MONTEREY – Paul Richmond’s paintings are mind-blowing. Filled with abstraction of color, motion, form and vibrancy, they focus on the unique identity of the subject and that subject’s inner life with its own abstraction of pain, joy and spirit. They often blend beauty with whimsy, intrigue with eroticism.
Paul has gained international notoriety, publication in numerous art journals and anthologies as well as exhibition in galleries and museums through the United States. In his own words, ““My style weaves back and forth between realism and abstraction, usually incorporating aspects of both to varying degrees. There are common threads of personal narrative, self-expression, and the questioning of societal constructs around gender and sexuality.”
In full disclosure, I personally have been the subject of one of Paul’s paintings, a piece in his Promiseland exhibit called Echoes. Seeing yourself from Paul Richmond’s perspective is not just seeing your face on a wall… he lets you see what your soul looks like.
I recently caught up with him for an interview.
When you meet him, his boyish exuberant personality does not scream “serious artist”. He is accessible and outgoing. He laughs a lot and while not taking himself too seriously, demands due respect for his work. He is completely accessible, but after a few minutes of watching him work, you know you are in the presence of someone extraordinary.
He is an artist on the verge of soaring to great heights. The wings with which he flies are not just his own, however. The fluttering you may imagine hearing around him are not from him alone.
They are from his phoenix and his butterfly. Two womanly forces – one that has inspired him, and one that has been a thorough and life-saving guiding force to his personal accomplishment.
The Phoenix: Linda Regula
Linda Regula was Paul Richmond’s life-long art instructor. Paul met her when he was 4 years old. She was the first person in his life who literally lived amongst their created art. Walking into her home and seeing that environment, impressed him greatly. She saw promise in him, and immediately told his parents that she would guide him in his talent.
Linda’s art was both her expression and her release of the pain of abuse she had suffered. She embraced the image of the phoenix, ““Being poor, shy, skinny, and motherless, I was bullied unmercifully as a child. When I was in the fourth grade, our teacher asked students to listen to a story about a phoenix, then to draw a picture of the mythical fire bird rising from ashes…Gathering up several crayons marked with names that I loved, I colored its feathers emerald green, ruby red, violet, and cobalt blue.
At last, satisfied that my Phoenix appeared to live within the drawing, I created a radiant yellow sun whose golden rays seemed to tease the bird into flight. I then drew glowing embers scattered beneath its feet, and colored black and brown residue clinging to its long legs to indicate that the great bird was rising from sooty ashes.” Her phoenix was given a place of honor in her classroom, but was soon destroyed by her bully. ”Memory of that bully destroying my phoenix drawing still remains as if that magnificent fire bird, its feet coated with hot ashes, had actually walked across my brain.”
She communicated this to the young Mr. Richmond in age-appropriate ways, giving him the awareness that his own artistic expression was more than ideas and concepts, but a means to heal – should he need it. When he entered fourth grade, the need for that outlet emerged.
His earlier school career had been in a Montessori environment, and after third grade, he was sent to a Catholic school. His artistic and buoyant personality signaled his emerging sexual orientation and even before he could grasp his own self-awareness, he was badgered and abused himself.
He did not confide this to Linda, mostly due to shame and confusion he felt, but she became aware of his change in mood and demeanor. When he finally did open up, enough, she encouraged him to “paint about it.” His first painting expressing the situation was a work called “The Piece that did not fit.” It was a painting of a puzzle with all the pieces (his classmates) fitting, and one odd piece that did hot… himself.
As he dealt with suicidal thoughts in sixth grade, his ability to paint his feelings, and to express himself through Linda’s classes were the only things that kept him from exercising self-harm. “Taking pride in myself as an artist was my life raft,” he says. “Linda encouraged me to take all of those feelings and express them in art, I hadn’t really considered that before. I had seen her paintings and the way she used art to process her own life, but that was the first time I realized I could do that too — that art could be a way for me to deal with what was happening at school and in my life.”
The Butterfly: Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton loves butterflies. In many ways, they seem equally representative of her persona. From humble beginnings, they transform into colorful fabulosity. They are attention getting, fabulous and always soaring to new colorful heights. They are the definition of Dolly Parton.
