Drag is a series of photographs that comments on the art of drag performance and it’s ambiguous relationship to masquerade, public and private identity, and the project of self-making. Creating still lives, portraits of drag performers, and self portraits,Van Der Hout explores the space between the mask of the performed self and the mask of the everyday. Documenting drag performers as they put on their stage makeup, Van Der Hout captures moments of vulnerability and transformation. This liminal space between two self-constructs offers two images of power: the power of persona and the power of unveiling. In drag, identity is self-selected, controlled and performed. Here, there is a power in becoming, and choosing to be. In unveiling, there is power in exposure, and letting the viewer into the intimate, unmasked moment. The dressing-room portraits expose tension between what’s revealed and what’s concealed, raising questions about performance and authenticity, and the closeness of these two concepts. In this liminal space, a new identity emerges: the self which flickers between performance and unveiling.
Furthering his inquiries of masquerade and self-making in the introspective direction of his own coming out journey, Van Der Hout turned the camera on himself, creating self-portraits in drag. By donning the persona of drag queens, the artist explores the layers of imitation involved in the formation of self identity, including the masquerade of gender and sexuality. Reflecting on the process of coming to his own self-understanding as queer, the artist raises questions about validation. What does it mean to “pass”, and how does recognition through the eyes of others relate to one's own sense of self? Drag reveals the paradox that taking on alter-egos and donning the personas of others may allow one to become their truest self. However, while drag offers a portrait of power and projected confidence, Van Der Hout explores aspects of queer embodiment that are hidden and obscured. Each print is overlaid with rhinestones, creating a glittery veil that the viewer must look through to access the subject matter. Glamour is also a veil, and a shield that can be donned for self-protection. While the photographs are intimate portraits of vulnerability, the rhinestones create a shiny veneer that obscures and distracts from what lies beneath.