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Gay artist's video angers Catholic League, House Republicans

  • Blog Post by: Claude Peck
  • December 2, 2010 - 4:00 PM

A critically acclaimed art show that has been on view at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., since October made national headlines this week when the Catholic League and some Congressional Republicans complained that it was offensive to Christians.

In response to criticism, museum officials on Tuesday ordered the removal of a short video by late artist/writer David Wojnarowicz that included brief scenes of a crucifix lying on the ground with ants walking over it. Martin Sullivan of the Portrait Gallery said no other works would be removed from the privately funded show, which runs through February.

The show, titled "Hide/Seek," presents about 140 American art works that look at portraiture through the lens of gay and lesbian identity, politics and AIDS. It includes works by such artists as Thomas Eakins, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Charles Demuth and Beauford Delaney. A 1933 oil painting by Marsden Hartley, below,  was loaned to the show by the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

 

 

"Eight Bells Folly: Memorial to Hart Crane," by Marsden Hartley / Provided by Weisman Art Museum

The Wojnarowicz video, titled "A Fire in My Belly," was characterized by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League as a form of hate speech. His condemnation was seconded by soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House Republicans.

Some were angered by the decision to pull it from the show. Several artists picketed the Portrait Gallery on Thursday, and a D.C. gallery began showing the video continuously in its front window, according to a UPI report. CNN aired a debate in which Washington Post critic Blake Gopnik defended the show and the video, while Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center said he objected to "the entire exhibit."

Here's Wojnarowicz talking about censorsip and the NEA in a video from 1990, two years before he died of AIDS-related complications.

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