The places, faces, and bodies of a queer enlightenment paper the pastel-colored walls of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. The show, aptly titled The 1970s: The Blossoming of a Queer Enlightenment, narrates the turbulent years between the Stonewall Riots in New York in June of 1969 and the first ominous inklings of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s.
The Creators Project went behind-the-scenes of the show, from the sexually playful photography of Crawford Barton to the surreal bondage scenes of Jimmy DeSana, from the revolutionary work of Kay Tobin Lahusen to the venerable images of Robert Mapplethorpe’s X Portfolio, to investigate a history full of hope, sex, protest, and the tangible zest of being queer, proud, and political in the 1970s. Our guide throughout was Hunter O’Hanian, the museum’s director and co-curator of the show along with the rest of the museum’s staff. He led us through the exhibition, down into the museum’s labyrinthine archives, and behind the green curtain to the museum’s workspace, overcrowded with delicious new donations (hint: miniature erotic sculptures from a New Jersey lawyer, coffee table books of dirty illustrations) and Leslie-Lohman’s modest but impressive staff.