Sunday, January 16, 2011

Artistic License: The Freedom to be Creative

In October the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture opened at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington D.C to critical acclaim.  The exhibition surveys how same-sex love has been portrayed in art from the 19th century to the present and includes works by Eakins, Duchamp, Johns, Goldin and Mapplethorpe to name just a few.  Within weeks the Catholic League and other conservative groups took issue with a video in the show by entitled A Fire in My Belly, by David Wojnarowicz.  Wojnarowicz was a gay artist who died of AIDS related complications in 1987.  The Smithsonian Institution, of which the NPG is a part caved in to pressure from these groups and A Fire In My Belly was removed from the exhibition.

The threat of artistic censorship is nothing new and with this recent high profile case we see that is not going away anytime soon.  As a reminder that this issue recurs with disturbing regularity, the Library is featuring material in a display at the Circulation Desk about artists whose work has been censored in the past, along with publications which address the importance of vigilance against the curtailment artistic freedoms.  Also included is the catalog from the Hide/Seek exhibition.  These items are now on display through the end of the month at the Library Circulation desk.

You may also view "A Fire in My Belly" and read the ongoing discussion about its removal from the NPG show on the Hide/Seek blog site.

We hope you will take a look at these thought provoking materials.

Kay Streng, Technical Services Librarian

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