Cyclona, Manon, and Lucas Samaras: Images Curated by Sarvia Jasso
“Cyclona” is a drag character played by Robert Legorreta, a Chicano artist and member of the Southern California Gay Liberation Front. Cyclona (which is feminine for cyclone) made her debut in Caca-Roaches Have No Friends (1969), a play that was written and directed by the ASCO art collective member, Gronk. Using drag to destabilize gender norms, ASCO was a catalyst for change both within and outside of the Chicano community. During the performance in November 1969 at Belvedere Park, Cyclona pulls down the other actor’s pants and bites between his legs, breaking a water-filled balloon and causing a huge scandal. Nonetheless, for ASCO, the union of identity politics and art led to the creation of a distinct visual language that both acknowledged their history but also looked toward a hopeful future.
In Manon’s photo-series The Gray Wall or 36 Sleepless Nights (1979), a single light bulb in a darkened room reveals the artist in different guises. Reminiscent of black and white film stills, Manon explores the image of woman while constructing an ambiguous narrative that is up to viewer to discern. Manon has been using photography since the early 1970’s to challenge traditional images of women, oftentimes turning to the androgynous body as a site of resistance.
Lucas Samaras’ Something (1969-71) is an album of sixty photographs with hand-painted ink. Having participated in a number of the earliest Happenings that took place in New York (including those orchastrated by his friends Claes Oldenburg and Robert Whitman), Samaras’ turn to self-portraiture seems like a natural progression. Performing in front of the camera – twisting and turning, positioning himself in every imaginable angle – the manipulated photographs suggest a sense of psychological distress; questions of identity, sexuality and masculinity inevitably arise.