Maximus to Aquarius: Gerrit Lansing and Set Magazine

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Jun 7 @ 10:00 am - Jun 13 @ 5:00 pm

80 Hesperus Ave
Gloucester, MA


Jun 7 @ 10:00 am
Jun 13 @ 5:00 pm
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Hammond Castle
80 Hesperus Ave
Gloucester, MA 01930 United States
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Gerrit Yates Lansing (b.1928-d.2018) first came to Gloucester in the late 1950s as one of the many friends of John Hays Hammond Jr.’s late-life companion, the artist Harry Martin. Educated at Columbia and Harvard Universities, a contemporary of Frank O’Hara and Alan Ginsburg, Lansing was a serious scholar and poet, yet no less, and perhaps—as a result of his intellectualism—even moreso interested in the avante-garde and esoteric than other members of Martin’s bohemian circle of friends. After a brief stint living in Hammond Castle Museum—during which Hammond and Lansing bonded over their esoteric and literary interests–Lansing settled in the city for several years, meeting his partner of 35 years, the sailor Deryk Burton, at The Studio, a gay bar on Gloucester’s Rocky Neck, and opening an Occult bookstore, Abraxis, on Main Street.

Hammond, Martin, Lansing, Burton, and a fifth friend, a local gay man named Paul Oakley, comprised a private literary circle that met weekly in the Museum’s Side Chapel. The members called their fraternity Les Cinq, and would share and critique each other’s compositions. But Lansing’s most significant output during this period was the occult literary magazine Set. Published in two issues between 1961 and 1963, and believed to have been in part funded by John Hays Hammond Jr., Set combines many of Lansing’s scholarly and artistic fascinations and features contributions from numerous significant American poets, many of them either themselves gay or often analyzed through a Queer scholarly framework, including Charles Olson and Johnathan Weiners, as well as several writings by the Occultist Aleister Crowley. 

This mini-exhibit focuses on the contents of Set magazine, and the circle of remarkable Queer writers and artists that contributed to its production. It also features the first public display of a unique version of  Abbadia Mare, a poem written by Lansing in the Museum’s guest book in 1959, illuminated by Martin and personally dedicated to Hammond. Through these materials, visitors will understand the cutting edge of Gloucester’s literary arts scene in the 1960s and get a sense of how Hammond—in the final years of his life—continued to support the next generation of Queer young people who shared his interests.