Because some religious zealots dubbed part of the Smithsonian’s new all-queer exhibit Hide/Seek to be hate speech, the museum’s National Portrait Gallery has caved and pulled part of the showcase. Stupids.
The video work A Fire in My Belly from NYC artist David Wojnarowicz, who died in 1992 from AIDS, featured ants crawling over Jesus Christ’s body. It was, fittingly, supposed to represent the suffering of AIDS victims. But it was too much for Catholic League president William Donohue, who got incoming House speaker Rep. John Boehner to bitch to the Smithsonian too. The congressman’s argument? “American families have a right to expect better from recipients of taxpayer funds in a tough economy.” Rep. Jack Kingston called for the museums funds to be “looked into”: “If they’ve got money to squander like this – of a crucifix being eaten by ants, of Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, men in chains, naked brothers kissing – then I think we should look at their budget.”
The complaining — launched on CNSNews.com — worked. The Smithsonian yanked the video, dubbed “hate speech” by Donohue for featuring 11 seconds of the lord and savior; it had been on display since Oct. 30 in Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, where queer works were curated into a single show that attempted to show some non-obvious LGBT contributions to the art world. But don’t go calling museum officials a bunch of pussies.
“The decision wasn’t caving in,” says Martin E. Sullivan, the museum’s director. “We don’t want to shy away from anything that is controversial, but we want to focus on the museum’s and this show’s strengths.”
And here I thought one of the show’s strengths was showing off queer art that might otherwise be looked over or pushed to the way side.