About Time

By Pam Paulson

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal—and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
—Barack Obama

Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Handsome Young Man, Woman), 2010
Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Handsome Young Man, Woman), 2010

Wednesday’s ruling is a step forward for civil rights and civil liberties. The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional, in contrast to Tuesday’s ruling, which took voting rights a step backward. We have come a long way on many fronts, but we still have a long way to go towards real equality.

Kerry James Marshall has focused his career on achieving real equality in the art world. “In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall” goes on display Friday at the National Gallery of Art‘s Tower Gallery and is Marshall’s first solo exhibition in Washington, D.C. This is the first time that the National Gallery has curated and exhibited the work of a living African-American artist.

In a conversation with NGA curator James Meyer, published recently in the Huffington Post, Marshall describes the importance of the show:

When you walk through the museum you don’t have a sense that the variety of different people who made up the nation as a whole have many any real meaningful contributions to the development of this country in the ways that people talk about its greatness. And I think to finally start to bring into a place like the National Gallery somebody who does work like mine that is not always celebratory of American ideals, that has an ambivalent and at times critical relationship to the overall story, to finally start to allow that work to be seen and those narratives to be articulated, starts to fulfill the promises that the idea of the country and the founding documents set out to guide us.

Today, 50 years after the civil rights movement’s heyday, we are at a tipping point. I hope today’s DOMA ruling and Marshall’s exhibition at the National Gallery of Art indicate that we are tipping in the right direction.

Kerry James Marshall, Bang, 1994
Kerry James Marshall, Bang, 1994

For an additional perspective on Marshall’s exhibition, please read Tyler Green’s article here: