Tacoma Art Museum, "Hide/Seek," and YOU


Thanks for sharing this! The 'here' link in the second paragraph and the 'now' link in the last paragraph are not working.
Dan, I'd hug you if you were into that sort of thing.
Curated in Cleveland Ohio during the Cincinnatti Mapplethorp collapse of the NEA, and just experienced homophobic censorship for my former gallery venue on Vashon Island. HELL YEAH I am emailing TAM and articulate a clear and concise holler about supposed openmindedness in the Pacific Northwest....on the count of three, EVERYBODY YELL LOUD....
Done and sent. Thanks for keeping tabs!
Link is bad. Email address to send to is

Boy. If that stupid 'blue lines trailing off into nothing' thing you show is representative they should hold the exhibit. It doesn't mean anything at all artistically, never mind anything about sexual identity.

On the other hand, that't the philosphical basis for progressive thought anyway- We've got nothing to add but we'll add it loudly, damn it!
@6 That's totally the reaction Keith Haring has always gotten from the art community in general, Seattleblues, his work means nothing at all. In fact, the next time I'm in New York, I'm going to send a note to the Mayor and suggest he tear down the MOMA, because dayum, do you how many condos you could throw up on that site? It's downright criminal, criminal I say!

The Vatican Museum has a modern art exhibit. It's a stark space in the basement covering a minimalist few hundred square feet. This small subteranean space speaks to the soul of modern man, hemmed in by the walls of faith and stodgy conservative preconceptions. It breathes the oppressive air of censorship of those who dare to paint outside the lines. The pent in walls of the gallery illustrate the pent in creative space in which we allow our artistic pioneers to work.

Keep your Rapheals and your Michaelangelos cosseting the powers that be, this space says. Let the so called masters be exhibited in light and airy rooms formerly inhabited by powerful men of taste. The limited space they are contained in would be relished by these new masters. Acceptance by the evil catholics who own the museum would itself be an ineradicable judgement on their precious expression of their deep and tortured souls.

Or maybe the currator there just knows how to rate modern art.

I wouldn't expect the curator at the Vatican to evaluate modern art any more than I would seek marriage advice from a priest. The artwork at the Vatican is beautiful, although I preferred the Sistine Chapel before they cleaned the frescoes. Modern art has a unique ability to convey social commentary, and although you may not care for that, it makes you sound like a bit of a Philistine when you dismiss it. Just sayin'.
The people who are complaining about this aren't the kind of people who even GO to art museums. Bill Donohue at an art museum? Not in forty years. Why should they even care? Oh, right, 'cause they're bigots.

With mortification, I have to admit to numerous spelling errors that make me look like an Eastern Washington hick from the sticks. Bugger. Or 'Aw shucks, Ah reckon I DO look purty damn damn!'

In sincere curiousity, how does modern art convey social criticism more than something by Titian or Reubens though?

I do frankly worry that in modern art, literature or sculpture we excessively honor the mundane. Nothing wrong with mundane. Myself, I'm unusually mundane, if that condition is possible.

It's just that in contemplating the exceptional in art we can briefly taste what humanity can be. We can, before the wax in our wings melt, fly to the heavens. I don't want to see a film about an everyday dad working and raising kids. I'm that guy. Why would I pay money or waste time in self contemplation when the world is full of things I can't experience within myself? I want to see what's great in humanity typified in the books I read or the movies I watch or the paintings I contemplate.

In a less abstract example, I drove by an old house today. The house was clearly commissioned by an owner who loved the idea of it, an architect who could put that idea to paper, and a builder who could craft it in concrete reality. It's just a house, but in it's way it is extraordinary. When we glorify the ordinary, I worry that we forgo the possibility of the sublime.

And that's my quarrel with modern artistic expression generally.
I guess it boils down to different taste, SB, and what we value. I don't value perfection. Sure, I appreciate a beautiful painting, but I'd rather see the artwork of my children on our walls, the younger, the more naive, the better. There is a kind of humanity and freshness that I love. My favourite books manage to use language in a way that is powerful and spare, not overdone. I had an English Professor who said that the sentence, "She was tired," at the end of the first paragraph of James Joyce's Evelyn, was the best sentence in the whole book. His point was that it takes a particular kind of craft to convey so much with so little. As much as I appreciate the beauty and skill of those old works (yes, I know them, yes, I studied in Italy) I prefer the humble mosaics, the faded frescoes in a tiny church, to the "perfect" works. I think what it comes down to is that I don't find perfection very interesting. I'd much rather explore a fallible character in a book, or watch a family struggle with the same things we all face in a movie, or look at paintings done by 5 year olds than a lifelike bowl of fruit.

