THE CONTROVERSY ARCHIVE

Here are the present results of a work in progress, the beginning of an archive of arguments against art (as well as arguments FOR art), mostly taken from print media.


photo: Bill Eakin

Click on the artists' names in the table below for a selection of comments made by detractors and supporters, followed by information on the controversy.

If you have any comments, questions, quotes, references or art controversies to add to the list, please fill out the form or simply email me at tourist@cam.org. All contributions are appreciated.

Les soumissions en français sont les bienvenues!



THE CONTROVERSY ARCHIVE

Controversial artist
(Click for full entry)
Controversial art works
Place exhibited
Types of arguments
used against art
R.Mutt (a.k.a. Marcel Duchamp) Fountain [the urinal], 1917 Refused from the American Society of Independent Artists inaugural non-juried exhibition, New York, 1917 Ethical:Art as fraud, deceit or insincere hoax
Aesthetic: It is not art
Jean Paul Mousseau
The Blob, 1995
Juried Show of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1955 Aesthetic:It is not art
Technical: Artless, lacking technique
Marcien Lemay, artist and Etienne Gaboury, architect Louis Riel Monument, 1970
Public sculpture, grounds of the Manitoba legislature, Winnipeg Installed c.1970, relocated/demolished 1994 Aesthetic: Art is ugly
Populist:Obscure
Representation: Memorial undignified, perverse, inappropriate
Gordon Reeves Justice, 1986 Public sculpture, Winnipeg Law Courts Building, Installed 1986 Populist: Obscure
Economic: Waste of money
Lori Meserve On the Other Hand, 1991 Anna Leonowens Gallery, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, April 1991 Moral: Lesbian art obscene
Jana Sterbak
Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino, n.d.
Nickle Arts Museum, Calgary, February 1992 Economic: Waste of public money
Andres Serrano
Piss Pope I and II Exhibited along side Francisco Goya's Disasters of War Vancouver Art Gallery, October 1995 Moral: anti-Catholic, obscene, iconoclastic
John Wayne Gacy Paintings from the early 1980's Work never exhibited, Plug In Gallery, Winnipeg, 1996 Moral: Killer shouldn't be given exhibition Economic: Misuse of public funds
Ethical: Sensationalist
Armand Vaillancourt
Artist residency as part of Visions of Quebec group exhibition
Confederation Centre for the Arts, Charlottetown, P.E.I., July 1996 Political: Art is treasonous
Economic: No federal money to separatist
Moral: Separatist shouldn't be given exhibition
John Nugent
No. 1 Northern, 1976
Public sculpture, Canadian Grain Commission Building, Winnipeg.
Installed 1976, relocated 1978, storage c.1980, reinstalled 1997
Aesthetic: Ugly, insignificant
Economic: Waste of tax money


Various artists
Naturalism and Artifice in Homoerotic Photography, 1870-1970 (Curated by Bruce Hugh Russell)
Plug In Gallery, Winnipeg
May-June 1998
Propriety: Misuse of public symbol





R. Mutt (a.k.a. Marcel Duchamp)
Fountain [the urinal], 1917
Refused from the American Society of Independent Artists inaugural non-juried exhibition New York
1917


Someone must have sent it as a joke. It is signed R. Mutt; sounds fishy to me... It is gross, offensive! There is such a thing as decency
-George Bellows, artist and member of the American Society of Independent Artists (Quoted by Beatrice Wood in her book I Shock Myself, n.d.)

When I voted "No," I voted on the question of originality--I did not see anything pertaining to originality in it; that does not mean that if my attention had been drawn to what was original by those who could see it, that I could not also have seen it.
-Katherine S. Dreier, artist and member of the American Society of Independent Artists (writing to Duchamp to ask him to reverse his resignation from the Society over the refusal to exhibit R. Mutt's Fountain)

I want to express my profound admiration in the way you handled so important a matter as you did at the last meeting when it was [decided]...that we invite Marcel Duchamp to lecture...on his "Readymades" and have Richard Mutt bring the discarded object and explain the theory of art and why it had a legitimate place in an Art Exhibit... I felt that if you had realized that the object was sent in good faith that the whole matter would have been handled differently. It is because of the confusion of ideas that the situation took on such an important aspect... [you] will force Richard Mutt to show whether he was sincere or did it out of bravado.
-Katherine S. Dreier, artist and member of the American Society of Independent Artists (writing to S.I.A. president, William Glackens)

