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, performed at the 80WSE Gallery at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, in partnership with Berlin's CHEAP Kollectiv.
In mid-October 2016, Davis was a keynote speaker at the Creative Time Summit in Washington, D.C., a conference on art and social issues which featured workshops and speeches on topics ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to electoral politics.
José Esteban Muñoz has identified Davis as a progenitor of "terrorist drag," for Davis was neither "glamour" like New York performers Candis Cayne and Girlina, nor "clown" (camp) like drag queens Varla Jean Merman and Lady Bunny. According to Davis, "I wasn't really trying to alter myself to look like a real woman. I didn't wear false eyelashes or fake breasts. It wasn't about the real-ness of traditional drag – the perfect flawless makeup. I just put on a little lipstick, a little eyeshadow and a wig and went there." Dominic Johnson of Frieze said, "Ms Davis consistently refuses to ease conservative tactics within gay and black politics, employing punk music, invented biography, insults, self-mockery, and repeated incitements to group sexual revolt." Davis critiques the co-opting of African, Hispanic, and LGBT culture by the mainstream.
Davis' performances are also, according to journalist Ali Fitzgerald, "giddy, satirical stabs at the old-world order, leveling criticism at white privilege and the patriarchy with nuanced wit and game-show-style camp. The Vaginal Davis persona is a complex mixture of queercore punk antics and MGM studio glamour, reflecting Davis’ socially engaged and aesthetically consistent interests." She was also a muse to German choreographer Pina Bausch, as well as fashion designer Rick Owens and photographer Catherine Opie. Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu also stated that "I am bi and found artists that were androgynous hit me hard – Peter Murphy, David Bowie, Morrissey. But there was a drag queen named Vaginal Davis that changed my life. I had no idea you could be punk and a drag queen and ultra intense and insane and hot and brilliant all at the same time."
Davis also claims, in a 2015 interview with Bedford and Brooklyn's Nicole Disser, that much of her artwork and performances are inspired by her late mother's artistic ability, stating, "I’m so intertwined with my mother. My whole career as an artist, and all of my visual art, is basically co-opting my mother. My mother didn’t consider herself an artist, she just made stuff. Looking back to the things that she did, they were installations, assemblages – things in the art world that have proper names to them – she was doing this way back then. If I get any notice for any of my artworks or any of my performances, it’s because I just copied my mother."