Is the 2010 Twin Cities Pride Art Show pandering to the conservatives? Last week, well known local erotic artist Marc Debauch was notified by the director of the upcoming Pride Art Show and Grand Marshal Reception that his work was “too erotic” to be displayed. The image above titles “Mansweat” is one of those paintings in question. Two others have been rejected, one of a nude man in a pool of water with his back to the audience and another nude man facing forward, not unlike Michelangelo’s David.

I wonder what standard the committee or individual making this determination followed?  Debauch’s work is well known to many people around the world and much of it is explicitly sexual in nature.  Had there been portrayal of intercourse, naked erections, ejaculation, etc., I could see why the image would be deemed inappropriate for the venue in which is currently being staged.  The Art Institutes International Minnesota (Ai Minnesota) is the official sponsor of the show. 

However, Ai Minnesota is located downtown Minneapolis – just a short walk away from The Saloon where similarly attired (or not) images of young gay men loom 10 times larger than life on the corner of 9th and Hennepin in clear public view to all.   The Ai Minnesota call for submissions does not specifically address artistic standards.  They simply identify what is required in terms of how the art is to be delivered and the cost of entry.  Earlier this month there was a notice that the deadline had been extended, presumably related to the low response to the call.  A call between Debauch and Rob Anderson – the director of the show – failed to provide the artist with clear specifics on why his work was being rejected.  Debauch wrote a response to the call challenging the decision.

In his email he states:

“Dear Robert, I have had time to think about our conversation today  and bounced it off of many people, including  several gay and lesbian artists in our community. The jury for the 2010 Pride Art Show has set a dangerous precedent in rejecting my art, because they deemed it too erotic for the venue. Why was nothing mentioned in the 2010 Pride Art Show Guidelines about erotic, nude or semi-nude artwork being ineligible for the show?”

A flurry of communication has been coming in to both the artist and the show’s officials expressing concern about the decision.  Although the jury may still be out on this topic and whether the piece will be displayed at the show, the bigger question is whether Pride is continuing to support increased censorship in order to draw lucrative corporate sponsorships and huge numbers year after year. 

Many GLBT community members have become increasingly concerned that Pride seems less and less Queer friendly and more driven by the almighty buck.  Jennifer Pritchett, owner of The Smitten Kitten, states “When you let money make decisions for you, you run the risk of those decisions being antithetical to your mission.”

Debauch has been contacted via email by Dot Belstler, the current Executive Director of this year’s Twin Cities Pride.  Belstler writes “I am so sorry this has caused you and your colleagues such pain. It was certainly not the intent – nor was censorship. In the future, we will attempt to be more clear in the call for Art, but please understand that sexually explicit content must be handled with sensitivity.”  She also addressed the issue of censorship in the following statement “In this particular case, I believe “Mansweat” may have been confused with the full frontal nudity pictured in “Morning on the Balcony.”  Of course “Mansweat” is not too erotic, it is a beautiful painting and we would be proud to display it in the show.”

These comments have left many wondering what constitutes erotica in a digital age.  Any search engine will pull up a flaccid penis photograph while searching for information about syphilis.  As for art and nudes – sculptures of male nudes grace the entries of some of our most noted institutions including Westminster Presbyterian Church.   In this age, why should an oil painting of a male nude without an erection be considered too hot to handle?

What do you think?

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  1. It’s sad that the queer community has been shifting over towards a level of conservatism that bests the RNC. When did the community, as a whole, forget about what we’re fighting for…the right to every individual to have the lives (including the sex lives) that they’re entitled to, without fear of shame, discrimination, and violence? A naked man in the straight world is art…a naked man in a Pride art show is erotic? Please, let’s stop emulating the most conservative ideals in an attempt to be accepted. More important that we forge our own way ahead and not let go of why we got started.

  2. Your last statement hits the nail on the head:

    “As for art and nudes – sculptures of male nudes grace the entries of some of our most noted institutions including Westminster Presbyterian Church. In this age, why should an oil painting of a male nude without an erection be considered too hot to handle?”

    Not only is it absurd to label nudity in fine art as “too erotic” but it’s downright confusing to censor nudity at a Pride exhibition! Ha!

    And what about all the blatant female nudity out there depicted in “fine art”?

    I grow constantly annoyed by the seemingly increasing double standard when it comes to depictions of males vs. females.

  3. Twin Cities Pride – your actions speak louder than your shallow words. From your website you state: ‘It is the mission of Twin Cities Pride to commemorate and celebrate our diverse heritage, inspire the achievement of equality and challenge discrimination”.

    For subjecting this and other artists to this rather prurient decision to deem this artwork as too erotic you get a “F” – YOU FAILED not only Pride and it’s cherished history but all of us here in the Twin Cities. I could understand if this was your first art show but you people have been at this for a few years now and yet your actions speak – HOMOPHOBIA.

    Anita Bryant would be proud of you!

  4. I see no comment here from any jury members about why Debauch’s work was not accepted for the show, but if it really was a prudish abhorence of nudity (common though it is in Western art) or fear of offending corporate sponsors our so-called leadership really are no better than judas goats.

