Jamison Edgar MFA ’20 exhibits his work “PAUL(A)” in the exhibition “Idol Worship” at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, on view November 16 through December 29.
Organized by curator Emily Colucci, the group exhibition “Idol Worship” celebrates the ongoing cultural, social and political significance of role model adoration as an essential survival strategy. Self-identifying women, in particular, are often overlooked as figures to be emulated, exempt from the label of “genius” so readily bestowed upon men. Partially inspired by John Waters’s “Role Models,”” a pseudo-autobiography through his influences or “filth elders,” the exhibition will emphasize work that presents women and women-identifying role models as sources of possibility, creativity, courage, self-fashioning and sometimes, transgression. While teens’ fanatical impulse to paper their bedroom walls with imagery of their favorite stars is seen as merely an adolescent phase, “Idol Worship” asserts how the identification with role models is especially significant for those alienated from dominant social institutions, whether the biological family, history, or mainstream culture.
Edgar’s work “PAUL(A)”” celebrates underrated pop diva Paula Abdul in a site-specific installation constructed to resemble the tabloid prints that advertise for queer parties via wheat-pasting. Towering over viewers, Edgar constructs Paula Abdul as a monumental, haunting and magical presence akin to a patron saint of divas. Abdul’s top pop popularity in the 1980s and 1990s also intersected with the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In his work, Edgar engages with the disappearance of sites of queer love and possibility, from the Hudson River piers to the Times Square porn theaters, as depicted in Samuel Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. With “PAUL(A),”” Edgar not only honors his own pop obsession, but memorializes a bygone era of queer nightlife, erased by both gentrification and the AIDS pandemic.