National Portrait Gallery Commissioner Resigns
National Portrait Gallery Commissioner James T. Bartlett resigned Thursday, December 9, in protest of the museum’s censorship of a 30-minute video, “A Fire in My Belly,” by David Wajnarowicz. The piece was initially a part of the gallery’s “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibit, but was removed when conservative groups began protesting a brief segment of the film, in which ants are seen crawling over an image of Jesus. Since the video was taken out of the exhibit, Transformer Gallery installed a four-minute clip from it in their storefront and arranged for a silent march to the National Portrait Gallery December 2. Complicating matters further, local artists Matt Blasenstein and Michael Dax Iacovone were detained at the National Portrait Gallery this weekend, after screening the video on an iPad in front of the exhibit entrance. Currently, the two are attempting to procure a permit that will enable them to play the video through February, in a temporary structure directly outside the gallery. The National Portrait Gallery’s commission functions as a board of directors, making Bartlett’s resignation the most consequential protest of the gallery’s decision to date.