Life and work
Linzy was born in Clermont, Florida, to the late Samuel Avant, Sr., who was a farmer and his mother Constance Linzy, who struggled withschizophrenia and later drug addiction. He was raised in Stuckey, Florida, in a close-knit rural community by his late grandmother Georgianna Linzy, who was a seamstress, and was also deaf, and also by his aunt Diane McMullen, who was an evangelist and domestic worker and his uncle, Isaiah McMullen, who was a minister, and is retired from the railroad. Linzy spent weekends and summers with his father, who lived a few miles away in Center Hill, Florida. He has a sister, Athia Linzy-Isom, who was born to the same parentage and five half-brothers and a step-sister by his father. Kalup also considers his aunt and uncle’s six children to be his siblings. He has described his childhood and place of upbringing has thematically influential for his well-known video and performance work. For example, Linzy has produced a series of soap opera video works, and has described soap operas as having been a key social component for his family and community. He has said that shows such as Guiding Lightwere a part of daily life when he was growing up, and he often includes soap opera stereotypes in the characters and plot of his videos. His soap opera videos can be characterized by their low-tech quality, themes of community, socializing, family, the church, sexuality and homosexuality. While growing up, his mother was in and out of mental facilities and his father became paralyzed after suffering a stroke. This affected Linzy emotionally. He also secretly struggled with his sexuality and only revealed it to close relatives and friends who asked. He would eventually explore sexuality, along with race, gender, stereotypes, and cultural identities, in his art. Linzy pushes the boundaries of gender in his work through dressing himself and other characters in drag, using pre-recorded voices or manipulating voice through video editing, and playing with different dialects. He also uses friends with little or no acting experience for some parts. In addition to video work Linzy performs on stage, writes songs, and collaborates with other artists.
In 2003, he moved to New York to pursue a career in the arts. In 2005, his participation in a group show at The Studio Museum in Harlem and a project at Taxter and Spengemann Gallery in Chelsea, led to a review in “The New York Times” by Holland Cotter that opened with the statement “A star is born...” Following this, he went on to receive numerous awards, recognition, and opportunities. He has been honored with other awards and grants including The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, The Creative Capital Foundation grant, an Art Matters grant, The Jerome Foundation grant, The Harpo Foundation grant, and The Headlands Alumni Award residency. His work is included in many private and public collections. Among them are The Museum of Modern Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Rubell Family Collection and the collection of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg. He has lectured at universities and colleges across the country including New York University andHarvard University. He has worked and collaborated with many well known artists, celebrities, and fashion designers. Among them are James Franco, Chloe Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne, Liya Kebede, Leo Fitzpatrick, James Ransone, Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, Diane von Furstenberg,Proenza Schouler, Michael Stipe, Tunde Adebimpe and the band “TV on the Radio.” His work has been featured at numerous film festivals which include Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and Outfest. He has also been featured in numerous magazines including “New York Magazine,” “V Magazine,” “W Magazine,” "Out Magazine" “Interview Magazine,” which featured an interview with his friend Chan Marshall, “Artillery Magazine,” in which he was the cover story, and in May 2014 he was featured in a six page spread in “Harper’s Bazaar, Hong Kong.”
In 2010, he was invited by and featured on General Hospital alongside James Franco playing Kalup Ishmael. He performed Route 66 (song). In the summer of 2011, Linzy produced the video and performed in "A Heavenly Act," an opera by Italian composer Luciano Chessa commissioned bySFMOMA with a libretto by Gertrude Stein. "A Heavenly Act" premiered on August 19, 2011, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, in a staged production by the Ensemble Parallèle. In 2012, while teaching a performance studies course at New York University, Linzy appeared with butoh artist Edoheart in an art reality show.
He attended South Lake High School in Groveland, Florida, where he ran track and was involved in many student organizations including the Student Government, where he served as President his senior year, Future Homemakers of America, where he served as a state officer, and Future Business Leaders of America. Linzy’s performance and creative skills were nurtured in chorus, theatre, and the church choir. His relatives taught him how to play the piano by ear. In his senior year, Linzy was named a Walt Disney Dreamer and Doer, a special recognition for Central Florida students where he represented his county. In 1995, following High School, he enrolled at the University of South Florida where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2000. As an undergraduate, he pursued his degree in the arts and started a community festival with one of his childhood friends. He then followed that with a MFA from the same school University of South Florida in 2003.