Long Live the Drag Queen: Paintings by Janet Boltax

Long Live the Drag Queen: Paintings by Janet Boltax

May 24-June 30, 2024
Children's Arcade Gallery, located on the Lower Level

Behold the drag queen—not only a contemporary means to challenge social norms, but a tradition that can be traced back to the age of Shakespeare when female roles were performed by men. The term “drag” is thought to have been inspired by the heavy dresses people once wore in plays or at balls as they dragged across the floor. Today drag is performed for a variety of reasons: to make a political statement on gender roles, to explore another persona, to entertain an audience, or to earn a living.

According to the artist, MAM Portrait Instructor Janet Boltax, “This series has been very rewarding to paint because there is a very stimulating, dramatic, and sometimes poignant element to my sitters. The theatricality of this art form has also challenged me in new ways. While I’ve traditionally painted only faces and a bit of the torso—since the face is particularly engaging to me—my models have generated such expressive poses that I feel compelled to include more of the figure and background in my paintings. These elements have proven essential to fully capturing my sitters. It has been invigorating to have a challenge that fosters artistic growth.” While Janet has been working in a variety of art media for nearly

50 years, she has always been powerfully drawn to oil portraiture. She conceived of a way to develop a consistent body of work by choosing a particular theme and creating several paintings in accordance with that theme. Using this prototype, she has completed approximately 25 portraits of people between the ages of 90 and 104, another series comprised of paintings of two individuals as they transitioned from one gender to another, and a “creative” series comprised of portraits of artists, musicians, writers, dancers, and others in artistic pursuits.

Janet has been teaching painting and portraiture at MAM for approximately 15 years and has also taught as several other venues including the MetroWest Jewish Center for the Developmentally Disabled. Her work has been shown in multiple solo exhibits at university and private galleries as well as in numerous juried shows. She has been featured in The Artist Magazine, completed an artist residency at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, and was recently awarded a grant from the NJ State Council on the Arts.

Regarding her creative process, Janet says, “My best work is accomplished when I can achieve an optimal balance between emotion and intellect, control and letting go. I continually strive to push the limits of my expressive abilities.”