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arts

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Segal, George  
 
page: 1  2  3  

Some gay men and lesbians opposed the installation as well. Some protested that the monument to Stonewall should be designed by a homosexual chosen by the community. Others complained that the figures were "cruising clones" and not sufficiently representative of the community.

Anonymous notes and telephone calls to city hall threatened to blow up the statue.

Sponsor Message.

Although "Gay Liberation" had been approved by the city's Fine Arts Commission, Community Board Two, and the Landmarks Commission, the city failed to allocate the funding to install the work and to provide landscape architecture for the park.

The casting that had been made for installation in Los Angeles met a similar fate. The local government refused to accept the work.

Move to Stanford

Given the reaction against the statue by the residents and governments of New York City and Los Angeles, the decision was made to seek an alternate site for the sculpture. It was decided to offer "Gay Liberation" for installation on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California, a campus famous for its public sculptures. After much wrangling, and the approval of two faculty committees and the president of the university, the Stanford Board of Regents finally voted to accept the sculpture as a long-term loan.

Less than a month after the sculpture was installed in February 1984, the work was attacked with a ball-peen hammer. The vandal(s) struck the figures about 40 times, gouging the faces and torsos, and inflicting an estimated $50,000 worth of damage. The statue was removed from display and placed in storage.

The assault sent a chill through the glbtq community at Stanford and across the nation. That such a violent attack, so reminiscent of hate crimes almost routinely visited upon glbtq people, could take place on the campus of a major university, in the shadow of San Francisco, with its large and active gay and lesbian community, underscored the vulnerability of the lesbian and gay movement.

The day after "Gay Liberation" was attacked in 1984, members of the Stanford community began placing flowers at the site. A week later 200 people gathered in White Plaza to denounce the crime. Segal issued a statement, remarking that his point in "Gay Liberation" was "a human one regarding our common humanity with homosexuals. I'm distressed that disagreement with the statement took this violent, brutal form."

After being repaired the sculpture remained in storage for over a year, then was quietly re-installed. Less than a year later, however, it was attacked again. Someone spray-painted the word "AIDS" on the male couple.

In 1994, the sculpture was again vandalized, this time by several drunken members of Stanford's football team, who splattered the white statue with black paint and wedged a bench between two of the four figures, resulting in approximately $8,000 worth of damage.

The local district attorney's office charged two of the students with felony vandalism and four with misdemeanor vandalism. At an on-campus forum, lesbian and gay students expressed their anger that hate-crime charges could not be brought because the California hate-crime statute is triggered only by the violation of an individual's--rather than an institution's--civil rights.

The glbtq community's anger was heightened into rage when a wrestling coach minimized the incident and attributed the uproar to "students [who] are almost force-fed political correctness" and to police who made sure that "everyone knew" about the incident.

The culprits were eventually sentenced to probation and community service. The judge suggested that they take a class in gay studies.

Installation in New York

The other casting of the sculpture was installed in a public park in Madison, Wisconsin and occasionally exhibited in galleries. In Madison, where it resided from 1986 until 1991, the sculpture was also vandalized on at least one occasion, though it was also beloved by many residents, who would sometimes place hats and scarves on the sculptural figures in the winter.

In 1992, however, New York City finally agreed to place Gay Liberation in Sheridan Park, just across the street from the site of Stonewall Inn.

At the dedication ceremony on June 23, 1992, Segal expressed surprise that there were no religious protesters. One local resident explained that most of the neighbors who had objected to the original plans for the installation on religious grounds had either died or moved away.

Still, the installation in New York again ignited controversy. Some gay and lesbian groups continued to object that a straight man was chosen to memorialize Stonewall; others complained variously that gay and lesbian groups were not consulted about the design and that the depiction was too explicit, not sufficiently explicit, featured only middle-class white couples, privileged committed relationships, and omitted other elements of the glbtq community.

Eventually the controversy faded, and "Gay Liberation" is now a fully accepted and respected sight in the neighborhood for which it was originally intended.

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