    We started out without funding and sponsorship. Our freedom is more valuable than their money. If it wasn’t we never would have started this tradition of marching every year. We know when the march is and in towns as big and established as Toronto people know where the march is. If we have any of the courage of our convictions, if we have any real understanding of what Stonewall was all about, if we have learned anything from the courage of those heroes, we cannot compromise the integrity of our freedom.

    What do we need corporate funding for? The first Stonewall Marches had no paid entertainment, no huge decorations, no fancy brochures and programs handed out freely mostly to be trash by the end of the day. The word went out, we gathered and marched, we celebrated at Central Park or wherever each town’s parade ended up. If the choice is between tightening budgets or limiting our freedom anybody who chooses money over freedom is selling us out, not fit to lead our community, nor is anyone who sacrifices any part of our community to the dictates of any outside pressure group.

  5. I would like to address some misinformation regarding the 2010 Twin Cities Pride Art Show being held in conjunction with Art Institutes International Minnesota (Ai) on June 10.

    The jury was very impressed by the work submitted by Marc DeBauch and selected his work titled “Morning on a Balcony” for inclusion in the 2010 Art Show. This piece is a full male nude and demonstrates good technique and was seen by the jury as his best piece of submitted work.

    Pride is mystified why this artist feels his art was censored, when the jury accepted a full male nude by the artist — a work with far more nudity than “Mansweat” (the piece identified in this blog

    The public is invited to attend the free public show on June 10 from 5:30 -8:30 at Ai, 15 S. Ninth Street, Minneapolis. A short program will begin at 6:30 p.m. More information is available at

    Anyone who questions the integrity of this show need only attend and see for themselves.

    Dot Belstler
    Executive Director, Twin Cities Pride

  6. Is Pride weekend a gay event or not? This censorship is crazy! TC Pride has become entirely too commercial and corporate over the years. We certainly don’t need to censor ourselves at this stage of our struggle for equality. We never did so back in the Sixties and Seventies when we were much more oppressed than we are now. We have never made any of our progress toward self-respect and equal rights by hiding who we are and what we like and do. We have as much right to our art as straight men have to Playboy, nude paintings of reclining women, nude sculptures of big breasted women, etc. Gay art is not more erotic than straight. Gay people (i.e. the prudes on the art selection committee) just respond to it, whereas we do not respond to Playboy. It’s self-repression for the committee to ban that art which they and the rest of us respond to in some misguided and ineffective attempt to be acceptable to the larger straight society. Art exhibits must be judged on the technical skill and creative inspiration of the artist.

    The male body whether soft, erect, ejaculating, having intercourse, etc. is no more to be shunned than the female doing its natural functions such as breast feeding, etc. which is portrayed all over our media and art. This censorship is sexist discrimination against men. It is internalized homophobia.

    P.S. If the committee is worried about children, just put a warning notice to parents at the entrance to the exhibit.

  7. Dot,

    You are being disingenuous. You were brought in to manage this fiasco after several well connected and influential people demanded that you step in to squelch this burning inferno that YOUR jury from YOUR Pride art show started. Mr. Miller from Ai Minnesota indicated to Mark that the jury would not accept this this piece of artwork because it was too erotic. You come in like Joan of Arc trying to salvage Pride’s reputation but you are just too late. The damage was already done. You conveniently leave out much of the story about how Marc had to work days to defend his artwork and reputation against sexually repressive minions that thought they had this one nipped in the bud. Quit being dishonest and give the whole story about this lunacy. Your people reversed their decision only after the damage was done AND the court of public opinion was clearly against the art jury decision. We expect more of you…or perhaps we expect too much. As one posting indicated we don’t need your corporate suckling pigs at the trough to have a fantastic time at Pride. You and Pride have sold your souls to put on a good show at the cost of trying to minimize your censorship. Oh and before you start denying this, I am Marc’s partner so believe me I KNOW what I’m talking about. Just be an adult, admit this travesty, apologize publicly and stand firm so that this lunacy doesn’t happen to other artists in the future.

  8. The Pride ART show has reversed their decision and accepted my painting” MORNING ON THE BALCONY.” After all the energy we spent on communicating our displeasure, they obviously listened and dropped the prudish idea of “not showing skin”. They could have saved us a lot of time and trouble if they would have chosen this image in the first place.

    But it does tell me that if enough people stand together an issue they will see a positive result. Thanks for your support.
    I spoke with PRIDE executive Dot Belstler the other day. She admitted to me she hadn’t seen my art before she made the statements about my art being too sexually explicit. She was only going by what Rob Anderson had told her. She said once she saw my art she couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and that next time she will review ALL the facts before making a statement. She had only taken on the Executive Director Position 5 days AFTER the Pride Art Show told me my art work was too erotic and therefore unacceptable. So obviously no one was at the helm until Dot came on board in the middle of the controversy. At least the outcome was finally positive. Thanks again for being so outspoken in your views. these people really needed to hear what you had to say!


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