As a young teenager, Paul Richmond held the ultimate butterfly, Dolly Parton, up as a role model. “As I got older, I became more aware of her personality and who she was, I just really related to her. There were a lot of similarities actually between her and Linda, because they both have the backstory of growing up in poverty in the mountains; Both had really adorable Southern accents. They are both creative inspiring people who really shine a big light in the world. So, Linda was first, but I think it was kind of natural for me to latch on to Dolly as a role model because she was so similar in many ways to the role model that I already had.”
Paul’s youthful determination to meet The Butterfly paid off. He persuaded both his parents and Parton’s handlers to allow him to bring her a piece of art when she opened Dollywood. He was 12 years old.
Years later, inspired by a Dolly reference on his website, The World of Wonder gallery in Los Angeles contacted him and asked him to submit a piece for their Dolly-Pop exhibition. He created a fanciful piece. In the canvas, Dolly appears in the Glinda Good Witch bubble above the yellow brick road in front of a 4-year old boy who stands transfixed… wearing a pair of grown woman’s high healed shoes. A huge butterfly is featured prominently in the painting.
A print of the painting also ended up in Dolly’s dressing room. “I was really trying to just capture my childhood fascination with Dolly and I thought the Wizard of Oz, would be a perfect metaphor for that. Meeting Dolly in Dollywood, as a kid was such a, such a meaningful important part of my childhood, and I wanted to represent the feeling she really opened up a whole world to me that I knew I wanted to be part of, and that I wanted to someday venture out into from the little conservative town that I lived in. Experience more of this big colorful amazing world for which Dolly was the entry point,” Paul told me.
The Phoenix Rises and the Butterfly Sings
Linda Regula died in July of 2020. Her passing intensified Paul’s commitment and involvement in an organization they had co-founded called the You Will Rise Project.
Its logo is the phoenix.
You Will Rise provides “a multimedia showcase for people of all ages who have been bullied to share their stories through the arts. Submissions can include visual art (paintings, drawings, sculptures, videos, etc.) as well as poetry, song lyrics, short stories, or other creative expressions that best capture their personal experiences. The You Will Rise Project asks only that contributors be truthful and real. No corrections or alterations will be made to the works that are posted on the site.”
Shortly after Linda’s passing, Paul heard from Parton’s art director. They wanted to commission a Paul Richmond painting for Dolly Parton’s living room… a painting of butterflies.
Paul had a great conversation and shared about his back story, about Linda, and his love of Dolly. He told them about You Will Rise, and an online fund raiser they were doing for a scholarship in Linda’s name. “Well, I think that Dolly would really like to be part of that,” the director stated.
On Saturday, October 17, You Will Rise and ArtCOZ (the Artist Colony of Zanesville) presented a virtual event honoring Regula’s legacy and established the Linda Regula Legacy Scholarship Fund for young people who utilize artistic expression to communicate their personal experiences with adversity.
The event included the donation of a rhinestone-studded autographed guitar from Parton’s personal collection.
And Dolly Parton sang a livestream tribute to Linda. The butterfly serenaded the phoenix.
“It was really beautiful to see the intersection of these two incredible women. Two women who were so important to me, come together in this way, at this event. It was really powerful. It meant so much,” Paul says.
As for the future, Paul continues both his art and his activism. He has a renewed passion to the You Will Rise Project. He is a driver behind the Re-Drawing Masculinity project for which he is both and instructor and model, along with transgender artist Briden Schueren . The workshop is designed to introduce the fundamentals of figure drawing and anatomy. The project website states: “Masculinity means more than bodies with a penis. This workshop is all-inclusive and anyone being inappropriate or disrespectful will be disconnected and banned.”
Paul seeks to also emulate his role model, Parton, the Butterfly. He says of her recent contribution to the fight against COVID 19: “Dolly has never been somebody who was interested in trying to make political statements she’s always been much more about spreading love and acceptance of everybody. I felt like this was such a meaningful way for her to contribute something so important right now. Then to also make a video of herself getting the vaccine to help hopefully inspire those who might have fears about it. Maybe she can reach people that others can’t. That’s kind of how she’s always operated she, she really, she doesn’t want to be divisive she truly wants to help, and she uses her platform to do that and I really respect that.”
