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Justin Eagles, "Blood Mirror" (2015). Human blood preserved in plexiglass, UV resin, 82x28x28 inches. Installation view, Trinity Church, New York City. Photo by Ian Smith.

Jordan Eagles's "Blood Mirror" sculpture is a ravishing minimalist cube infused with political content. The mirrored object is created in part from the blood of nine gay men as a comment on the FDA ban on blood donation from non-celibate gay men. Visual AIDS intern Maia Paroginog and programs manager Alex Fialho met with Jordan to discuss the sculpture in Manhattan's Trinity Church, where "Blood Mirror" is on view through December 1. Below is a transcribed portion of the interview.

The NYC opening event at Trinity Church included an insightful panel with Rev. Winnie Varghese; Rev. John Moody; Kelsey Louie, CEO of GMHC; Eric Sawyer, UNAIDS civil society partnership advisor; and Ryan L. Campbell, visual arts committee chairperson and curator. Footage from the event can be viewed here. A panel from the affiliated exhibition, Blood Mirror, at American University Museum at the Kaizen Arts Center in Washington, DC, can be viewed here.

Maia Paroginog: Can you give me a background of your artistic practice and what sort of mediums and materials have built up to this work?
I've been working with blood for over 15 years. All the blood in my bodies of work have been sourced from slaughterhouses until now. "Blood Mirror" is the first project that involves human blood. Some themes for the previous bodies of work have been spirituality, mortality, preservation, decomposition; body and spirit relationships with a major focus on process and material.

Paroginog: What was the process behind "Blood Mirror" and how did you find donors?
The process was multi-tiered. The first step was investigating the issue more and learning about how I felt about it and how other people felt about it. I wondered if there would be any usefulness in discussing (these issues) through art. Art opens up conversation in a different way than politics. It doesn't necessarily have to be right but it serves as a platform to begin a conversation. I spent a year having conversations with people. If I did this, how would I do it? And would it serve a purpose? The next step was finding my creative collaborators on the project. And that involved Leo Herrera, the filmmaker, The Carry Nation, who was going to do the musical score for the video, and Jonny Cota of SKINGRAFT, who collaborated on "Blood Flag." I had a medical team do the blood drawings safely, and that was Howard Grossman, MD, and his phlebotomist Wayne Burns. And then it was finding particular donors. In the studio I had a chart of different individuals, who, if I could find them, represented certain nuances within the FDA policy that were flawed. For example, an identical twin whose brother is straight. They have the same DNA, but one could give and the other couldn't. We had identical twins, a gay priest / spiritual leader, someone from Africa, a gay father.

Paroginog: You had someone from the armed forces?
Right, we wanted someone in the project who could die for their country but couldn't share their blood to save lives.

Paroginog: Commenting on whose blood is worth more on the battlefield...
CPT Anthony Woods is a stand-up individual. He's a Harvard graduate, and delivered the commencement address. He served two tours of duty in Iraq and brought all his men back safely. He ran for Congress and was an Obama Fellow; an American hero. But that's not to say he's a more qualified as a blood donor than say someone who is unemployed and doesn't have an ivy league degree. Blood is not made up of these kind of credentials, but it was great to have such a unique and strong voice involved in the project to show how discriminatory and wrong the policy is.

Paroginog You're trying to say this issue impacts everyone.
Yeah, he can die in battle but he can't share his blood to save lives. Most people would probably agree that he's a stand-up citizen, but he's still disqualified from giving blood--and he is married. The screening form for blood donation just isn't appropriate. We have a trans man in the project, Loren Rice, who is married to another trans man, Ethan Rice. We knew we wanted someone from the trans community involved in our work. I met with a lawyer at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and he said it would be impactful to have a trans man because it raises different types of questions about the wording on the FDA's screening form. I think it took a total of 40 people to introduce me to the eventual nine blood donors.

Paroginog: It was a whole network.
It was awesome. The spirit of the art is about people, it's about sharing. It's about getting more people involved to build the energy of the piece and momentum on the issue.