Although it cannot be conclusively proven, it is accepted that Marcel Duchamp submitted the ready-made work Fountain to the American Society of Independent Artists' inaugural non-juried exhibition in 1917. The work, a urinal turned on its back, was submitted through a delivery service and was signed R. Mutt. The democratic principals of accepting all works submitted were central to the Society's anti-academy philosophy. However, some members of the Society found Fountain offensive and took it upon themselves to remove the work from the exhibition two days before the opening. Duchamp resigned from the Society upon learning of this betrayal of the group's principles. Because Duchamp was a valued member and intellectual leader of the Society, members tried to get him to reconsider his decision by various means. Fountain was not seen by the public, until it appeared photographed in an art magazine after the exhibition. [see William A Camfield, "Marcel Duchamp's Fountain: Its History and Aesthetics in the Context of 1917, in F. E. Kuenzli and F. M. Naumann (editors), Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century, MIT Press.]


Jean Paul Mousseau
The Blob, 1955
Juried Show of Contemporary Art
Winnipeg Art Gallery
1955


No one wants the $200 Blob
-(Free Press Headline, Nov. 8, 1955)

I am practically physically nauseated...a kid could do that, regardless of what the artists would say.
-Mrs. W. J. Waines, member of the WAG women's committee (Free Press, Nov. 17, 1955)

I think it's dirty finger marks.
-Young child (Free Press, Nov. 8, 1955)

This show induces the feeling of depression. These painters are simply avoiding the real difficulties of their craft.
-Clarence Tellenius, accomplished wildlife artist (Free Press, Nov. 19, 1955)

Abstract it certainly is--but is it art?
-B.R. (Free Press, Nov. 5, 1955)

If this is art, it's not for me.
-Anonymous gallery patron (Free Press, Nov. 9, 1955)

[People] need the paintings explained to them.
-Jean R. Ostiguy, WAG juror, architect (Winnipeg Free Press, Nov. 7, 1955)

It is difficult, Mr. Tellenius admitted, but countered by saying that understanding was a thing of the mind and the heart and that he judged a painting by experience.
My heart and head are just as good as yours, exclaimed Mrs. Waines.
No they're not, said the professor, mine are trained.
Mrs. Waines said she might use the designs for living room drapes and Mr. Tellenius agreed, a fact that pained Expert Swinton.
Our period is one of complete confusion and that is what our artists are trying to depict, he said.
Fraud! Blobs! Dirty finger marks! said Mrs. Waines.
Depressing, said Mr. Tellenius.
-(Dialogue quoted in Free Press, Nov. 12, 1955)

No drawing, no painting, just nothing to recommend it. And you can't pin those people down. How can you tell if it's a good painting? There's nothing to judge it by.
-Mrs. W. J. Waines, member of the WAG women's committee (Free Press, Nov. 8, 1955)

Some people want paintings that are some sort of pretty picture postcard. People who are interested in Art don't want to see that sort of thing.
-Maxwell Bates, competition jury member (Free Press, Nov. 8, 1955)

My painting is not a meaningless blob but an expression of the cosmic forces of the universe,
-Jean Paul Mousseau, prize-winning artist (Free Press, Nov. 8, 1955)

My own idea is that some of the folks who have been huffing and puffing are going to feel pretty silly 20 or 30 years from now if their remarks are reprinted.
-Frank Morris, journalist (Free Press, Nov. 19, 1955)

In 1955, the debate between figurative and abstract art flared up after an abstract piece was selected as the winner of the Winnipeg Art Gallery's annual juried contemporary art show and sale. The work, selling for $200, did not find a buyer and was ridiculed for this. A flurry of articles and editorials were written in the local press and a TV panel discussion took place. This seems to be one of the first extensive public debates over art in the local media in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Marcien Lemay, artist and Etienne Gaboury, architect
Louis Riel Monument, 1970
Public sculpture, grounds of the Manitoba legislature, Winnipeg
Installed c.1970, relocated/demolished 1994


The unveiling of this grotesque monstrosity will successfully perpetuate the controversy that has existed for a hundred years... Riel's detractors must be smirking in smug satisfaction over this unexpected and unnecessary windfall to their prejudices.
-Warner Jorgenson, Progressive Conservative MLA (Winnipeg Free Press, January 5, 1972)

