When Anthony Hudson looks around his new art exhibit, he sees his own demise.
"The makeup that didn't make it on these prints is living in my lungs and will be the death of me," says Hudson.
Currently, there are dozens of Hudson's used makeup wipes hanging on the walls of the Littman Gallery. For the past six years, after every show as his drag persona Carla Rossi, Hudson has pressed his face into a Neutrogena face wipe, creating a copy of Carla's white face paint, bright lipstick, multicolored eye shadow and high, drawn-on eyebrows.
Hudson has now accumulated almost 200 of these wipes, but until recently, he had no idea what he was going to do with them. "I just started keeping them and I never knew what I was going to use them for or why," he says. "It was less intention about turning them into a project. It just became a habit of, 'OK, I'm just going to record the face that I did tonight.'"
Me, Myself & It is the result of that private, post-performance ritual. There's commentary handwritten on the walls, which Hudson says is in the voice of Carla Rossi. A makeup wipe marked with bright orange and yellow eye shadow is captioned "Oh no, someone found neon paint on clearance (road cone chic)."
Under a print where the mouth is an amorphous, deep red blob, Hudson-as-Rossi has written in pink marker: "I put on some light lipstick to Beyoncé's 'Pretty Hurts.' I had been in a back brace for months." Further down the timeline, a wipe is captioned with "first show with Joel," with a pink heart drawn on either side of Joel's name.
The prints are arranged in chronological order. As the timeline progresses, Carla Rossi's eye makeup evolves from thin, arched eyebrows underscored with bright colors to thick, winged eyeliner. A small dot on each cheek is eventually replaced by Cher-like swipes of pink. Eventually, Carla starts outlining her wide, U-shaped chin, a development that's labeled with "look at these spectacular chins," written in all caps.
Me, Myself & It works purely as irreverent pop art. The symmetrical prints look a little like drag queen Rorschach tests: endlessly repeating, slowly evolving colors and shapes that amount to the cakey remnants of the painted-on features of an invented persona.
But for all the meta, self-deprecating humor, Me, Myself & It isn't impersonal. "These are biohazards. There's eyelashes still attached to some of them, there's glitter flakes," says Hudson. "A lot of them are like turning black. I don't know if I was outside and that's like pollution or what's accumulating on my face. Maybe I do secrete toxins. Carla does."
The show is attributed both to Hudson and Rossi. In that way, Me, Myself & It is sincerity filtered through performed fakeness, as if Hudson is genuinely trying to say something, while acknowledging the risk that it could be bullshit. "Carla, she's a clown, she's a trickster, she can't do anything right," says Hudson. "But me, I'm vulnerable. So I can never commit to making anything 100 percent just Carla from her perspective."
Aside from the makeup wipes and their commentary, the only art in the exhibit are Carla Rossi show posters displayed on a dividing wall in the center of the gallery. One is covered with a "canceled" sign. The handwritten caption explains that the Gay Straight Alliance at Concordia University has tried to book Rossi for several events, only to have the Lutheran administration cancel the show each time. The club was recently disbanded by the school (and then reinstated after a story published by WW) so Rossi/Hudson has included the name, email address and telephone number of the university's president.
It's the exhibit's one moment of clear conviction. On a dividing wall in front of the entrance, Carla has scribbled "Still figuring out my gender identity." There's an asterisk that leads you to "Somewhere out there, Fraggle Rock is missing a talking garbage pile." Another asterisk leads you to the final fragment: "Absolutely my gender identity."
"Carla's like my way of the theater of the absurd," says Hudson. "We have to laugh because if we don't laugh, we're going to cry."
SEE IT: Me, Myself & It is at Littman Gallery, 1825 SW Broadway, littmanandwhite.com. Noon-5 pm Monday-Wednesday, noon-6 pm Friday-Thursday, through March 2. Free.