I have to consider what it meant for Paul Lynde to play the role of Uncle Arthur on the 60’s sitcom Bewitched, no matter what manner he played it in.  Paul Lynde, and by extension Uncle Arthur were in the closet merely as a formality; they were not out simply because no one asked, and no one asked because there was no need to, his inclination was self-evident; a type of technicolored version of don't-ask/don't-tell.  In his personal and professional life, Lynde clearly paid a price for publicly embodying a queer identity; his very public performance of his identity also meant that he had to embody all the homophobic and heteronormative expectations of a queer identity (to be a public queer meant he had to be the Public's Queer, on the public’s terms); this included the girly voice, the flamboyant gestures, and in general an identity completely subsumed by his sexual orientation and simultaneously devoid of all sexuality.  Some would say that he displayed the bravery of a martyr in his performance.  Some others say that it was a radical act: entertainment was going to mock the queer and that mockery was unstoppable, but Paul Lynde destabilized that mockery by taking control of it and publicly embracing it.  Others still say, no matter how Uncle Arthur is interpreted, it was an irreconcilably dark time in queer history.  None of these analyses are wrong, but I cannot say that any ring singularly true.

 

Making and displacing images is how I respond to what I see and hear from the big wide world.  And that is what is at the core of my work, I will engage in some social/narrative tension or fissure that begs my attention (I don't know the how or the why of that spark moment.  Years ago Terri Griffith, while teaching Queer Lit, made an offhand remark about Paul Lynde as center square.  She and I were the only people in the room who could place this reference or his celebrity; that tidbit might have had some spark to it). I pick up the tension or fissure and I carry it.  It will sit very close to me for some time, usually on my shoulder, but occasionally as far away as my hip pocket.  I want to answer the tension fissure, but this does not mean repair it or somehow solve it with idealisms and utopias.  Sometimes my answer is more like shouting "Hey everybody look, look at THIS! oh my god, LOOK at it! A fissure tension!"  Sometime the proper response is to take a step back, evaluate that little crack, then jamb a crowbar in there, and pry that fucker open.  Sometimes I just possition one fissure tension next to another tension fissure.

I have, to date, not made any work about Uncle Arthur or Paul Lynde, and I’m not sure I ever will.  Bewitched holds no interest for me these days, and Uncle Arthur is, to me, mostly a bit of trivia or a footnote.  What I linger on is the unanswerable enigma of identity and representation as it is performed, internalized, and performed again.  I remember Uncle Arthur living in the mirror or behind the walls, emerging unwelcomed from the chaotic and carnivalesque, and then being placed out of sight again; that is all, I don't think of him that often.