US: Stonewall Changed the Course of Queer History. These Artworks Captured the Aftermath

“Whenever I smell lighter fluid, the memory comes back to me very quickly, of the Stonewall Riot…Because that smell was in the air,” recalls artist and Stonewall veteran Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt in an interview with curator and art historian Jonathan Weinberg. “I associate the whole thing with the police coming there and basically trying to stop us from dancing with each other. Because that was the only place in the world where we could dance slow together.”

In 1969, the same year as the riots, Lanigan-Schmidt reflected on the night that would change his life and LGBTQ+ rights forever in his sculpture Allegory of the Stonewall Riot (Statue of Liberty) Fighting for Drag Queen, Husband and Home. Using humble, kitschy materials like pipe cleaners, glitter, and food coloring, he created a vibrant ode to the riots’ chaos and the courage of, as he terms, “the street kids” who fought against police harassment.

Lanigan-Schmidt’s piece is just one of the over 200 artworks and archival materials collected in a sprawling two-venue exhibition called Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989, which opens today at New York’s Grey Art Gallery and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn, the show surveys the many ways artists and activists engaged with LGBTQ+ politics, questioned the gender binary, depicted same-sex desire, and proudly represented their identities in the twenty years that followed. Read more via them