Paroginog: And your process reflects that. The visual element that is most striking about your piece is that people can see themselves in the surface. What was going through your mind as you assembled "Blood Mirror"? What reactions were you trying to evoke through that design?
I wanted to make a work that didn't reflect the human hand too much. There's a lot I can do to manipulate blood and create certain patterns and textures. Or mixing it with metal or gauze, which I have done before. But I wanted this to be minimal, sculptural, and incomplete, in the sense that more blood could be added to it over time. It had to be constructed to accommodate that possibility. I wanted Blood Mirror to have a feeling of strength. But also to have a somber and introspective tone. There's a relationship to AIDS when you discuss the ban on gay blood. I wanted it to feel like a piece for remembering those who passed from the AIDS epidemic. Yet something that offered hope for equality. I wanted it to be as dark as possible, because when people hear blood the first thing that comes to mind is "red." My Life Force series consists of glowing painting-sculpture hybrid pieces that are very red. I didn't want Blood Mirror to be that. I wanted something where a viewer could interact with it and see themselves in it through the blood of the nine donors. The sculpture itself is part of a larger project. The men, the video and the documentary is all connected to "Blood Mirror."

Paroginog: Could you explain how the terms "life force", "sacred", and "unifying" apply to the piece?
In terms of the word "life force," all the men who donated to this piece could have donated their blood to save lives. This sculpture never should have needed to be created in the first place because the policy should already be fair. In the time the sculpture was created, each of the donors could have given blood yet again. When you start to quantify how many times a year a person can give blood, and then over the course of say a decade--how many individuals, how many lives can one person save? The Williams Institute from UCLA did a study that suggests if the ban was completely lifted, it would add 615,000 pints of blood to the blood supply every year, which translates to one million lives being saved annually. So this issue is multi-layered. We are dealing with inequality. Implementing the one year celibacy revision, adds something close to 300,000 new pints to the blood supply. But the reality of a one year celibacy clause changes the lifetime ban so it enables heterosexual men who might have had a gay experience post 1977. It doesn't actually help all gay men, because how many of us are going to be celibate for a year? It's not designed for gay men.

It's insulting because it shows the government is so terrified of gays that it won't trust sound science. It's also scary because we have a government that doesn't trust sound science. That has other implications.

You asked about the sacred nature of blood... blood is something that has been addressed through religion and spirituality. We talked earlier about Jesus being potentially being the greatest blood donor of all time. There's a large portion of our society that believe in the Eucharist, every Sunday, has a wafer and the wine. They believe that they are taking in the blood of Christ. That belief is is fine. But people have an intense relationship with blood. When you ban people from something that sacred it has larger spiritual implications, which relates to ideas of inequality.

Alex Fialho: Who are all nine donors, and how do they fit into the larger narrative you are trying to tell?
All the donors have a very profound meaning to the project. They all connect. Dr. Larry Mass being an AIDS warrior and Co-founder of GMHC. He was on the front lines back when the epidemic was hitting. And then you fast forward to 2015, and there's Kelsey Louie, the current CEO of GMHC. I think of the sculpture as a documentary sculpture; a time capsule. From 1983 to 2015 and moving forward--two men that were part of the same organization. That's a nice balance.

Kelsey Louie and GMHC have been on the forefront of fighting this issue and Kelsey has been very vocal about it. There's Blue Bayer who identifies as polysexual and is a father of two beautiful little girls. He wouldn't be able to give blood to his own children. We talked about CPT Anthony Woods. Ty Spicha, who has a straight identical twin. Dr. Howard Grossman is the medical supervisor on the project as well as a blood donor. He was one of the first doctors to treat AIDS patients. He's been fighting of our community and gay men's health for over 35 years. There's Oliver Anene who founded an LGBT organization in Nigeria who is now in the US on political asylum. It's dangerous to be there because of the anti-gay laws. In seven countries, people are put to death for being gay. The blood represents a viable brotherhood. The Reverend John Moody, an 89-year old openly gay priest, is the reason the piece is at Trinity Church, as he has been part of the Trinity community for over 40 years. There's Loren Rice who is a transgender man and married to Ethan Rice who is also transgender man. Their relationship proves that any screening form that comes from the FDA that asks for gender is already dealing with this issue incorrectly. You shouldn't be checking a box based on gender, it should be about being an individual.