...[for] the average citizen of this province who will cast his eyes in the direction of this brutally misshapen blob...the reaction will be "now what the hell is that supposed to represent."
-Warner Jorgenson, Progressive Conservative MLA (Winnipeg Free Press, January 5, 1972)

It would hurt me if they tear it down.
-Heab Allard, former NDP MLA for Rupertsland (Toronto Globe and Mail, July 18, 1994)

Manitoba is big enough for two Louis Riel monuments or for dozens of them.
anonymous letter (Winnipeg Free Press, July 26, 1994)

[Lemay's sculpture] is a dark and painful stain upon the memory and accomplishments of Riel and Metis people.
-Billyjo DeLaRonde, president, Manitoba Metis Federation (Winnipeg Sun, July 28, 1994)

[The sculpture represents] a grotesque man with no pants on and his testicles hanging down. Can you imagine if John Diefenbaker was portrayed with no pants --or John A. Macdonald?
-Jim Durocher, president of the Métis Society of Saskatchewan (Globe and Mail, May 13, 1996)

The contorted naked figure, supposedly depicting a tormented Riel, is hopelessly pretentious and insufferably artsy.
-Naomi Lakritz, journalist (Winnipeg Sun, July 28, 1994)

How can the Riel statue be a "source of inspiration or pride" for any Manitoban when drunks urinate on it and it is a focal point for the sordid business of male prostitution in Winnipeg. Louis Riel deserves better. He should be remembered with a new more dignified statue.
-Naomi Lakritz, journalist (Winnipeg Sun, July 28, 1994)

I see the present statue as depicting the truth of Riel's life. He had been stripped naked of his dignity, emotions, mind and spirit by his enemies... His life was tormented. He is facing the legislature to make the occupants feel guilt... I personally think Louis and Marguerite [Riel's wife] would not be offended by the present statue and it should remain where it is.
-Barry P. Marchand, Winnipeg descendant of Riel (Winnipeg Free Press, July 28, 1994)

When the new statue is erected, I will feel like the spirit of Louis Riel will be finally at peace.
-Billyjo DeLaRonde, president, Manitoba Metis Federation (Winnipeg Free Press, July 18, 1994)

In 1970, Marcien LeMay (Lemay) won the commission to make a large-scale bronze semi-abstract sculpture of Louis Riel to stand behind the Winnipeg legislature. Architect Etienne Gaboury designed two towering arced walls surrounding and partially concealing the figure. The wall featured quotes from Riel's writings on them. Louis Riel has been called the most important figure in Manitoba history. He was an important Metis political leader and led the Red River Rebellion in 1869-70. He was hung for treason in 1885. LeMay's sculpture was routinely called grotesque and pornographic in the local media and suffered repeated attacks of vandalism. In early nineties persons at the Manitoba Metis Federation lobbied various governments saying that the representation of Riel was undignified. It was decided that LeMay's sculpture would be taken down. In July 1994, former MLA Jean Allard chained himself to LeMay's statue to prevent its removal. LeMay and hundreds of supporters joined him. Soon after, the sculpture was relocated to the grounds of St. Boniface College, and Gaboury's walls were demolished. The MMF had chosen LeMay to make a realistic statue, but in a turn around decision gave the commission to another sculptor, Miguel Joyal. Joyal's ($250,000) conventional sculpture was unveiled in the summer of 1996.


Gordon Reeves
Justice, 1986
Public sculpture, Winnipeg Law Courts Building
Installed 1986


A crop of dandelions would have been nicer.
-Hymie Weinstein, lawyer (Winnipeg Free Press, April 6, 1986)

I think it looks like a giant mosquito with all the pincers and things.
-Anonymous (Winnipeg Sun, Sept. 12, 1985)

It's gross. It doesn't do anything for me except make me walk farther around the building to get to the front door.
-Anonymous (Winnipeg Free Press, April 6, 1986)

I didn't know it represented justice. Maybe you have to have an art background to appreciate it.
-Anonymous (Winnipeg Free Press, April 6, 1986)

Do they represent the scales of justice? I kind of supposed that. I'd say I like it.
-Government communication employee (Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 19, 1985)

It's ridiculous. It's a complete waste of money as these government things are. Oh, well, I guess it will give kids a chance to see what they can spray paint on it.
-Dave Nicholls, 26 (Winnipeg Sun, Sept. 12, 1985)

It's a waste of money. The only thing it does for me is make me think of all the money it cost.
-Anonymous (Winnipeg Free Press, April 6, 1986)

My emotion is one of anger. A waste of taxpayer's money. A lot of junk.
-Lawyer (Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 19, 1985)

It's nice. It's definitely noticeable.
-Young legal secretary (Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 19, 1985)

Justice, a 33 foot high stainless steel sculpture located in front of the Winnipeg Law Court building, was installed in 1986. The sculpture first provoked controversy after the approved design was subsequently vetoed by provincial cabinet ministers. The judgement was overturned after protest by the sculptor, Gordon Reeves. The fact that the bulk of the piece was constructed by a foreign steelworks, in Sweden, where Reeves found the best price for stainless steel, was also a contentious issue for the local press. The sculptor had to donate an additional $10,000 of his own money to complete the project. This fact was raised by the media to offset arguments against the sculpture being a waste of money. There was additional controversy due to the abstract nature of the work.


Lori Meserve
On the Other Hand, 1991
Anna Leonowens Gallery, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax
April 1991


The exhibition is obscene.
-Bomb threat caller, Halifax (Halifax Daily News, April 1991)

In 1991, On the Other Hand, a multi-media installation by NSCAD student Lori Meserve provoked controversy in part due to its deconstruction of icons of heterosexual culture (including men's pornographic magazines and the Bible). The artist called for tolerance toward and proper representation of lesbians and homosexuals in the media. The show at the Anna Leonowens Gallery attracted media attention when a series of bomb threats turned out to be directed at the exhibition. The threats were taken seriously by the art school, but the show remained open.


Jana Sterbak
Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino, n.d.
Nickle Arts Museum, Calgary
February 1992


[Sterbak's work is] little more than a waste of public money at a time when it's in short supply. The funds would be better spent on such things as shelters for battered women, the poor or the cash-strapped university system...The ideas aren't new.
-David Bershad, U of C art historian (Calgary Herald, Feb. 8, 1992)

Jana Sterbak's Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorexic enraged Calgary citizens as it had politicians in Ottawa when it was shown at the National Gallery in the spring of 1991. The dress, made up of 23 kilograms of raw flank steak stitched together, was called an insult to 'poor and hungry Canadians.' Sterbak responded in the media asking what politicians are doing to solve these problems.


Andres Serrano
Piss Pope I and II exhibited along side Francisco Goya's Disasters of War
Vancouver Art Gallery
October 1995


An abomination, an insult to Jesus himself.
-Rev. Burnoose Gerald (Vancouver Sun, Oct. 23, 1995)

I have visited hundreds of galleries throughout North America and Europe, yet never have I been more offended as a Catholic and as an artist than by the VAG's pair of these repellent, larger than life-sized portraits of the Holy Father... My preference would be to destroy them.
-Arnold Shives, Vancouver painter and printmaker (Vancouver Sun, Sept. 30, 1995)

If [Serrano's art] had been anti-Semitic, we would not have considered the purchase. If it had been anti-Islam, the curators would not have dared proceed. But Christian symbols seem to be fair game for defamation.
-Toni Onley, artist and VAG acquisitions committee member (Western Report, Sept. 18, 1995)

The VAG has crossed the line between legitimate expression and grossly unfair attack, obscenity and hate-mongering.
-Thomas Langan, professor of philosophy, U of T (Western Report, Sept. 18, 1995)

No-one's saying the church can't be criticized in our society, but this is hardly criticism. This is just a slap in the face.
-Ed DeVita, member Catholic Civil Rights League (Western Report, Sept. 18, 1995)

After all, the Church controlled art for many centuries, using artistic works to spread their message....it's nice to live in a time when art reflects a wide range of viewpoints.
-Andrew Hunter, assistant curator, VAG (Western Report, Sept. 18, 1995)

Serrano's work is neither casual or gratuitous in its intention. His intention is to encourage debate, not hatred. We do not believe that the work expresses hatred of Catholics or the Catholic faith.
-Brooks Joyner, VAG director (Western Report, Sept. 18, 1995)

Whatever else Andres Serrano has done, he has shaken us out of our complacency. And we all need shaking up.
-Brooks Joyner, VAG director (Vancouver Sun, Sept. 23, 1995)

Brooks Joyner, director of the Vancouver Art Gallery, sparked an extended controversy when he decided to include Andres Serrano's Piss Pope I and II in an exhibition that combined Francisco Goya's Disasters of War with contemporary art that shared similar themes. Serrano's cibachrome prints on paper depict a bright red profile of Pope John Paul which melds into a yellow-golden background. The image comes from a photograph of a small statue immersed in urine. The show provoked a number of negative responses including the resignation of gallery board member Toni Onley, an organized protest in front of the gallery by the Interfaith Coalition Against Hate Art, criticism from the Catholic Civil Rights League, the withdrawal of the support of the Bank of the Montreal, and the decision by several Catholic schools not to allow their students to visit the VAG. The show continued in spite of these negative reactions.


