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arts

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Censorship in the Arts  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

The NEA was again under attack in 1990 when, after sustained politicking from conservatives in Congress and the media, the government agency revoked federal grants that had been awarded to four performance artists--Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, and Tim Miller. Their individual work involved the body and sexuality, and often included strong language and nudity. All but Karen Finley were gay.

The NEA Four, as they came to be known, protested this suppression of their art, as well as a new "decency clause" enacted by Congress that grantees were required to sign, pledging that their work would not contain, among other subject matter, "homoerotic content," which was labeled as "obscene."

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Lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights argued the case of the four, who sued the NEA and challenged the constitutionality of the decency clause. They won their case in 1993. However, the Clinton administration appealed the decision, wishing to let the decency clause stand, and moved the case to the Supreme Court where, in 1998, the NEA Four lost to the government.

The widely publicized cancellation of the Mapplethorpe exhibition and the revocation of grants to the NEA Four are only the best known recent instances of censorship in the arts. A more comprehensive account would mention the mid-1980s confiscation of gay and lesbian art, including the work of photographer Tee Corinne and the lesbian magazine Bad Attitude, by Canadian Customs agents; the 1992 conviction of the owner and manager of Glad Day Bookshop (Toronto) for the possession and sale of "obscenity"; the closing of exhibits of artists such as Patrick Angus and David Wojnarowicz; and numerous other attempts to silence the voices and cloak the images of gay men and lesbians, often in the guise of protecting children and public morality.

Luckily, however, these attempts often succeed only in generating more interest in the very images the censors would like to destroy.

Craig Kaczorowski

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literature >> Overview:  Censorship

Governments, publishers, editors, and even gay writers themselves have censored gay content in literature from the Renaissance to the present.

arts >> Angus, Patrick

American realist artist Patrick Angus produced keenly observed and compassionate depictions of the gay underclass of the 1980s.

arts >> Cadmus, Paul

American painter Paul Cadmus is best known for the satiric innocence of his frequently censored paintings of burly men in skin-tight clothes, but he also created works that celebrate same-sex domesticity.

arts >> Camp Records

In the early 1960s, the Camp Record label issued records of gay parody songs; although the music is without much artistic merit, the records are significant for what they reveal about pre-Stonewall gay culture.

arts >> Cooling, Janet

Audaciously pioneering artist Janet Cooling, who first won recognition for her erotic art, has become recognized as a significant contemporary American painter.

arts >> Corinne, Tee

The shy superstar of lesbian erotica, American artist Tee Corinne is especially known for her frank and sensuous depictions of lesbian sex.

arts >> Demuth, Charles

One of America's first modernist painters, Charles Demuth was also one of the earliest artists in this country to expose his gay identity through forthright, positive depictions of homosexual desire.

literature >> Ginsberg, Allen

The forthrightly gay Allen Ginsberg is probably the best-known American poet to emerge in the post-World War II period.

literature >> Hall, Radclyffe

Radclyffe Hall, who lived her lesbianism openly and proudly, is best known for The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most important lesbian novel ever written.

arts >> Hughes, Holly

Lesbian feminist performance artist Holly Hughes has a flair for telling the outrageous stories of everyday lesbian life.

literature >> Lawrence, D. H.

For his time, D. H. Lawrence was a maverick in his open and adventurous discussion of all sexual issues and especially homosexuality, both male and female.

arts >> Mapplethorpe, Robert

American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's controversial images typically combine rigorously formal composition and design with extreme subject matter.

arts >> Miller, Tim

Performance artist Tim Miller presents shows that are rooted in his own life experiences, but that are also a powerful form of glbtq activism.

arts >> Warhol, Andy (as artist)

The avatar of Pop Art, Andy Warhol expressed desire in his images of celebrities and flouted traditional notions of masculinity by embracing extravagance, effeminacy, and an obsession with surface appearances.

arts >> White, Minor

Renowned photographer, teacher, critic, editor, and curator, Minor White created some of the most interesting photographs of male nudes of the second half of the twentieth century, but did not exhibit them for fear of scandal.

arts >> Wojnarowicz, David

The first gay American artist to respond to the AIDS crisis with anger and moral outrage, David Wojnarowicz used his art as a polemical tool with which to indict those he held responsible for the AIDS epidemic and to document his own suffering.


    Bibliography
   

Dubin, Steven C. Arresting Images: Impolite Art and Uncivil Actions. New York: Rutledge, Chapman and Hall, 1992.

Meyer, Richard. Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art. London: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Wallis, Brian, Marianne Weems, and Philip Yenawine, eds. Art Matters: How the Culture Wars Changed America. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Censorship in the Arts  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 31, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/censorship_in_arts.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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