Laurie Toby Edison


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The (Renewed) War on Queer Art

crossposted for Marlene from Fukshot

You may or may not remember the NEA fights of 20 years ago. I do. In a battle to keep queer art out of public view, conservatives were able to damage arts funding in this country so badly that we still have not recovered. It took years before mainstream gallery spaces would again show overtly queer work without hesitation.

They are coming for us because we are queer. This is not about obscenity. This is about whose stories may be told in our most prestigious places.

Please read the letter below from Jenn Sichel (edited slightly to include updates from Jenn) and (at least) write an email. We can’t let them do this again.

Dear friends,

As many of you know, I spent several years in DC putting together a show at the National Portrait Gallery called Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. The show casts the history of American art through a queer lens, challenging our assumptions about what/how art means. The show is not a reductive look at “gay” art but rather a look at how artists navigate around a complex set of codes that govern sexual expression, how they circumvent and/or use these codes to express their own silenced desires, how they’ve dealt with love and loss when AIDS ravaged the community, and how (more recently) artists complicate society’s imperative to identify as “gay/lesbian.”

The show is under serious attack from the right. They demanded that a video by David Wojnarowicz be removed, and the museum caved with an hour. I am outraged — almost 20 years after his death, Wojnarowicz is still being silenced! And now there is a good chance the entire show will be pulled.

Please help me in rallying behind the show. We need an army of support.

What can you do?

Email the National Portrait Gallery’s director, Martin E. Sullivan (, Richard Kurin, undersecretary for the arts and humanities, ( and Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (, expressing your support for the show.

Forward this email to everyone and anyone who might care.

Write/call your representatives (both liberal and conservative) to implore them to take a stand in support of Hide/Seek and against the homophobia that is fueling this issue.

Spread the word on facebook, twitter, etc.


In solidarity,


Debbie says: I’m writing my emails this morning. You have time to do it too.

2 Responses to “The (Renewed) War on Queer Art”

  1. Lynne Murray says:

    I sent the following email to the three gentlemen in question:
    I am writing express my support for the show entitled Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery and to protest removing gay artist David Wojnarowiscz’s video from the show. I think it is unworthy of a national institution purporting to represent the culture as a whole to show complicity with right wing demogogic pressure by threatening the exhibit itself, a thoughtful examination of prejudice, sexual orientation and artistic conscience in society. What a tragic irony if the Gallery itself should demonstrate such prejudice in action.

    Recent suicides of young gay people demonstrate how thoughtful, respectful cultural insights can be a matter of life and death.
    Very truly yours,
    Lynne Murray

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