Tongues of Flame (exhibition)

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Date: 1990

Region: North America

Subject: Sexual/Gender Orientation

Medium: Photography, Mixed Media


Artist: David Wojnarowicz

Confronting Bodies: Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, American Family Association

Dates of Action: 1990

Location: Normal, IL

Description of Artwork: Tongues of Flame is an exhibition of work by New York artist, David Wojnarowicz at Illinois State University. The exhibition deals with issues such as the AIDS crisis, homophobia, environmental destruction, and racial intolerance. The exhibit attacked prominent religious and political figures as indifferent to suffering from the disease.

The Incident: Lawyer David Fordyce alleged in a lawsuit against the National Endowment for the Arts and Chairman John E. Frohnmayer that a $15,000 grant for an exhibition in Illinois displayed "open and notorious hostility toward religion." Fordyce represented the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit legal services group, in the U.S. District Court action in Washington, D.C. It cited the NEA's grant last year for "Tongues of Flame," a display of works by David Wojnarowicz. Wojnarowicz filed suit in Manhattan Federal District Court charging Wildmon with illegal use of copyrighted images. The suit also charged libel in its Wildmon's intent to strip the work and the artist of artistic and political significance.

Results of Incident: The NEA pulled funding for the ISU exhibition catalog. David Wojnarowicz died in 1993.

Source: NEA-FUNDED ART EXHIBIT PROTESTED