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Censored art exhibit opens in Tacoma

Janet Flanner by iconic photographer Bernice Abbott is among the works in a controversial new exhibition censored in part by the Smithsonian now on display at the Tacoma Art Museum. (image courtesy Tacoma Art Museum)

cedargrove
Janet Flanner by iconic photographer Bernice
Abbott is among the works in a
new exhibition censored in part by the
Smithsonian now on display at the Tacoma Art
Museum. (Image: Tacoma Art Museum)

A controversial gay art exhibition censored by the
Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is getting a warm
welcome at the Tacoma Art Museum, where the series of
portraits is making its lone West Coast appearance.

“HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture”
is an examination of American gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender subject matter spanning 150 years, according
to Rock Hushka, Tacoma Art Museum curator.

“The exhibition itself traces the evolution of American
art, but also records the social changes almost decade by
decade,” Hushka said.

The exhibition is considered one of the finest collections
of American portraiture ever assembled, featuring work by
celebrated masters including Thomas Eakins, John Singer
Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol.

It was a film about the AIDS epidemic, however, that
included an 11 second shot of a crucifix that sparked a
massive outcry from conservative groups, who protested the
exhibition and demanded its closing. The Smithsonian
ultimately removed the film from the exhibition, drawing
sharp criticism from a number of fronts.

“We see the museum as a space where we can have safe and
respectful dialogues about these really complicated
issues,” Hushka said of the exhibition, which moved to
Tacoma after a record setting run at the prestigious
Brooklyn Museum.

The Tacoma Art Museum plans a series of lectures and
discussions during the run to help foster a greater
understanding about both the exhibition and controversial
issues in art in general.

Despite the controversy, Hushka said the museum is proud
to present the exhibition in its entirety both as an
artistic statement and in strong support of individual
liberties for all.

“It’s important to present various communities and we will
continue to do so, and we want all of the people of the
Tacoma area to see themselves on the walls of our
galleries.”

“HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture”
runs through June 10 at the Tacoma Art Museum.

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