Wigstock by Pierre Dalpé

August 22, 2024 - November 6, 2024
Human Rights Institute Gallery
Pierre Dalpé, Untitled (men in black), Wigstock, 1995

About the Exhibition

From 1984 to 2001, Wigstock was an annual outdoor drag festival that took place at the end of June throughout New York City to mark the end of the summer for LGBTQIA+ people. The community gathered in numbers and created a safe environment for themselves and allies alike.

During this time, queer people were experiencing overwhelming anxiety, hate, and backlash because of the AIDS pandemic. This collection is a time capsule of the times people went through, and it brings awareness to the issues that persist to this day. This includes the fight for trans rights, the battle for marriage equality, and efforts to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Pierre Dalpé captured the attendees during its peak in popularity from 1992-1995. Although there were many drag performances and musical concerts, Dalpé was more attracted to the surrounding crowd. From cross-dressing in drag to DIY outfits and carnivalesque costumes, the attendees all had the same goal: freedom of expression.

Dalpé is a gay Canadian photographer who explores the ever-connected and complicated relationships between the body, identity, disguise, and performance. He is fascinated by the concept of how masking can be a way to reveal oneself. Using both a documentary and staged photography style, he is able to capture and bring out the subject's inner truth. Most of his current work is focused on his travels to Japan and Brazil, where he explores this concept in other cultures.

Selected Works

About the Artist

Pierre Dalpé was born in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, and moved to Montreal at the age of 7, where he has since lived and worked. In 1993, he received a B.F.A. in film studies and photography from Concordia University in Montreal. His work has been published and exhibited in Canada, the United States, Europe, Russia, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Brazil, and the Middle East. He has received grants from the Conseil des Arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2012, Les Éditions Cayenne published a monograph of his work spanning 20 years of his photographic practice, featuring two bodies of work: Clothes Minded and Personae. This monograph was funded with a grant from the CALQ. He has participated in Artist in Residence programs at The Banff Centre; the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture in Dawson City, Yukon; the CALQ’s Quebec Studio in Mexico City; the Beirut Art Residency in Beirut, Lebanon; and in early 2023, he participated in a research residency at Uberbau_house in São Paulo, Brazil. Much of his work in the past decade has centered around his travels to Japan and Brazil, where he has continued his exploration of masking and masquerade.

Artist Statement

“Man is least himself when he speaks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.” Oscar Wilde

I am a gay artist based in Montreal, Canada. My photography and video work explores the interconnected relationships between the body, identity, disguise, and performance. Notions surrounding masking and masquerade are at the core of my creative investigations; I am particularly fascinated with how masking can simultaneously be used to conceal as well as reveal.

Oscillating between documentary-style reportage and staged mise-en-scène, my photography questions preconceived notions regarding photographic portraiture and narrative representations. In my documentary work I photograph individuals in public, private and intimate spaces—in environments where individuals perform, role play or act out desires involving masking, masquerade, and disguise. For my staged work I collaborate with individuals to deconstruct and bring to light the many identities that might be hidden beneath a multitude of masks and façades—to excavate and reveal the personae that lay beneath their surface(s).