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Wojnarowicz, Censorship, and the IMA

A current exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., titled Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, examines representations of sexual identity throughout more than a century of portraiture. Hide/Seek, the first major museum exhibition to explore this topic, has been widely praised for its innovative contribution to scholarship.

Despite its significance, the exhibition recently has been under fire by a small, vocal group of politicians and the Catholic League, who have denounced it, criticizing the film A Fire in My Belly (1987) by David Wojnarowicz. Wojnarowicz made A Fire in My Belly shortly after his companion and muse, the artist Peter Hujar, died from complications related to AIDS. Aggressive, macabre, and distressing, the film contains metaphoric footage meant to express loss and anger about the fact that the AIDS epidemic devastated the gay community while mainstream society largely ignored the problem.

The original A Fire in My Belly contains 13 minutes of footage, with an additional seven minute chapter. Both versions are without sound and composed of short shots of 8mm film captured by the artist in Mexico. For Hide/Seek, exhibition curator Jonathan Katz worked with editor Bart Everly to shorten each segment of the film so that it would total four minutes in length. Katz also chose a recording of an ACT UP rally found on an audio cassette in Wojnarowicz’s archives to serve as a soundtrack to the film. The video editor has posted this version of A Fire in My Belly on Facebook.

Opponents of the exhibition have targeted three brief segments of A Fire in My Belly, which depict ants crawling on a crucifix. Ants, which were seen by Wojnarowicz as having a social structure parallel to humans, were used to reference the artist’s perception of society’s indifference at the suffering of others.
Due to political pressures, mainly from House of Representatives members John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-VA.), Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough removed the video from Hide/Seek on November 30, 2010.

Censorship of artists is an ongoing issue, major instances of which resurface every decade or so. While not limited to these instances, the key players in this current act of censorship have been linked to similar debates in the past.

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Filed under: Art, Current Events


WANTED: Spring 2010 Interns

looking for ambitious, intelligent, undergraduate juniors, seniors and graduate students, interested in a career as a museum professional, working from office, nugget factory, art galleries, art & nature park, or two historic homes, with world-renowned institution fostering exploration of art, design and nature • Indianapolis, IN(317) 923-1331
Posted: 12/2/2009   Academic Opportunities/ Help Wanted


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Filed under: Art, Current Events, Education


25 Random Things about IMA

“Has anyone seen our intern?” This blog series follows the IMA’s Public Affairs Intern, Jennifer Anderson, as she escapes the office space for a little R&R in the galleries…


#6. IMA's Six Degrees of Separation

LACMA did it, everyone on Facebook is doing it, and now the IMA is turning it up a notch with blog “tagging”. Here it is…what you all have been waiting for…25 Random Things about the IMA.  Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Art, Current Events, Musings, New Media, Technology


Landmark Celebration

Peace Memorial in Indianapolis

"Peace Memorial" in Indianapolis, IN

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day right around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to look at some MLK-inspired public art in Indianapolis. Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Indy visibly celebrates the battle for civil rights with several interesting works of art. One is a colorful mural on the walls of a building next to the park’s swimming pool, and the other is a two-piece sculpture of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy called “Peace Memorial.” The memorial marks the spot in which Kennedy gave a speech the night MLK was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Here you can listen to an NPR story explaining the historic night, 41 years ago, when presidential candidate Kennedy delivered the news of MLK’s death to shocked residents. His words calmed the city, and it has been noted that as a result, Indianapolis did not see the violence other cities experienced that night. The landmark and great significance of this place is a must-experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Art, Current Events, Local


Under the Influence

In a session at last weekend’s Blog Indiana 2008 conference, a speaker stressed the importance of using our senses to sharpen our observations in order to better share them. Environment is highly considered in many professions such as architectural design, retail and food service. Marketers want to make us comfortable and happy in our homes, stores and restaurants. So why not think in terms of art viewing experiences?

National Portrait Gallery

According to a recent BBC News article citing a study by Heriot Watt University, music can enhance wine taste. On the same principle, can music enhance art taste? Does the taste of a one type of wine or the shade of a certain color wall effect your like or dislike for a work of art? Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Art, Design, Marketing, Musings


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