By Alex Bacon
With the Foundation's history of nearly twenty years in the service of LGBT art and artists, the coming of the new book Treasures of Gay Art from the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation's Permaent Collection has been long overdue. Eminent museum director, curator, art writer and publisher Peter Weiermair has undertaken the task of selecting some of the best works in the Foundation's collection for inclusion in this book which will chart, in stunning reproductions, the legacy of LGBT artists which the founders have been collecting for over fifty years. The book is framed by an introduction by founders Fritz Lohman and Charles Leslie, and three essays: one by Peter Weiermair; another by noted art historian James Saslow on the current and potential impact of Leslie/Lohman's work on both the LGBT and straight communities; and another by Allen Ellenzweig on photography in LLGAF's collection. This makes the book an excellent addition to the Foundation's ever growing list of publications.
What is most evident from looking at the works included, and the essays which accompany them, is that a wealth of art has been created by LGBT artists in the modern era. Of course, the real value of an institution like the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation is that, without it, much of this excellent work would have been destroyed by hostile elements. In their introduction, Charles and Fritz tell of how one of the primary catalysts for the creation of the Foundation was to try to ensure that this kind of art- often denigrated as "gay" and "erotic" and thus constantly in peril of destruction and erasure-had a place where it was preserved and given the recognition it deserved in the history of art.
James Saslow, in his moving essay, expands on this theme by discussing the context and legacy of the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation in American society. Using a narrative of his family's, and his own, experiences with sexuality and visual culture since the late 19th century, Saslow reveals the political importance of works by queer artists, with openly queer themes, in shaping the beliefs of mainstream America about the role and treatment of queer men and women in our society. Saslow makes a powerful argument that what might really be the most important job of Leslie/Lohman, and by extension this book, is the documentation for a new generation of queer children and their straight peers, friends and family of the existence, viability and importance of LGBT artists and their art.
Alex Bacon is a senior in the Art History department at MSU, Ann Arbor. As an intern at LLGAF over the summer of 2006 he conducted research for Treasures of Gay Art from the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation's Permanent Collection.
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