Fialho: Can you speak to the breadth of the project outside of the individual sculpture?
There are two videos, one of which was commissioned by MSNBC and filmed by Leo Herrera with a musical score by The Carry Nation. It was released on June 11, 2015 which is a few days before World Blood Donor's Day. On May 14, the FDA, issued a 60 day public comment period on their proposed revisions on the one year celibacy. The video served as a public comment from these nine individuals and the creative team. The exhibition video is the raw footage of all the blood drives, interviews, and it's really deep in that you're hearing how these men feel about this issue and how it relates to their unique life perspective. And then you see them give blood. One of the things that I wanted to show is gay men giving blood. It looks like anyone else!

There is a Untitled second sculpture made of all the blood bags, blood collection tubes, medical gear that I had to wear while working with it. That's all preserved. If the FDA is going to treat us like garbage, might as well make a sculpture out it.

There's also the Blood Flag, made of the microscopic image of the red blood cells of all 9 donors and the microscope slide with the merged blood of all 9 men. These works address the patriotism and the nationalism behind blood donation in our country as well as the science behind it.

Fialho: With regards to the potential upcoming December ruling, where are at with the issue and how does this piece relate to that?
When I started the project there was very little public conversation about this issue. It was under the radar. Halfway through the process, we did our very first blood drive, which was a few days before the FDA announced for the first time that it might enact revisions on its current policy. As we stand now, the FDA has not ruled based on the public comment, which closed on July 14. Today is November 20. I anticipate the FDA announces sometime in December, before the new year, about the final ruling, but we will see. Over the past couple months, Argentina has changed its policy and screening process, which does not ban gay and bisexual men. France made a bold step; they are implementing a one year celibacy policy but they acknowledge that it's not perfect. If the science shows at the end of the year that there is no increase in HIV detection in the blood supply, then they'll get rid of the celibacy rule. It's baby steps, but I think their vision is for eventual equality.

Yesterday, Twitter announced that it was canceling all its company blood drives until the policy was fair. The issue has certainly built steam over the past year.

Fialho: Any general thoughts about how art can provoke dialogue around HIV/AIDS?
The ban on gay blood was enacted because of fear around HIV/AIDS, so they're going to be connected forever. This policy perpetuates the stigma that gay men are the only people that carry HIV. It puts the wrong information into society and that has global health implications. In addition to the lives that could be saved if the ban was lifted, it's educating the public about HIV/AIDS in the wrong way. It's the wrong information. Confronting HIV stigma is certainly a huge component of this project.

Jordan Eagles is a New York-based artist who preserves blood primarily sourced from a slaughterhouse. Through his invented process, he encases, layers and suspends the blood. This preservation technique permanently retains the organic material's natural colors, patterns, and textures. When lit, the works often become translucent, cast shadows, and project a glow. The materials and luminosity in these bodies of work relate to themes of corporeality, mortality, spirituality, equality and science.

Maia Paroginog is an intern at Visual AIDS who is entering their final undergraduate year at Stanford with focuses in visual art-making, arts writing, and comparative studies in race and ethnicity. Their work employs several mediums and representations, which range from abstract sculpture to figurative painting. Their artwork and academic interests revolve around bodily dysphoria, queering interpersonal relationships, intersectional feminism, power/privilege, and the abject abstract. They use queer art to interrogate notions of "identity" and are interested in its uses in addressing collective trauma.

Alex Fialho, programs manager at Visual AIDS, has facilitated projects and conversations around both the history and immediacy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, utilizing art to maintain HIV/AIDS visibility, consider its legacy and galvanize contemporary response. He has presented his research on the art of Glenn Ligon and Keith Haring at the College Art Association and New York University's Fales Library. He also curates exhibitions for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council as research and curatorial associate, and is a frequent contributor to Artforum.

Day With(out) Art: Radiant Presence

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Shan Kelley, "With Curators Like These, Who Needs A Cure" (2015)

For this year's Day With(out) Art 2015, Visual AIDS collaborated with 9 influential artists, activists and curators--Bill Arning, Ian Alteveer, Chris Vargas, Rae Lewis-Thornton, Mark S. King, Allen Frame, Maria Mejia, Jack Mackenroth, and Kimberly Drew--to present Radiant Presence.

