For the past few months the muse has kept me happily busy in the electronic darkroom.
I am thrilled to announce the publication of THE BOOK OF MONKS, a series of 31 photages in a limited edition of 50 hardbound copies, numbered and signed (electronically). They are being printed and shipped by Apple in the U.S. The price is $100 per copy with 50% of the post printing costs benefitting the BIG JOY documentary film project.
I have been making photages for the past twenty-five years. Recently, on a memorable journey to Laos I photographed Buddhist monks in the World Heritage city of Luang Prabang where there are a number of monasteries. The monks have now been absorbed into images I had taken over the years, particularly during the past decade in New York City.
About a month ago I went and saw “Hide and Seek,” the Queer portraiture exhibit now at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. I had just started a long term on grand jury and regularly found myself in that part of the city when a member of the jury urged me to go. So one evening my partner and I joined a friend and took in the show before dinner.
What I saw stunned me. We went from room to room and I found myself repeatedly goggled in disbelief that I was seeing what I was seeing. Many of the pieces I had heard of or seen over the years in textbooks or online. Many were by artists whose work I had always wanted to see and never had the chance before this show. Artists like AA Bronson and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, the Cuban-American artist whose portrait in this show is perhaps the most unconventional and most memorable. A small pile of beautifully wrapped candies against a corner weighing exactly 175 pounds – his partner's body weight at the time of his death. The artist requested that the viewer take and eat a piece to "participate" in the “wasting away” of his partner – a bittersweet evocation of the way that time fades on the tongue. As I went from artwork to artwork I felt as if I was participating in a sacred pilgrimage, witnessing the relics of masters and their attempts to put into visual form a lasting record of their lives, their loving, and their loved ones.
The well known artists are well represented: Andy Warhol, Annie Liebowitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe… the "usual suspects" you'd expect in an exhibition about Gay portraiture. Their place is certainly deserved. But this exhibition aims at more than mere predictability. It seeks to lay bare what has been long known but consigned to whisper. So there is work by Robert Rauschenberg, and his lovers Cy Twombly, and Jasper Johns. There are also canvases by Marsden Hartley and perhaps most daringly Grant Wood. Think about that for a minute. These are all artists largely understood by those in-the-know to have been Gay (or whatever term theorists want to apply to men-who-loved men back in the day). But their families and estates have stubbornly refused to acknowledge the fullness of their sexualities. This show does not hedge its bets. It seeks to lay bare the closer truths of these lives.
I was especially delighted by what I perceived as hidden, or perhaps just accidental, pairings. The aforementioned portraits of and by Hartley appear across the room from the works of Charles Demuth. Hartley and Demuth were contemporaries and colleagues and traveled in many of the same circles. They were also both Gay men. But they chose to live their lives in very different ways. Hartley was conflicted and embittered by his sexuality (his early letters and poems to Walt Whitman's executor and friend Horace Traubel reveal the young painter's awkward attempts to reconcile and find joy in his sexuality — sadly to no lasting avail). Demuth on the other hand was surprisingly "out" for his day and lived a productive life as an individual cherished by a wide circle of friends. Demuth is best known for his symbolic portraits (William Carlos Williams’ portrait as “I Saw the Figure Five in Gold”) and his precisionist floral watercolors. But his luscious portraits of 1920s New York's gay bathhouses speak across the decades and are represented in this show. It was as if these two artists were “speaking” to one another across the hall and my mind began to spin. This exhibition continually had that effect on me.
And then there's the direct influence of poets in this exhibition. A handsome portrait photograph of Walt Whitman holds pride of place. This is fitting since it was the curator David C. Ward's inclusion of a portrait of Whitman and his lover Peter Doyle that led to his meeting the Gay scholar Jonathan D. Katz. Their collegial friendship led to this historic exhibit. But Whitman's work also pops up in David Hockney's "We Two Boys Together Clinging" on loan from a museum in England. The other poet whose life threads through the exhibit is Frank O'Hara. Not surprising since O'Hara was very much a part of New York's mid-century art scene as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. The Jasper Johns in this show is based on one of O'Hara's poems and O'Hara is physically embodied in four portraits here.
