Queering Public Spaces

Glitter Dick’s aesthetic causes kerfuffle at University of New Mexico


Glitter DickAs rock and roll bands go, Glitter Dick’s pretty apolitical. It’s all about sleaze, dirty licks and pleasure. But when the band’s flyer was banned by UNM, vocalist Kendal Killjoy was shocked.

Granted, the flyer was borderline pornographic. But that’s the thing about pornography: It’s hard to define. What makes something art, erotica or smut? Judging work on aesthetic and artistic “merit” couldn’t be a more relative or fallible premise. Bad taste isn’t quantifiable.

The hubbub about the flyer stemmed from a letter that UNM Student Michael Hernandez wrote to the Daily Lobo. The band had re-appropriated Tom of Finland’s art work—highly caricatured, beefy, homoerotic studs—and Hernandez wrote that the image caused him to lose his appetite. He likened his experience seeing it to sexual harassment.

When KRQE broadcast coverage of the flyer ban, they censored the phallic portion of the drawing. I expected that. But I was surprised to see the word “Dick” in the band’s moniker blurred out as well. I wonder how Dick Knipfing felt about that. The delineation of vulgarity is so vague.

Based on the meaning of the word “tasteless,” the administration was either describing the flyer as lacking flavor (which is unlikely) or lacking aesthetic judgment regarding appropriate behavior. As the art depicted homosexuality, any suggestion of inappropriate behavior is troublesome.

After Glitter Dick’s flyer was removed, the band created a new poster that didn’t mention their album release party. Instead of a promotion, it was a protest. The new poster featured Tom of Finland’s art, along with that of Robert Mapplethorpe, Diane Arbus, Michelangelo, Alice Neel and Pablo Picasso. Copies around campus were taken down as well, but the administration had nothing to do with the removal.

Whether homosexual identities and lifestyles can be depicted in authentic (rather than sanctimoniously sanitized) ways on campus is still a concern. Can those depictions withstand the watch-dogging of turned-off students? This incident certainly raises questions about the definitions of public spaces and safe spaces.