As Paul and I finished our talk, he commented with a twinkle of an eye, “There are things coming up that I can’t yet tell you about for this interview. But stay tuned.”
I got butterflies….
Queer representation did not sit quiet at Emmy Awards
This year- 50% of the best drama series, 25% of the best comedy, & 60% of the best limited series featured LGBTQ characters or plot lines
LOS ANGELES – The pandemic is over (in award show world anyway), and glitz and glamour have returned. That is the prevailing impression from this year’s 74th Annual Emmy Awards. The show was stunning and exciting from the outset, but even with the pomp and loud noise of celebration, a queer presence was not to be drowned out.
The tone of representation was launched immediately as announcer, queer comic, Sam Jay, looking sharp in her black tuxedo, took the mic. On camera even more than host Kenan Thompson, Jay was a presence and a personality and decidedly queer. If her gay power was not enough, the point was made when Thompson and out actor Boen Yang joked on stage. Thompson accused Yang of a comment being “a hate crime”, Yang retorted “Not if I do it. Then it’s representation.”
Representation was going to be made this evening. The visibility was significant considering, according to the GLAAD Where We Are on TV Report, out of 775 series regular characters only 92 are LGBTQ (less than 12 percent). That 11+ percent is a record high of LGBTQ characters in all of TV history. The record was set by an increase in lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters, but a decrease in gay male characters from the previous year.
For the Emmy nominations, 50% of the best drama series nominees, 25% of the best comedy, and 60% of the best limited series featured LGBTQ characters or plot lines. As far as queer talent, that was more sporadic, heavily slanted towards “supporting categories” and often with queer talent all in the same category against each other.
Regardless, we showed up, as did other individuals who scored recognition for their identities. Some of the key LGBTQ representative moments included:
- Early in the show, Hannah Einbinder did a hard flirt from the stage for Zendaya, saying that she was not on the stage to present, but rather to stare at the beautiful actress.
- Gay actor Murray Bartlett won Best Supporting Actor for a Limited or Anthology Series for The White Lotus. He thanked his partner Matt, but strangely did not mention the famous “salad scene” (Google it…)
- The White Lotus also won the Best Limited or Anthology series category, and bisexual Mike White won Best Director for Limited Series as well. White is the son of gay clergyman, author, and activist Mel White. They appeared on the Amazing Race as a father and son team.
- Jerrod Carmichael won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing of a Variety Special for his heartfelt Rothaniel in which he comes out as gay as part of the show. Carmichael wowed in a brilliant white, flowing fur coat over his bare medallioned chest.
- Out actress Sarah Paulsen and Shonda Rhimes, who singlehandedly is responsible for 17% of all LGBTQ characters on TV, presented the Governors Award to Geena Davis for her organization Institute of Gender in Media. The mission of the organization is representation of women in media. Davis stood before a video featuring various women artists including transgender actress Laverne Cox. The organization is the only public data institute to consistently analyze representations of the six major marginalized identities on screen: women; people of color; LGBTQIA+ individuals; people with disabilities; older persons (50+); and large-bodied individuals in global Film, Television, Advertising and Gaming.
- Lizzo broke RuPaul’s streak to win Best Competition program. RuPaul showed up later in the show do present a major award anyway. Lizzo has not felt the need to label herself in the LGBTQ spectrum but has said, “When it comes to sexuality or gender, I personally don’t ascribe to just one thing. I cannot sit here right now and tell you I’m just one thing. That’s why the colors for LGBTQ+ are a rainbow! Because there’s a spectrum, and right now we try to keep it black and white. That’s just not working for me.”
Beyond the rainbow scope of queer representation, intersectional, iconic and historic representation was also on hand:
- LGBTQ icon Jennifer Coolidge won Best Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series for The White Lotus. It was her first award win ever. Squeals of delight could be heard in space from gay Emmy watch parties. OK. I don’t know that for a fact, but I would put money on it.
- LGBTQ icon Jean Smart won Best Actress in a Comedy Series for Hacks, a series of which its producer called about “women and queer people.”