That's not to say there isn't crap modern art, but then there's crap old art too.
Oh, Seattleblues - you don't like that Keith Haring piece because it's all drippy and "unfinished" and it doesn't even look gay! so what were they thinking?

Well, Mr Haring died of AIDS not too long after he made this piece and that's why it's "unfinished." Context may not make you like it more but the piece has it's place in the show.

Also, judging art from a 2" square on your monitor is just as misinformed as the rest of your rant against modern art.

The sublime is where you find it, be it in the grandiose works of old masters, or in the melancholic work of artists cut down in their prime.
Geeze, another thing I have a one "word" reaction to (ok, acronym, cheating, yes, but here ya go):


Srsly? Seattle? What are you channelling, Podunk, Nebraska?
@SB, You have no idea what you are talking about. But fear not, the sublime is alive and well. Just because you cannot see it does not mean it has disappeared.
Thank you Seattleblues. I don't support BAD ART no matter what the message may be. Maybe these political artists would find more success if they acquired the skills on the same caliber as Norman Rockwell, rather than trying to force us to use our tax dollars to fund hacks like Mapplethorpe.
Just got a reply from the museum to my email :) I really hope they show it!
As Lohan would say, the PNW is "too gay to function" - anyone who refuses to accept this needs to get in touch with reality. This is simply living proof that backs up the exhibits meaning of "society's evolving and changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic attachment."
Word. What sucah 19 said.
Despite my anger towards the National Portrait Gallery at censoring this exhibition, there is good news. And that is the reactions that so many people had against the museum. People were not content to sit back and watch the censorship in silence. The Warhol Foundation withdrew their funding and artist AA Bronson asked to have his art removed from the show as well. Many others wrote letters protesting the censorship. It is also wonderful that the exhibition is currently at the TAM. If only I had a car, I would love to go!
I found it interesting that Mr. Rauffenbart, who was the artist's partner for seven years said that "the film was shot before David was diagnosed and before he got involved with the AIDS movement." His own partner said that it might not even be linked to AIDS! The point is that art can have multiple interpretations and meanings, regardless of the Artist's intent. The voices that are being heard are the "powers that be," who interpreted it negatively. It is up to us to make sure other voices are heard. Edited art is no longer art, but rather a powerful message of oppression.
To become food for the ants*: a thought ruminating with me at the moment based on conversation caused by this piece. What is obvious in Wojnarowicz's work is the meditation it demands on death, and the physical decay (and beyond?) the body undertakes when life has vanished. While the very work itself is entirely fascinating - to be lazy in descriptive brevity, what intrigues me most is the viewer's reaction; which perhaps, it an intentional meaning internalized in the work itself. But essentially I ask myself, what are we really afraid of here? What is it we are hiding from so deeply that we displace our fear with an active anger; an emotion so specific that its (apparently) sole motive is to block our ever seeing it again (e.g. William Donahue's or Donald Wildmon's actions)?

Definitely agree that everyone has a right to self-expression. Working in a museum can be very disheartening sometimes because instead of some people just accepting that some work doesn't float their boat, they instead act out against it. It's not art's job to make everyone feel comfortable all the time. It's meant to challenge. I know this exhibit would challenge me in my opinions about art, regardless of whether I agree with it completely. That's one of the reasons I appreciate it so much.
In light of the Ai Wei Wei controversy, it's disheartening to realize that the problem of censorship and freedom of speech is a universal one and exists also in our 'democratic' country. Art is for individual interpretation as Rock Hushka, curator of TAM, points out. By censoring the video, we are robbed of all interpretations, positive and negative - this is a crime.
So the Westboro Baptist church is protected by the first amendment but a clip of ants crawling on a crucifix isn't? that's fucked up.
You really like using the phrase "bigot" here, don't you?

Surprising that people can't just let something go but rather they have to attack anything they don't like. It's the typical "we don't understand it/like it therefore we must get rid of it" mindset. How are we supposed to have diversity if we only allow certain things to be exhibited and prohibit others? You know that feeling when something is just so dumbfounding that you can't even put into words how stupid that something is? Yeah, that's how I'm feeling about why people would be protesting this exhibition. It's that frustrating. Like sucah7 said, one of art's purposes is to challenge its viewers. Bigot audience, consider this your challenge.

I can't help but wonder though if the reaction would be the same if the SAM were to host this exhibition? It most likely would but I wonder how the prominent Capitol Hill gay community would react considering the close proximity of Capitol Hill to the SAM. Just throwing that thought out there.