Presidential Handshake
Presidential Handshake

1983

Signed and dated, l.r.

Offset print of photomontage

11 x 8.5 inches

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The 1980s saw unprecedented attacks on the civil liberties of homosexuals and PWA’s from the religious right. Calls to quarantine PWA’s, Reagan’s silence on AIDS, and the Helms-led offensive of the NEA all escalated under a propaganda machine of intolerance and disinformation. In contrast, queer nightclubs, activists, and artists united in an effort to raise awareness of the absurdity of the claims being leveled against them. This clash of lifestyles offered rich material for the art of the period.

Reagan was always an easy target for ridicule due to his administration’s profoundly inhumane policies. This piece by Anita Steckel is overtly political on many levels. Framed in the era by a backlash to years of civil rights protests on one end and AIDS on the other, it addresses fascism, homosexuality, and militarism. Both Reagan and Hitler were proponents of extreme conservatism, both spent heavily on the military industrial complex, and each in their own way were architects in the mass death of sexual minorities.

G.E.

Work by Anita Steckel