Sissy That Strut: Queer Kentuckian, Artemisia

by Aaron Thomas

Where were you born and where do you consider home these days?

I was born in Boston, MA and I’ve lived in Kentucky the last 25 years or so. My parents met in Boston. Dad was a refugee from Argentina during the Dirty War. After they had my sister and I, we moved out to California. They divorced a few years later and we moved with my mom to Kentucky, where she had family. I’ve been here ever since.

You are quite the anomaly in the world of performance art. I’ve seen you do drag, theater , burlesque, and so much more. What made you want to get into performance art and how has this transferred into your work now?

Well, I was a theater kid for the first 20 years of my life. Just as an amateur in school plays and community theater. I then moved to North Carolina where I worked in a day care during the day and to earn extra money, I took an evening job at a topless bar and I was like “Oh! Stripping is kind of like theater. Ok, I can do this!” When I moved back to Kentucky I kept it up. I began doing burlesque in my spare time. Then Play Louisville opened. I had some experience and interest in performing drag in the past through theater playing with mine and others’ perceptions of gender, so I decided to audition! I became a drag king there and remained on cast for several years. Finally around 2016, I started producing my own shows, combining different aspects of things I had learned over the years including drag, burlesque, and eventually fire and sideshow performance art culminating into a Vaudeville style as I enjoyed it. It’s been really fun since then! 

I know you are heavily involved with Houseless Outreach in the city of Louisville and a team lead for Feed Louisville. What about that work mirrors or parallels your performance art on stage?

Those two worlds actually go very hand-in-hand in that they incorporate a lot of the same skills. When it comes to adaptation, trying to fix a situation, or make something happen with what you have, those are all skills that come into play for outreach and performance life. Our amazing outreach team works from the afternoon into the late hours, so I guess  being a night owl also works for show stuff and outreach as well. 

What is your favorite place you’ve ever visited?

I would say Amsterdam. The culture. The architecture. The night life. All of it. New Orleans has a special place in my heart though. It was the last place I was when the pandemic shut down the world and it is the epicenter of sideshow and vaudeville theater, so of course I gravitate towards that town. 

What is a perfect day in your world?

Sleep in as late as I want, drink a little coffee, and stay naked for as long as possible. Then, I’d do my outreach and be with my community. Performing somewhere at night to top it all off. A typical day, but I love living my life and I’m very happy with it! 

What’s your favorite curse word?

FUCK-Ahhh it’s so versatile. It can be sexy or expletive. It can show anger or disbelief. It can be a great noun or a verb as well. Denoting that you do or don’t “fuck with” someone can be very telling. (Laughter)

If you could go back and give little Camyla (soon-to-be) Artemesia some stage advice, what would it be?

I would tell them not to take themselves too seriously and to try and enjoy all of the weird moments. In the performance world, your shows mirror your  life. If you are having a blast, the audience will pick up on that. Don’t stress out. Essentially we are always doing weird shit on stage. Just have fun with it all! 

What’s next for you?

I’m excited to be back on tour life and for all of the shows with my Louisville, Cincinnati, and Lexington troupes I have in the future! In my outreach world, we have some exciting news coming very soon that will positively impact the community here in Louisville!