The LARGER THAN LIFE project began when Joseph Abbati decided to pay tribute to the drag queens of San Francisco for their important contribution to the gay community.
This artwork is informed by Joseph’s interest in image and gender. The portraits taken are enlarged to a “larger than life” scale and made into tapestries. In the historic tradition of tapestry art, the cloth they become transforms the photographs into modern records that document the contribution of drag queens to the LGBT community.
In the 60’s they fought back against discrimination at Stonewall and helped usher in the “gay liberation” movement. In the 80’s and 90’s they contributed their activism and advocacy to the well being and health of our community and have been at the forefront of the fight against HIV. In the 21st century they bring a rich narrative to LGBTQ history and stand as forebearers of gender fluidity.
Joseph used his iPhone to capture and app the images of these fabulous damsels of the demimonde and then had them turned into these tapestries.
Juanita MORE! is a denizen of the limelight. For two and a half decades, the tireless hostess has blitzed San Francisco with high glamour, drag irreverence, danceable beats, culinary delectables and a philanthropic heart that has illuminated the entire city. She travels San Francisco by day with her trusty sidekick French Bulldog Jackson and at night with a bevy of the cities most handsome boys. Miss MORE’s annual Pride Party bash is simply touted as “the best party at Pride.” She has also been called “the Oprah of the drag community” and “the Muhammad Ali of Drag”. Juanita has been bestowed awards from every spectrum of our community.
Juanita has worked and supported over the years:
The Q Foundation, LGBT Asylum Project, SF LGBT Center, AIDS Housing Alliance, Transgender Law Center, The Harvey Milk City Hall Memorial, Queer LifeSpace, GSA Network, BAY Positives, Visual Aid, AIDS Benefits Counselors, Academy of Friends, Larkin Street Youth Center, Lyric, Quan Yin Health Project, Magnet, Huckleberry Youth Program, outLoud Radio, and TARC.
Juicy Liu is a drag entertainment activist living in San Francisco. She is the current reigning Miss GAPA (Gay Asian Pacific Alliance), representing the GAPA Foundation, whose vision is to achieve a nationally influential API LGBTQ community that provides and amplifies our collective voices to promote equality and positive social perception. GAPA Foundation is a grassroots philanthropic organization that provides funds and leverages resources to empower the Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ community. Juicy regularly performs as a guest with the Rice Rockettes, an all-Asian drag troupe, as well at other shows in the City. Juicy has also brought her message of equality and positive identity to the heart of Central Texas, performing at her alma mater at Southwestern University, just north of Austin. Juicy is the alter-ego of Michael Nguyen, a patent attorney who specializes in computer and software-based inventions. Michael also serves as the chair of GAPA organization, the oldest social welfare organization dedicated to furthering the interests of Queer Asian and Pacific Islanders in San Francisco. Follow Juicy on Instagram and Facebook: @juicyliurealness.
Juicy has personally raised over $30,000 for various charitable organizations, including the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
The Most Photographed Nun In The World™
One of the of most outspoken and highly visible members of the infamous Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence,
Sister Roma is recognized around the globe as an activist, fundraiser, public speaker, Master of Ceremonies, and gay icon. Sister Roma is most recognized as the creator of the Sisters’ Stop The Violence Campaign and she gained international attention as the originator of the #MyNameIs, a movement in protest of Facebook’s “real” name policy fighting for the right of everyone to self-identify on the world’s largest social networking platform.
One of San Francisco’s most colorful (and sometimes off-color) Master of Ceremonies, Roma has graced the main stages of SF Pride, Folsom Street Fair, Castro Street Fair, and Easter in the Park where she hosts the infamous Hunky Jesus Contest. Roma travels the U.S. speaking at rallies and hosting events from coast to coast. Internationally Roma has hosted HustlaBall in Berlin, LifeBall in Vienna, Pride in Shanghai, China, and this year was honored to serve as Grand Marshal of Prague Pride in the Czech Republic.
Since taking her vows, Roma has been on the front lines in the war against HIV and AIDS helping to raise over $1 million for the LGBTQ global community.
Grace Towers is head Madame of the Haus of Towers. HOT is a collective of artists with interest in curating opportunities for intergenerational, intentional queer exchange through the arts. She blurs the lines of what drag and gender mean. She hosts Wednesday night at Moby Dick Bar in the historic Castro for dickATnite as well as her dance party SirMa’am at Lone Star and Slumbersexual among others. Grace’s drag questions the normative binary of gender which she believes “is one of the most debilitating and efficient ways that society uses to treat people unequally”. She firmly believes that we as a community must remember to acknowledge our past, as we plan for our future, while remaining present. Also don’t forget to ‘ follow your own weird’. – James Broughton
Grace Towers is on the board of directors for Queens of the Castro. QOC is a non profit that focuses on supporting LGBTQI youth. To date they have granted over $45,000.00 in scholarships to LGBTQI youth who wish to pursue post secondary opportunities in California. She has initiated The Grace Towers Scholarship for the Arts, a scholarship created to nurture LGBTQI youth that are QPOC.
