Call for Art: Straight & Gay Dialogue

As a heterosexual man who believes in human rights for all, I am pleased to be able to announce a National Call to U.S. Artists for the upcoming juried exhibition: Being Gay: A Visual Dialogue Between Straight and/or LGBTQ Artists. Organized by the 2nd City Council Art Gallery and Performance Space in Long Beach, California, the exhibit is open to all artists living in the United States. The entry deadline is Sunday, January 18, 2009. Having served as juror for the gallery’s 2007 Day of the Dead art exhibit, I can personally attest to the gallery’s professionalism and high standards, and I encourage one and all to submit works to this most crucial exhibition. A complete and detailed prospectus for the show is available here. The Press Release for Being Gay: A Visual Dialogue, reads in part:

“The exhibition explores such topics (but is not limited to) faith and homosexuality, gay history, sense of community, effect on professional life or society, gay neighborhoods, fashion, homophobia, straight people in gay places, ageism in the gay community, gay role models, ordinary lives, coming out, gay icons or heroes, discrimination, homosexuality as an evolutionary puzzle, integrating into society, political issues, is tolerance enough?, marriage, PRIDE, engaging in gay rights issues across cultural and religious borders, feelings associated with being gay, regional differences, gay as a main identifier, gay friends or family members. Jurors: David Burns, Austin Young & Matias Viegener. Exhibition: March 7 to April 1, 2009.”

Aside from the Press Release quote cited in the above, the opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, though I expect anyone submitting work to the exhibit will have already pondered the controversies delineated in the following paragraphs. Being Gay: A Visual Dialogue, could not be a more timely or pertinent exhibit. In the elections of November 4, 2008, anti gay marriage ballot initiatives passed in California, Florida, and Arizona; while Arkansas passed a measure that bans same-sex couples from adopting children. Gay marriage was legal in California – that is, until a group of reactionaries and fundamentalist “Christian” zealots moved to change the state Constitution through the injurious Proposition 8 anti gay marriage ballot initiative. Up until election day 2008 some 18,000 same-sex couples were legally wedded in California. To protest the cruelty of first allowing gays to marry, then abruptly abrogating that right, I proudly marched in several of the massive gay rights protests staged in Los Angeles after the passage of Proposition 8 – I will gladly do so again.

One of the major backers of Proposition 8 was right-wing evangelical pastor, Rick Warren. During the campaign to pass the ballot initiative he told followers; “There are about two percent of Americans who are homosexual, gay, lesbian people. We should not let two percent of the population change a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years. This is not even just a Christian issue, it is a humanitarian and human issue, that God created marriage for the purpose of family, love and procreation.” But Warren is far more than just an anti-gay fundamentalist bigot who equates same-sex marriage to pedophilia and bestiality. He compares abortion to the Holocaust, advocates the assassination of foreign leaders, opposes stem-cell research, supports the Iraq war, does not believe in evolution, and awarded George W. Bush an “international medal of peace.”

President-elect Barack Obama has asked Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Obama’s January 20th inauguration ceremony, and the gay and progressive community is justifiably furious.

Kevin Naff, editor of the gay newspaper Washington Blade, put the Warren pick in context when he wrote; “We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.” Joe Solomonese, the president of Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay civil rights organization in the US, wrote an open letter to President-elect Obama in which he stated; “we feel a deep level of disrespect when one of the architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.”

I agree with Human Rights Campaign when it respectfully asks Obama to rescind his decision regarding Warren. Obama defended Warren by saying; “part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated”, words that Obama did not use in defense of his own pastor of 20 years, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If there is another reason for Obama to choose Warren aside from a desire to pander to the religious right – I express regret at not being able to appreciate it. Including the backward-looking pastor in the inauguration ceremony is hardly a positive gesture from someone elected on a platform of “hope” and “change.”

Every U.S. artist willing to participate in Being Gay: A Visual Dialogue – creative individuals seeking to make aesthetic statements that address the political and cultural realities of today’s gay and lesbian citizenry – should do so with deep feelings of human solidarity and without illusions. Now that would be an honest expression of real hope and change.

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