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Drake Carr's Favorite Thing

April 24, 2024

Amidst the disco balls of a queer dive bar or on the white walls of a commercial art gallery, artist Drake Carr exhibits his glamorous and heartfelt portraits of friends, peers, and fictional characters inspired by a deep affection for ‘80s fashion illustration and the D.I.Y. aesthetics of queer erotica. This documentary short captures the artist as he celebrates his final days as a bartender at Happyfun Hideaway and transitions to becoming a full-time artist. In his Bushwick studio, Carr describes the beginnings of his artistic practice, drawing Christian superheroes in suburban Michigan, where he realized the power of making his imagination a reality. Upon moving to New York City, the artist was invited to create new works for the walls of Happyfun Hideaway, which marked the beginning of his years-long relationship with the establishment. Showing work at a bar offers Carr the opportunity to experiment, and to see patrons interact with his work without distance or preciousness. “It’s fun for me to witness these things just get absorbed into the place,” says the artist. “People not treating it like art on a wall, it’s able to get a little dirty.”

A new aspect of Carr’s practice is live drawing, which began with a two-week residency at New York Life Gallery called Walk-ins (2023), where the artist produced over 150 portraits of invited guests. Since Walk-ins, the artist has begun making commissioned portraits drawn live in subjects’ homes. Subjects for the artist’s “house calls” come from the worlds of art and fashion, including like-minded artists such as illustrator Mel Odom. While Carr draws Odom in his New York City apartment, the two bond over their shared interests, which include gay erotica from the 1980s and 90s. “There were such beautiful things being made out of a necessity to connect and communicate with each other,” Carr remarks. “There’s something intensely real and compulsive about it. Someone really labored over that for a small number of people to see.” Carr’s own work might be seen as a celebration of queer identity, but for the artist, a balance of empathy and irony is crucial to the overall significance of the work. Embracing the camp aesthetics and tender craftsmanship of the work that inspires him, Carr’s portraits lovingly reflect the clashing energies and sensibilities of the communities he depicts.

More information and credits


Director: Andrea Chung. Executive Producer: Tina Kukielski. Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Editor: Faisal Azam. Additional Editor: Thomas Niles. Cinematography: Sebastián Lasaosa Rogers. Sound: Ana Fernández, Fivel Rothberg. Assistant Curator: Jurrell Lewis. Color Correction: Max Blecke. Sound Design & Mix: Collin Blendell. Design & Graphics: Chips. Animation: Orsolya Szantho. Music: Daniel Kadawatha, House Of Say, Gloria Tells, warmkeys. Live Performance: Rose Mori as Pvssyheaven. Assistant Editor: Michelle Hanks. Artwork Courtesy: Drake Carr. “Walk-Ins” Footage Courtesy: Ethan James Green, New York Life Gallery. Thanks: Thomas Dewey Davis, Joe Fusaro, Happyfun Hideaway, Mel Odom, Mel Ottenberg, Jay Sanders. 

New York Close Up is made possible with support from Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, the Henry Nias Foundation, and individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Drake Carr

Drake Carr was born in 1993 in Flint, MI, and currently lives and works in New York City, NY. The artist received a BA in Graphic Design from Eastern Michigan University in 2015. Attuned to the diverse contexts in which he creates, Carr employs drawing, painting, and collage, approaching his practice with a versatility that encompasses commissioned portraits drawn in the intimate settings of subjects’ homes, paintings that oscillate between fine art and decoration in the gritty and communal atmosphere of a Bushwick dive bar, and immersive live drawing residencies spanning multiple weeks. Inspired by the fashion illustrators of the 1970s and ’80s like Antonio Lopez, he works with his subjects to style and pose them in dynamic ways. In all of his work, Carr paints a portrait of the communities he moves through that is simultaneously humorous and earnest, exaggerated and true-to-life.

“It’s fun for me to witness these things just get absorbed into the place. People not treating it like art on a wall, it’s able to get a little dirty.”

Drake Carr