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In Underneath the Skin, a world premiere and NYU Skirball Commission, the celebrated multi-disciplinary artist, John Kelly, creates a solo dance-theater work based on the life of the sexual rebel Samuel Steward (1909-1993), a gay novelist, poet, and scholar who abandoned his post as university professor to reinvent himself as a writer of pro-gay erotic fiction (as Phil Andros), and one of the 20th century’s most accomplished and influential tattoo artists (as Philip Sparrow). Stewart also attracted the friendship of the writer Gertrude Stein, the playwright Thornton Wilder, and became an unofficial collaborator at the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research in the 1950s.
Underneath the Skin combines narrative, choreography, video projections, and digital animations of Steward’s tattoo designs and erotic illustrations, along with Steward’s actual words — culled from his essays, unpublished memoir, extensive secret diaries, journals, and the statistics of his robust sex life.
This performance contains mature themes. Appropriate for ages 18+
John Kelly is a performance and visual artist, vocalist, and dancer. His performance works are sometimes autobiographical or character-driven, and other times focus on the struggles encountered by artists and social outsiders, and the nature of creative genius. His works have been performed at BAM’s Next Wave Festival, La MaMa, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London’s Tate Modern. His visual artwork is based in various aspects of self-portraiture, including drawing, painting, photography, and video. A recent solo exhibition included over 50 hand-drawn portraits of friends and lovers lost to the AIDS epidemic, and he recently completed his first graphic novel, A Friend Gave Me A Book. He has received two Obie Awards, two NEA American Masterpieces Awards, and fellowships from The American Academy in Rome as well as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. johnkellyperformance.org