The Sexuality Spectrum offers a groundbreaking exploration of sexual orientation through the creativity of over fifty international contemporary artists. Artists including Judy Chicago, Joan Snyder, Arthur Tress, Archie Rand, Albert Winn, Trix Rosen, Joan Roth, and Mark Podwal explore a broad range of subjects:the evolving social and religious attitudes toward sexuality; issues of alienation, marginalization, and inclusion; the impact on the family, child-rearing, and life stages; violence and persecution; AIDS/HIV; and the influence of the LGBTQI community on the Jewish and larger world.
Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, states, “The common thread that unites these works is a principled intent on the part of these artists to employ art as a tool to create a messianic world of justice for all regardless of sexual orientation, family status, gender, or age. It is the self-evident ethical aspiration that marks this exhibition as so powerful, inspirational, and unique.”
Judy Chicago and Estelle Yarinsky reference Nazi persecution of gay victims during the Holocaust, as documented in Richard Grune’s rare wartime lithograph. Josh Lehrer captures haunting portraits of transgender youths in New York City. Helene Aylon, Susan Kaplow and Trix Rosen expose and refute the biblical quotes in Leviticus that have engendered discrimination and intolerance, while Archie Rand looks to the biblical David and Jonathan and prophet and warrior Deborah for other perspectives, as does Benton Spruance’s evocation of Jacob wrestling with the angel and David Wander’s “Song of Songs.” Heddy Abramowitz and Dorit Jordan Dotan capture public conflict over gay rights in Israel, while Kobi Israel offers poignant images of military personnel as commentary. Photographer Joan Roth’s archive of “pride parade” images reflects two decades of activism, also depicted in John Dugdale’s and Joyce Ellen Weinstein’s works. Andi Arnovitz expresses the anguished consequence of unborn children and stunted families. Carol Hamoy tackles issues of anonymity and invisibility, while Leonard Meiselman expresses masked identity. Female sexuality is expressed in depictions of Lilith by Siona Benjamin, Mark Podwal, and Iris Levinson. The impact of AIDS/HIV is found in Linda Soberman’s sober installation of empty chairs, Albert Winn’s powerful “Akedah,” and in two panels of the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt, created by John Hirsch, which demonstrate the Reform Movement’s longstanding concern and commitment. Physical and emotional longing are found in works by Joan Snyder, Martin Wong, Penny Wolin, and Arthur Tress. Cartoonist William Haefeli and graphic novelist Alison Bechdalecapture the pivots of change.
Laura Kruger, Curator, explained, “The HUC-JIR Museum staff held numerous focus groups ofartists, asking them to share their intimate feelings concerningtheir lives as LGBTQI in the community, includingtheir faith-based experiences. We frequently heard incidentsof marginalization, isolation, and exclusion. They sharedtheir long years of concealment as well as the wrenching experienceof ‘coming out;’ their relationships with familymembers, employers, and friendships that disintegrated; andthe search for life-long partners.”
Jean Bloch Rosensaft, Director, noted, “This exhibition exemplifies the spirit of the College-Institute’s and the Reform Movement’s commitment to free and open inquiry, inclusivity and outreach, and advocacy on behalf of human rights and the eradication of sexual discrimination.Our museum has a longstanding commitment to explore challenging issues through the visual arts; past exhibitions have included artistic responses to family violence, aging and ageism, and rebirth after the Holocaust.”
HUC-JIR’s Institute for Judaism, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity and Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling have guided the development of this collaborative project. Faculty and students have contributed essays reflective of their academic disciplines for the catalog.