Visit the district office of State Senator Brad Hoylman and you’ll find a painting by SVA Residencies alum George Towne of former Congressman Barney Frank! Barney Frank was the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as gay; Brad Hoylman married filmmaker David Sigal in 2013.
(l-r) State Sen. Brad Hoylman with Leslie Lohman Director Hunter O’Hanian (Images courtesy of George Towne)
The loan was facilitated by the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, of which the painting is a part of the permanent collection. George shares some background on the portrait. He writes:
“Back in 2002, I was getting ready for for my first one-person show, which was in New York at the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. It had several portraits of gay men who were ‘out’ in varying professions. Some were ‘heroes’ like 9-11 responders, and James Dale, the Eagle Scout who went to the Supreme Court over the Boy Scouts of America’s policies. I went to Provincetown the summer before the show and just happened to meet Barney Frank. I asked him if he’d pose for photos for a painting and over time, through his secretaries in Boston, then DC, he agreed. He came to the opening and after-party back in Fall 2002, which was the first time he had ever visited the NY Gay Center.”
I also asked Senator Hoylman to share some thoughts about the painting. His answers are in quotes below:
How did you first discover the painting of Barney Frank?
“I learned of it during a tour of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art and was subsequently offered it on a six-month loan. The benefactor apparently wanted it displayed in the office of a public official and I’m glad I fit the bill.”
For you, does the portrait capture particular qualities of Congressman Frank?
“Yes, I think it captures his irascibility. Congressman Frank was an aggressive street-fighter of sorts and that comes through, too. It appears almost as if he’s returning from a hard day’s battle from Capitol Hill.”
What does it mean to you to exhibit art in your office, as opposed to your home?
“I’m excited for constituents to view it. We recently gave out free flu shots to over 100 people in my office and the portrait really engaged them and raised a lot of interesting questions and comments. It’s also inspiring for my staff and me to work in the presence of such an historic LGBT public figure.”
It’s already rare for a painting to get exhibited in public spaces. It’s more rare for a painting to arrive in a place where public policy is shaped. Hopefully, George’s painting will feel right at home.