The Moral Imagination
John Wayne Gacy, paintings from the early 1980's
Work never exhibited, Plug In Gallery, Winnipeg
1996


I'm appalled. He murdered children, how could this gallery even think of it [showing Gacy's paintings]? This is like spitting in the victims' faces.
-Tracey Walsh, Citizens Against Violence spokeswoman (Winnipeg Sun, Sept. 17 1996)

They're using that over-used and much abused word "art" as an excuse for capitalizing on the shock value of his name.
-Naomi Lakritz, journalist (Winnipeg Sun, Sept. 18, 1996)

It's a way to sell it and it sounds a little more tasteful than saying, "We're capitalizing on murder."
-Nancy Munsch, executive director of the U.S.-based National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children (Mix Magazine, Winter 96-97)

If it's privately funded, that's fine, but all three levels of government are paying for this. Taxpayers are paying to have this mass murderer's artwork displayed.
-Lee Rempel, hospital worker (Winnipeg Sun, Sept. 18, 1996)

It's got nothing to do with art, it's just publicity.
-Bill Lobchuck, private gallery owner (Winnipeg Sun, Sept. 18, 1996)

I thanked him [Baerwaldt] for pulling them, for whatever the reasons may be. I think it's a victory for victims.
-Tracey Walsh, Citizens Against Violence spokeswoman (Winnipeg Sun, Sept.26, 1996)

In 1996, Plug In Gallery's intention to include a convicted serial killer's paintings in a group show entitled The Moral Imagination was met with strong opposition. The idea of showing John Wayne Gacy's works, done while on death row, provoked outraged callers, numerous editorials in the local media, as well as a serious internal debate among those at the gallery. Tracey Walsh, representing Citizens Against Violence, was quoted often in the press and aimed a direct attack on the gallery's ethics. The controversy made the front page of the Winnipeg Sun. Ironically, Gacy's paintings were reproduced in the Sun before ever being shown at Plug In. In the end, in fact, exhibition curator Wayne Baerwaldt and board members agreed to exhibit the Sun reproductions in the exhibition but none of the original works by Gacy. Throughout the various controversies, Baerwaldt's counter-argument was that neither the media nor opponents of the gallery were willing to seriously discuss the curatorial and artistic issues involved.


Armand Vaillancourt
Artist residency as part of Visions of Quebec group exhibition
Confederation Centre for the Arts, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
July 1996


The Visions exhibition is aimed at providing Islanders with a rare look into the tangled heart of Quebec nationalist politics. It should be welcomed.
-Anonymous letter to the editor (The Province, July 1996)

Vaillancourt's status as artist in residence at the Confederation Centre...is a slap in the face, a kick to the groin and a stab in the back. It's an aggravated assault on the nationhood of Canada and its loyal citizens. In the Oxford dictionary it has another name, treason. At the Confederation Centre it is called artistic expression.
-Sandra Devlin (The Guardian, July 1996)

As one who is proud to be Canadian, I do not believe we can afford to be blasé or indifferent when a separatist is given $28,000 [from the Canada Council] to expose his work at a national arts centre. It appears to be a travesty of justice and judgment to encourage someone who is dedicated to dividing our country... My point is: is it appropriate to have a separatist in residence and paid by Canadians.
-Helen E. Smith, letter to the editor (The Gardian, July 1996)

I believe our summer visitors from our sister provinces across Canada should be aware that Mr. Vaillancourt, a proclaimed separatist, is funded by a Canada Council Grant perhaps to the detriment of a deserving artist from their province or a non-separatist one from Quebec.
-Helen E. Smith, letter to the editor (The Gardian, July 1996)

People may not like his [Vaillancourt] message (they may not even like his art). Lucky for them, they don't have to. But they do have to accept it as part of Canada's mosaic... Canada is conflicted, ant this is Canada too. Without getting down and digging around in the dirt a little bit, we would be promoting nationalistic hype.
-Barb McKenna, journalist (The Guardian, July 1996)

