There Were No Ants on Golgotha!
Today, after a few hours of pressure from the Catholic League and various conservatives, it [the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery] decided to remove a video by David Wojnarowicz, a gay artist who died from AIDS-related illness in 1992. As part of “Hide/Seek,” the gallery was showing a four-minute excerpt from a 1987 piece titled “A Fire in My Belly,” made in honor of Peter Hujar, an artist-colleague and lover of Wojnarowicz who had died of AIDS complications in 1987. And for 11 seconds of that meandering, stream-of-consciousness work (the full version is 30 minutes long) a crucifix appears onscreen with ants crawling on it. It seems such an inconsequential part of the total video that neither I nor anyone I’ve spoken to who saw the work remembered it at all.
Of course, it’s pretty clear that this has almost nothing to do with religion. Eleven seconds of an ant-covered crucifix? Come on.
This fuss is about the larger topic of the show: Gay love, and images of it. The headline that ran over coverage of the matter on the right-wing Web site CNSnews.com mentioned the crucifix—but as only one item in a list of the exhibition’s “shockers” that included “naked brothers kissing, genitalia and Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts.” (Through a bra, one might note, in an image that’s less shocking than many moves by Lady Gaga.) The same site decries “a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show’s catalog as ‘homoerotic’.”
H/t to Genevieve Yue.