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Claudette Atkinson: Brighton Is Burning

3 October 202313 November 2023

A painting by Claudette Atkinson of a QTIPoC dancing Vogue.

For Black History Month, Claudette Atkinson exhibits paintings celebrating the dance form Voguing, which emerged in the late 1980s out of the Harlem ballroom scene.

About the exhibition

The exhibition is an ode to a Brighton-based QTIPoC* Vogue group run by social support network Radical Rhizomes. After coming across Voguing classes a little over a year ago, Claudette Atkinson began creating paintings of people she danced with at sessions whilst honouring the five elements of Voguing: Catwalk, Spins and Dips, Hands/Arms, Duckwalks, and Floor Performance.

This Black dance tradition was originally inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics and later high fashion models striking angular poses in photoshoots, hence the name ‘Vogue’. Growing out of the vibrant 1960s African-American and Latino LGBTQ+ ballroom scene, Vogue presents gender as performance, with those taking part in ballroom competitions nowadays styling hair or applying makeup (“beat face”) as part of their choreography. The grandeur of the ballroom scene can be traced back to drag balls held at the legendary Hamilton Lodge in Harlem in the late 19th century. The ballroom scene has always been a space for QTIPoC to thrive and build community outside of society’s iterations of racism, anti-Blackness, queer-phobia and transphobia, a history of resistance celebrated in the award-winning film Paris Is Burning.

Claudette says:

“Never did I expect to experience emotional and physical connections or physical and mental changes through doing this dance form, but I did. Participating in these classes has been inspiring and enabled me to understand the power of this dance form. I have the utmost respect for how it pulled the community that developed it together. Voguing is more than just a dance form.”

‘Brighton Is Burning’ is viewable in the ONCA window gallery until from 3 October until 5 November 2023.

*QTIPoC = Queer, Trans, Intersex, People of Colour

View Online Exhibition

About the artist

Claudette Atkinson is an artist from London who has been living and working as a teacher supporting young people with special needs education in Brighton for the last 25 years. She grew up in a creative household, her mother being a crocheter and father a carpenter. Claudette remembers sitting around the table and drawing with her siblings. After attending art college and focusing on fashion design, Claudette worked in the fashion industry and then in performing arts as a dancer. During the pandemic, Claudette rediscovered her passion for creating art pieces and has not looked back since.


Join Claudette for Making Fabric Roses workshop on Wednesday 25 October, 6:30 – 8pm.

Black text reads Lankelly Chase


3 October 2023
13 November 2023
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