Brontez Purnell. Courtesy the artist

Brontez Purnell. Courtesy the artist


Brontez Purnell as Orlando as Brontez Purnell: “My” Journey

Brontez Purnell explores Viriginia Woolf’s Orlando in an immersive, multidisciplinary performance.

On the closing day of the exhibition Orlando, Brontez Purnell explores the 300-year odyssey of Virginia Woolf’s tale through sound, visuals, movement, and stillness. The program functions as a performative exploration of Purnell’s past as a self-described “queer, black, photo essayist, author, filmmaker, dancer, musician, weed trimmer, and cocktail waitress,” and as a visual annotation of Orlando (the film’s) lush production quality and behind the scenes history. Purnell races through costumes, characters, and scenery to articulate the film as a personally formative perspective on queer culture, piecing together a visual “Cliff Notes” of the story. Confronting the mercurial pageantry of performative queerness in the tale, Purnell employs a seemingly inexhaustible cache of creative expression to reimagine Orlando as it’s never been experienced.

Brontez Purnell as Orlando as Brontez Purnell: “My” Journey is organized by Ryanaustin Dennis for McEvoy Foundation for the Arts. It is presented in conjunction with Orlando (February 7 – May 2, 2020). Guest curated by Tilda Swinton and organized by Aperture, New York, the exhibition presents recent and commissioned photographs that embody a horizon of timelessness and self-expression as found in Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel.


Brontez Purnell is a zinester, writer, dancer, and musician. Originally from Triana, Alabama, Purnell has been publishing, performing, and curating in the Bay Area for over 17 years. He has written for various publications, including Cakeboy, San Francisco Weekly, Maximum Rock & Roll, and Harpers. Purnell is the author of the zine Fag School and the books The Cruising Diaries (Gimme Action: Oakland, 2014), and Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger (The Feminist Press at CUNY: New York, 2015, and Since I Laid My Burden Down (The Feminist Press at CUNY: New York, 2017), for which he received a 2018 Whiting Award for fiction. He is the front man for the band The Younger Lovers, and co-founder with Sophia Wang of the Brontez Purnell Dance Company (BPDC), which builds works that combine punk rock subversion and free jazz improvisation. He has also created several works for dance on video. He lives and works in Oakland, California.


Ryanaustin Dennis is an Oakland based curator, artist, writer, and cultural strategist who investigates how twentieth and twenty-first century experimental performance, film, and writing histories are shaped by the metaphysics of blackness. They are a former founding member of the curatorial collective The Black Aesthetic and have done curatorial work for Betti Ono Gallery, Oakland; Eastside Arts Alliance, Oakland; E.M. Wolfman Bookstore, Oakland; Kadist, San Francisco; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Open Space; and Soundwave Biennial, San Francisco. Dennis is a Curatorial Council Fellow at Southern Exposure, San Francisco. They currently co-curate the Black Life series at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and are a co-founder of the press Pro Arts Community Press at Pro Arts Gallery & Commons.