Kymara Longran, of The Kymara Gallery and a director on the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation’s board, with Forrest Williams' "Two Men on a Porch" (2006/7, Collection of Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art)
Editor's note: The Kymara Gallery's “Two Loves — Sex, Art, and the Love that Dare not Speak its Name” runs through November 30. The following is adapted from a story that is running in the November/December issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
Andy Warhol, Paul Cadmus and Keith Haring show up in Biddeford via New York’s Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
By Tony Giampetruzzi
Biddeford, Maine is the embodiment of the typical, not-quite-yet rehabilitated New England mill town. A handful of the seemingly ancient textile factories have been completely polished-up and inhabited by both the young professionals looking for inexpensive lofts and the entrepreneurs who enjoy the reasonable rents they won’t find in Boston or Portland for their cafés and galleries. But, despite the gentrification, this still-largely Franco-American Catholic community is the last place you’d expect to find an exhibit featuring a series of explicit, homoerotic Andy Warhol screen prints from the ‘70s; an equally provocative Keith Haring original ink on paper titled “Three Men” (use your imagination) from the ‘80s; a Paul Cadmus etching from the ‘30s; and dozens of other pieces of homoerotic art, all on loan to the The Kymara Gallery from the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York.
Tucked well inside a maze of hallways at the North Dam Mill complex, the gallery, which originated in nearby Kennebunkport (home of George H.W. Bush) is hosting the exhibition Two Loves—Sex, Art, and the Love that Dare not Speak its Name, which runs through November 30. Comprised of selections from the Leslie-Lohman Museum’s permanent collection of important original paintings, sculpture, and photography ranging from the years 1650 to 2010, visitors to Biddeford can visually feast on rarely seen works by the likes of Warhol and Haring, as well as a host of other artists who worked in various mediums.
Kymara Longran, the show’s curator and a director on the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation’s board, stood guard at the entrance to the collection during a recent First Friday event, informing — not warning, she says) — visitors what they were about to see.
“Here in Biddeford, because of the way it’s set up, I kinda like to let people know,” says the self-described gender-fluid aesthete who cut her chops on gay culture as a teen-ager in the Village in the late 1970s when the scene was as gritty and raw as the city itself. “But it works great for me. I have my niche here, and I’ve had it since 1985. To most people, I’m just Kymara, and people know me as the person who drives the weird pink car around. But, I know that sometimes people do have a problem with sex parts, so I have to warn them.”
To be sure, there is a lot of nudity, and nothing is left to the imagination where the sex is concerned, but that’s just the way Longran likes it.
The collection represents just a fraction of the Leslie-Lohman Museum’s permanent collection, which houses over 6,000 works of art. The Museum is named after co-founders Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman, who began showing and collecting art in their SoHo loft in 1969 to provide an outlet for gay artists. According to leslielohman.org, the rise of AIDS and the death of so many artists and collectors prompted Charles and Fritz to recover many important works of art “that were being destroyed by families who, because they didn’t know what to do with this type of art or didn’t want to acknowledge the sexuality of their loved ones, threw amazing collections of art in the dumpster.”
What has developed is a remarkable resource with an artist archive of information on over 3,000 LGBTQ artists; 2,000 volumes representing the most comprehensive collection of published books, catalogues and pamphlets on LGBTQ art; and, most recently, traveling exhibits which allow people like, well, Mainers, for example, to take a peek at not only the history of art produced by the GLBTQ community over the past century, but a snapshot of the history of the GLBTQ community itself.
Longran’s passion for exhibiting what she calls “avante garde” art is nearing the 30-year mark, with her first gallery opening in Maine in 1985. “It was a natural progression of who I was at the time and the self confidence to be able to sell and work in the realm of gay art,” she says, invoking the AIDS crisis of the mid to late ‘80s. “I felt gay art was so homogenized, that the sexuality was taken out of the art and the artist. It’s not always true that you need to state your sexuality, but in the case of [Andy] Warhol, not only do a lot of young people not know who he is, but they don’t even know that he was gay. I guess they thought he was like a Ken doll, kinda neuter.”
As for the timing of the exhibit, during the state’s second go at passing gay marriage at the ballot box, Longran says it’s a coincidence, but that, if anything, the collection shows the parity between straight and gay couples.
“There is no action of sexuality in any one of these pieces that’s prohibited to be done by a heterosexual person. And, having two people of the same sex doing it doesn’t make it wrong and often times, people who are heterosexual go a lot farther than any of this,” she says, referencing an upcoming S&M-themed exhibit. “Believe me, none of this is extreme compared to what you’ll find in the underground sexual art community.”
In terms of what you might find at a gallery in Biddeford, or even Maine for that matter, the exhibit is breathtaking, both for those who rarely get to see the type of art that speaks to them in a very positive and personal way, and for those who may be shocked by its frank, if not explicit, homoeroticism. [x]
The Kymara Gallery's “Two Loves — Sex, Art, and the Love that Dare not Speak its Name” runs through November 30. The Gallery is located in The North Dam Mill, 2 Main Street, Building 17, Suite 220, Biddeford, Maine. Gallery hours are Tuesday- Saturday from noon to 4:30 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, contact Kymara (207) 286-7399 or visit the gallery's web page: The Kymara Gallery
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