My American Dream: Heroes and Villain
Stonewall (after Fred W. McDarrah), 2018 Oil on linen 60 × 40 inches
Stonewall (after Fred W. McDarrah), 2018
Oil on linen 60 × 40 inches

As a married gay man, Stonewall means everything to me and my husband and our lives. We lived during a prophetic time on Christopher Street, albeit in the 90’s, but still when you could capture the essence of the energy of the Stonewall riots in June 1968 just steps away from the Stonewall Inn (now, thanks to Obama, a National Monument!). Especially this image really helped me get through the recent Gay Pride Month in June, 2018 in Trump’s America, but also hopefully resonates to everyone about how a relatively small group of people (and their cohorts in the nation and the generations before them) spoke truth to power and helped to change the world!

Fred McDarrah was a great beatnik NYC photographer who worked at the Village Voice, which was at that time just down the Christopher Street block from the Stonewall Inn, and had witness the first night of the uprising, and went out into the street to take a canonical series of photos of the notorious rebels, many of whom were unknown then and now—the artist Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt is the young man on the right with the striped shirt, and I believe that one of the African American people in the back may be Marsha P. Johnson, who was instrumental in both the uprising and the trans and LGBTQ community. It was fun and inspiring to listen to all the Motown music this group loved, in addition to early “real” disco from the era just after this, when people of all color and backgrounds would dance and commune together. It was my job to try to make the photo come alive again, to turn what was first a news photo into a historical painting that tells the story, but hopefully too transcends into synaesthetic feeling both the rage, but also the joy that brought this loving community to the fray, tired of the subjugation of generations, inspired by the civil rights movements (and the death of Judy Garland the night before!), and unwilling to stand yet another violent and marginalizing moment of police and the mob-owned bar putting them into a paddy wagon for their courage to live as gay (and trans!) people out and not in the shadows. Their active resistance was one of the primary catalysts for the rebellion that had been building for decades that helped to bring about a culture in which my husband and I can be married and accepted, but for all LGBTQ people and “queerness” in general to be powerful, active agents of freedom.