Interview and Slideshow: Jeremy Kost's Exhibition, 'Of An Instance'


By Max Berlinger

The photographer talks about his latest show, which opens Friday, May 4, in New York City.

Jeremy, I think what you were touching on the idea that the drag queens you’re attracted to are…
Jeremy: They’re not pageant queens. If you look at the Warhol Polaroids of drag queens and transsexuals that I chose, they’re a bit less beautiful.
Eric: Warhol wasn’t going for classically beautiful, he was going for “realness.” That’s a term that appears on Rupaul’s show all the time. So, if you’re passable, it’s a whole different thing from camp.

I know that fame is a huge part of your work, and now with reality television and Twitter, for instance, some of the mystique has been sucked out of celebrity culture. Does that affect your work?
Jeremy: I’m not working in that context anymore. I’m not interested anymore.

Is that a reaction to…
Jeremy: You know, it started when the reality star bullshit happened a couple of years ago and I decided I didn’t want to be a part of it.
Eric: But there’s still a lot of overlap. Now Sharon [Needles] has thrown Jeremy a bit of a curveball because suddenly she’s a celebrity, based on her appearance on the RuPaul’s show. As are his boys—they’re not named, but they’re all big in the fashion industry.
Jeremy: The biggest theme that runs through the show is the narrative of facade—the desire for attention on some level.
Eric: The limelight and how you engage with it.
Jeremy: Which was Andy’s obsession. The face we put forward.

How did you go about choosing what to show? You have a lot of stuff going on and it’s not all the unveiling of new things.
Jeremy: It was a multi-month process in terms of going through the entire archive and choosing 250 images from 5,000. But more specifically, in terms of Andy’s photos, it was finding relationships that weren’t always so direct as, say, his Liza versus my Liza. There's the Wicked Witch with Cher, or Garret Neff with Sylvester Stallone, based on a similar gestures or compositions. The curation became more about gesture and form. In the other room, it’s more about cross-generational relationships. Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour. Beyoncé and Diana Ross. And in a moment of ego, Andy Warhol with the skull on his shoulder and me in skull makeup.

I love this sense of—a real person in front of that picture of Lady Gaga, who’s become iconic of late. The juxtaposition of that, but then also the fracturing of it. There are a lot of levels of façade and artifice.
Jeremy: The newer work has become a lot more about the fragmentation of façade in addition to the fragmentation of character.

I even see Lana Del Ray’s image in one of the works here—who has come under fire for re-manufacturing herself in sort of multiple iterations to find a successful niche—and then you to place another element on top of her’s and break it apart…
Jeremy: There is always this huge consideration of location scouting and inserting a character into a certain context.

You were talking about boys earlier, which is a main focus of the exhibit. What’s the interest in the male figure, beyond the obvious? It's erotic, but…
Jeremy: As a gay man, there’s always that. But, for me, they also tend to refer to my own body issues and such. They serve as a representation of these guys I used to pine after but never gave me the time of day. Now there’s this power scenario of having them pose for me. All but one of them are straight, so there’s this distance and unrequited interest.