Chameleon/photographer Cheyne (pronounced ‘Shane’) Gallarde’s work went on display at Spalding House’s Fall exhibition Hi Society last month, and in that time has generated a slew of #museumselfies. Cheyne—a commercial and fashion photographer—channeled his inner-everybody for a series of self portraits addressing the questions “Who lives here?” and “What are you?”
The faces are familiar, not because they are technically all the same face, but because we see a variety of incarnations of them everyday. They stand in front of us at the check-out line at Long’s and pass us on the way to lunch in Chinatown. Cheyne doesn’t just dress up as each character he transforms into, he becomes them. We were recently able to catch Cheyne as himself, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions by email.
Tell us about this project (The work on display at Spalding House), where/how did you begin?
Aaron Padilla inquired via email if I’d be interesting in working on an exhibit. We met over beer and talked about many nostalgic things, eventually deciding on what the work should be about.
Do you have previous experience with these kinds of character transformations?
Yes, In addition to transforming for my book (Universe of One, Volume 1) I transform regularly for theatre and shows. My greatest transformation is my drag persona “Rhonda Corner” because she is a fully-realized character with her own mannerisms, style and performance style.
Are any of the characters modeled after people you know?
Yes, the “long-haired, bearded guy” was inspired by my own father who was homeless for a while.
How long did the whole process take?
Makeup for each character took up to an hour, then it was an hour for photographing and then another couple hours editing the photos and enlarging them for the printers. This of course doesn’t include the weeks of prep — costume hunting, wig hunting and makeup shopping.
How did you get together all of the different costumes?
I mixed and matched elements with pieces from my wardrobe I already owned. I bought the rest from thrift stores like Goodwill and Savers. Sometimes I went out shopping for specific items (all purple for the “purple lady”) or sometimes I’d explore what I could find, which leads to serendipitous surprises.
Describe what it took to do make all of these transformations.
Patience and the ability to channel many different people. For each character, I’d try a couple of different poses and expressions. As I’m putting on the makeup, I’d think of things like what they’d eat for dinner, what their favorite movie would be and other “facts” to help me get into character. During shooting, I’d assess if I needed a purse or another bag or some other prop. I’d edit my character until they felt like a complete person.
Do you have any favorites?
That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child! Alas, if I had to choose one it would be the “Purple Lady”.
Which character transformation took the longest?
The “Long haired, bearded man” took the longest because I had to individually attach each facial hair to my face. It was a long and sticky process. The entire outfit was pretty uncomfortable to stand around in under the hot lights too.
What are you working on next?
After all the photos were done, I was so exhausted I didn’t want to be anywhere near a camera for a while. I started painting and making art using different mediums. Lately, I’ve been creating traditional tattoo flash under the moniker of “Sailor Mary”. My work can be seen on SailorMary.com
What is your favorite piece of art in the museum, or in general?
I really love Brenda’s paintings and want one for my apartment because it’s a small space and her paintings create the illusion I have an extra window.
See more about Spalding House’s Fall exhibition Hi Society here