The Nudie Artist: Burlesque Revived


Burlesque is a form of American folk art/theater built on seduction and humor. Descended from risqué European dance traditions and comedic-theatric vaudeville, traditional American burlesque was a travelling circus of bedazzled sexuality, often overlooked in the official history of this country’s sexual and theatrical past. Burlesque’s golden age, traditionally considered to be the 1930s, provided an important pastime of affordable pleasure during the otherwise bleak Great Depression.

Burlesque is a form of American folk art/theater built on seduction and humor. Descended from risqué European dance traditions and comedic-theatric vaudeville, traditional American burlesque was a travelling circus of bedazzled sexuality, often overlooked in the official history of this country’s sexual and theatrical past. Burlesque’s golden age, traditionally considered to be the 1930s, provided an important pastime of affordable pleasure during the otherwise bleak Great Depression. Performers, often drawn to burlesque for economic reasons, “stripped” and “teased” a typically male-dominated audience with the exposure of as much skin legally permitted at the time.

Beginning in the mid 1990s, a revival of this performative art form has taken place in both New York and Los Angeles and, in recent years, grown into a worldwide movement. While contemporary burlesque performers draw upon the craft of their predecessors to create art that centers around the sexual body, using the removal of clothing to make social and political commentary, they also have new intentions and objectives. Now, more so than ever, performers celebrate creative self-expression that promotes a culture of female sexual empowerment and body appreciation. This exciting synthesis of nostalgic glamour and contemporary sensibilities has exploded into a new art form, captivating artists, designers, filmmakers, journalists, performers and audiences alike.

The exhibition featured select artifacts from the 1880s to the 1950s, modern works of art from burlesque photographer Leland Bobbé, illustrations from contemporary artist Luma Rouge and footage from Behind the Burly Q, a film by Leslie Zemeckis. The Nudie Artist: Burlesque Revived allowed visitors to peek inside the world of burlesque and see the performance art from a personal angle. Inspiring artwork, personal photos, handmade costumes and rare footage provided a glimpse into the past life of an art form that is experiencing a present-day resurgence.


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