Max Kessler's The Burning Birds is part of the triptych I Wanna Dance in a Moment Like This, now showing at the Mission's Peephole Cinema

When I stop by the Creativity Explored studio, Makeya Kaiser greets me wearing a jacket she embroidered for her music video. Colorful thread stitched across the white fabric spells “Kelly Clarkson,” one of her favorite musicians.

When I ask her about her contribution to the show, she hits “play.” As we watch her piece, A Moment Like This, other artists and volunteers gather around the table. Kaiser laughs as she watches herself sing the whole Kelly Clarkson song, karaoke-style.

Kaiser’s joy is contagious. At the end of her impromptu screening, we all clap. I ask to take her photo and she instantly lights up.

“Be a star,” I tell her as she poses.

“I am a star!” she says.

Kaiser is one of three artists whose work is featured in a three-part video exhibit that premiered this Sunday at Peephole Cinema in the Mission District. Titled I Wanna Dance in a Moment Like This, the show is a mashup of the artists’ favorite pop culture sensations: Mad Max, Kelly Clarkson, and RuPaul.

Makeya Kaiser Photo by Annie Berman.

The show is a collaboration between Creativity Explored and Peephole Cinema, a collective that shows miniature videos in San Francisco, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Creativity Explored, founded in 1983, is as an art nonprofit that gives adults with developmental disabilities mentorship from professional artists. The supportive community allows artists to express themselves through art and earn income from their work.

Exhibit curator Sarah Klein describes Kaiser’s piece as a form of self-assertion.

“She’s really creating this world and making herself the star,” said Sarah Klein, the exhibit’s curator. “And in this way she’s saying, you know, ‘Look at me. Take me really as I am.’”

What gives the show power is the artists’ fascination with pop culture icons, who serve as access points to connection, and communication. “It’s a really beautiful kind of way of understanding the world,” said Michael Korcek, who works at Creativity Explored, the nonprofit arts center that mentors Kaiser and the other artists in the show. “I think overall the show really speaks to the inspiration and the process of inspiration.”

The video editing is what comes most naturally to animation artist Mack Mesler.

“There’s no real boundaries,” he explains. “I can do whatever I want.”

His piece is called The Burning Birds, and it pays homage to the post-apocalyptic action film Mad Max: Fury Road. It involves a gang of resourceful, hunted penguins who are always a few steps ahead of Max. It has what Mesler describes as “a Wile E. Coyote kind of humor.”

“This video really shows my personality – or my kind of humor, at least,” he adds, smiling shyly.

Mack Mesler. Photo by Annie Berman.

Small sculptures brought to life through an animation app are the unlikely stars of Paul’s Drag Race, a short vignette directed by Paul Pulizzano, and inspired by the hit reality show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. The dancers are fluid, otherworldly.

“Hello my pretty kitties,” demurs Candy Delight, one of the judges, whose face is many colors, a custom snapchat filter Pulizzano created. “May the best woman win.”

Paul Pulizzano. Photo by Annie Berman.

On a sunny afternoon in March – the day the show premieres – my navigation app leads me down a quiet alley painted in murals close to the 24th Street BART station. Peephole Cinema is a small, literal hole in the wall, about a child’s height, through which I Wanna Dance in a Moment Like This can now be viewed on a loop, at all hours of the day.

Curator Klein describes Peephole Cinema as being part of a free public art tradition specific to the Mission District – but also a new way of slowing down and being intentional about the way we consume media. “We’re on our phones and laptops and we can see videos any old time. So to actually have a little cinema out there in this public way, I think we’re just asking for people to take a moment.”

I walk by the spot twice before finding it. It is marked with a small plaque.

With some apprehension, I crouch down to watch.

The version of the three artists’ pieces that are playing at Peephole do not have any sound – just text captions, color, movement. But even so, I find that I can hear the artists.

Through their art, through a little peephole, they are telling the world who they are.

“I Wanna Dance in a Moment Like This” will be on display until May 18 at the Peephole Cinema in San Francisco.

Creativity Explored at 3245 16th St. Photo by Annie Berman.

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