Freddie Mercury plays dress-up at Queen-themed Pride benefit art show

Last night at St. John's on Capitol Hill, Freddie Mercury was more than just the front man of Queen -- he was Queen Latifah, Queen Amidala. It's part of a new art show that is benefiting the Human Rights Campaign, and, says the artist, is supposed to make people think about sexuality, art, and equality.

Northwest artist Chuck Knigge says the idea for "Long Live Queen Freddie!," which opened with a reception yesterday, came to him when he was listening to the British rock band.

"The inspiration started about a year ago. I was listening to a lot of Queen and I started looking up inspiration about Freddie Mercury. And then the idea just kind of sprang up, kind of a hint of cleverness. That's sort of where I start with all of my work; I want to have fun first," says the multi-media artist. And so, he started painting.

Now, the dozen-ish oil paintings are handing in a bar in the center of the neighborhood widely acknowledged to be Seattle's LGBT headquarters -- which isn't accidental. The exhibition was scheduled to kick off the same night as Seattle's Pride weekend, which draws tens of thousands of supporters annually. And, says Knigge, part of the point of the show is to give back. He told Capitol Hill Seattle that 5% of the proceeds from the sale of his work will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign.

But why paint Freddie Mercury's face on the bodies of other famous queens? It's mostly lighthearted -- but also to get people thinking.

"I just want people to have fun and enjoy themselves. I hope they walk away with a smile. And if they walk away with something more, whether it be a conversation or a painting, then fantastic," Knigge, who quit his "real" job three years ago to pursue art, says of the show.

Knigge admits that, while he's previously made posters and other politically-motivated art before, supporting Pride and the LGBT community is a new step for him -- but one that's a natural fit.

"This is totally new territory for me, but I'm a staunch defender of civil rights across the board," he explains.

This show is being curated by Seattle's Ghost Gallery. The paintings will be hanging at St. John's, which is located at 719 E. Pike Street, until 2am daily, until the works move to Tacoma's Fulcrum Gallery on July 12, which coincides with Tacoma's Pride weekend. For more information about "Long Live Queen Freddie!", visit Knigge's website.

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