New sub­way sta­tion has pub­lic art rarely seen: A gay cou­ple

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The sight of two men hold­ing hands is far from un­com­mon, but a mu­ral of two men do­ing just that is show­ing up in an un­usual place - on the walls of a new sub­way sta­tion in New York City. That de­pic­tion of love be­tween gay men is a rar­ity in pub­lic art, ex­perts say.

“It was like win­ning the lot­tery,” Thor Stock­man, 60, said of find­ing out that he and his hus­band of 3 1/2 years, Pa­trick Kel­logg, were go­ing to be part of artist Vik Mu­niz’s “Per­fect Strangers,” a se­ries of life-size mo­saic por­traits of ev­ery­day New York­ers grac­ing the walls of the new sub­way sta­tion at 72nd Street. But “part of me wishes that it wasn’t a rar­ity, that it wasn’t re­mark­able.”

The sta­tion on the city’s long-awaited Sec­ond Av­enue sub­way line is sched­uled to open Jan 1. Mu­niz said it made sense to in­clude the two men in a project in­tended to show the dif­fer­ent peo­ple that rid­ers are likely to en­counter on their daily com­mutes. “They are just peo­ple you would ex­pect to see,” Mu­niz, who di­vides his time be­tween New York and Brazil, said in phone in­ter­view from Rio de Janeiro. “You would ex­pect to see men hold­ing hands.”

Jonathan David Katz, an ex­pert in queer art his­tory, said he could find no other ex­am­ple of a per­ma­nent, non-po­lit­i­cal LGBTQ pub­lic art­work in New York City. He men­tioned Ge­orge Se­gal’s “Gay Lib­er­a­tion Mon­u­ment” near Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 ri­ots that launched the gay rights move­ment. But that work, fea­tur­ing two men stand­ing and two women sit­ting, is ex­pressly com­mem­o­ra­tive of a po­lit­i­cal mo­ment.

A work like Mu­niz’s is long over­due in a city “os­ten­si­bly the epi­cen­ter of both the art world and the gay move­ment,” said Katz, di­rec­tor of the doc­toral pro­gram in vis­ual cul­ture stud­ies at SUNY Buf­falo and the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive co­or­di­na­tor of the Larry Kramer Ini­tia­tive for Les­bian and Gay Stud­ies at Yale Univer­sity.

“What makes it a turn­ing point is it isn’t gay­ness sin­gled out and made the theme. On the con­trary, the work nat­u­ral­izes gay­ness within the fab­ric of the city, and in so do­ing, that’s ac­tu­ally an even more pow­er­ful mes­sage,” he said. Ni­cholas Baume, pub­lic art fund di­rec­tor and chief cu­ra­tor, agreed. “The work re­minds me that it’s a com­mon oc­cur­rence to see a gay cou­ple hold­ing hands wait­ing on a sub­way plat­form in New York City. It’s great that it’s no longer a taboo for men to show this kind of ev­ery­day af­fec­tion.”

Stock­man and Kel­logg said they took the photo that is the ba­sis for the mo­saic by chance more than three years ago; they had gone to Brook­lyn to meet up with a friend who was work­ing on the project, and a photographer asked if they wanted to be pho­tographed. Stock­man as­sumed plenty of peo­ple were being pho­tographed, and “we were hop­ing maybe we’ll get a nice por­trait print out of this by stand­ing there for five min­utes.” —AP

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