Pole Dancing, Margaret Cho, the Whitney: Julie Atlas Muz’s Got It All

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In an age when anyone living in a metropolitan area can sign up for pole dancing classes at a local gym or be coached in the art of burlesque, it might seem unlikely that sex work-inspired performance art could gain the artistic prestige of Marcel DuChamp and Man Ray. But a review in today’s New York Times compares the work of Julie Atlas Muz to both these heavyweights of modern art. The performance artist and burlesque star who has performed at the Whitney Biennial and the Miss Exotic World Pageant (and is touring with this year’s Sex Workers’ Art Show that Mother Jones reviewed here) celebrated the opening of her first solo show, “Divine Comedy of an Exquisite Corpse” this Saturday. “Exquisite Corpse,” as the Times reports, is a commentary on “suicide, terrorism, and fear,” laden with undercurrents about feminine power and aging. This sounds like the present wave of feminism at its most diva-like. You have social commentary about sex and politics all wrapped up in glitter with a lot of skin showing. But Muz says it’s just “good old Vaudeville.” It sounds like a lot more than old Vaudeville to me. While Vaudeville and Muz’ work may be about stylized performance and glamour, the latter is about reclaiming and elevating both low art and feminine sexuality.

–Rose Miller

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