Vital Signs

Washington in Drag

After Harold Washington died,black leaders in Chicago almost immediately began the process of deification. Buttons started to appear, reading: "Hi God, How's Harold?"

The way I saw it, to make a god out of Harold Washington was sacrilegious. Then this ridiculous poster came out. It shows the Chicago skyline with Jesus on one side and Washington on the other, on the same level with ]esus. Jesus looks sad, but Harold is beaming down upon the city. The title of the poster is: "Worry Ye Not."

It was all a bit much, thought David Nelson, graduate student at the Art Institute of Chicago. Being an artist with a sense of the absurd. Nelson was able to act on his iconoclastic impulse. When the Art Institute held its annual juried competition of student artwork. Nelson's paintings included a depiction of Harold Washington in women's underwear (which he was rumored to be wearing when he was taken to the hospital). The title was "Mirth and Girth."

Inasmuch as the exhibition was not open to the public during the jurying period, after which the paintings would be removed. Nelson never expected a citywide ruckus. But no sooner had he begun to hang his paintings than a black school secretary approached him, demanding: "Who gave you the right to hang this painting?" Nelson made a perfunctory reply, while continuing to hang his paintings. The secretary hurried...

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