I could go on about this exhibition. But the important thing here is this: if you have even the faintest interest in this subject matter, you must see this exhibition. You should do whatever it takes to get on a plane, drive a car, or take a train to the nation's capitol and see this show. It is not hyperbole to state that this may be the most important Queer exhibition of the decade. This is our King Tut exhibit. That is, perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime museum experience. Why? Because it’s hard to imagine the stars aligning again anytime soon to have all of these works in one place. The pieces are on loan from museums across the United States and Europe — itself a miracle of curatorial good-fortune. For this brief window of time these portraits are here speaking to each other. And they are here to speak to you.
As Gay people, this is our inheritance and a breathtaking exhibition of our stories. These are works of art by men and women who came before us and tried to make sense, in their way, of what it means to be men who love men and women who love women. And even all of that aside, the art itself is stunningly beautiful. That the Smithsonian has mounted this show is a feat that would be staggering and unprecedented for ANY arts institution in the country and they are to be applauded for their boldness and gutsyness. Do not let this opportunity pass you by. The show is on till mid-February.
Get off your asses and make it to this show. Trust me. This is one exhibition that will stay with you for a very long time.
UPDATE: as many of you know this exhibition is now getting media attention because right-wing religious fundamentalists and many Republican elected officials are outraged about the content and want the show shut down. Even more reason to go see this exhibition as soon as you can.
The Smithsonian has a brilliant show titled Hide/Seek exploring sexual difference in modern portraiture. It is a stunning show and the companion book by the same name is worth every penny. The range of artists and the sheer quality of the art on display is a once in a lifetime kind of show and I encourage anyone within visiting distance of our Nation's Capital to pay a visit to the Smithsonian.
Because, of course, this privately funded exhibit is under attack by the radical religious right again, this time in the guise of The Catholic League, the self-appointed Taliban of Catholic faith. And what exactly has them so exercised? A video by gay artist David Wojnarwicz titled A Fire in My Belly, mourning the death of his lover. Apparently there is an image in this video of the crucified Jesus's body, covered with ants. Now…it's not the sado-masochistic image of a man nailed to a wooden cross that upsets Mr. Donahue. It's the ants. His comment is that the Smithsonian wouldn't show Mohammed covered in ants, but Jesus? That's OK.
Really? Is fundamentalist radical Islamism who you really want to get in bed with Bill? … er, I mean associate with?
I digress. Herr Donahue goes on to — predictably I suppose — demand that Congress cease all funding for the Smithsonian because…and you can't make this stuff up…the regular Joe, the blue collar worker doesn't go to museums. I (Donahue) don't. They go to see WWF wrestling matches (really? all of them?) …and we don't ask for tax-support for wrestling.
Where to begin?
To draw a parallel between wrestling…even legitimate wrestling, not even the comic book staged variety…and the Smithsonian is just so..what? Ignorant? Breathtakingly stupid? I'm sorry…it deserves a new word all its own: Goebbelsian (as in Joseph "tell-a-big-enough-lie-and-they'll-believe-you" Goebbels.) Just as a charitable explanation, one (wrestling) is a staged form of entertainment or sport. The other, (The Smithsonian) is an educational institution that preserves the culture and history of these United States. We fund one because it is in the interests of education. We don't fund the other because a) it makes a gazillion dollars on it's own, and b) it's stupid.
Oops. My bias slipped. Oh well. The Smithsonian, by the way, caved. Wojnarwicz's video has been taken down. But Herr Donahue is still demanding that funding for the museum be cut. If I could show it here, I would.
It is always almost chilling when The Roman Catholic Church (and let's not even begin with the pedophile scandal) cries about being "under attack," whines about "discrimination" …while they attack and discriminate and murder at will.
This man William Donahue should not be taken seriously. And yet "fair and balanced" has him on every news broadcast, making a publicity stink in the interests of his bigotry.
It's hard not to consider "second amendment remedies", ya know?
Hide/Seek is one of the most important, most ground-breaking gay-and-Lesbian-friendly exhibits to appear in any museum anywhere in a long long time. That it is in The Smithsonian…our nation's own museum…is all the more important. If you can possibly make the journey to visit and support this exhibit (which, I repeat, is privately funded...no tax-payer money is even connected other than the fact that it is in a government-funded building.) This is a visual history of LGBT people in the most lyrical form. Our ancestors. Our history. Our sacred texts and prophets (I'm looking at you Walt!) The most valuable thing that can be stolen from a people is their history. That's what Herr Donahue is trying to do. Rewrite history. Erase us.
He is, fortunately, a dying breed of homophobic, sex-phobic, good-ol' boy bigot. He will fail. But not if we don't fight back. Go to this show. Buy the book. Know …AND RESPECT…your history.
