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The Drag Explosion

Linda Simpson

guest curator, Gary Varro

August 11 - September 28, 2022

opening reception: Thursday, August 11, 7-9 PM


image: Linda Simpson

Experience the landmark and paradigm-shifting New York City drag scene of the 1980s and 1990s through the lens of Linda Simpson, an integral member of this scene, in the exhibition The Drag Explosion. Guest curator Gary Varro brings forty diaristic snapshots by Simpson to the Art Gallery of Regina in the first-ever gallery exhibition of these photographic prints. Simpson’s photographs are not nostalgic images of outsiders, but frank accounts of love, resistance, pride and pain in which gallery visitors may recognize themselves and their own experiences.

Related events: August 25, 7:30 PM, Live Performance of The Drag Explosion with Linda Simpson at MacKenzie Art Gallery. (Email for information.)

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curator's essay

The Drag Explosion: Linda Simpson


Inspired by her ongoing slide show presentation, The Drag Explosion, Linda Simpson’s photo documentation - shown here at the AGR for the first time as an art exhibition — is a tribute to the drag scene in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and in turn, to the evolution of queerness in North America. Her images capture queer creatives carving out an indelible presence through performativity in the context of drag, performance art, film, music and more — all from the perspective of her analog camera. Artists exploring, questioning, and fucking with expectations were her subjects; gender, race, art, and queerness became her playground.

Speaking of playgrounds, it was during this same period that I travelled to, connected with, and was inspired by MIX NYC as I developed the long-running Queer City Cinema (QCC) Festival in Regina. An intimate, brash and beautiful queer experimental film festival experience run by and made for queer artists and audiences seeking something much different than the statusqueer, MIX NYC was not unlike the highly textured NYC drag scene depicted in Linda's photographs. East Village NYC nurtured a queer artistic movement of play, risk, experimentation, and discovery, and MIX was one of the places it came into focus and to life.

It just so happens — one of the reasons I conceived of this exhibition — that MIX was a festival, for obvious reasons, that attracted Linda and her contemporaries. I would see her festival after festival, sometimes as a host for one of MIX’s events or as an audience member attending and taking in all the glorious and strange queer experimentality of it all. I don’t recall a camera in tow, but I noted her pleasant and poised presence; it was always a delight to see her amongst all the other characters and comrades in the colourful MIX landscape.

It was MIX that served as the most significant influence on and inspiration for the first iteration of QCC in 1996. Specifically, MIX NYC informed QCC's overall point of view and position in the world of queer film festival viewing. MIX and the NYC drag scene in the '90s were distinct, daring, and delightfully disruptive; QCC wanted to be that, to offer that, in one form or another, for Regina.

Twenty-five years and still going, Queer City Cinema will hold several events over the next few years that pay tribute to its origins and early influences. Consequently, (and directly and indirectly) Linda’s New York images are part of QCC’s experience and the impact ‘90s NYC had in forming and nurturing a uniquely queer project in and for Saskatchewan.


Gary Varro

Executive and Artistic Director,

Queer City Cinema and Performatorium

media coverage:

Varro, Gary, "The Drag Explosion." CTV Morning Live, reported by Amandalina Letterio,  CTV Regina, August 11, 2022. Television. []

Varro, Gary, "The Drag Explosion." Global News Morning Live, reported by Matthew Rodrigopulle, Global News Regina, August 11, 2022.

Simpson, Linda. "The Drag Explosion Comes to Regina," interview by Shauna Powers. Saskatchewan Weekend, CBC radio, August 13, 2022.

Neis, Kayle. "In pictures: Drag Explosion exhibition opens at Art Gallery of Regina: The photographic exhibition exploring the New York City drag scene of the 1980s and 1990s is on from Aug. 11 to Sept. 28," Regina Leader-Post, August 16, 2022,

self-guided tour pamphlet:

audio tour:

audio tour transcript:

media release:


The Art Gallery of Regina is grateful to SKarts and the City of Regina for their core funding.
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