Politics: May 2009 Archives

Bill Mutter Bunny Boy, Devil Boy, Pinnochio Girl (dates unknown) ceramic sculptures, dimensions variable [installation view]

I think what you see above was the most intense image I carried home in my head from the opening of "Then and Now" at the LGBT Center last night. For the longest moment, when I spotted them just as I reached the busy stair landing where these smallish (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet tall) figures were installed in a corner to the left, I was still almost totally distracted by a conversation with Barry about an installation we'd just seen. I absolutely didn't know what I was looking at for a few seconds, but I remember I was almost giddy with delight and at the same time a little unbalanced by their suggestion of some kind of horror.

They seem to be children in halloween costumes, but the members of this little band clearly represent some kind of outsiders, especially when seen in the context of the building where they've been assembled, although in fact, like all the undisguised queers they seem to represent, they would be outsiders virtually anywhere.

I know little more about the artist than what I learned from this link, and in the last paragraph of this 1987 New York Times review of a group show.

What follows are images of a few of the other works installed on 13th Street, some of it from the 1989 "The Center Show" show and some of it chosen by the artists in that show for inclusion in this one. All works dated "1989" are works installed twenty years ago.

Gran Fury RIOT 1989 acrylic on canvas

fierce pussy [title not supplied] 2009 black and white xeroxed posters on wall, dimensions variable [large detail of installation inside a multiple-toilet room marked "ALL GENDERS" on the door]

Leon Golub Heretic's Fork 1989 oil on wall [installation view]

Nancy Spero Elegy 1989 acrylic on wall [installation view]

Tre Chandler A narrative of ga(y)zes 2009, 90 ink on paper drawings; 10 ink on paper post-its, dimensions variable [large detail of installation]

Stephen Lack Boy on Wall 1989 oil on wall [large detail of installation]

with good in one hand

and evil in the other

Barry and I happened to be visiting the Metropolitan's newly-reworked American Wing on the same day the California Supremes announced their decision on queer marriage. There didn't seem to be one jot of a connection between the two events when we started out, but I eventually manged to find one.

I spent much more time with the nineteenth-century sculptures in the glass court than I might normally have expected to because we were with the artist Sarah Peters, whose work has been inspired by the milieu in which these earlier American masters flourished, and by their skills, although she finds her own space in interpreting that world anew and commenting on what the artist and his/her contemporaries thought of it through her own drawings and sculpture.

I was also eager to investigate what had inspired Holland Cotter's terrific piece on the galleries which appeared in the Times last Thursday.

The female nude by Hiram Powers, intended as a California allegory, attracted my attention primarily for the odd props the figure was holding, especially the divining rod which she grasped so demurely before her smoothed pudendum. My mind jumped back to the news of the day when I read the note on the museum card, which reads in part:

Inspired by the California Gold Rush of 1849, Powers devised the following program for this allegorical figure: ". . . an Indian woman . . . stands in a reserved and guarded posture and with a watchful expression, holding the divining rod in her left, and pointing with it down to the earth, under a large quartz crystal, which supports the figure on the right. Quartz is the matrix of gold and the divining rod is the miner's wand, or the sceptre of 'California' . . . In the right hand, which is held behind, there is a branch of thorns, to finish the allegory for she is the miner's goddess, or 'Fortune,' and as it is usual to represent the Goddess 'Fortune' with good in one hand and evil in the other [my italics], by suitable emblems I have done so with 'California,' and the moral is that all is not gold that glitters. . . ."

What California gives, she also taketh away - sorta, sometimes, possibly only for a while. Maybe the queers will eventually make out, er, . . . that is, within a structure certified by the state.

BTW, it would certainly help if we could remember to call it "civil marriage" rather than "marriage", which in this benighted land always means religion is involved. That way we might be able to get the folks over 30 to go along with the concept.

For those still interested in the allegory with which I started this post, here's "California" in full figure:

Hiram Powers California 185055 (this carving, 1858) marble 71" x 18.25" x 24.75"

[third image from Metropolitan Museum of Art]




I've seen it described as his masterpiece; it's almost certainly his most personal, exuberant and uninhibited expression of pure sexual jouissance.

Twenty years ago today Keith Haring finished his men's room mural, "Once Upon A Time", on the second floor of the LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street. Then he signed and dated it. The detail shots above show that it remains there today, pretty much as he left it, with one important exception: The ancient toilet fixtures and partitions which brought both great relief and great joy to the building's habitues over the years have long since been ripped out. Sadly, the room appears to have fallen into desuetude.

But, wait, is that actually a conference table I see in the picture below?


While Haring's room-size installation may have been the most extravagant, it was just one of many works included in The Center Show [see video], organized in 1989 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Stonewall. These additional artists included, among others, Leon Golub, David LaChapelle, Barbara Sandler, Kenny Scharf, Nancy Spero, and George Whitman, and much of their work remains inside this amazing, reinvented 165-year-old school building today, continuing to enrich the dynamic energy it both encourages and shelters.

The Center is putting on a show again this year. It's entitled "Then and Now", and it's intended to commemorate the 1989 events with a new installation by a new catalog of artists, although without the permanent, applied-directly-to-the-walls part of the original. It opens tomorrow, May 28, with a free reception from 6:30 to 8:30, and it will remain installed throughout the summer.

The artists invited this time around are:

Trisha Baga, The Brainstormers, Ian Campbell, Tre Chandler, Chi Peng, Abby Denson, fierce pussy, Daphne Fitzpatrick, Lola Flash, Alex Golden, Rory Golden, James Kaston, Jillian McDonald, Bill Mutter, Deirdre O'Dwyer, James Rohmberger, Jamel Shabazz, Nathaniel A. Siegel, Lori Taschler, Wu Ingrid Tsang, Forrest Williams, and Sarah Nelson Wright

This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl" - Imperial County sheriff's deputy

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America [BSA] that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence . . . .

While reading this incredible lead article on the front page of today's NYTimes, my jaw dropping ever lower as I digested its horrors, I suddenly had the odd, faintly-heartening thought: Should we be grateful for one small favor? I mean, as homos we are fundamentally excluded from BSA membership, which normally means no participation in any of their fun and games or lovely overnights, so at least the Boy Scouts of America and their affiliate, the coeducational Explorers program, aren't teaching violence, militarism, xenophobia, racism and fascism to our own young people (or at least not to those boys and girls who dare to be out while teenagers).

But seriously, this is appalling, so appalling that I had to think about whether this was April Fool's Day.

These are children, and they're being given "soft" guns, sometimes shooting real guns (I like shooting them, [one 16 year-old girl] said. I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.). They are taught how to fight ill-defined or subjective categories of enemies like "illegals", "terrorists", "active shooters" and marijuana farmers. No, I didn't see anything in the article about taking down homos; maybe we've made some progress.

The program is restricted to kids 14 or above, but the reporter, Jennifer Steinhauer, suggests there seems to be some wiggle room: One sheriff's deputy supervising a local post as a volunteer avowed, I will take them at 13 and a half".

The story primarily covers towns in Imperial County, in Southern California. It's the poorest county in the state, " . . . and the local economy revolves largely around the criminal justice system. In addition to the sheriff and local police departments, there are two state prisons and a large Border Patrol and immigration enforcement presence."

Our older monsters are creating new monsters.

[Todd Krainin image from the Times]

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from May 2009.

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