A 304-page catalog titled Hide/Seek Difference and Desire in American Portraiturehas been authored by the exhibition co-curators, David C. Ward, National Portrait Gallery historian, and Jonathan Katz, director of the doctoral program in visual studies, State University of New York at Buffalo. The catalog will be published by Smithsonian Books and distributed by Random House; it will be on sale for $45. It is the perfect holiday gift for any gay person in your life. Maybe even you.
Argentine Republic’s legalization of same-sex marriage July 15 came as
a complete surprise to those of us who think of Argentina as the land of
machismo, meat-eaters – Argentines are the world's biggest carnivores,
70 kilos (154 lbs.) of beef per person – and military coups. According
“Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia” (1998),
endured some of the most brutal campaigns of official and unofficial
of lesbians and gay men anywhere in the 20th century.” After the
coup of March 24, 1976, “some 400 gay men were ‘disappeared’ – kidnapped,
barbarically tortured, and executed . . . Encouraged by Roman Catholic
leaders, the dictatorship raided and closed gay bars, arresting as many
men in a particularly brutal 1978 campaign that took place on the eve of
World Cup soccer tournament in Buenos Aires. In 1982 and 1983, the last
two years of the dictatorship, paramilitary groups assassinated a number
men working in the arts. . . .” But with the re-establishment of
democracy in the 1990s, “Buenos Aires emerged . . . as the gay capital
America, with vocal rights organizations and a lively gay and lesbian
Argentina’s stormy past and promising present makes it uniquely
to lead Latin America in the field of LGBT rights and equality. Civil
unions are already recognized in Buenos Aires (2002), the Province of
(2003) and the cities of Villa Carlos Paz (2007) and Rio Cuarto (2009). On
November 12, 2009 a Buenos Aires court approved the marriage of Alex
José Maria Bello. (Though the Buenos Aires government blocked the
the two men were married on December 28 in Ushuaia, in Tierra del
In late 2009 the Argentine Congress took up a bill to change Article 172
Civil Code to legalize same-sex marriage. The Chamber of Deputies
the measure on May 5 and the Senate on July 15. President Cristina
Fernández de Kirchner, a friend of the LGBT community, ratified the
which took effect a few days later.
"From today onward, Argentina is a more just and democratic
Maria Rachid, president of the Argentine Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Federation. The law "not only recognizes the rights of our families, but
the possibility of having access to health care, to leave a pension, to
our assets to the people with whom we have shared many years of life,
our children," she said.
It was a hard-earned victory, and Argentina’s LGBT community is
celebrate it. But it would be a mistake to think that Argentina has
a queer paradise. For one thing, machismo is still rampant in that
country. Diego Maradona (left), Argentina’s soccer god, reacted the way many
Argentinian men would when a reporter at the World Cup – where Maradona
the Argentinian Team – seemed to question Maradona’s fondness for his
players. “No, I have not gone limp wristed," Maradona protested,
vehemently. “But I like to acknowledge and congratulate my players when
they play as well as they did today. That was a pleasing result and
was a job well done. I still prefer women. I am dating Veronica, who is
and 31 years old." Though Maradona never misses an opportunity to
us he’s a jerk, his eyebrow-raising reaction to a reporter’s innocent
indicates that not everything is peachy-keen down Argentine way.
Nor is Argentina’s legalization of same-sex marriage approved
the land. What goes well in Buenos Aires might not go well in the
countryside, where folks are more religious, macho, and carnivorous. The
same-sex marriage bill was hotly opposed by the Roman Catholic, Mormon
evangelical churches, which organized a 60,000-person march on Congress
protest the measure. The Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge
Bergoglio, led the fight against same-sex marriage, saying that
to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a
mother." Another opponent, Senator Juan Perez Alsina, called
marriage between a man and a woman "essential for the preservation of
species." Opponents tried to derail the measure by proposing a weak
unions law as an alternative to “gay marriage,” but they were blocked by
parliamentary maneuvers. “I'm proud that we never tried for civil
always for complete equality," said Esteban Paulon, the LGBT
The legalization of same-sex marriage in Argentina, makes it the
country in the world to legalize “gay marriage.” (The others are
Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain
Sweden). It also puts to shame the United States, where the Defense
Of Marriage Act is on the books and a majority of states have
amendments barring same-sex marriage. “Today's historic vote shows how
Catholic Argentina has come, from dictatorship to true democratic
how far the freedom-to-marry movement has come, as 12 countries on four
continents now embrace marriage equality," said Evan Wolfson, Executive
of Freedom to Marry. “America should lead, not lag, when it comes to
treating everyone equally under the law." Perhaps it helps that
Argentina’s religious lobby is not as powerful as the one in the States,
opposition to same-sex marriage is not a cornerstone of one of its major
political parties, as it is with the Republican Party in the U.S. Here
have a long way to go before we catch up to the “carnivores” of the
Jesse Monteagudo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
South-Florida based freelance writer. Jesse thanks Daniel Curzon, author
1978 gay novel “Among the Carnivores,” for inspiring the title of this
Iceland is set to become the first country to have an out-queer head of government. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, a Social Democrat and the current Minister of Social Affairs who's also an out Lesbian and is likely to be announced as the new prime minister as the former Icelandic prime minister leaves office due to esophageal cancer.
