Provocative Play

February 15-March 18, 2022

Today’s world of burlesque bends society’s norms and celebrates personal empowerment while addressing feminism, performance of gender, and DIY culture in resoundingly vibrant ways. Community and collaboration are pillars in the Chicago burlesque scene, centered on inclusivity and acceptance. Women and non-binary people have reshaped burlesque, both in the creation of performances and as primary audiences, exuberantly cheering along to every peel and reveal. 

Provocative Play celebrates contemporary Chicago burlesque, showcasing the skill and depth of five of the city’s prominent performers. Ruby Spencer and Sally Marvel use their dazzling charms to celebrate the aesthetics and the spectacles of live performance, while Zahradka Tonic, Cruel Valentine, and Crocodile Lightning employ performance art to confront broader social issues.  

These performers have changed the conversation around the art of burlesque, engaging us directly with commanding eye contact and communicating power over what they want their bodies to mean to us. Ultimately, they construct and control their projected self-image. There is a confident solidness about their statures, the gravity of bodies unafraid of inhabiting space on their own terms.  

Featuring over 70 images from primarily Chicago photographers, Provocative Play captures the performative nature of the scene, from the documentation of live acts to the creation of artfully staged pin-up shots. As burlesque continues to blur the lines of gender and sexuality and to deconstruct boundaries, it is my hope that displaying these striking images in a gallery, rather than a club or theatre, further erases the line between the public and private performance of the powerful and erotic. 

Erica McKeehen, Curator and Burlesque Performer 

Artists featured:

Gregory Bell, Jenna Braunstein, John Brodie, Steven Brown, Michael Cabrera, Marco Felix, Jordan M. Graves, Khianna Hanson, Greg Inda, Ethan Jollie, Matt Josephson, Brett J. Lawrence, Kachi Mozie, Chris Nightengale, Bob Perkoski, Harlow Pin-Up, Rococo Royalle, Peter Serocki, Eric Strom, Mike White, Zahradka Tonic

Gallery hours Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
For more info: contact

The Hokin Gallery,  623 S. Wabash Ave, Chicago, Il 60605