Heklina gained fame as the creator, promoter, and hostess of the legendary Trannyshack! She is a premier hostess and DJ for hire around San Francisco and has enjoyed success with her outdoor party at El Rio, Daytime Realness. She has been seen on the E! Entertainment Network, NBC’s Trauma, The Cho Show, VH1’s Playing it Straight, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, BBC Television’s Around the World in 80 Raves, the Scissor Sister’s Filthy Gorgeous video, and as a guest on the Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake shows. In 2011, she introduced Britney Spears for Good Morning America. Her film credits include the festival favorites Baby Jane? and All About Evil. Theater credits include a starring role in the 2006 Theater Rhino production TROG! and producer and featured actor in the popular San Francisco Golden Girls plays. She was voted Community Grand Marshal of the 2004 San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Parade, and was the subject of two documentaries in the 2005 Frameline SF Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. In 2009 she won the Pride Creativity Award for outstanding artistic contribution to the LGBT Community. She contributes every Wednesday on the CBS Radio Sideshow Podcast. Heklina now co-owns and hosts the new venue at Oasis and launched her new weekly show, Mother.
Helina supports Pets are Wonderful Support (PAWS), Community United Against Violence (CUAV), Project Open Hand, AIDS Housing Alliance, The ARC, and Tenderloin Tessie.
Honey Mahogany is a drag performer, entertainer, singer, and television personality. She first came to national attention on the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, followed by releasing her debut EP Honey Love. Honey has also been involved in a number of theatrical productions and the collaborative drag/performance art show Work MORE! In 2011 she was voted Best Drag Queen by readers of San Francisco Weekly. Honey joined Trixxie Carr for her show The Right to RULE in 2012 in the United Kingdom at the Abandon Normal Devices Festival. In 2013 Honey joined Peaches Christ’s The Craft… of Drag! Also that year she joined the cast of the16th Annual Showgirls performance, based on the 1995 film Showgirls. Miss Mahogany played the character of Nomi. In both 2013 and 2014, Honey emceed Topsy Turvy: A Queer Circus Extravaganza. In 2014 Honey hosted the Castro Street Fair. She continues to headline and emcee Mahogany Mondays, a drag and cabaret show held at Midnight Sun. Honey is part of a collective that saved The Stud bar by taking ownership of it in December of 2016.
Honey interned at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and was admitted to the University of California at Berkeley where she earned a Masters in Social Work. Using that degree, she works as a social worker in Contra Costa County during the day. Some of the clients that she works with are people with HIV and homeless LGBT youth.
Creme Fatale is an artist that pushes the notion of what a drag queen is in this gender fluid era. In 2016 she was featured on Bustle.com’s “13 Female Drag Queens to Follow” and in 2015 she was on WERRK.com’s top five list of the “Best Bio Queens Of The Year”. She gained a career as a makeup artist through the art of drag. Her drag character remains recognizable through its ever changing incarnations. Creme hosts Bedlam at Beaux every third and last Wednesday of every month and as well the Broni Mitchell Show returning to the Stud in March!
Creme supports LGBTQ youth and Women’s Rights through organizations like the Happy Hippie Foundation, Planned Parenthood as well as local organizations and community projects.
Gender fluidity fuels a new view of what it means to be gay, bi, queer, trans, or questioning identity. The photos below are an extension of Joseph’s documentation of the drag scene. They imbue the multi-faceted lives of these performers with their multiple exposures. Originally posted on Instagram, they now become documents of the social media aspect of our lives.
The video DRAG SFO is an Instagram-like video compilation of photos, videos, and gifs taken from local San Francisco drag shows. These were shot on an iPhone 7+ within the last few months documenting a thriving drag scene. Joseph returned to a new vibrant scene in San Francisco after discovering it had evolved with the city’s renaissance. Social media now dominates the coverage and encouragement of the scene which has had it’s ups and down throughout the 38 years he has lived here.
Joseph writes: This was a video I made to go along with my art exhibit “LARGER THAN LIFE” at Strut. It is a compilation of photos and video clips from the San Francisco drag scene from November 2016 to February 2017 with performances from local drag queens.