Olga Alexander
Tim Clifford
Tony De Carlo
Joseph Heidecker
Alix Lambert
Charon Luebbers
Ginnie Lupi
Loretta Lux
Carey McDougal
William Oberst
Adrienne Outlaw
Judith Page
Alessandra Sanguinetti
Natasha Sazonova
 
 
 

Inspired by the current debates over same sex marriage and both sides’ struggles to (re)define marriage, Marriage approaches this institution as it is understood from numerous perspectives. While the debates revolve around the issue of faith and the ‘sanctity’ of marriage, the legality of marriage is at the heart of the issue. Exactly what is meant by marriage seems as malleable and evasive as is substance in the political debate surrounding the issue. The central question, often unasked, seems to be ‘What do we talk about when we talk about marriage?’

Do we understand this institution as a legally binding union between two people in order that both may share of the legal rights and responsibilities of that union? Or is it instead a bond and an oath undertaken under the eyes of the religious faith practiced by the participants? Or is it a historical shackling of the individual, forcing both to renounce their individuality in favor of a societally accepted norm? In any case, the debate around marriage, same sex or otherwise, seems to reveal more than anything the views of those taking part in the debate. If it reveals anything about the matrimonial institution is yet to be seen.

Over the last two centuries, the institution of marriage has shifted from a legal relationship based on the notion of property to one based on the notion of love. Less than four decades ago, miscegenation laws in several states still prevented interracial couples from legally recognized marriages. This shifting legal terrain upon which marriage has been defined over the course of history provides a hopeful context for the current struggles over the legal definition of marriage. On the eve of a national election, in which eleven states have anti-same sex marriage ballots and the prospect of a constitutional amendment looms large, the stakes are high.


There are real social consequences for the current legal and religious struggles to (re)define marriage. The issue of same-sex marriage is of crucial import to the queer community largely because of its potential to ensure social equality (in terms of the legal, health and immigration benefits marriage affords), and institutional and social recognition to people in same-sex relationships. It is also potentially a constructive debate, one that might encourage closer scrutiny of the paradoxical ways in which marriage is revered as sacred, yet national divorce rates at 50 percent belie the claim of marriage as a foundational institution.

The work contained in Marriage addresses these issues from a broad array of viewpoints. While some of the work is a defense of gay marriage, others are testimonials from the site of that union as it exists legally today. Still others address the idea of marriage as a questionable struggle. In the performative work of Alix Lambert the idea of marriage, its legal, heterosexual, amorous and religious bases are all called into question as she marries both men and women (both straight and gay) only to then divorce them. Is her work a snub to marriage or an interrogation of the very gesture of the legal ceremony? Charon Luebbers transforms the marriage between same sex couples into the offense it is heralded as by those opposed to same sex matrimony. Tony DeCarlo offers a sincere and touching defense of the act of marriage between same sex couples with his work “Stop the Ban on Love.” Using photos from the beginning of the 20th century and manipulating them, Joe Heidecker challenges the traditional definitions of love through his homoerotic depictions of love and the interaction of two individuals.

Traditional notions of love, domesticity and marriage are also on display in Marriage. Tim Clifford’s work works with the traditional signs of marital and familiar security and twists them, revealing the harmonious vacuity always latent within any sugar-coated image of the family and “traditional values.” For Ginnie Lupi and Natasha Sazanova the idea of marriage is turned inside out in a dream-like play of self, other and narrative. Contiguous with the traditional image of marriage as a male-female domestic space is the work of William Oberst. Oberst’s apparently traditional work speaks of a psychology and social site fraught with strife and turmoil, with an inner narrative more poignant than that shown.

The artists included here approach to the multifaceted issue of marriage is varied, both thematically and stylistically. It is our hope as curators that Marriage will provide occasion for dialogue on the multiple issues that stem from the debates on marriage, through a visual lens.

-Tara Burk and Keith Miller, curators

 
Olga Alexander
Tim Clifford
Julia Cowling
Tony De Carlo
Joseph Heidecker
Alix Lambert
Charon Luebbers
Ginnie Lupi
Loretta Lux
Carey McDougal
William Oberst
Adrienne Outlaw
Judith Page
Alessandra Sanguinetti
Natasha Sazonova