Detail of “Madrid,” 1988

Detail of “Madrid,” 1988, from artist Dona McAdams’s “Some Women” collection. McAdams is currently exhibiting at Helen Day Art Center in Stowe.

The Vermont Humanities Council released a video conversation between John Killacky and Dona Ann McAdams about the current Helen Day Art Center exhibit featuring McAdams photography.

In the video, titled “Culture Wars,” the two discuss the culture wars of the 1960s and artists such as David Wojnarowicz, Karen Finley and Ron Athey who “served as lightning rods for outrage over the appropriateness of their receiving support from the National Endowment for the Arts.”

The current Helen Day exhibit is “Dona Ann McAdams: Performative Acts” and features photos she shot over nearly 50 years.

They feature political activism, rural life, theater performance and altered portraits of people with mental illness.

“A lot of my work has revolved around struggle and how I can be a part of that,” she told the Stowe Reporter in July. “My street photography became less important to me and I started wanting to have more of a relationship with my subject.”

Unlike a journalist or other documentarian, she dove into the moments and movements she was there to shoot. Her work doesn’t record something, but shapes it.

“It’s not just about me going over there and going boom, boom, boom, boom,” she said. “It’s about going there and maybe taking photos that I might not have otherwise.”

Killacky also wrote about McAdams in this paper, saying he “got to know McAdms personally when we became ensnarled in the culture wars in the 1990s.”

“She also adroitly captured the queer liberation and AIDS activism of that time, documenting the urgency of ACT UP actions and LGBT military members marching in solidarity against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ directives,” Killacky wrote.

“This agitprop sensibility continued throughout her storied career as she documented anti-nuclear, pro-choice, war protest and feminist rallies. More recently, she photographed an anti-Trump protest in Washington, D.C., and transgender Vermont gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist marching in a Pride parade.”

For more information: vermonthumanities.org/fw2021-culture-wars and bit.ly/37otuSD.

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