If there’s one thing that makes America uncomfortable, it’s art. Because art is gay in a literal, serious and horrible way. It must be stopped. Especially if Jesus is involved.
Which is why, on Nov. 30, the day before World AIDS Day, a short video segment by David Wojnarowicz, a gay artist who died of AIDS in 1992, was yanked from an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” was touted as “the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture,” which means, of course, H-O-M-O.
Wojnarowicz’s piece, titled “Fire In My Belly,” contains a brief segment of a Hummel figurine-looking Jesus on the cross with live ants skittering all over it. Clearly, as far as Catholic League President Bill Donohue saw it, Wojnarowicz meant to offend Christians, especially Catholics, even though Donohue is to Catholics what Fred Phelps is to Baptists. Donohue is ardently antigay and believes that homosexuality and pedophilia are irrevocably linked. This is a guy who, while on CNN in March, called the Catholic sex-abuse scandal “a homosexual crisis” and said, “They can’t keep their hands off the boys. Don’t you get it?”
In his Nov. 30 press release, Donohue misrepresented the video as showing “large ants eating away at Jesus on a crucifix.” There is no eating happening. The figure is some kind of glazed ceramic. Not exactly the kind of thing you see ants carrying away from a picnic.
There is one thing that Donohue and I agree on, however. “It is a sad commentary on the judgment exercised by Smithsonian officials that it took a pressure group like the Catholic League to send them a wake-up call,” he said. That Wojnarowicz’s work was pulled from display is, indeed, “a sad commentary on the judgment exercised by Smithsonian officials.”
“The decision wasn’t caving in,” the museum’s director, Martin E. Sullivan, told The Washington Post. “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.”
But as Frank Rich pointed out in The New York Times, Dude, you totally caved. And caved for a guy whose opinion isn’t worth the kilowatt hours it took to post his press release to his organization’s website.
“I regret that some reports about the exhibit have created an impression that the video is intentionally sacrilegious,” Sullivan said. “In fact, the artist’s intention was to depict the suffering of an AIDS victim.”
This explanation did little to quell the antigay fire in Donohue’s belly. They pulled the video and yet Donohue is still calling for a cut in federal funds for the museum. Never mind that the exhibit is privately funded.
And Donohue has friends in high places — friends who will soon hold the Smithsonian’s purse strings. “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 kissin, then I think we should look at their budget,” Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston told Fox News.
Soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Fox it was an “outrageous use of taxpayer money and an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season.”
Cantor is right. “Hide/Seek” is obviously just part of the War on Christmas. Thank Jesus the Republicans are going to be back in charge and we can start focusing on some real issues for a change.
D’Anne Witkowski is a Detroit-based freelance writer.