Ethan Mundt rose to fame as Utica Queen in season 13 of the Emmy-winning show RuPaul's Drag Race. Ultimately placing sixth in the competition, this young, gay 25-year-old showed creativity and personality.
Mundt's latest project, Homecoming Queen, is opening virtually Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Rochester Art Center.
The exhibition is curated by Zoe Cinel and Brian Dukerschein from the Art Center with 20 mannequins dressed in Utica's creations, plus original art sketches and a 10-minute film about the overall process.
Recently, this talented performer relocated from Minnesota to Chicago to explore the world of drag artistry in a new environment. Mundt sat down to talk about this and more at a local bar in his neighborhood.
Windy City Times: Where are you from, originally?
Ethan Mundt: I am from Utica, Minnesota. That is where I get my name from. It was a small farm town. I moved to Minneapolis for six years where I went to school; now, [I'm in] Chicago.
WCT: What did you study in school?
EM: A big hodgepodge of things at Hamline University [in St. Paul, Minnesota]. I studied costume design in the theater department and did printmaking in the studio arts department. I ran the gallery for four years. I studied dance as well and started drag in college. I have been doing it ever since.
WCT: Was it always a goal to be on RuPaul's Drag Race?
EM: I started watching season six with Bianca Del Rio, and thought that I could do that. I knew I had a lot of work to do. I saw I had something a little bit different than the other performers. I had a very different background. I grew up a Christian kid on a farm, but I had found my community.
I auditioned once and got nothing, but the second time I got the call. My work began to hone itself in. That is the package that was seen on the show.
Opportunities have landed in my lap since then. I just came back from the UK.
WCT: Isn't the international following of that show crazy?
EM: It is bonkers! Now, to have my work praised with this exhibit is a dream come true.
WCT: With this exhibition, there are 20 different garments and people can watch it online?
EM: Yes. We are trying to bring the community into the work. Having it on that digital platform will be amazing.
WCT: There were different photoshoots with a variety of photographers for this exhibition?
EM: Yes and I loved being in front of the camera. Photographer Trevor Beaty moved here to Chicago with me and is a good friend of mine. I had a whole team of people that helped with this project.
WCT: Would you like to show this exhibition at a gallery here in Chicago?
EM: Of course. I would like the show to travel at some point. It is ready to go. I would love to work with some of the museums in Chicago.
I am just so excited to see my work in a gallery. This is the first of its kind. There has not been a drag human who has showcased their work in this regard before.
WCT: Do you like the travel involved with your career?
EM: Yes. I can't believe I have this opportunity to share my work on stages all over the world. That is the goal as a drag artist, to showcase our stories to people everywhere.
I was used to being in the art world and stepping away from my art. Drag Race was the first time that I was in the work. I created this character and now I can take her all around the world.
Being plucked from a farm to being on this platform is magical. Not a lot of individuals get this opportunity so I want to build it and ride it as much as I can. It is a gift.
WCT: What was your takeaway from Drag Race?
EM: I went in for fun and wanted to wear pretty things. I was deemed the fashion queen of the season. I realized that this was my brand. When I created something I thought it was cool, but now the world does. I feel like the artistic cogs of the machine are finally aligning. I have that validation from the show. I can now trust myself to create something magical. After the show, I feel more of an artist than ever before.
WCT: Why did you decide to move to Chicago?
EM: I love it here. I found a community that loves me and my work. I feel I can be of service here. When I visited my friends here from Drag Race Denali and Kahmora Hall I discovered that this was a queer community that allowed people to be themselves.
I found material in Chicago with sequins built right in and that was my finale garment. I couldn't find that material where I lived before and knew I could really blossom somewhere bigger. Chicago is just a hub of creativity and I can spread my wings artistically.
WCT: Did you have a limited budget on Drag Race?
EM: I never had a lot of money, so I had to think creatively about how I would do the whole package. I have always had to compensate for money growing up, so learning how to sew was important to build the things inside my head. Being so tall and lanky, nothing fits. I would buy things and alter them for my body.
WCT: Where do you see your drag going in the future?
EM: After being on Drag Race, I realized I have a special skill and that is creating these pieces of work. I would like to keep making art and I would love to do a fashion line.
I want to see how the performance of Utica is going to evolve. I do performances that show my heart like the finale in a sparkly dress and a yarn installation. All of these tentacles were coming out of a heart and that was a feeling I had at the time. I want to move more into installation work and grandiose costuming.
I got a little taste of traveling overseas, so I want to do more of that. I want to see where the art leads me. I am a go-with-the-flow type of person, so I guess we will see!
Visit RochesterArtCenter.org for $5 tickets to tour the virtual exhibition "Homecoming Queen" that is opening Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at 11 a.m. through Sunday, April 3, 2022, at 4 p.m.
For on this talented drag artistincluding local Chicago appearances such as Ruffles at Berlin Nightclub on Friday, Oct. 15try UticaQueen.com