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Commentary: The arts play an important role in opening minds

Nancy Kranzberg

The arts heal and allow us to express our inner most desires and feelings. The LGBTQ community is finally coming to the fore and being accepted and melded into the community as a whole. The arts are one of the most driving forces behind this positive move.

I remember well when a movie or play about gay people was shocking. D.H. Lawrence's  novella, "The Fox," was made into a movie and I was entranced. This intriguing movie explores gender roles, sexuality and femininity and Lawrence wrote two other novellas on this subject at the same time, "The Ladybird" and "The Captain's Doll." 

Two recent Tony Award plays, "The Humans" and "Fun Home," deal with issues of sexual orientation.  And we don't have to look too far back to "La Cage Aux Folles" and "A Chorus Line" when being gay was still pretty much of a taboo subject.

Everywhere I look, issues not so loud and clear just a few years ago are on the front burner.

The 2018 Academy Award winner, "A Fantastic Woman," is a poignant drama about loss, prejudice and dignity according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Calvin Wilson. Wilson goes on to say, "Marina and Orlando make a striking couple. She's a club singer who somehow manages to make a song about newspapers sound sexy. He's a significantly older executive but with a vaguely scholarly air. Yet the very contrast between them contributes to the impression that they were meant to be together. And it seems to matter not one bit that Marina is transgender. The director creates a complex portrait of a transgender woman who thought she had found her place in the world, only to find her sense of self called into question."

When "Orange is the New Black" actress and LGBTQ advocate Laverne Cox brought her "Ain't I a Woman" lecture to Webster University, she gave insight into what makes her a trailblazer. Cox is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a primetime Emmy Award for acting, the first with a wax likeness at Madame Tussauds and the first transgender person to play a transgender character as a series regular on broadcast TV.

"Call Me By Your Name," another 2018 Oscar winner, was a beautiful coming of age film based on a 2007 novel of the same. It's set in Northern Italy and chronicles the romantic relationship between a 17 year-old young man living in Italy and his father's American assistant, Oliver. 

And the Saint Louis Art Museum just purchased an ink jet print by Jess Dugan, a well-known American photographer who engages with issues of gender, sexuality, identity and community. She has been exploring notions of gender ambiguity within formal parameters of color and natural lighting.

The Amazon Prime series "Transparent" has won award after award. The story of the comedy/drama revolves around a Los Angeles family and their lives following the discovery that the person they knew as their father is a transgender woman.

Let's continue to have our hearts and minds open to the rich diversity the arts offer us in many different shapes and forms.

  Nancy Kranzberg has served on numerous arts related boards for more than thirty years.

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