True & Faux

How a woman became San Francisco’s most fascinating – and artistically sophisticated – drag queen.


Fauxnique. Photograph by Toby Burditt, San Francisco Magazine

Read the article by San Francisco magazine

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Museum without Walls: Sarah Wilson and Catch Me Bird Go Off the Walls at Djerassi

The blog series Museum Without Walls features de Young Artist Fellows working outside of the museum with other artists and community-based organizations. In this edition, we catch up with Sarah Wilson and Catch Me Bird at their Djerassi alumni artist residency where they gave us a glimpse into the early stages of their creative process.


When Sarah Wilson first met Catch Me Bird in 2009, it was instant inspiration on both sides. Wilson, a composer, trumpeter and singer-songwriter began to play around with the aerial/dance duo, composing pieces as they choreographed movement.

Floor Dance

When Sarah Wilson was selected as a de Young Artist Fellow two years later, her first instinct was to incorporate the aerial stylings of Catch Me Bird, and together during Wilson’s Artist Fellowship, they will create Off the Walls.


Wilson’s connection to the museum has been strong since her first concert at the de Young in 2008. Catch Me Bird, the husband-and-wife team of Nehara Kalev and C. Derrick Jones, is an LA-based performance company whose Bay Area roots run deep. Catch Me Bird brings their real lives to the stage—beginning with their 2004 wedding—in what they call “reality performance.” Their collaboration with Wilson continues in this vein by drawing on Jones’s personal relationship to his “Uncle Doug,” the Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas.

Aaron Douglas

Douglas, left, with Grace Goens, Alta Douglas, Derrick’s aunt, and Dr. W. W. Goen at A Severa-Restaurante Tipico, Lisbon, Portugal, 1956

A highlight of the Museums’ permanent collections, Aaron Douglas’s Aspiration depicts the African American rise from slavery to freedom, an evolution that was mirrored in his own career as a pioneer in the Harlem Renaissance movement. Douglas was a progressive who socialized with the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and W.E.B. du Bois. His legacy has been passed through generations of civil rights activists and educators–among them members of Jones’s own family–and straight into the arms of Catch Me Bird.


Aaron Douglas (American, 1899–1979). Aspiration, 1936. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase. 1997.84. Currently on view at the de Young.

Using Aspiration as a jumping off point, Off the Walls will reinvent Douglas’s iconic work as a multimedia performance. Wilson’s unique compositions will evoke the effervescence of the speakeasy setting, as well as dark undertones found in Douglas’s painting, Charleston. Dancers and aerial performers will embody the ideas of adversity and hope that saturate Douglas’s work from the 1920s and 1930s, conceived in the context of today.

As part of her Artist Fellowship, Sarah Wilson will share her process from start to finish. The next opportunity to see her work will be on May 25 when the Sarah Wilson Ensemble performs at Friday Nights at the de Young. Throughout July, visitors to the Kimball Education Gallery/Artist Studio at the de Young will be able to observe Wilson and Catch Me Bird, and Off the Walls as a work-in-progress prior to the final presentation in September.

Off the Walls will premiere at the de Young on September 21–23 when audiences will be led by a procession of musicians and performers through the de Young as Sarah Wilson and Catch Me Bird bring Douglas’s paintings to life!

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A History in Heels: Monique Jenkinson at the de Young

Monique Jenkinson (aka Fauxnique), a 2012 de Young Artist Fellow, is currently working in an open process format in the Kimball Education Gallery. The fundamental goals of the yearlong Artist Fellows program are to support work by artists both inside and outside of the museum, and to foster long-term relationships with those artists and their collaborating partners. In some cases, the foundation for this relationship has been long established through programs such as Friday Nights at the de Young. Case in point: Monique Jenkinson.

A dancer and performance artist, Jenkinson and her sometimes alter-ego, Fauxnique, has been stunning audiences at the de Young with colorful, creative and insightful live performances for the past five years. Jenkinson has drawn on the work of provocative fashion designers and artists, such as Vivienne Westwood and Gilbert & George. As part of her fellowship, her newest performance pieces will pull from the racks of Jean-Paul Gaultier, the aestheticism of The Cult of Beauty, and the movement and costuming of Rudolf Nureyev. As we look forward to what’s to come, we wanted to take a moment to look back at the past five years.

Vivienne Westwood Stair Performance

April 2007

In 2007 curator of costume and textile arts Jill D’Alessandro first introduced Jenkinson to the museum during the benchmark exhibition, Vivienne Westwood: 36 years in Fashion. Fauxnique collaborated with Mr. David to present an unforgettable fashion show that featured 40 drag queens.