Armand Vaillancourt was invited to create an original sculptural work for the Visions of Quebec, a group exhibition presenting opposing points of view on Quebec nationalism. Vaillancourt is a self-proclaimed Quebec separatist. Controversy was not directed at the piece he did for the exhibition which included stripped and painted logs (left-over from a P.E.I. clear cut) suspended in the gallery. Rather, it centred around the facts that Vaillancourt had been given a venue to express his separatist views, and that he had received federal funding (Canada Council) to create this work. Despite a number of articles and editorials, Vaillancourt finished his residency and exhibited his work.


John Nugent
No. 1 Northern, 1976
Public sculpture, Canadian Grain Commission Building, Winnipeg
Installed 1976, relocated 1978, put in storage c.1980, reinstalled 1997


I have no idea what it is, I thought it was a piece of metal they were going to use for something inside the building.
-Chris Delaney, 26, bicycle messenger (Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 25, 1997)

I don't want to ruin my day by talking about it.
-Anonymous (Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 25, 1997)

I'm waiting to see the skid marks on it from the skate boarders...It's intrinsically less ugly than the one outside the Law Courts.
-Brett Ozero, 42, government computer analyst (Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 25, 1997)

It was an eyesore then, it's an eyesore now
-Anonymous (Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 25, 1997)

Public art remains an easy target. If something doesn't feed us or shelter us, right off we question its value. Then, if something's meaning is vague in the remotest way, our immediate reaction is outright hostility.
-Morley Walker, journalist (Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 25, 1997)

If it's to be moved, I'd want it moved as far away from Winnipeg as possible.
-John Nugent, artist

No. 1 Northern, a $50,000 formalist, abstract, public sculpture made up of flat metal sheets, was installed in front of the Canadian Grain Commission Building (CGC) in 1975. At the time, Agriculture minister Eugene Whelan blasted the sculpture as a waste of Taxpayer's money, even though the federal minister had never seen the work of art. The sculpture was moved to a remote Tax Data Centre in 1978 after 300 employees at the CGC signed a petition against it, calling it "a piece of junk." A few years later, the piece was moved to a storage facility while renovations to the Tax Data Centre took place. After discovering the piece rusting away in storage, the sculptor, John Nugent, lobbied to have it re-installed at the CGC. The initial refusal by the Public Works Department was overturned as the controversy became more public. The piece was re-installed at its original location in the fall of 1997.


Various artists
Naturalism and Artifice in Homoerotic Photography, 1870-1970
(Curated by Bruce Hugh Russell)
Plug In Gallery, Winnipeg
May-June 1998


I don't really care for you people using the Golden Boy as your gay thing. That's pretty gross. That's Manitoba's honorable person standing up on that thing there. That's pretty gross you guys.
-Anonymous caller to the Plug In answering machine, June 1998

I have been redeveloping my own sexual identity over the past few years…and it has involved reshaping my opinions around erotica. I've been developing a bisexual identity. With this exhibition it's great to have the context of history, to see what has really occurred. History helps see what really occurred. History helps shape our understanding of things. The photos help develop our understanding of openness and artifice, what's covered and uncovered…
      It's exciting to me when I can think about my identity in the public realm. Any time I can explore that, what it means socially, what it means in everyday life, it's great. It's exciting partly because of the contrast. Lesbianism is usually hidden; so much heterosexual identity is bombarded at you each day. Seeing the work in the gallery is part of being able to see how people explore and express their sexual identity beyond the context of the bar! Through exhibitions like this along with books I am reading, I can get a sense of the range of what people do, and I can find myself in that range."
-Gallery patron, interviewed at Plug In, Winnipeg, July 9, 1998

Bruce Hugh Russell's historic traveling exhibition of homoerotic photography, Golden Boy, was first exhibited in Winnipeg. While the exhibition showed much full frontal nudity, there was no public outcry. There was some echoes of discontent about the title of the exhibition as it related to propriety of public symbols. The Golden Boy is a gold-leaf covered statue which stands at the top of the domed-roof of the Manitoba legislature. In one arm is a sheath of wheat, in the other a torch. He is totally nude; his torso is featured in a photograph on the invitation to the exhibition. He is a symbol of Manitoba. Golden Boys is also the title of a San Francisco homoerotic magazine which began in 1969.