- Lee Jung-jae became the first South Korean actor and first Asian actor to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Squid Game.
- Zendaya became the youngest person ever to win in the leading acting categories two times as she won for the second season of “Euphoria”
- Hwang Dong-hyuk became the first South Korean to win Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for Squid Game
- Sheryl Lee Ralph won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Abbott Elementary becoming only the second black woman in history to win in this category after 35 years. Jacké Harry won for 227 in 1987. “I am an endangered species,” she sang as her acceptance. “But I sing no victim’s song.”
Yes, there was a day in the not long ago past where the mention of a single same sex spouse, or a renegade pro-lgbtq comment, made our queer hearts spill over. Those days are passed. We are getting a place at the table. Representation is starting to stand up and be heard.
For those who rightfully seek it, and seek more of it, the best advice came from Sheryl Lee Ralph: “To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream, and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like, this is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”
Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie: 74th Emmy Awards:
Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’
Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following
Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan.
With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade.
BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya?
DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand.
BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress?
EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.
BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs?
EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs.
BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that.
BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land?
EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool.
BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint?
EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it.
BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general?
EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened.
BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a character from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels?
EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels.
BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career?
EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone.
BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention?
EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.
LA Blade Exclusive: L Morgan Lee, Broadway’s newest icon sings her truth
She is the first ever trans actress to receive a Tony Award Nomination & the first trans performer to be in a work that has won a Pulitzer
NEW YORK CITY – “I am just a girl,” L Morgan Lee tells me. That simple statement is her self-definition, a girl taking life one step at a time.
To the rest of us, L Morgan Lee is so much more. She is the award-winning actress starring on Broadway in the hit show of the season, A Strange Loop. Her singing talent matches that of any legendary diva, she is creating landmark theatrical projects on womanhood and New York Times articles are being written about her. She is the “girl” in the spotlight now.
She is also, the first ever transgender actor or actress to receive a Tony Award Nomination.
While she is not the first trans performer to be seen on a Broadway stage, she seems to have broken the glass (or some might say, cement) ceiling of being recognized in the upper echelon of talent. She is the first transgender performer to be in a work that has won a Pulitzer. While the Pulitzer recognizes the author, whom she was not, certainly her creative input was weaved into the final book of the play.
L Morgan has journeyed a complex path to self-awareness. “For me, even in terms of being trans, the idea of being anything outside of what I was assigned at birth was just laughable and crazy to me as a child,” she says. “It just, it made no sense. It was not something that I was comfortable saying out loud to anyone or voicing. How would I be looked at by my parents, by anyone else? So, I would sit and dream. The dreaming is, I think, what forms, much of so many queer people’s lives and experiences. Those dreams become our lifelines. I would dream and dream. I have a memory of when I was maybe six years old, in the middle of the night, looking up at my ceiling in my bedroom. Waking up soaked with tears. Saying, if I could wake up and be a girl, a girl, everything would be okay.” She adds. “That is why I am so excited to have gotten my first opportunity to be on Broadway, excited to have gotten a Tony nomination. Because I know that there is some kid somewhere, who is also looking up at the ceiling saying that same thing.”
L Morgan’s first adventure into performing was as a kid and ironically projected her future identity fluidity: she costumed up and performed “Karma Chameleon” in nursery school. She allowed herself to explore her true identity under the guise of a Halloween costume quite a few years later. She went in fully fashion glammed drag, and it changed her world forever. “The minute I did it, I felt a jolt of energy I had never felt before. I finally felt free in so many ways. It’s as if like it’s as if I finally got to breathe.”
When she started work on A Strange Loop, she had been cast under the assumption that she was a cisgender man playing female parts. As the years of work into the play went on, L Morgan’s transgender journey escalated, and she attempted to resign from the play as she realized she was no longer the person they thought they had hired. Not only were they aware, as many close loved ones can be, of her journey, but they embraced her and assured her that she belonged more than ever.
“The characters I played allowed me to, in some ways hide until I was able to be more public about who I am. And once I did that, it certainly brought another layer of depth to what I was doing. I have been that much more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve grown. Transition has settled in more. So, both my viewpoints about the show, the people I’m playing, and my lens of life in general, has evolved through the process. So, certainly the woman I am today, views the show and the script, and the characters I play in a very different way than I did when I first sat down to do it in 2015.”
