LUST IN THE DUST
February 2, 2024 to March 23, 2024
Uniquely positioned halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert town of Helendale, California, sits a former chicken ranch. It became the respite for Dixie Evans and other burlesque performers looking for a place to rest between performances. It later became known as the Miss Exotic World Museum. As the legends of burlesque retired from the stage, a new round of performers attempting to revive the art of burlesque would visit the museum to view their archives, and to be part of the Miss Exotic World yearly pageant. These new dancers would visit the ranch and look for mentoring from the legends there. What started as a PR Pageant and get together with the old and new performers, evolved into a competition and they would crown a Miss Exotic World each year. In the late 1990’s when these photographs were taken, Gallo was involved with a project documenting the burlesque revival. The project began in Chicago with a portrait of the model Cherish and her eight-foot python in the manner of carnival side show burlesque dancers that were popular from the 1940’s through early 1970’s. Cherish was a founder of Belmont Burlesque and introduced Gallo to the club act and to other dance groups in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. He became aware of the Miss Exotic World Festival from the Chicago dancers and was intrigued by the concept. Gallo traveled to the festival as a documentarian of the women and their dedication to keeping this art form alive. There was no cash prize, and the crowned winner received a plastic trophy. But with it, came the honor of being Miss Exotic World and the privilege of passing the crown to the winner the next year. Gallo attended three performances in total, including the last performance at the ranch and the first after the festival moved to Las Vegas. At that time, the burlesque shows played midnight shows at bars and small venues and most of the performers worked for a stipend.
Gallo extends thanks to Cherish, his first model on the project, for her guidance through the emerging burlesque community and her introductions. Additional thanks go to Miss Exotic World and to the performers, for their cooperation in making these photographs. Work from Lust in the Dust was part of a comprehensive story on the Emerging Burlesque Revival first shown at the Flatfile Gallery in Chicago.
Click HERE for more information on gallery hours and private appointments.