Jaq Grantford’s portrait of Tootsie wins the 2019 Kennedy Prize

The 2019 Kennedy Prize has been awarded to Australian artist Jaq Grantford for her portrait of the late Tootsie, one of Australia’s most iconic Drag Queens. Painted in oil on canvas this work titled Tootsie, Just an Old Drag Queen presents a poignant portrait of the sitter.

‘I can’t begin to express how overjoyed I am. The Tootsie work has so much meaning for me. He was jailed for being gay and is now being celebrated for his beauty,’ said Grantford.

In 1953, at the age of 20, Tootsie was jailed for two years simply for being gay. Then at the age of 62, he embarked on a grand new adventure and started to dress in drag and perform throughout the pub circuits of Melbourne, becoming famous in the Australian drag scene. Two weeks after seeing his portrait, he passed away, aged 84.

Jaq Grantford, Tootsie, Just an Old Drag Queen, oil on canvas. Winner of the 2019 Kennedy Prize. Courtesy the artist and the Kennedy Prize

Previous Kennedy Prize winner and 2019 Judge, Angus Hamra praised Grantford’s entry noting ‘Jaq’s work addresses the theme of beauty by depicting life as an outsider.’

‘For the judges, the work managed to capture time in a specific moment, whilst giving us an insight into the hard but beautiful life that Tootsie lived,’ he continued.

The 50 finalists including Grantford’s winning artwork are on display in the ‘Kennedy Prize Exhibition’ at the Royal South Australian Society of the Arts at the State Library until Sunday 15 September 2019.

Visitors to the exhibition can also vote for the People’s Choice award and be in the running to win a cash prize in an Instagram competition.

The Kennedy Prize is a national visual art competition, which continues to attract the attention of Australia’s finest visual artists awards $25,000 to the winner.


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