Her growth within the show, and the growth of the show itself are intertwined. Certainly, some of the magic of the show is that it is not “performed” as much as it is lived out of the souls of the actors in it. L Morgan describes, “The experience of A Strange Loop has been beautiful, complex, layered and ever evolving, for me in particular. Every time I’ve come back to the rehearsal room with this project, my own lens has been slightly evolved or has moved forward in some ways.”
“The piece is as strong as it is because the lens itself, the lens through which the story is told, is very specific and very honest. Inside of that specificity, there are lots of complications and layers and messy stuff. There are things that you don’t ‘talk about out loud’ taboo to discuss. There are things that people see as problematic. There are so many things inside of all of that, but it’s honest and it’s human. It is a 25-year-old, who’s about to turn 26, sort of raging through life, feeling oppressed and unseen and shouting out to find how he fits into the world. It is how he can find his truest voice in a world that doesn’t really allow him to feel like he’s enough. Because it is so specific about those things the show touches so many different people.”
L Morgan demonstrated coming out as a confident transgender actress, with her vulnerabilities unhidden, on the opening night of the play and decisions she made as she stepped into the public spotlight. “I feel a responsibility. It feels like a dream, it feels wonderful. It feels exciting. It’s like everything I’ve ever asked for but the, the most poignant feeling for me is the responsibility. How could I show up for that person that needs to find me.”
“On my opening night on Broadway, we were trying to figure out what I was going to do with dress and hair and all these things. You only get a first time once. You get your debut one time. So how do I make the most of this moment? I felt raw and excited. I needed to show like the most honest and clear-cut version of me I could. I needed to show my shaved head because that’s something that’s important to me. It’s something, I almost never show. I stepped out revealed, exposed and vulnerable on the very public red carpet, speaking to cameras with my buzzed head. Our relationship with hair runs very deep, especially for trans people, and there was something about it, that just felt like, I needed to do it. That kid somewhere under the covers needs to see this trans woman who is in her Broadway debut and she’s in a pretty dress and she has a shaved head, and she seems like she’s comfortable. Then when you hear her talking about it, you hear about her vulnerability and hear that she felt nervous, and you hear that she was dealing with dysphoria and she was dealing with confidence and she was dealing with all these things that we attached to our hair and she reveals those things. Not only because they’re true but because when we reveal Our Truth, our humanness, there is universality there. There is connection inside of our vulnerability.”
While the Tony nomination escalates her Broadway experience, L Morgan does not lose sight of her mortal existence. “On the day that the Tony nominations happened, I fell apart, completely losing it in my bedroom. Then I realized, I still needed to get a couch, and clean up the apartment. I still feel regular. It’s been a wild dream and at the same time, your real life just keeps on going. I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other.”
On the night of the Tonys. L Morgan will be up against some heavy hitters. Not the least of these is Broadway Legend Patty LuPone. L Morgan is ok with that. Her dream has been to see her face in one of the camera boxes on television of the nominee hopefuls.
“The biggest reason I do, what I do is one because I love storytelling. My experience is black, my experience is trans, but I’m just, I’m just a woman. I am a woman who had a trans experience. That’s my story. I know that somewhere there’s s a kid, as I have said, who is just like I was. It is extremely important for me to make that kid proud and make that kid feel seen and make that kid know that it’s possible.”
“I want that kid to be able to know that most importantly, they already are who they are dreaming to be. The world is telling you something different, but you know who you are. There’s nothing wrong with you, there is nothing wrong with us. The world has never told us that we were an option.”
“That kid needs to find my story. They need to know that we exist. It is the reason it took me so long to be public about things and to start speaking, because I wasn’t seeing enough examples. There’s a quote, ‘she needed a hero, so that’s what she became.’ I really live by that.”
She needed to see a transwoman Tony Nominee. So that’s what she became.
When they call the winner on Tony Night, it will be between a Broadway legend and Broadway’s newest icon.
However it goes, another ceiling has been broken forever, and somewhere a trans girl in hiding will realize her dream too can come true.
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