Out in the Open: Sexual Differences in Art
"Telling the history of art without the history of gay people is like telling the history of slavery without mentioning black people," says David C. Ward, curator of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. "There's been an entire history hiding in plain sight." In Hide/Seek, art history comes out of the closet and out into the open, working specifically in the area of American portraiture to give a general impression of the role of persons of sexual difference in the art we already know and love.
When Toni Morrison wrote Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination in 1992, she courted controversy with the idea that African-Americans lurked in the shadows of canonical American literature from the very beginning. Hide/Seek makes the same suggestion, but for homosexuals in the field of American art history. The vocation of artist has always been seen as a “feminine” occupation, something many artists worked overtime to overcome in the face of societal pressure. As R. Tripp Evans’Grant Wood: A Life (which I reviewed here) explains, closeted artists such as Grant Wood not only found their sexual orientation repressed, but even found themselves enlisted in the hypermasculine response to even a hint of homosexuality. Hide/Seek makes it safe for these shadowed figures to come out into the light.
The first American Old Master enlisted in the search party is Thomas Eakins, whose Salutat, a gladiator-inspired painting of a boxer hailing the adoring crowd as he leaves the arena, celebrates the male form unashamedly. Even if you do not subscribe to the idea of Eakins as a homosexual, the overtones of his painted male figures belong in any chronology of sexual difference in American art. When the turn of the twentieth century arrives, an indigenous art scene centered in New York City attracts an equal indigenous gay scene captured by documentarians of city life such as George Bellows. The exhibition picks up speed at this point, working through great gay artists such as early moderns Marsden Hartley, Romaine Brooks, and Charles Demuth to recent moderns such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring. It’s significant that these great gay artists belong on any list of great artists period. The main point of Hide/Seek is that you don’t have to seek much to find these artists—they were hiding beneath your nose all along.
In addition to featuring homosexual artists, Hide/Seek features portraits of significant homosexual figures in American history. Annie Liebowitz’s 1998 photo, Ellen DeGeneres in Kauai, Hawaii (shown above), celebrates a central figure in the normalization of homosexuality in America today. Homophobia—from “Don’t ask, don’t tell” to votes on gay marriage—remains the last “acceptable” prejudice in American society. (Other prejudices remain, of course, but they’re frowned upon in polite company.) Ellen DeGeneres is now simply “Ellen,” the friendly face of sexual difference today, and no longer the falling star of failed sitcoms focusing on her sexual orientation. Seeing Ellen in this distinguished company gives hope that the long game of sexual hide and seek may finally be coming to an end.
One of the great works in this exhibition is Warhol’s 1986 Camouflage Self-Portrait. It epitomizes the many forms of camouflage artists employed as self-protection against homophobia. Hide/Seek makes great strides in rendering such protective measures unnecessary. If only those protective measures were as unnecessary outside art museum walls.
Could this be the long-awaited solution to economic inequality?
Under capitalism, the argument goes, it's every man for himself. Through the relentless pursuit of self-interest, everyone benefits, as if an invisible hand were guiding each of us toward the common good. Everyone should accordingly try to get as much as they can, not only for their goods but also for their labour. Whatever the market price is is, in turn, what the buyer should pay. Just like the idea that there should be a minimum wage, the idea that there should be a maximum wage seems to undermine the very freedom that the free market is supposed to guarantee.
Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.
- According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
- Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
- Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back
- In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
- Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
- The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points
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