Chris Verene (aka Cheri Nevers) and The Group Facilitators
August 8th - 10th, 2019
601Artspace, 88 Eldridge Street, NYC

601Artspace was delighted to host The Self-Esteem Salon, a participatory performance that artist Chris Verene has been creating along with a group of facilitators for over 20 years. This year, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, the Salon offered three days of continuous activism around the themes of:

LGBTQ Rights are Human Rights
Art of Activism
Performance of Identity
Actions of Inclusivity

Open hours:
Thursday, August 8th, 1-9:30pm
Friday, August 9th, 1-8pm
Saturday, August 10th, 1-6pm

Presented Daily:

"The Performance of Identity" - Photographers were available to work directly with volunteer subjects on portrait sessions for costume therapy. The goal is to "actualize" the idea of the "alter-ego" in a portrait, to make portraits that are "beyond the fantasy." Photographers: Chris Verene and Emily Jureller (Thursday), Bek Andersen (Friday), Special guests (Saturday).

"How to Engage with Civic Leaders"
- phone banking workshops on how to contact officials with your concerns. A.C.L.U. volunteer information, reports from Puerto Rico, street medic information, reports on DREAMers, DACA and undocumented people, workshop on sex workers rights, picket sign and button making.

Special events:

"Making Activism Pleasurable" - Thursday, August 8th, 6:30pm
A workshop about the intersection of LGBTQ, undocumented immigrants, and sex workers’ rights, facilitated by undocumented activist Gilda Merlot, steering committee member of DecrimNY & organizer of Red Light Reader. Gilda Merlot is an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, a sex worker, and DREAMer. She divides her time between activism, work, and family.  Merlot’s YouTube and Twitter presence is an ongoing resource for activism.

"Temp" - Friday, August 9th, 6pm
In this public workshop, Kince de Vera of Pride ASIA helps participants contextualize undefined emotions through a tactile experience with paint. De Vera's performances, which explore mental health through a combination of movement and paint, will occur throughout the the course of the salon. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Kince de Vera is a dancer, choreographer, songwriter, model, performance artist, and community organizer based in Seattle, WA.

Saturday, August 10th, 1pm
Caroline Contillo, @spacecrone, will present "Sound of Mind," a meditation and sound workshop, followed by one-on-one teaching.

Your Group Facilitators:

Ani Cordero, Latinx Musician,  Activist
Kince de Vera, Artist, Activist
Bek Andersen, Photographer, Activist
Camille Altay, Painter,  Activist
Penny Henzel, Artist, Activist
Sunday Menace, Graffiti Artist, Activist
Emily Jureller, Photographer, Activist
Cheri Nevers, Drag Queen, Activist
Angie Montalvo, Latinx Artist, Educator

Origins of The Self-Esteem Salon

The Self-Esteem Salon was created in 1997 by Chris Verene as a self-esteem-raising and healing action for his friend and bandmate,"Benjamin," a beloved Atlanta music and art celebrity who was struggling with HIV AIDS.  The work was done in collaboration with Atlanta artist Lisa Shinault, and Shinault has had a continued influence on the piece for the following decades. For most of the life of the performance series, Verene staged the work under the pseudonym of "Cheri Nevers," as a way of keeping his drag persona and sexuality hidden from parts of his life and career.  The late painter and musician Todd Butler, also of Atlanta, coined the name Cheri Nevers as a perfect anagram from the name Chris Verene. 

Chris Verene and Cheri Nevers

In 1986, at age sixteen, Chris Verene began photographing his family's hometown of Galesburg, Illinois, and has since documented the lives of its people through a factual yet sympathetic lens for thirty years in a project called, "Family." Twin Palms Publishers have released two major books of the "Family" photographs, in 2000 and in 2010. In 2009, Verene began video recording the same characters.  Today, Verene’s documentary photographs are represented in many major museum collections including The Whitney, The Met, The Jewish Museum, The Walker Art Center, The LA MOCA, The SF MoMA, The Wadsworth, and The Berkeley Art Museum.   Verene has been profiled in major publications such as Vanity Fair, Vogue L'Hommes, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Art In America, and Art Forum, and The New York Times.  Verene is also an accomplished musician, recording and touring with artists such as The Rock*A*Teens, The Indigo Girls, and Ani Cordero. Verene is represented by Postmasters Gallery, New York City.

Ani Cordero, Director of The Self-Esteem Salon

Since the year 2000, Ani Cordero has directed The Self-Esteem Salon in most of its installations.  This role began when The Whitney Museum of American Art invited the work to be installed and performed during the 2000 Biennial exhibition.  Ani Cordero is a passionate singer, songwriter, drummer, guitarist, and Latin American music researcher living in NYC. Her critically-acclaimed albums have received accolades from NPR's All Things Considered, Alt-Latino, and Soundcheck, as well as, Billboard, USA Today, PRI The World, Brooklyn Vegan, BUST, Remezcla, and more. Cordero's work addresses several themes including immigration, Black Lives Matter, Feminism, and government corruption. The music features heavy percussion, sing-along choruses, and strong lyrics that aim to inspire political resistance and support for social justice.

Bek Andersen, Director, Summer 2019

Bek Andersen received an MFA in photography from the Yale School of Art in 2017 after working for several years as a fashion and entertainment photographer in New York City.  A queer spiritualist raised by devout Mormon parents in a suburb of Oklahoma City, Andersen’s work is concerned with the fictive and performative identities of power, gender, sex and the mythologies through which the present claims authenticity. This background situates the work between a variety of technologies and attendant politics of display. Her photographs and installations present visions of truth as a provocation to look more closely at relations of beauty, power, love, lust and family.

88 Eldridge St. New York, NY 10002
Tel: 212-243-2735
Open Thurs-Sun 1-6pm 
© 601Artspace, 2018