August 2007

In the special exhibition Guise: Recent Prints by Deborah Oropallo images of contemporary women were superimposed over images of men from 17th- and 18th-century portrait paintings to investigate the seduction of power evoked by gesture and pose. In response, Jenkinson created Heroic Comportment, a performance in which she performed a series of tasks—heavy lifting, running suicides, and jumping, all while wearing 7-inch platform heels—that culminated in her ascent to the top of a pair of 4-feet high platform shoes.


Monique Jenkinson as Lip-Syncing Sculpture.

May 2008

In response to the fantastic world of Gilbert & George, Fauxnique and three fellow drag queens transformed themselves into the Lip-Synching Sculpture, which was a nod to Singing Sculpture, one of the duo’s most famous works.

“We each stood on a pedestal with our own sound source, these fabulous purses that hold iPods with speakers on the outside. People had to get really close to hear and we all were doing different songs. In the original Gilbert & George piece, they barely move, so my assignment to the queens was that everyone got only four gestures for the whole song. We were right next to the children’s craft table, which I loved, because what we do has so much in common with that—dress up, make-believe artistic play. So there were all of these children ambling up to look at the drag queens and they were just fascinated.”

Parlor Games

Photo by Parker Tilghman

February 2009

Parlor Game was a dynamic performance piece that paid homage to Yves Saint Laurent and his predilection for all things Proust. An interactive performance that used common parlor games such as charades, telephone, musical chairs and Twister, Parlour Games integrated dance choreography and inquiries from the Proust questionnaire, culminating with performers teaching museum visitors the Hustle.


Jenkinson is currently working in the Kimball Education Gallery/Artist Studio through February 26 to share and invite visitors into her process as she creates new work. As an Artist Fellow, she is working with the support and partnership of Dancers’ Group and CounterPULSE.

On Friday night, April 27 Jenkinson and collaborators honor Jean-Paul Gaultier and nightclub culture with DJs, lectures and film. In addition, Club Some Thing’s Project Runt Over will pair models with young museum visitors acting as fashion designers to create the ultimate fashion show.

Throughout the year, Monique/Fauxnique will return to the de Young to show works-in-progress as well as finished performances, with her culminating performance premiering at CounterPULSE on November 29–December 2 and December 7–9.

For more information on Monique Jenkinson and her work, visit Artist Fellows.

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Straight Outta Hunters Point 2 at the Roxie

The Roxie Theater in San Francisco is screening Kevin Epps’ recent film and the follow-up to the hard-hitting and raw look at daily life in Hunters Point, where unemployment, drugs, ang gangs vie with rap dreams.

The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Epps to find out what it was like to film “cinema verite” style on the streets of Hunters Point. Read the interview on SF Gate…..

Tamara Palmer of SF Weekly writes, Hope and Despair, “The impact of Kevin Epps’ 2003 documentary Straight Outta Hunters Point runs so deep in the neighborhood where it was filmed, kids who have never met the director have the title of his film tattooed on their arms and backs. Its long-anticipated sequel, Straight Outta Hunters Point 2, shows a shade less overt violence than the original, which kickstarted a nationwide trend toward harrowing hood videos. But it is no less chilling in its exploration of the deep and systemic issues that continue to plague the neighborhood and its residents.

These include gut-wrenchingly low high school graduation rates, and a palette of ailments — such as asthma and cancer — that some attribute to the hazardous waste from a PG&E power plant and the contaminated vestiges of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Even as the issues have escalated and seem more painfully deep, there are flickers of hope that make this a compelling view. Progressing from the original, Epps provides a more balanced look at genders and generations, as well as avenues that members of the community have taken as an alternative to the streets. And with the insistent grab for land and development that’s currently powering through Bayview-Hunters Point, the film also provides a vital snapshot of the area and what it will soon no longer look like.”

Screenings are nightly at 7 and 8:45 p.m. plus Saturday and Sundays at 3:15 and 5 p.m. from February 24-March 1.

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In continuation of our series Museum Without Walls, we visited Todd T. Brown’s studio as he prepares for his final exhibition as an Artist Fellow at the de Young. Inheritance and Dreams will be on display in the Kimball Education Gallery February 1–12.

Todd T Brown in his studio

During his year as an inaugural Artist Fellow, Brown produced a new body of mixed-media work and a performance project called Teobi’s Dreaming; he curated a series of performances exploring the idea of identity; and he initiated a new infrastructure for artist-led projects called “Investing in the Creative Hunch” (or The ITCH).

