The Queer Latinx Art That's Not On Display at LA Plaza De Cultura y Artes Raises Controversy

There is empty wall space amid the “Mirame! Expressions of Queer Latinx Art” currently on exhibit at the LA Plaza De Cultura y Artes. That space bears only the artist’s name — Dorian Wood — and, surrounding that section, artists in the show have contributed work that speaks to the issue of censorship.

The exhibit’s curator, Erendina Delgadillo, chose to acknowledge Wood even if it was only by name. While the exhibit and the work by other talented LGBTQ Latinx artists is well worth visiting, the controversy surrounding what is viewed as “censorship” shouts loudly. Ironically, it’s the work not on display than appears to be getting more attention that the work exhibited.

Some have noted concern that this controversy has overshadowed the work of other notable artists and Wood himself said that while there was a suggestion to boycott this exhibit, he supported the work of the other artists and wouldn’t go forward with such a venture.

A group show, the other artists supported Wood and suggestions to install a privacy screen and have a disclaimer at the museum entrance were also rejected. 

“Yet another instance in which some stuffy institution tried to silence my queer brown ass. I’m reluctant to call for a boycott; there are works in the exhibition by other queer artists whom I love and admire and who definitely deserve attention….but I still have to call out LA Plaza on its blatant censorship,” Wood wrote in posts on his Facebook page.

The work submitted by Wood that was deemed not appropriate for the museum has evoked new important discussion about the growing pains LA Plaza Cultura de Artes has wrestled with and begs the questions: “Who should this museum be for and what should this museum be?” “What and whose kind of art is ‘appropriate?’”

Isn’t art supposed to push the envelope? Shouldn’t LGBTQ artists and all artists be allowed to self-define their work and their community?

The objection to Wood’s art submission was because it illustrated penises in various forms in a style that was considered inappropriate and too graphic for the sensibilities of the LA Plaza De Cultura y Artes board of directors.

But for Wood, it was a clear matter of censorship.

“I had been invited to present my visual works, and after they had been approved by the curators and committee, the CEO halted the installation, saying that he had an issue with the depiction of penises. I was put in a position of having to defend my work to yet another heterosexual businessman, and ultimately, after several pointless offers of compromise from my part, he refused to display any of my works at all,” Wood wrote.

In response, CEO John Echeveste wrote in a text message to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol:

“Just as Dorian’s works are not appropriate for publication in this newspaper, we determined that they were not appropriate for the museum. We have much respect for his work and offered him the opportunity to display other works. He said he was not surprised by our decision and chose not to submit other works. The decision was made independently by myself and board members both queer and straight.”

Wood took exception to Echeveste’s explanation, and said, “John Echeveste’s claims that I did not offer alternate works is completely false. I submitted other works for consideration through the curator Erendina Delgadillo — works that did not contain sexual images or penises — and he rejected those as well. Further, in our communications, he refused to deem his decision as censorship, which is far from the respect he claims to have for me or my work.”

Echeveste opted not to further engage in a back and forth comments, and Wood also declined further comment to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol.

Utilizing his own social media, Wood did made a plea:

“To queer artists everywhere: let’s stop devoting so much energy to gaining acceptance from institutions that will never truly appreciate our beauty and histories. Let’s stop being that little gay box they check off so they can seem charitable and open-minded. We are a worldwide community of millions, and we are capable of creating institutions that can showcase us with proper dignity and elegance.

“At the same time, let us embrace our allies who DO wholeheartedly believe in who we are and acknowledge that our trajectories are rough/graphic/sexual/violent/polyamorous and must NEVER be sanitized.”

LA Plaza Cultura y Artes presents “¡Mírame! Expressions of Queer Latinx Art,” an exhibition exploring issues of identity in the LGBTQ Latinx community. It is on view from through Dec. 9. The works of Latinx LGBTQ artists, including Laura Aguilar, Ben Cuevas, Xandra Ibarra, Alma Lopez, Dalila Mendez, Yosimar Reyes, Julio Salgado, Hector Silva, and Joey Terrill are currently on display. The plaza is located at 501 N. Main St., in Los Angeles. For more information, call (213) 542-6200.