The Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia Conversation Series

Previous Programs

Sexuality and the Harlem Renaissance

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

In recognition of Pride Month, this conversation with Professors Jacoby Carter and Benjamin Kahan will explore sexuality during the Harlem Renaissance. This program will touch upon the radicalized art of the Harlem Renaissance, its fluid expressions of gender and sexuality and the lives and philosophies of figures such as Alice Dunbar Nelson and Alain Locke. Moderated by a Portrait Gallery historian, this program is hosted by PORTAL, the museum’s Scholarly Center, and is part of the Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia Conversation Series in LGBTQ+ Portraiture.

Understanding Sylvia Rivera

Tuesday, Sept. 13 | Online via Zoom

Historians Julio Capó, Jr., author of “Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940” (2017), and Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, author of “Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance” (2021), discussed Latinx transgender activist Sylvia Rivera.  Although a veteran of the Stonewall Riot, a turning point in the modern LGBTQ+ struggle for equal rights, Rivera fought to be included in the Pride marches that followed. This conversation celebrated her accomplishments while documenting the exclusion she faced and challenging the myths surrounding her life and work.

Moderated by Portrait Gallery historian Mindy Farmer

Queering Women’s Suffrage in the United States

Tuesday, Aug. 30 | Online via Zoom

PORTAL presented a conversation with scholars Anya Jabour, Regents Professor of History at the University of Montana, and Wendy L. Rouse, Associate Professor of History at San José State University. Jabor is the author of “Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women's Activism in Modern America” (2019), and Rouse recently published “Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement” (2022). Moderated by Kate Clarke Lemay, acting senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery, this conversation explored how queer history intersects with that of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. 

drawing of a woman lying on her side

Art Afterwords: A Book Discussion

Tuesday, Aug. 9 

The National Portrait Gallery, the DC Public Library, and special guest Riva Lehrer engaged in a virtual conversation about intimacy and isolation using Analyze a portrait by Lehrer from the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, and now on view in “The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today.” A discussion was held about the related book “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado.

Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age: A Conversation with Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus

Tuesday, July 26 | Online via Zoom

PORTAL hosted a conversation with artist Harry James Hanson and writer Devin Antheus, the authors of the genre-bending photography book "Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age." This event will charted the history of drag from the margins of society to the mainstream, celebrate the lives behind the images, and explore the techniques and unique floral designs behind the portraits.

In Celebration of Pride: A Conversation with Riva Lehrer and Achy Obejas

Friday, June 17, 2022

PORTAL, presented a dialogue between artist and educator Riva Lehrer and the subject of her piece in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, Cuban American writer Achy Obejas. As a part of the Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia Conversation Series in LGBTQ+ Portraiture, this event explored themes related to queer identity and disability. Moderated by Taína Caragol, curator of painting, sculpture, and Latinx art and history at the National Portrait Gallery, the conversation examined Lehrer’s method for creating Obejas’ portrait and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

ImageRisk Picture: Achy Obejas by Riva Lehrer / Charcoal, paper, thread, glass, fluorite, wire, and other media, 2020 / Lent by the artist and Zolla Lieberman Gallery


“We Starve Ourselves and Each Other”: Hunger and Lesbian Self-Fashioning in 1970s America

Tuesday, June 8 | Online via Zoom
Closed captioning provided

Presented by Katie Anania, assistant professor of art history, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Katherine Ott, curator and historian in the Division of Medicine and Science at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, moderators of the Q & A.

“Is death by famine worse than death by suicide?” asked the poet Adrienne Rich in “Hunger,” her 1974 poem to Audre Lorde. The themes of hunger and starvation show up frequently in cross-racial second-wave queer feminist art and literature. This talk, therefore, explores the role of hunger and hunger strikes in 1970s activist communities in the United States, with a particular focus on lesbian poets and artists. Rich, who wrote about the five-year-long  grape strike in Delano, California, which included hunger strikes, was a fierce advocate for the right of farm workers to assert power using their bodies. As Rich, Lorde, and others in their circle reflected on the shared experience of hunger, both within and beyond the body, they fashioned it as a critical component of lesbian longing as well as an urgent political problem.


Fit for a Queen: Perkins Harnly, Victorian Style, and Queer Identity in Midcentury America

Tuesday, April 6 | Online via Zoom
Presented by Sarah Burns, Ruth N. Halls Professor Emerita, Art History, Indiana University 

Born on a hardscrabble Nebraska farm, artist Perkins Harnly crossed paths with legendary celebrities and colorful characters while visiting famous graveyards, winning prizes at drag balls and toiling in an upscale Los Angeles cafeteria. From the 1930s on, Harnly produced paintings of exuberantly overstuffed Victorian rooms embedded with sly jokes alluding to his own queer selfhood. Looking through the lenses of Harnly’s life and art, this talk considered the role of the Victorian interior as metaphorical closet that served as a refuge from the judgment and dangers of the outside world. 

Eduardo Ardiles, founder of the Philadelphia-based architectural and interior design firm, Studio Edo, moderated the Q & A.


Antonius-Tín Bui and David Antonio Cruz in Conversation with Taína Caragol

Tuesday, Jan. 12 | 5 p.m.| Online Via Zoom

National Portrait Gallery curator Taína Caragol joined in conversation with David Antonio Cruz and Antonius-Tín Bui about portraiture as a platform to represent and honor LGBTQ+ communities of color. Both artists use portraiture and performance to explore the connections between queerness, their personal diasporic stories, and the communities that ground them. 

Cruz and Bui were finalists of the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, and their work is now on view in the traveling exhibition "The Outwin: American Portraiture Today" at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts of the Springfield Museums, Massachusetts. The competition and exhibition are made possible through generous support from the Virginia Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Endowment.

two headshots of two men--one African American on white
Lonnie G. Bunch III and John W. McCarter Jr.


Queer Art and Controversy at the Smithsonian: A Conversation with Lonnie G. Bunch III and John W. McCarter Jr.

Tuesday, Aug. 4, 5:00 p.m | Online via Zoom

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and former Smithsonian Regent John W. McCarter Jr. discussed the censorship of a video by David Wojnarowicz in the National Portrait Gallery’s 2010 exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.”


Hide/Seek: Portraits for LGBTQ+ Pride Month

June 23, 2020 | Online via Zoom

NPG’s Senior Historian Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw and co-curators Jonathan Katz and David Ward for a discussion of the landmark exhibition "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" (2010). When Hide/Seek premiered ten years ago, it became the first major museum show to take on the issue of LGBTQ+ subjectivity in portraiture.