Surrounded by Brown’s as of yet unfinished paintings, we discussed new directions in his work and how the Artist Fellows experience informed his concept of inheritance and dreams.

Works-in-progress for "INHERITANCE and DREAMS"

On Inheritance and Dreams

When I talk about inheritance, I’m thinking about the total inheritance that we’re born into–from the global reality, to the country you’re born into, to the community you’re born into, to the family you’re born into–and all of the richness, struggle and brutality that’s a part of that shared experience. In the September exhibit, Inheritance, I was very much dealing with the juxtaposition of the personal narrative against the backdrop of that collective history.

Now, with Inheritance and Dreams, I am thinking of the dreaming power, or the capacity to see. To dream is to have this clear vision that you move toward, as if it’s already real. And through that vision, you begin to transform the world around you. So, we have this enormous, complex and conflicted inheritance that we’re born into, but this dreaming power represents our capacity to transform it or to integrate it.

On Invisible Passage and new directions

Invisible Passage is essentially the blueprint of a slave ship, on top of which is layered alternating black and white stripes, a red and white banner, and hand-written script. When you think of the process of building up a painting, the under painting is not gone, it’s there, it’s always underneath. History is layered like that.

Invisible Passage by Todd T Brown

In this country, we’re so focused on the next trend that many parts of our history are swept under the rug or forgotten. As an immigrant coming to America, the expectation is for you to assimilate, to check your history at the door. I believe that, in trying to understand ourselves personally, we have to face the wholeness of our history.

So I have introduced this kind of very gestural handwritten script that is representative of my personal narrative. I write questions that I’m asking myself, as well as questions that I ask of my ancestry. It became clear that my work had become about these two things meeting each other–the personal narrative or personal story and the collective history that we inherit–and figuring out how to come to terms with those two things and how to be fully present and accountable to both.

On Artist Fellows and the de Young

The Artist Fellows program at the de Young is a really positive change that’s happening in the museum. The idea of shifting away from being a repository to also being a space of context is really important. I feel that the de Young has done a great job engaging a really diverse group of rotating artists who bring eclecticism to the museum. Certainly, that is what has happened at the de Young during the first year of Artist Fellows, with communities coming in from Hunters Point and the Mission–the physical body of the museum can be such a point of convergence if it’s used that way.

Brown’s exploration into the duality of identity has spanned the farthest reaches of the global human experience to the microscopically intimate biology of our innermost selves. Hear the artist talk about the biology of our identity in the video interview below.

Inheritance and Dreams will be on view in the Kimball Education Gallery February 1–12, Tuesdays–Sundays from 1:00–5:00 p.m. A reception in honor of the artist will take place on Saturday, February 4 from 3:00–5:00 p.m. in the Kimball Education Gallery. All events are free.

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Tree City Legends

Many of you fell in love with Campo Santo at the de Young. Now, you can follow them downtown with their newest production, featuring Sean San José. Tree City Legends is the world premiere of a new performance by emerging playwright/musician Dennis Kim, directed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and the third installment for Campo Santo’s Next series. Tree City Legends is a multidisciplinary theater work that melds post-hip-hop aesthetics, urban folklore, Korean traditional tales, live music, legend, and parable. It is part bildungsroman, part blues slong, and part Book of Jonah remix. Don’t miss the show from February 16-March 3 at Intersection for the Arts’ performance space at 5th and Mission. More information

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Museum Without Walls: Sarah Wilson

This month, the de Young begins its second installment of the Artist Fellows program, which brings working artists from a variety of disciplines into the museum for a year. During this year, Artist Fellows will break open their art process by exhibiting works-in-progress and investigating new avenues of creativity through collaboration with the museum, partner institutions and other artists.

Each artist is associated with a collaborating institutional partner, an aspect of the program specifically designed to encourage museum engagement with local, community based arts organizations. Working both within and without the walls, the Artist Fellows will inhabit a new kind of museum, one without walls. In celebration of this next phase of the Artist Fellows program, we will focus on these extra-museum collaborations in a blog series called Museum Without Walls.

The inaugural 2012 Artist Fellow is composer, trumpeter and singer-songwriter Sarah Wilson. Wilson has been involved with the Fine Arts Museums’ growing live music scene since 2008 as part of the Jazz at Intersection at the de Young series. One of seven composers commissioned to write and perform a new song in response to the de Young’s permanent collections, Wilson wrote She Stands in a Room inspired by Nicolas Africano’s Untitled sculpture, currently on display in Gallery 5A at the de Young museum.

Nicolas Africano (American, b. 1948). Untitled, 2006. Cast glass. Partial gift of Dorothy and George Saxe to the Fine Arts Museums Foundation. 2008.75.4

Wilson’s fellowship at the de Young is supported by partner organizations Stags’ Leap Winery and Z Space. In keeping with the concept of a Museum Without Walls, Wilson’s fellowship actually began last November during a residency at the beautiful Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa, California. The winery has been a gathering place for creative-types since 1893, and for the past 20 years has sponsored its own Artist in Residence program for poets, musicians and visual artists from across the country. In 2011, Stags’ Leap Winery approached the de Young interested in collaborative opportunities, and Wilson seemed the perfect artist to launch the new partnership. During her Stags’ Leap residency, Wilson was inspired by the color, light and drama of the Napa Valley, which she integrated into new music that will be performed at both Stags’ Leap and the de Young later this year.

It’s not unusual for Wilson to find inspiration in her surroundings, and sometimes it happens in the most surprising, organic way. Another phase of Wilson’s fellowship will be conducted in cooperation with C. Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalev of the aerial dance duo Catch Me Bird, whom Wilson met while participating in the Djerassi Resident Artists Program.

Aaron Douglas (American, 1899–1979). Aspiration, 1936. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase, the estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs Jr., the Museum Society Auxiliary, American Art Trust Fund, Unrestricted Art Trust Fund, partial gift of Dr. Ernest A. Bates, Sharon Bell, Jo-Ann Beverly, Barbara Carleton, Dr. And Mrs. Arthur H. Coleman, Dr. and Mrs. Coyness Ennix, Jr., Nicole Y. Ennix, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Francois, Dennis L. Franklin, Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell C. Gillette, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Goodyear, Zuretti L. Goosby, Marion E. Greene, Mrs. Vivian S. W. Hambrick, Laurie Gibbs Harris, Arlene Hollis, Louis A. and Letha Jeanpierre, Daniel and Jackie Johnson, Jr., Stephen L. Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lathan, Lewis & Ribbs Mortuary Garden Chapel, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Love, Glenn R. Nance, Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Parker III, Mr. and Mrs. Carr T. Preston, Fannie Preston, Pamela R. Ransom, Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin F. Reed, San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Chapter of Links, Inc., San Francisco Chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Dr. Ella Mae Simmons, Mr. Calvin R. Swinson, Joseph B. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred S. Wilsey, and the people of the Bay Area. 1997.84

That they were impressed by each others work was foreseeable, but more serendipitous is that their collaboration led them to the painting, Aspiration. A de Young Collections Icon, Aspiration was created by none other than Jones’ great uncle and Harlem Renaissance leader Aaron Douglas, and has become the portal for a performance they will create together. Entitled Off the Walls, this performance will bring to life Douglas’s painting in dance and movement, literally taking the art off the walls.

Z Space, Wilson’s second collaborative partner, is an incredible organization that presents dance and theater. During July, Wilson and Catch Me Bird will develop their work on the ground in the de Young Artist Studio. They will then move to Z Space (formerly the Theater Artaud) where the team will focus on the aerial aspect of the performance, fine tuning every detail from the trusses and lighting, to perfecting fast-flying acrobatics, to refining each musical note.

The final production of Off the Walls will premiere at the de Young on September 21 and 22 (stay tuned for details). In the meantime, the artists are off to Djerassi as alumni Resident Artists. Continuing the Museum Without Walls series, we’ll follow them there in February to witness the beginning of their spectacular work together.

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Welcome Sarah Wilson!

We are very pleased to welcome our new class of Artist Fellows, beginning with Trumpeter/Composer/Singer-Songwriter Sarah Wilson. Many of you may remember Wilson as part of the Jazz at Intersection at the de Young series in 2009 when she composed a new piece inspired by Nicolas Africano’s untitled sculpture at the de Young, or her performance at the Chamber Music Day on October 16, 2011.

Sarah Wilson has partnered with dance/aerial performers Catch Me Bird (C. Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalev), and is collaborating with Z Space and Stags’ Leap Winery.

In November, Wilson spent two weeks at the beautiful Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa, California, composing new work among the stunning grapevines. She chronicled her time there in their blog. In February, you’ll see a sneak peek of her Djerassi Alumni Residency, where Wilson will be in full-creation mode with Catch Me Bird. In the meantime, she visited the de Young to talk about her partnerships and her inspirations for her Artist Fellows project, “Off the Walls.”

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