Re-Viewing Art is a Political Act


To the Editor of The Crimson

A Crimson review of February 15 (Visible for a Change) attempted an aesthetic critique based on implied "universal" standards of the slide-show installation, Visible for a Change: Contemporary Lesbian Artists, U.S.A. That seemingly politically-neutral review should be understood in terms of its unstated political context. The very subject matter of Visible is how these political contexts relate to artists who identify themselves as "lesbian artists."

To identify oneself as a "lesbian artist" is a political act. At best such a political strategy can defy the closet, enable the visibility of "lesbians," and work to forge culture and community. However, marking oneself as a "lesbian artist" often means that one is excluded from showing one's work in prestigious and well-funded museums and galleries, as frequently are women artists, artists of color, working class artists, and artists with disabilities. Also, one's work may be dismissed for supposed "lack of universal appeal." Consequently, recognition as an artist is impeded. Visible challenges such institutionalized obstacles.

The slide-show format allows us to present for the first time 90 "lesbian artists," thus, making it easier for the show to explore the diversity among "lesbian artists" across the U.S.

Visible at Harvard attests to the capacity of universities to provide alternatives to mainstream galleries and museums. The exhibits of actual works, a feature of museums and galleries, usually depend on the NEA and/or corporations to cover enormous insurance and shipping costs. The use of two slide projectors for Visible is a creative solution to the problem that the university is not free from the political/economic constraints of the Reagan-Bush era. Many of the individuals who participated in this project did so because its organization and format are a critique of "blockbuster exhibitions" often compromised in terms of content and message by the sources of their sponsorship.


The materials gathered for Visible represent an exceptional resource at Harvard. Prior to this project, there was hardly any documentation or criticism on visual art by "lesbian artists" available for researchers. The financial sponsors and especially Women's Studies and Open Gate: A Fund for Gay and Lesbian Life at Harvard, supported this project because they understood that Visible (slide-show, soundtrack, display of printed works, discussion groups, and eventual archive) would make a lasting contribution toward an understanding of the various political goals of those who in all their diversity identify themselves as "lesbian artists."

Coming to see Visible is an important way to demonstrate your support for alternative exhibitions, Women's Studies, ethnic and area studies, and Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Studies. Carrie Alyea   Jill Casid   Maria DeGuzman   Marti Hohmann   Visible Curatorial Committee

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