Gay art exhibit in Colorado town causes dispute
May 10 2004 11:00 PM ET
Organizers of an art show at the New Frontier Bank in Denver suburb Greeley, Colo., are questioning whether the display of a multimedia collage of gay art that includes real-life comments about gays and lesbians was too real and borderline homophobic. The artwork, titled Yes, showed photos of nationally known gays and lesbians, including Martina Navratilova, Ellen DeGeneres, Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson, and murdered college student Matthew Shepard. Next to the photos are pictures of people with disapproving faces and Scrabble letters spelling out the words shame, hate, scorn, fear, and other epithets. "I don't have the stomach to describe it to you," said Joe Tennessen, senior vice president for culture enhancement for New Frontier Bank, which hosted the 41st annual show. "It had every ugly word you could imagine to describe homosexuals. Our first impression was that it was antigay. We have every age group here looking at the exhibits, from teenagers to senior citizens. A huge percentage of them would have found the artwork repulsive. It wasn't the subject matter. We have no problem with a controversial subject. It was the way it was presented."
Artist Sharon McEachern of Denver said the piece was meant to show what it is like to be gay in America. "Ironically, the art piece in question portrays exactly what occurred at the National Greeley Art Exhibition and what, sadly, happens too often in this country, involving discrimination against gays." She also said the Greeley Art Association, which staged the exhibition, shouldn't hold such exhibitions in banks. "Artistic freedom is threatened when art is challenged because of its content message or viewpoint, rather than because of its aesthetic qualities or artistic merit," said McEachern.
Francis Denning, a Greeley artist and chairman of the committee that oversees the art show, said he has often championed the rights of gays. "I am not homophobic," he said. The exhibition ended May 1.