Magic is all around, and each of us has the potential to manifest magic from within. That belief inspires Siara Gray, a visual and performance artist, creative community connector, writer and model. Originally from Bakersfield, California, she grew up in Colorado Springs. Here in Denver, she and fellow artist Serana Rose formed the Scissor Sweethearts, a sideshow in which the two women perform dangerous stunts like walking on glass, swallowing swords and climbing the incredible scissor ladder. In advance of the pair's Eleganza Freak-Stravaganza 2 on April 1, we spoke with Gray about her fashion sense and the thrill of performing.
Westword: How long have you been a performance artist?
Siara Gray: I was involved in visual art, performance and music in school, and in my adult life. I've been performing since 2010.
Who or what inspires your performance art?
I love that beauty can be found in the entire spectrum of the experience of life. Meaning, there’s the kind of beauty that’s more overt, but there’s also beauty to be found in the more dark and difficult things. I also love the unexpected beauty you find in juxtaposition — in odd contrasts, situations or pairings.
How did you get into the performance and art business?
I was, and still am, a creative kid. In second grade, my art teacher entered me into a children's art contest, and I had an art piece displayed at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and I realized that I had a natural eye for something I was already interested in. That started my pursuit of visual art. When I finished school, I took some time to actualize into my new adulthood and mainly focused on my visual art, setting up my studio and participating in local art shows.
After a year or so, I saw that the burlesque troupe Peaks and Pasties was offering a course on the basics of burlesque and performing, with an option to join the troupe upon completion. So I did. I really enjoyed all the aspects of it. The colorful costuming, the sparkle, the humor. My first paying gig was only my third time ever performing burlesque for an audience, and I thought, "Hey, I might be all right at this!" I continued pursuing performing since, branching off into dancing, free-flow performance, and eventually incorporating sideshow stunts into my repertoire, which led me to meeting my current show partner, Serana Rose. Together we formed the adorable girl-power sideshow comedy duo the amazing Scissor Sweethearts!
Who or what inspires your fashion sense?
Both people and things inspire my fashion sense. I draw a lot of classic and feminine elements from old Hollywood, particularly ’40s and ’50s fashion. Maybe with a little of ’60s mod London in there. Next to that, my biggest style influence comes from science fiction-inspired fashion. My dad was a sci-fi fan and introduced me to the genre's films and literature early on. I love the simple and also unusual lines, silhouettes and textures. Science fiction is also a big influence in my visual art.
How would you describe your style in three words?
Fierce, whimsical and feminine.
What is your favorite color?
Pink, but I never met a color I didn’t like.
What is your favorite accessory?
A good, bold lipstick and one large statement piece. Either a large necklace, kitschy hair accessory or a gutsy shoe.
Where do you shop?
I’ll be honest: Shopping isn’t my most favorite activity, as much as I enjoy fashion and beautiful things. So I do a lot of online shopping, mostly Etsy, or I’ll go directly to a specific line or brand I like.
What is your favorite song?
The song from the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
What is your favorite film?
Moulin Rouge. I saw it in theaters when I was young, and I suspect the film subliminally influenced me to get into performing.
Is there a difference between your on-stage persona and your day-to-day self?
I feel that my on-stage persona is just an exaggerated version of my off-stage self. Like a cartoon version of Siara.
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Do you ever get scared on stage if you are doing a crazy act or stunt that may be viewed as dangerous by the general public?
Of course I do. Some more than others, depending on what it is. But what I glean from performing stunts — and I hope my audience does, too — is that sideshow has given me a public platform to show myself and others that If I can mentally and physically do things that technically shouldn't be possible, then what else can we make possible? If I defy the boundaries of my mind and body, than what other magic is possible? What other barriers can be broken down that you didn't think you could before? It's just such a good illustration for what magic all of us are capable of tapping into.
Watch Siara Gray and Serana Rose perform as the Scissor Sweethearts in Eleganza Freak-Stravaganza 2, from 5 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, April 1. The second incarnation of this event will feature an art and artisan market, fashion shows, freak shows, a drag queen pinball tournament, a freak contest and other wacky, weird and wonderful fun. The all-ages event is at Vision Comic Books and Oddities, 3958 South Federal Boulevard; click here for more information.