Reactor

US Supreme Court Strikes Down Anti-Gay Marriage Law, Let’s Celebrate with Art

by Hrag Vartanian on June 26, 2013

Bo Bartlett, "The Big Day" (2012) (via bobartlett.com)

Bo Bartlett, “The Big Day” (2012) (via bobartlett.com)

In a landmark 5-4 ruling, the US Supreme Court has ruled that DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional.

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others.”

The court was divided along ideological lines, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts, along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomasm and Samuel Alito in the minority. The decision will immediately extend some federal benefits to same-sex couples.

In celebration of this landmark ruling, we’ve collected some art works that explore the realities and anxieties around gay marriage.

Robert Gober, "Untitled" (1989–96) (via Art Institute of Chicago)

Robert Gober, “Untitled” (1989–96) (via Art Institute of Chicago)

The text that has accompanied the work when exhibited previously at the Art Institute of Chicago:

“The painful imagery depicted on the wallpaper in this 1989 installation was meant as a reminder of fact– the ugly and unforgettable reality of the United States’ history. By putting this image onto endlessly repeating wallpaper, I made an attempt to say, metaphorically, that this was not an isolated event and that in ways it has become our background.

The sculpture of the empty wedding dress is a vase waiting to be filled. It represents the supposed white purity that often triggered or justified the violence depicted on the walls. It also represents a vessel that is ready to be filled with all of the optimistic hopes and dreams of marriage. And to many Americans, Gay Americans (an estimated 10 percent of our population), it is a reminder of equality denied.

The sculptures of bags of cat litter are the link between the violent imagery and the wedding dress, the metaphorical fulcrum. Cat litter both absorbs the stench of excrement (the wallpaper) and it allows for domestic intimacy (think diapers). It is also a reminder of the sacred vows that whose who ear the dress profess– to care for the body of loved ones ‘in sickness and in health, til death do us part.”

Shepard Fairey's "Defend Equality" (2008) print was created to raise awareness and funds for the movement to overturn California's Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage in the most populous state in the US.

Shepard Fairey’s “Defend Equality” (2008) print was created to raise awareness and funds for the movement to overturn California’s Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage in the most populous state in the US.

George Segal, "Gay Liberation" (1980, dedicated 1992) (via WNYC)

George Segal, “Gay Liberation” (1980, dedicated 1992) (via WNYC). While Segal’s work doesn’t directly address marriage, its placement at the “birthplace” of the gay rights movement gives it a particular resonance.

Elmgreen & Dragset, "Gay Marriage" (2010) (via afmuseet.no)

Elmgreen & Dragset, “Gay Marriage” (2010) (via afmuseet.no)

 

Chris Ware's Mother's Day cover for The New Yorker (May 13, 2013) (via drawnandquarterly.blogspot.com)

Chris Ware’s Mother’s Day cover for The New Yorker (May 13, 2013) (via drawnandquarterly.blogspot.com)

R. Crumb, Rejected New Yorker Cover (2009) (via Vice Magazine)

R. Crumb, Rejected New Yorker Cover (2009) (via Vice Magazine)

Nadja Sayej interviewed Crumb about this rejected New Yorker cover and here’s a tidbit:

Q: Can you clarify the genders of the people on the cover, or is that giving away some sort of secret?

A: The verdict isn’t in; that’s the whole point. Banning gay marriage is ridiculous because how are you supposed to tell what fucking gender anybody is if they’re bending it around? It could be anything — a she-male marrying a transsexual, or what the hell. People are capable of any sexual thing. To ban their marriage because someone doesn’t like the idea of them both being the same sex, that’s ridiculous. That was the whole point of the cover; here is this official from the marriage-license bureau, and he can’t tell if he’s seeing a man and a woman or two women. What the hell are they? You can’t tell what they are! I had the idea of making them both look unisex, no gender at all. On TV once I saw this person who is crusading against sexual definition, and you could not tell if this person was male or female — completely asexual. I was originally going to do the cover that way, but when I drew that it just looked uninteresting so I decided it should be more lurid somehow.

French street artist Kashink paints one of her distinctive murals that became a visual part of the recent push in France to legalize gay marriage. (via kashink.tumblr.com)

French street artist Kashink paints one of her distinctive murals that became a visual part of the recent push in France to legalize gay marriage. (via kashink.tumblr.com)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (1991) — While Gonzales-Torres's work doesn't explicitly address marriage, it's meaning can't help but change in light of contemporary debates about relationships and unions. (via MoMA)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (1991) — While Gonzales-Torres’s work doesn’t explicitly address marriage, it’s meaning can’t help but change in light of contemporary debates about relationships and unions and their place in public. (via MoMA)

Canadian-Ukranian artist Taras Polataiko’s exhibition Sleeping Beauty at the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kiev last year explored the notion of "living happily ever after," which is often associated in the popular imagination with marriage. (image via the artist)

Canadian-Ukranian artist Taras Polataiko’s exhibition Sleeping Beauty at the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kiev last year explored the notion of “living happily ever after,” which is often associated in the popular imagination with marriage. (image via the artist)

If you have other suggested works to add, please provide a link or upload an image in the comments.

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  • Cr Johnson

    Carla Rae Johnson, 72×52″ charcoal on paper 2010

  • Cem Kocyildirim

    Cem Kocyildirim, the artist posing with “Proud”, 30″x40″, 5 color screenprint, 2013

  • M.G.

    Corpus Nostrum, 5.25″x4.5″x4″, paper dust mask, fake joke breast, plaster, 1990.

  • mbooberalles

    Keith Mayerson, “Our Wedding, July 22, 2008, Meadbrook, CA,” 2010

  • M.G.

    TRANSFIGURATION, 5.5″x3″x3.25″, wax, plaster, 1990.

  • Guest

    Erika Hess, 1982, 60″ x 120″, oil on canvas, 2009
    /Users/ebhess/Desktop/Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 11.36.21 AM.jpg

  • erika hess

    Erika Hess, 1982, 60″ x 120″, oil on canvas, 2009

  • JON B.

    Awesome contributions and artwork! Pure genius in both execution, statement, practicality, witty, charming, breathtaking, and spot on time! It rocks! Later!

  • M.G.

    REVERSIBLE TOOL, 13.5″x2.5″x.63″, found objects, gouache, 1992.

  • Jeff Liebmann

    Art serves us in many ways. Art can help us to express emotion using the full range of human senses. Art can encourage us to think about our own lives and our own beliefs and attitudes. Art can speak truth to power, challenging paradigms and social norms.

    The most powerful human emotion is Love and this art celebrates Love. The apprehension some people feel about homosexuality is learned and can be unlearned. And the social construct of homophobia comes from ancient ignorance and derives from the same simplistic “us-them” othering of people as racism, misogyny, and xenophobia.

    Art can help humanity evolve and love more. Art can help us nurture and harvest more love to use as we build a beloved community. I eagerly await the impact of art on this latest evolution/revolution of humankind.

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