In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Artist Statement
  • Gail Thacker (bio)

While attending the Boston Museum School in the early 1980s I became part of what has come to be known as the Boston School. We were a small group of artists who shared an attitude toward life. We photographed ourselves and each other and performed in different states of drag and debauchery. At the same time, through reading works by Alfred Jarry and Isidore Ducasse, I became fascinated by the marvelous, the irrational, and the accidental.

Around 1982 my friend Mark Morrisroe gave me my first Polaroid camera. With the support of the Polaroid Artist Support Program, I spent thirty years obsessed with the fine art of Polaroid 665 Positive/Negative film.

I experimented with the instability of the negative, deliberately evading the fixing protocols and placing them aside for as long as a year after exposure. The negatives accumulated a series of changes and distortions that produced prints with a vibrancy stemming partly from chance and partly from intent. The end result produced a surreal alteration of my subjects, giving an air of alchemical mystery.

When Polaroid stopped manufacturing this film, which was my primary medium, I found myself having to reinvent my approach to photography. In 2010, I created my last portrait of New York City’s trans wonder Kenny Kenny with Polaroid 665 Positive/Negative film. I turned to using Fuji 3000 with the same Polaroid 110a camera to explore and deepen my content; looking for something I call a transmagical expression.

Susan Sontag’s book On Photography was a large influence on my early work, particularly the idea that a photograph, with the passing of time, becomes something on its own and replaces our memory of the subject. Yet I found that a photograph doesn’t replace memory. Instead, it transforms it into something else.

For example, the photograph of Shelley Marlow is not Shelley Marlow. It is a persona of Shelley, a particular part of Shelley that was created for the [End Page 88] photograph, to communicate who she wants to be (yet not necessarily who she is). We examined the masculine and feminine in each of us, questioning whether it is necessary to define ourselves as a she or a he, when we are often neither or both.

This is the transmagical, the metamorphosis of the person, the freedom of personal expression, and the ability to be whomever we choose. It is a world created from a mixture of deadpan reality, fantastical make-believe, and a theater of elaborate and fictitious titles, adding another layer of intrigue to identity performance. [End Page 89]

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Fig 1.

Ladies & Gentlemen, President Shelley Marlow, 2013.

[End Page 90]

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Fig 2.

Mister Shelley, 2013.

[End Page 91]

Gail Thacker

gail thacker graduated from the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts in conjunction with Tufts University and mit’s degree program. She took over the helm of the Gene Frankel Theatre in 2005, and her work has documented the memory of the artistic community there. Thacker In Boston, she, along with her peers, friends, and collaborators such as Mark Morrisroe, Stephen Tashjian (Tabboo!), and Jack Pierson, make up a group of artists labeled the Boston School. Thacker’s Polaroid photography has been exhibited internationally and is included in such collections as the Polaroid Collection (Somerville, Massachusetts), FotoMuseum (Winterthur, Switzerland), Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (Santiago, Spain), the Fisher Collection (Florida), and the New York Public Library. Her work has been featured in The Polaroid Book (2008), “There Was a Sense of Family”: The Friends of Mark Morrisroe (2013), Mark Dirt (2013), and Tabboo! The Art of Stephen Tashjian (2013). A book on her Polaroid art titled Little Lies, which will include essays by Eileen Myles and Manuel Segade, is forthcoming.



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pp. 88-91
Launched on MUSE
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