Scene legend Dusty O talks introspection, inspiration and ART, sweetie

Dusty O aka David Hodge is a scene legend! She’s had more glasses of champagne (and cheap prosecco) than you’ve had hot dinners.

After ruling the streets of Soho for almost three decades, Dusty’s now turned her attention to something a little more well-wrought.

This year she’s got loads of exciting stuff planned, including the first ever queer exhibition at the Houses of Parliament, this Monday, 3rd June.

She does wonderfully colourful and cheeky canvases, with everyone from Donald Trump to Leigh Bowery as her subjects. But is it art, sweetie? We chatted to her to find out.

Hey Dusty! Where have you been all our lives?

Since Madame JoJos was forced to close, I’ve been working pretty much non-stop. I work half the week at my best mate’s beautiful Aveda salon in Primrose Hill and paint the other half. It’s a mixture of social and creative, which suits me perfectly. Painting is very intense and solitary and I’m a people person, so it needs to be balanced out. 

Describe what’s around you. 

I’m currently in Spain, in my friend’s gorgeous house in the hills outside Sitges. I come here for a month each year to paint and relax. My last big UK exhibition was in Birmingham at Zelig Gallery and most of those pieces were done here. I paint continually at home though and our tiny flat in Kings Cross has gradually become a live-in studio!

Are you enjoying a more cerebral, less scene-orientated life?

I don’t really go out much anymore. 30 years of clubs was enough. I’m married too and we try to fill our lives with creativity of a less frenzied nature these days. No regrets – still making memories and art of a different genre.

What do you think of the gay scene and gay life these days?

It’s all a bit phone and sex orientated for me to be honest. It looks smaller but still tangible and interesting. I don’t really drink anymore so bars and clubs have limited interest unless there are visually inspirational people in them. Boys with RuPaul make-up quoting other queens’ taglines doesn’t seem particularly fascinating, but there are still a few characters rattling the cage out there I’m told.

You must have had some nuts nights in London – what was the maddest moment?

A wild night at Trannyshack for my birthday party when a boy did a burlesque act and shat in a Martini glass on stage. I won’t forget that in a hurry!

We love your art, it’s fab and colourful. This is a clichéd question but what’s your “process”?

All my art tells a personal story. It’s basically my diary and thoughts on canvas. It all has a narrative and none of it is purely decorative. It’s deeply personal. I use bright colours to describe dark situations and intimate moments. It plays heavily on gender issues – my life always has. It’s the story of me and everything I’ve been through. Highs and lows.

How often do you churn them out? Is it sporadic?

I paint for three days every week. Maybe eight hours a day. They take as long as they take. My most popular print took three hours to paint. There is no set format. Creativity comes from within and can’t be governed by time. It is what it is. 

There’s been a recent surge in young people going to art galleries and art exhibitions – why do you think that is?

Art is everywhere if you look for it. It’s on stage and on graffiti-covered walls. There are some amazing galleries in London if people can be arsed to get off their phones for a few hours and go and feed their eyes and soul. Young people are just tomorrow’s old so age doesn’t feature much in the equation for me.

Who are your favourite artists?

I really love Molly Parkin’s work. She is inspiring to me. Basqiat and Picasso are my masters but I try to avoid studying anyone else’s work too hard as it interferes with my own. I love the old masters but the new ones are just as interesting to me. People too. I constantly paint the Queen, as she is living art. Aliens and pigs fascinate me too. The whole idea of voyeurism is interesting and it crops up repeatedly in my work.

What else do you drew inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from my life in clubs and discos. From drag and trans people. I’ve led a queer life and can’t escape it. I paint what I know and how I feel. I’ve had issues with depression and known incredible highs and they are all in there if you look.

Some of your art is quite political – what would you like people to take away from it?

Trump arrives in the UK on the day I exhibit at Parliament and one of my pictures of him is going on a beer can! It’s an incredible coincidence. It’s pretty obvious what my opinion on him is. The messages are clear in my political work. I don’t hide them. The man is a cunt.

You can look at and buy Dusty’s artwork at Follow Dusty on Instagram @artbydustyo