Besides being the first Lesbian prime minister in the world, she would also be the first female prime minister in Iceland.
Although Ms. Sigurdardottir’s rise has drawn widespread attention on the Web among Gay men and Lesbians outside Iceland, it is important to note, that her relationship is considered unremarkable at home. In 1940, while still a dependency of Denmark, Iceland decriminalized Gay sex. It approved civil partnerships for Gay and Lesbian couples in 1996, one of the first countries to do so.
“Iceland is a small society, and the public knows what Sigurdardottir stands for as a politician, and that’s the only thing that is important,” said Frosti Jonsson, a spokesman for Iceland’s National Association of Queers. “Nowadays, not only does Iceland have one of the most progressive legal environments for Gay people, there have also been changes in public attitudes towards Gay people. It simply isn’t an issue anymore.”
The 2009 National LGBTI (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex) Health Summit is an event dedicated to preserving and improving the emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, psychological, environmental, and social health and wellness of LGBTI people, a population that continues to experience significant health disparities because of its members’ sexual orientations and/or gender identities.
We welcome all individuals who support the health and well-being of LGBTI people as well as all members of the community (no previous health experience necessary) to explore what it means to be a healthy LGBTI person, living in a healthy LGBTI community.
We invite you to spend a few days in Chicago working intensively with colleagues from all over the nation and world who are grappling with similar challenges, and engage in deep thinking and extended discussion about innovative programming related to the theme of “LGBTI Health Through the Life Course.”
We are especially excited to be holding this summit in the year marking the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the event frequently cited as the beginning of the LGBTI rights movement. The Stonewall Riots was a series of spontaneous, raucous demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn of New York City. in response to a government-sponsored system that persecuted homosexuals, and started the modern gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.
This summit is different from traditional health conferences. Our LGBTI Health Summits (previously in Boulder, Colorado; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and most recently in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) have been described as nurturing retreats, exciting and intense think tanks, and an event of great enlightenment. Participants come away with a renewed passion for the cause, energized and inspired to tackle the problems confronting LGBTI health and wellness.
The Summit is a chance for all participants to reach out across differences in sexual and gender identity, ethnicity, race, age, and socioeconomic status and begin to work toward common goals. We avoid a focus on celebrities and big names, and we take plenty of time to relax, have fun, and make meaningful contact with other participants.
We Need You
The Summit needs the input of those who face daunting questions and formidable challenges as well as those who have succeeded in creating effective programs and campaigns related to LGBTI health and wellness. We welcome activists as well as researchers, doctors as well as holistic health practitioners, religious and spiritual leaders as well as sex workers. Most of all, we request the participation of ordinary LGBTI-identified people who will share their valuable experiences, questions, and energy as we build a movement around community health and empowerment. We welcome all individuals who support the health and well-being of LGBTI people and all members of the community (no previous health experience necessary) to explore what it means to be a healthy LGBTI person, living in a healthy LGBTI community.
Registration and a call for abstracts will be announced in the first quarter of 2009. In the meantime, you can stay abreast of our work by contacting Cat Jefcoat at CatJ@howardbrown.org or Jim Pickett at JPickett@aidschicago.org. We will be disseminating information about the Summit widely as details are finalized. Please stay tuned.
Thank you, and see you in Chicago, August 14 – 18, 2009!
The Chicago Host Committee of the 2009 National LGBTI Health Summit
Building Connections & Community for Gay Men since 1989