Contact Us

We're Here, We're Queer, and We're in the Public Record! The LGBTQ Movement and Life as Seen Through Government Information


“Perverted so-called artists”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Senator Jesse Helms (R-South Carolina) waged a campaign against the National Endowment for the Arts based on objections to the sexual and political content of some of the projects being supported. He particularly objected to the work of gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that included images of interracial homosexual coupling, sado-masochism, and children in provocative poses. Helms also attacked the work of Holly Hughes, a lesbian performance artist who maintains that her “intent is to provoke an emotional and intellectual response — to explore how we think about sex.” Helms’ remarks in Congress sparked a nationwide debate about government support for creative works exploring controversial topics, and conversely about the obligations that artists take on when they accept funding from the government.