John Jarboe: The Rose Garden

May 11, 2024–September 29, 2024

A photograph of a person seated at a round dining table. They are wearing a shiny pink outfit and their face is obscured by a large rose. The table is covered by a draping tablecloth made up of doily patterns. The environment is likewise draped in sheer fabric curtains. There is an empty chair to the right of the table and a bouquet of roses hanging upside down from the ceiling, just over the seated person.
“She Summers in Vienna,” 2022. Music by Emily Bate and John Jarboe. Photo credit: Christopher Ash.

“It’s not every day you learn you are a gender cannibal” 

When John Jarboe came out as trans, John’s aunt exclaimed: “You had a twin in the womb. You ate her. That’s why you are the way you are!” This was a lot for John to swallow! 

The Rose Garden is an immersive performance space filled with video, music, and objects devoted to John’s consumed twin, named Rose. Visitors can weave their way through a multi-room domestic environment reimagining John’s gender journey. Through interaction with surrealist inspired video sculptures, visitors will discover a series of short films with original songs, hidden treats, and an immersive maze of memories and provocations. The experience culminates in a hang out space made by and for trans and queer communities that will serve as a site of performances and gatherings, including live cabaret, community conversations, and clothing swaps, throughout the run of the show.

As a drag artist, Jarboe is devoted to live performance—and cabaret in particular—as a means of creating a deep level of intimacy and trust between performer and audience. In The Rose Garden, her first solo museum exhibition, Jarboe seeks new ways of empowering visitors with agency that allows for a sense of narrative surprise, vulnerability, and catharsis. 

We invite you to nestle in, chew on your gender, and savor its morsels. Stay for seconds, won’t you?


The Fabric Workshop and Museum
1214 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Second Floor Gallery

Plan Your Visit

Free Timed Tickets Required
Suggested donation of $5 | Advance reservations strongly encouraged

Timed Tickets

A timed ticket is not required to view other exhibitions or to enter this exhibition’s Green Room. 

More About The Rose Garden

Content Warning

The Rose Garden engages with themes of fetal mortality, gender dysphoria, and growing up queer in Michigan in the 90s. There is some suggestive eating imagery, cannibal humor, fish gutting, and occasional glimpses of the artist’s bare bottom. The gallery involves moving through tight spaces, light changes, and flashing video.

The Green Room  

The multi-room experience culminates in a lively space made by and for trans and queer communities that will serve as a place to hang out and a site for performances and gatherings throughout the run of the show. You do not need a timed ticket to enter this space during regular museum hours. Located at the front of the Second Floor Gallery (facing Arch Street), this space can be accessed via the front elevator or the front stairwell.



Conceived and Created by John Jarboe in collaboration with:
Installation Video and Sound Design, Film Co-director, Director of Photography, Editor: Christopher Ash
Installation Lighting Design: Kate McGee
Technical Direction: Michael Lambui
FWM Director of Studio Operations: Nami Yamamoto
FWM Chief Curator: DJ Hellerman
In collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia.

Original musical compositions

“Rose: A True Story,” Composed by Emily Bate, arrangement by Heath Allen, lyrics by John Jarboe
“I Will Not Disobey Mom,” 2022. Composed by Daniel de Jesús, lyrics by John Jarboe
“She Summers in Vienna,” 2022. Composed by Emily Bate, lyrics by John Jarboe
“And Then Rose Said,” 2022. Composed by Pax Ressler, lyrics by John Jarboe
“Dear Mom,” 2022. Composed by Pax Ressler and John Jarboe, lyrics by John Jarboe
“Nobody Knows This Little Rose/River,” 2022. Composed by Emily Bate, Pax Ressler, and John Jarboe, lyrics by John Jarboe.

All songs recorded at Gradwell House
Recorded and Mixing: Matt Weber
Mastering: Dave Downham
Music Direction: Emily Bate
Additional Musical Coaching: Pax Ressler
Additional sounds: Christopher Ash


Rose Blooms in D.C.

Rose: You Are Who You Eat

A true story of gender cannibalism, set to music

In this musical shrine to the consumed twin, named Rose, John welcomes you into a feast of gender through song, storytelling, and a full plate of wordplay.

CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery
June 1–July 14 2024
Free and Open to the Public

Woolly Mammoth
June 5–23, 2024
Tickets on Sale

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An on-set photograph taken during the filming of “Dear Mom" shows the artist in the center leading a group of child actors hand-in-hand. A videographer with camera equipment is just ahead of them, walking backwards as the group moves forward.

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“Dear Mom” Premiere
May 25, 2024, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Performance artist John Jarboe standing in a park with her arms stretched open wearing a pink, wide-brimmed hat and a brown jumper with a green and white patterned hand-made button down shirt underneath.

Clothing Exchange
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June 7, 2024, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

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Author Talk
Horse Barbie: Reading and Book Signing with Author Geena Rocero
June 10, 2024, 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm

A red-tinted exposure room shows a table with pressed roses and stems.

Summer Skill Building Series
Rose-tinted Handmade Soap and Prints
July 17, 2024, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

A red-tinted exposure room shows a table with pressed roses and stems.

Summer Skill Building Series
Rose-tinted Handmade Soap and Prints
July 10, 2024, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Two artists look over a scale model of a gallery made of foamcore pieces.

Summer Skill Building Series
Bed of Roses, Miniature Childhood Bedrooms
August 7, 2024, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Artists in This Exhibition

Downloadable Media and Related Links

Download the Press ReleaseDownload the Press Release

About the Artist

American, born 1986. Lives and works in Philadelphia, PA. 

John Jarboe (she/her) is a director, performer, curator, and writer. As the founder of the Bearded Ladies Cabaret company and its Artistic Director, Jarboe has produce original works for Opera Philadelphia, Eastern State Penitentiary, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a BFA in Theatre. 

John has appeared locally with The Walnut Street Theatre (A Christmas CarolLove StoryVincent In BrixtonArsenic & Old Lace), Theatre Exile (Cock), People’s Light and Theatre (The Rainmaker), Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre (HamletAs You Like It) and The Wilma (Macbeth). Some favorite work includes turns as Julia Child in Inside Julia Child for Philadelphia FringeArts and as the title role in The Green Fairy Cabaret (Philly School of Circus and Kimmel Center) which she wrote and performed in as part of the inaugural Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA). She collaborated with Applied Mechanics Theatre Company in PortmanteauVaingloriousOverseers and Some Other Mettle, and was a recipient of the 2013 Performing Arts Fellowship from the Independence Foundation. In 2017, she received support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to present The Poison Cookie Jar, an interactive, web-based mapping project documenting the rich history and contemporary practice of cabaret around the world. 

About the Curator

The Rose Garden is organized by Chief Curator & Director of Curatorial Affairs DJ Hellerman and Director of Studio Operations Nami Yamamoto in collaboration with the artist and the FWM Studio team. 

The Fabric Workshop and Museum Studio

Jill Adler, Print Project Manager
Franco Andrés, Project Coordinator
Andrea Arts, Studio Assistant
Judson Browning, Exhibitions Manager
Olivia Dwyer, Shopworks Coordinator
Abby Lutz, former Senior Project Coordinator
Allen West, Senior Project Technician
Nami Yamamoto, Director of Studio Operations

Art and Installation Team

Barbara Botting, Project Assistant
Alex Graora, Project Assistant
Zack Ingram, Project Assistant
Isabelle Isel, Culinary Artist
Johnsy Johnson, Culinary Artist
Rebecca Kanach, Artist Project Assistant
Naomi Lawrence, FWM Education Intern
Hannah Moog, Project Assistant
Bailey Roper, Rug Artist
Bless Rudisill, Lighting Assistant
Colin Sass, Video Assistant
Sarah Schunke, Painter
Sophie Smyczek, Lighting Assistant
Kevin Valentin, Project Assistant



Major support for John Jarboe: The Rose Garden has been generously provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Major support of FWM is provided by the Marion Boulton “Kippy” Stroud Foundation. FWM receives state art funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support is provided by Agnes Gund and the Board of Directors and Members of The Fabric Workshop and Museum.