1930S Containment: Identity By State Dictate

Daniel Hurewitz

in Bohemian Los Angeles

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780520249257
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520941694 | DOI:
1930S Containment: Identity By State Dictate

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While Edendale’s arts community focused on sustaining independent artistic expression, the involvement of the federal government politicized art-making dramatically and narrowed the range of acceptable art. Although the Federal Art Project set out to support creative aesthetic explorations, it pushed for artists to create art in a manner that would speak in a language which was directed to the people and comprehensible to them. This coercion on the part of the federal government restrained the experimentation of the artists of Edendale. The earlier questions on the modes of expression and unique artistic vision were drowned out by the demands of the subject matter. The project directors instead pushed artists to create work and art that the public wanted. This chapter discusses the federal government’s move to limit the intimate expression of artists, particularly the local government’s control of the intimate sexual lives of the city’s residents. It discusses the emergence of a new political culture that framed homosexuality and homosexual desires as a dangerous and disturbing essence or identity. The new political culture also marked sexual deviance and gendered behavior as synonymous with the threats of moralistic fervor and Communism. It resulted in legal sanctions, arrests, imprisonments, and institutionalization—all designed to transform the meaning of homosexual desires and activity.

Keywords: politicized art-making; Federal Art Project; homosexuality; sexual deviance; gendered behavior; recall; Frank Shaw

Chapter.  13541 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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