It's become a bit of a saga, truth be told. I'll try to narrate briefly.
You may remember that Devon Britt-Darby, the artist formerly known as Douglas Britt of the Houston Chronicle, asked me and several other female art critics to marry him as part of a social sculpture he was performing to protest the Menil acquisition of The Art Guys Marry a Tree.
No art critics took him up on his offer, but a by-all-accounts-wonderful woman named Reese Darby did, and the two were married on the eve of the dedication of The Art Guys Marry a Tree, at a gay Houston strip club.
Just before that happened, I interviewed Toby Kamps of the Menil about the acquisition. "I'm not sure this is the mean statement about gay marriage that people are wanting this to be," he told me, and accused then-Britt (since the marriage, he's changed his name) of conducting a "witch hunt" by calling out the Art Guys.
I wasn't terribly sympathetic to this point of view. What I saw was a powerful institution holding up a work of art for special attention—most artists would kill to have a piece on the lawn of the Menil, sharing space with Rothko and Newman—and balking when they were questioned about its relevance and sensitivity to real-life marital inequality, while at the same time the Art Guys's own bio (click the PDF) makes claims about "blurring the divisions between art and life".
I interviewed The Art Guys, Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth, by phone from their Houston studio. Long story short: Massing and I had a really fascinating interview. He talked about resisting politics in art, about art as "the big set." He and I were getting somewhere, in terms of an understanding. I asked how the work would be different, or how he might see it differently, if he were gay. It felt like Britt-Darby's thought experiment was playing out just in our conversation alone.
Then Galbreth took the phone. He spent a half hour colorfully berating me. I apologized for sharing my opinion of the work's idea without asking for the artists' input (although that is, after all, what critics do). More colorful berating. The next day I got a colorfully berating email. Good talking to you!
Both weddings went off without a hitch. A few people told me Massing went over to Britt-Darby at the Menil and shook his hand, and told him the protest response was a good response.
As art, I thought the marriage was terrific.
But soon, Britt-Darby had started a blog, set out on a road trip, and was making videos. It became a little harder to keep up.
At this point, what I can say is: Britt-Darby is no longer working for the Chronicle. At the wedding he experienced a kind of epiphany, where he realized how separated his worlds were. He's since outed himself as a former (and current, I think) escort and a (definitely former, he emphasizes) crystal meth addict.
His new idea is to see how many people in the art world will still associate him now that they know about his storied past. I immediately allowed him to tag me in his Facebook picture titled "I Know That Ho"—which asked folks to decide "If you think my opinions as an art critic are as valid as they were before you knew I was an escort."
Of course your opinions as an art critic are as valid as they were before I knew about your past. (Also, I knew about his past a while ago.)
And like Britt-Darby, I believe that the hypocritical morality police are as active in the art world as they are anywhere else—and that people's lives are unnecessarily ruined by shame. So I support him in his quest to make safe spaces for folks like him. If you see him at Art Basel Miami Beach, tell him you agree.
I have to also be honest as a critic, and say that while I support his wedding, and while yes, I definitely Know That Ho, some of the videos and writings he's put out in the past week have struck me as highly ineffective social sculpture.
As art, his actions have instead felt unfocused, self-absorbed, and frankly worrisome. "I get it—people are concerned," he says in his latest blog post. So I'll just reiterate here what I've told him privately: If you don't want people to worry, don't make them worry because, ultimately, this isn't about you, it's about the next Devons. You have supporters. Now go and make safe spaces for people who need them, like only you can.