Cynthia Carr

  • Acting Up

    I still remember reading the article that appeared in the New York Times in July 1981: "Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals." I also remember thinking, What kind of sick joke is this? "Gay" cancer?

    Writer Larry Kramer, however, immediately made an appointment for a checkup. In his doctor's waiting room, he ran into a friend, Donald Krintzman, who told him he'd been diagnosed with the cancer in question, Kaposi's sarcoma. KS manifested on the skin in purple lesions, usually appeared only among elderly men of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern descent, and normally progressed so slowly that there

  • Trial and Eros

    I have no secrets.

    —Robert Mapplethorpe

    By the time Robert Mapplethorpe died in March 1989 at the age of forty-two, he’d prepared for the preservation of his work and legacy. He’d established his foundation. He’d selected a biographer. He’d made what he knew would be his last self-portrait, gripping a cane topped with a death’s head.

    The attacks on his work began that June. Representative Dick Armey (R-TX) sent a letter to the National Endowment for the Arts, signed by more than a hundred members of Congress, decrying NEA support for Mapplethorpe’s retrospective “The Perfect Moment,” then

  • Art & Queer Culture

    IN THIS AMBITIOUS SURVEY, editors Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer tell a story of increasing visibility for every permutation of homosexuality in visual art, making a case for the importance of queer culture in art history. Queerness contains multitudes, of course, and doesn’t describe a single art movement or style. So Lord and Meyer trace “cultural practices that oppose normative heterosexuality” through a diverse roster of artists, exploring how they’ve responded to the strictures of gender and to alternative forms of sexuality over the past 125 years.

    Meyer’s opening essay lays out a

  • Like a Thief’s Dream

    Photographer Danny Lyon has spent much of his career documenting the overlooked and underreported, be it an outlaw motorcycle gang (The Bikeriders [1968]) or the nineteenth-century buildings demolished to make way for the World Trade Center (The Destruction of Lower Manhattan [2005]). In 1967, his quest to photograph society’s outsiders took him to the Texas Department of Corrections. There, Lyon knew he would find a subject most people had never seen. (It would be four more years before the tragic Attica uprising brought prison life into public consciousness.) In a facility nicknamed “the