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Smithsonian Under Fire For Gay Portraiture Exhibit

OK, I have to clarify here. The complaint from Republicans, and especially Catholics, is that the video exhibit that one artist made portraying the suffering of his partner who was dying of AIDS, depicts at one point a crucifix with Jesus covered with crawling ants. The issue they are claiming is that since the Smithsonian is a federally funded organization, "if it's wrong for the government to take the taxpayers' money to promote religion, why is it OK to take taxpayers' money to assault religion?" OK, I really don't think this is an assault on religion, but I can see why THEY would say so, so fair question. I have always taken the point in the past that "art is art for art's sake", meaning that just about anything is fair game, but being that they have pulled the "federal funding card" in their complaint, I have to admit that I kind of agree with them in order to protect separation of church and state, even though they themselves are CONSTANTLY attacking separation in an active way all the time. What are your thoughts on this?

source with audio: NPR


my question would be more with why would this exibit even be in the Smithsonian. As far as I know that museum is for relics mostly, things like Charles Lindburgh's plane or a facimile of and about history. I can see art playing a role if it were say egyptian art or native american art but this art had to be made after 1983 and thus if I were curator I just don't see it fitting the criteria of that specific museum.

I could see it in something like the Metropolitan Museum of Modern art so my opinion on the subject is I find it immaterial for that specific museum.

As to art and religion, well I fail to see the discontent, OK ants and a crucifix, As far as I know crucifixes were a common means of death in Roman times. This linking Christ to it is a mental thing lest there is the perverbial crown of thorns on the head, then I can understand. I think if you use a religious icon in art then your probably using it as a mode of expression and true artistry should not be restricted by moral consequence. If I am given my choice to look or not and come to my own conclusion thats true art to me.
Well actually, no, this was a crucifix, not a cross. The crucifix classically IS the cross with Jesus on it, as this one was. So I guess some hard core Christians, especially Catholics, found the imagery disturbing. Another thing too is that the display was about his dying partner from AIDS. The imagery of the crucifix could only have been included to instill a certain meaning. The meaning I take from it is that religion has helped the AIDS epidemic historically with its anti-condom, "aids is a fag disease" stance. Factually it's correct, but not all Christians believe the same and I can understand why some would feel offended. Then again, I think the ones complaining are likely the sames ones who DO believe that gays should just go and die of AIDS, so it's hard to really take a stand when they are playing both sides of it.

January 2011



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