Wednesday 25 January 2012

Drag History Month

Perhaps you’ve noticed the colourful flag at the head of some of the posts for Drag History Month. It’s called the Feather Pride flag and was designed by Sean Patrick Campbell.

I’m delighted that Sean has taken the time to send me the following information about his design and his work:

The Feather Pride flag was created as a graphic in Gay and Lesbian Times (Greater Palm Springs Edition), June 2000, celebrating Gay Pride month. Since Gay and Lesbian Times had only been publishing for 4 months we had no photo archives. Being a prolific designer, I created several designs to represent various groups who make up the gay community.

Feathers and Flames - I couldn’t think of any better way to describe or symbolize the female impersonators, drag queens, fancy kings and their courts who were at the forefront of fundraising for research and awareness at the height of the AIDS epidemic sweeping through the community in the 1980's.

I use the mythological creature the phoenix, not only to represent feathers and flame, but I also remember an artist back in the late 80's who created an Icarus-style sculpture called the phoenix, and how he said the phoenix was being used in the gay community to symbolize our rebirth from the ashes of the AIDS epidemic. This imagery never really took ground with the gay community, but the idea stayed with me and eventually found it's way into my design.

From the state flag of
Maryland (pictured below) I was very much influenced by the symmetry of the 4 quadrants repeating heraldic patterns of black and gold, red and white. But instead of 4 quadrants of patterns or colours, to give more action I made a sunburst as a dazzling burst of light, which would be natural to appear with the phoenix.

I took inspiration from the motley ad-hoc patching of a harlequin costume of the 18th century that had alternating patterns of diamond shapes. I substituted triangles (a well known symbol of the gay community) for diamonds. Thus, in my thinking, who were the harlequins of our times but the drag queens? A harlequin is physical, colourful, romantic, comedic, high-spirited and clever. For anyone who may think I’m being mean-spirited or dismissive of the drag community, associating them with the harlequins of the past, calling them a joke, not at all. Look at the qualities I use to describe a harlequin, now apply those qualities to whom you best think in our modern society they would apply to. I think you’ll come to same conclusion. As to the colour choices, gold is gold as one would say, or a symbol of royalty or gold lamé, a standard in drag apparel. Since the phoenix is gold, a close associated colour is red, lipstick red - red curtain, was the train of thought. To contrast this is the black and white triangles.

I’ve always been an artist, first drawing superheroes as a child (which I still do), then studying art in high school. I graduated from
Iona College (New York) in 1989 with a double associates in applied science for art - illustration and art, and graphic design. You’d think they’re the same but are 2 different subjects, which lucky for me have overlapping requirements. I returned to studies in 1990 at Mercy College (NY) for what was back then in it's infancy called "Applied Computer Science" which these days would be Desktop Publishing.

Over the years I’ve had jobs in visual display for a homemaking entrepreneur and a major American up-scale kitchen retail chain, as well in fine art and even spent time as an apprentice tattoo artist. In the late 90's I worked for a small printing company where I was the sole creative service person working on various projects that ran from logo design, wedding invitations, political ads, you name it.

I moved to California in July 1999 with my partner at the time. I found work at a small local gay magazine, at first as ad salesman and then as designer and editor for one of the 2 publications it produced, again a jack-of-all-trades, from editing articles, photos, ad creation, layout and pre-press of the magazine. I am also proud that I was able to up-grade them to the new digital standards of the time. When I arrived at the company they where still doing old fashion pasting of the magazine layout.

At the beginning of 2000 a larger publishing company decided to produce it's own publication in the area. I was offered a position with the same responsibilities, just more money and benefits, which I accepted. Here is where I created my flag designs. Soon after I moved back to the east coast, first
Massachusetts and then to my home state of New York.

I continue to work in publishing, recently for a science text book company where I was involved in creating a series of project based books in the life, earth and physical sciences. This past summer I designed a leather charity calendar with Jed Ryan, Mr. Rawhide Leather 2011, called "Men of the Sash" and continue my work with the Twilight Guard as resident artist, web master and bar flyer creator.

Again, many thanks to Sean Patrick Campbell for providing an insight into his work, and for the information which has not been published anywhere else before. To see more of Sean’s flag designs go to

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