BIDDEFORD – Kymara Lonergan greets a first-time visitor at the door of her gallery at North Dam Mill and warns, “There are some racy things in here.”
She’s telling the truth.
For the next several months, the Kymara Gallery in Biddeford is working in partnership with the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art to present the exhibition “Two Loves — Sex, Art and Love that Dares Not Speak Its Name.”
This is certainly not an exhibition for those quick to blush. The walls are covered with images of naked men and half-dressed women, some engaged in various acts that might be deemed pornographic by some.
“It’s not gay porn. Not at all. If I put this in the Met, it would never be considered gay porn. It’s art. These are all famous artists with documented track records. All of this is art that is legitimate,” said Lonergan, who sits on the board of directors of the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York.
The art in this show comes from the museum’s permanent collection. It includes original silksceens by Andy Warhol, prints by Robert Indiana, an etching by Paul Cadmus, who is best known for his nude males, and photographs by Charles Gatewood.
There is also work by a tier of lesser-known artists who have been big players in the LGBT culture over the decades, including street artist Keith Haring and Maine native Robert W. Richards.
Lonergan included Haring in the show because of the preponderance of street art in Portland, and she wants Richards to get exposure in his home state.
Richards was born in Sanford, lives in New York, and is on the board of trustees of the Leslie-Lohman museum. He made his name as a mainstream fashion illustrator and has gravitated into the world of gay art, Lonergan said.
The goal of this show is not to shock (though that certainly may be an unintended effect) but to educate visitors about the legacy of the LGBT artistic community and its influence on the mainstream art world.
“I wanted people to see a cross-section of history of art that is attributed to the LGBT community over the years. This is not a new phenomenon,” Lonergan said.
To make her point, Lonergan includes work dating to the 1600s that could be interpreted as gay art, as well as work from the early 1900s when the gay lifestyle was closeted. Some of the work is not overtly gay or sexual in nature — images of two men standing on a porch, a man in swim trunks at the beach, a beautifully executed oil painting by Robert Bliss of a reclining man in his underwear.
There are also photos of famous gay people, including Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.
“I don’t want people to think it’s all about sexual imagery. It’s about technique and history,” Lonergan said.
But many images are explicit, including Warhol’s “Sex Parts” series. These are original silk screen prints of male sex parts. Soup cans they are not.
To add historical context, Lonergan covers many of the gallery walls in tin foil to suggest a replication of Warhol’s Silver Factory, the site of the artist’s famous parties. He covered his walls in tin foil and released silver balloons to drift to the ceilings.
Explicitness has long been a part of the gay-art movement. Artists made extreme works as a political statement.
That is less the case these days, and this show represents aspects of the gay-art movement, Lonergan says.
The show has been open a little more than a week, and will remain on view through Jan. 31. Lonergan welcomes any and all visitors, and hopes that people come to the gallery with an open mind.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: