Terry Jeffrey

A plaque at the entrance to the exhibition says it is "the first major exhibition to examine the influence of gay and lesbian artists in creating modern American portraiture" and that it illustrates "how, as outsiders, gay and lesbian artists occupied a position that turned to their advantage, making essential contributions to both the art of portraiture and to the creation of modern American culture."

One of the "essential contributions" in the exhibition is a photograph that shows two naked blood brothers kissing each other while one holds a gun to the other's chest.

"The image transgresses many dualisms we use to structure society: male versus female, black versus white, 'brotherly love' versus homosexual desire," says a label fixed to the wall of the museum beside the photograph. "And it raises provocative questions surrounding themes of domestic abuse between lovers, perceived violence among black men, and the dangers that come from engaging in an 'illicit' love -- whether it be from disease, homophobia, or a lethal combination of the two."

Another "essential contribution" featured in the exhibition is a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of two men in chains.

"In this playful inversion of the classic family photograph, leather-clad Brian Ridley sits in an ornate wingback chair, chained and shackled to his dominant, horsewhip-wielding partner, Lyle Heeter," says the NPG's description of the photo.

"Far from submissive, Ridley's wide-legged stance, upright posture, and direct address to the camera indicate that he willingly acts out his chosen sadomasochistic role," says the NPG description. "The machismo of the couple's leather gear is undercut by the flamboyance of their living room -- replete with an Oriental rug, pewter vases, sculpted lamp and clock, and grasscloth wall covering. That this homosexual S&M ritual takes place in the context of the couple's 'normal' life (which also includes antique collecting) powerfully challenges what it means to be a 'normal' or 'domestic' couple."

A video on display at the exhibition showed an ant-covered crucifix, a man's mouth being sewn shut, mummified humans and the frontal image of a naked man lying on a bed. On Tuesday afternoon, after Starr's report appeared on CNSNews.com, the NPG removed this video from its show.

But this tax-funded museum kept the photos of sadomasochistic couple and the naked brothers kissing each other -- and other like-spirited images.

Is the Smithsonian Institution trying to move Americans to virtue through this exhibit? No. It is trying to mainstream vice and perversion. The National Portrait Gallery's "Hide/Seek" exhibition does not celebrate art, it murders it.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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