Cherdonna Shinatra: DITCH

January 26 – April 28, 2019

Seattle-based dance artist Jody Kuehner skewers social and cultural norms of gender and sexuality through her persona and alter ego Cherdonna Shinatra. Combining contemporary dance, drag, clowning, and the traditions of feminist and queer performance, Cherdonna defies categorization to dismantle the patriarchy and seek more liberated ways of being. DITCH will mark Kuehner’s most complex and demanding production to date, taking the form of an immersive installation that includes daily performances by Cherdonna with members of her newly formed dance company, DONNA. Over the course of eighty performances, Cherdonna—clad in an outfit reminiscent of Pierrot the clown—and her six companions will grapple with the dismal state of the world by undertaking her greatest challenge yet: making every single person happy.

DITCH shines a light on Cherdonna’s varied expressions of femininity and complex personality, contrasting her charisma and constant need to please with the total fear and existential dread that ceaselessly plagues her. What happens when she can’t make everyone happy in the face of an oppressive existence? Is it better to stick it out or end it all? What about when she lets herself cross over into a state of abandon and resignation?

Comprising a wildly colorful, multi-textured environment of fabric-coated walls, checkerboard flooring, and audioscape, the installation purposefully rejects the traditionally “neutral” white cube aesthetic—what the artist construes as the patriarchal dimensions of the museum. DITCH is instead a matriarchal domain, presided over by the newly-created figure MomDonna, a larger-than-life disembodied sculpture in a state of ruin that births forth the performers on a daily basis. A central priority of Kuehner’s is to carve out a space—physically and psychologically—for femme, gender non-conforming, and queer folx. This exhibition will see Cherdonna and her dancers unapologetically inhabit their femme selves, to indulge conceptually, abstractly, and poetically to find retribution and visibility in this trash fire of a world.

Jody Kuehner (American, b. 1979, Fort Collins, Colorado) is a 2017 Artist Trust Fellowship recipient, 2017 Henry Art Gallery Artist in Residence, 2017 CityArts Artist of the year, 2015 Stranger Genius Award winner, Velocity Dance Center’s 2014 Artist in Residence, and 2010 Spotlight Award winner. She was recently awarded funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project for one great, bright, brittle alltogetherness. Kuehner was Dayna Hanson’s Production Coordinator and Assistant Director 2010–2015 for various projects. She danced with Pat Graney company from 2007–2016 and also assisted Graney’s KTF Prison Project. As Cherdonna, she performs with the award-winning international sensations Kitten N’ Lou and is a member of The Atomic Bombshells.

DONNA is a contemporary dance company led by Jody Kuehner, aka Cherdonna Shinatra, and includes dance artists Allison Burke, Jenna Eady, Carlin Kramer, Alyza DelPan-Monley, Julia Sloane, and Katie Wyeth, joined by company dramaturg Maggie Rogers, understudy Erin McCarthy, costume designer Danial Hellman, company manager Sara Jinks, and designer Greg Newcomb. Cherdonna, together with these six dance artists, will create experimental experiences around their collective queerness and femme-centric, professionally-trained contemporary dance bodies.

Cherdonna Shinatra: DITCH is organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by David Strand, head of exhibitions and publications. Generous support is provided by Vulcan, Inc., the Robert Chinn Foundation, and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

Courtesy of the artist. Design: Greg Newcomb. Photo: Jiji Lee.