FOR KALUP LINZY, the wig is almost beside the point.
Call him a gender illusionist, a post-modern butch-queer performer, a post-drag performance artist. Whatever you do, just don't call him a gender-fucker.
"I just learned the term 'gender-fucking'," Linzy says on the phone from his home in Brooklyn, and laughs. "It's a little harsh." How about, uh, post-drag? He shrugs off the suggestion, and then throws out his own—"minimal drag"—to describe the stripped-down, glamour-free approach he takes to female characters in his work.
"It's performance, you know what I mean?" Linzy says. "It's just performance."
I can assure you that whatever Linzy does is not "just performance." As a visual artist, filmmaker, musician, and performer of variable gender, orientation, and race, Linzy is a tirelessly inventive modern artist, as chameleon as they come.
A quick scan of Linzy's hyperactive YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/kklinzy) gives a few clues about what to expect from his Portland appearances: In the soap opera series Conversations Wit de Churen—which he wrote, directed, edited, and stars in—Linzy plays all the members of a typically bizarre modern family, riffing on money, sex, and drama. In another clip, Linzy brings one of his most distinctive characters, an effete young man named Taiwan, to delirious life in a song bursting with heartache and humor:
"I went to see the lady, and asked her why he left me," he bellows in a plangent baritone. "You wouldn't believe what that bitch said to me. She said, 'You are needy, and oh boy, you're shady. But most of all you're stingy with your asshole.'" It has to be heard to be believed.
For this year's TBA Festival, Linzy is one of the most programmed and visible artists on the schedule: Conversations Wit de Churen plays over several nights at Portland Art Museum's Whitsell Auditorium, and a new episode of the series Lil' Myron's Trade, created in collaboration with Portland's Laika animation firm, debuts Thursday, September 3 at the Works. Linzy's also headlining a Tuesday, September 8 late-night Works show, SweetBerry Sampled and LeftOva, and he'll team up with Neal Medlyn on Thursday, September 10 for a TBA noontime chat.
Ultimately, according to Linzy, his performances are simply a chance to "dress up and play different characters"—but his biting social commentary on race, gender, and sexuality is an undeniable part of his work's allure.