Hail Satan: The Uprising of Lazarus Rise
By J.D. Stevens-Jones
Have you ever met a 21st century satanic queer cowboy?
No, I’m not talking about Lil Nas X (though his video for Montero couldn’t have been better timed). This one’s a little more southern, and while maybe not an internationally known musical artist, he is an artist nonetheless, and he’s ready to conquer the underworld.
Dressed in harnesses and studded leather, his visual mix of alternative fashions is inspired by club kid culture and subtle hints of the old west. Chain link jewelry often adorns his face (along with eyeliner), and his fingers are covered in nail polish and paint. Buttons, patches and other flare cover his jackets and vests. He is Lazarus Rise.
“I’m very influenced by punk and goth culture, but also cowboys and BDSM. I always dress up anyway even if I’m just going to the grocery store,” he said, wearing an overly hand-spiked black leather jacket during our Zoom call. His partner, Jinx, sits with him.
It’s a pretty lazy Sunday, and we’re chatting in the evening. An original painting of his hangs behind. It’s serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Above him is a rainbow Satanic Temple flag, too. He’s in Colorado Springs, Colorado, miles away from his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. And just like a cowboy, he chose to ride out west for adventure and a new sense of opportunity.
“I have my leather chaps, fringe, Orville Peck mask, and cowboy hat. It’s a full fit. ... If it’s tacky, I’m probably drawn to it,” he said. “The more dandy, or the more tacky, or ugly, the more likely I'll want it.”
But there’s more to Lazarus than just his bold fashions — he is an activist, writer, surrealist painter and full-time creative.
Born and raised in northwest Louisiana, Lazarus, 24, is a graduate of Caddo Magnet High School and Bossier Parish Community College. He pursued criminology and forensics while in school, and moved south to Baton Rouge to further his education. With some internal conflict, he chose to pursue his first dream: art. He had spent some time away from the canvas, but found now he had stronger messages and passion. It was then that “Dungeon Cowboy” was created, his artistic alias.
Growing up queer in the south, he said, had definite struggles, especially being Black.
“I’ve gotten a lot of random racial stuff. People don’t know what the hell I am when they first look at me. Typical Black slurs, Latino slurs.” He said in middle school, those years were the worst. “It was so horrible. I had kids who would come up and say “are you a ni**er?” and they’d want to fight me for no reason.”
Lazarus primarily went to majority-white Christian schools growing up. He was even an acolyte, mainly assisting in the services and lighting candles. He said he remembers being bullied in school because he celebrated Halloween, specifically his peers crowding around him telling him he was going to hell for that. He eventually walked away from the church, and from Christianity in full. He is now a practicing Satanist and is fueled by his queerness.
Lazarus has been professionally pursuing his art for nearly three years and you can find every bit of himself in his work. His love of the macabre and surreal manifested at an early age, and it shows.
“Horror movies have always been big. I’ve always been drawing creepy stuff,” he said.
Lazarus recalled an art project he created while in high school — a large painting featuring his take on the Wizard of Oz. A scarecrow ripping out Dorothy’s heart with an ax splitting her face open is a big concept for a teenager, but he executed it flawlessly, according to him. That’s always been what he’s loved — the gross and grotesque. Body horror. Drag culture. The beauty of magic. All of it.
He credits his grandmother for his artistic abilities; she was a painter, too.
“Everyone else in my family would pick on me a bit. ‘Oh, you want to do art as a job? Art as a career?” Her and my grandpa were the only ones that said ‘Here’s canvas, here’s paint, here’s what you need.’”
Unfortunately his grandmother is no longer alive (she died of COVID-19 last year) but he has fond memories of her painting on Lake Bistineau. Upon a recent visit to Shreveport before moving he was able to go through some of his earlier artwork at his family’s home. Crude renditions of Frankenstein and Dracula were among some of those pieces.
His art has evolved past simple character sketches and into a psychedelic world of bondage and brilliance. Often painting with fluorescent hues and contrasting colors, his 2-D world comes very much alive. He also sometimes paints using remains from the dead.
“Sometimes when I’m painting, I’ll put a little bit of ‘Nan’ in it,” he laughed. Though the identity of “Nan,” as he affectionately calls the urn filled with ashes, is quite unknown, he’s given them that name in this life. “Nan” was found inside a thrift store, and with no ID tag or any information on the urn, it was marked to be sold.
Possibly human or animal, no one knows. That’s the intrigue of “Nan,” and this character has become as much a part of his life as anything else. As an avid collector of thrift and vintage finds, Lazarus considers “Nan” to be one of his most prized possessions.
“Someone wanted me to give it back, but to who? The thrift store? They’d just throw it away,” he said. “It’s a continuation; spreading the remains through art. I don't do it often; I’d like to keep ‘Nan’ intact.”
In Lazarus’s pursuit of art, it’s helped him become more comfortable and expressive in his gender and sexuality. He said growing up in the south, there weren’t many people like him around. He was fortunate to have a trans friend in high school, and that gave him the words and knowledge to discover more of himself.
“In a way, you have to become your own inspiration and all that. I think younger me would be cool to see where I’m at. Whenever I have my low days, that’s something I have to pound into my head.”
In 2020, Queerport originally linked up with Lazarus via The Slay Shop, a small Louisiana-based business aimed at empowering folx to “declare yourself” via patches and other flare. Lazarus was an artist for them and still living in Baton Rouge at the time. We were eager to feature him on our Global Creative Directory listing and absolutely fell in love with his work. He had no idea that anything so bold like Queerport was happening in his hometown.
“Wait, it’s in Shreveport?” I never really saw a queer scene,” he said, noting that as he got older he learned about Pride in the Park and other LGBTQ+ community events in his hometown. “Growing up, I’m sure in every small town, every trans kid feels like they’re the only one in town. I definitely did. When I got older and moved out, and looked back, ‘Oh, there is a community.’ Now it’s coming out and it’s blossoming through things like Queerport. I think that’s the tits.”
While in Baton Rouge, Lazarus worked with his community on different projects including a larger than life “Black Lives Matter” ground mural. It was the first time he’d created on a larger scale and one of the catalysts to push him and his partner to move - during a global pandemic.
“I’m fine with community stuff, but I’m paranoid. So far we haven’t gotten sick, but I don’t want to test my luck,” he said. “‘My friends are doing stuff for the community, should I?’ You want to be safe and do what you can, but still so many people aren’t taking Corona seriously. It’s a weird spot to be in.”
It may be slow moving at the moment in Colorado Springs, but Lazarus is hopeful. He’s participated in a few protests so far in Denver and has been keeping an eye on available outlets for his art and creativity. He was even featured in Denver’s OUT FRONT Magazine. Wanting to help others through his criminology background, he is the creator of a Facebook group for missing and unidentified LGBTQ+ peoples. He said he’s also interested in pushing his clothing designs to the forefront by focusing on the upcycling and reimagining of leather.
“People are wearing stuff I’ve [conceived]?’”
“I’m always amazed when someone tags me in something. Showing off a painting or shirt or whatever they bought from me. It makes my day. I don't think I’ll ever get used to it.”
To stay up-to-date with Lazarus, follow him on Facebook and Instagram @dungeoncowboy. You can visit his official website here, dungeoncowboy.squarespace.com, and his Facebook page, Missing and Unidentified LGBT Individuals.