December 1, 2010

GOP Not a Fan of ‘The Arts,’ Especially When it’s Gay

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What is the issue?

David Wojnarowicz video from “Hide/Seek” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery.
Penny Star/CNSNews.com

If you have a fondness for the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season,” then you’ll no doubt be interested to hear about the latest exploits of two guys named John Boehner and Eric Cantor. These men are politicians, fairly high-ranking from what I’m told. And, if you’re keeping score, these gentlemen hail from the Republican party (the one that’s less docile, more reactionary).

In their latest attempt to protect Americans from themselves, Boehner and Cantor have sets their sights on an exhibit titled “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG). It’s an exhibit about gay love that opened this past October, which was two months ago if you can count and have at least two fingers or toes. The exhibit was brought to the attention of Boehner and Cantor courtesy of Catholic news site CNSNews.com. In response, the congressman issued a warning to the National Portrait Gallery, imploring they take down David Wojnarowicz’ video depicting Jesus covered in ants or face “tough scrutiny” next year:

“American families have a right to expect better from recipients of taxpayer funds in a tough economy,” Boehner’s Spokesman Kevin Smith told CNSNews.com. “While the amount of money involved may be small, it’s symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans’ hard-earned money at a time when one in every 10 Americans is out of work and our children’s future is being threatened by debt.

“Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January when the new majority in the House moves to end the job-killing spending spree in Washington,” Smith said.

Not surprisingly, as seen in most instances in history when tough guys threaten art nerds, the latter quickly gave in. Here’s what the wimps had to say after the bullies threatened to take their lunch money:

The National Portrait Gallery has removed a work of art from a GLBT-themed exhibition after it attracted conservative and religious ire for its images of homosexuality and Christianity. Director Martin Sullivan announced the removal of A Fire in My Belly by artist David Wojnarowicz after conservative news service CNS wrote yesterday that the “Christmas-season exhibit,” which opened in October, used taxpayer money to indirectly fund an exhibition that includes imagery of genitalia, homoerotic situations, and Christ covered in ants.

Blake Gopnik over at the Washington Post writes an incisive piece on how the NPG bowed to its censors. His closing statement in the piece, however, says it all: “If anyone’s offended by any work in any museum, they have the easiest redress: They can vote with their feet, and avoid the art they don’t like.” TC mark

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