Radiant Presence is a digital slideshow with images from the Visual AIDS's Artist+ Registry, the largest database of works by artists with HIV/AIDS. Radiant Presence features artwork by artists living with HIV/AIDS and those who are no longer with us. The artwork is interspersed with current statistics and information about HIV/AIDS today.

For the 26th annual Day With(out) Art, Visual AIDS has partnered with art institutions, AIDS-service organizations, and universities for screenings and public programs to highlight Radiant Presence internationally. Visual AIDS has also coordinated large-scale outdoor projections of Radiant Presence in highly visible public locations in New York City, San Francisco and Miami (during Art Basel) for December 1. The Radiant Presence video will premiere on Visual AIDS's website ( on December 1, 2015.

At this point in the AIDS epidemic, over 39 million people have died of AIDS-related causes. The nature of the crisis has changed, however, so that nearly just as many people, 36 million, are living with HIV today. In this context, Radiant Presence showcases the resilience and vitality of Visual AIDS's Artist Members and their artwork, preserving the radiance of those who have passed while provoking dialogue about the needs and experiences of people living with HIV.

Radiant Presence provokes conversations about HIV criminalization and stigma, access to treatment, the shifting demographics of people living with HIV and the disproportionate effect of the epidemic on communities of color and transwomen.

Radiant Presence is inspired by the 25th Anniversary of Electric Blanket, an epic slide show about AIDS created by photographers Nan Goldin, Allen Frame and Frank Franca for Visual AIDS which intersperses the work of over 200 photographers with slide texts that include demographics, data, and slogans about AIDS worldwide. The slide show, initially projected on the façade of Cooper Union on December 1 1990, was later projected on public walls and buildings internationally.

On and around World AIDS Day, December 1, 2015, Radiant Presence will reach thousands of viewers through public screenings, social media and public programs in museums, art institutions, universities, AIDS service organizations and online venues.

Artists featured in the slideshow include: Stephen Andrews, AZT, Jurgen Baldiga, Bizzy Barefoot, Barton Lidice Beneš, Luis Carle, Walt Cessna, Tseng Kwong Chi, Lucretia Crichlow, Darkroom Danny, Chloe Dzubilo, Brent Nicholson Earle, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Benjamin Fredrickson, Tim Greathouse, Max Greenberg, Carlos Gutierrez-Solana, Veritee Reed Hall, John Hanning, W. Benjamin Incerti, Derek Jackson, Shan Kelley, Kia Labeija, Nancer LeMoins, David McDiarmid, Joyce McDonald, Kissa Millar, Mark Morrisroe, Jon Nalley, Ray Navarro, Luna Luis Ortiz, Richard Renaldi, Hunter Reynolds, Juan Rivera, Eric Rhein, Jeffrey Scott, Steed Taylor, Hector Toscano, L. Robert Westeen, Jorge Veras, Bruce Volpone, Albert Winn, Martin Wong, David Wojnarowicz, Lina Yaroslavska

In addition to the slideshow, each curator also produced individual web galleries featuring: Alex Aleixo, Ali, Rob Anderson, Kelvin Atmadibrata, Crawford Barton, Jaiden Benz, Bern Boyle, Vincent Chevalier, Paul Chisholm, Vincent Cianni, Ray Cook, Bruce Cratsley, Joe De Hoyos, Jimmy De Sana, John Douglas, John Dugdale, Steven Dwayne Bryk, Darrel Ellis, Robert Flack, Martin Freeman, Robert Getso, Félix González-Torres, Hervé Guibert, Sunil Gupta, Hannecke Gustavo, Keith Haring, Michael Harwood, horea, Peter Hujar, Leslie Kaliades, John Kelly, Tseng Kwong Chi, John Lathram III, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andrew McPhail, Greg Mitchell, Steve Muench, Kyle Nylund, Rob Ordonez, Jo Ori, Ian Richards, Peter Robinson Jr, Javier Rocabado, Rafael Sánchez, Rene Santos, Tracy Silverberg, Jack Smith, Alex Sparrowhawk, Andrew Spencer, stVincent, Wyatt Tan, Kurt Weston, Daniel Williams, Dirk H. Wilms, Andrew Zealley

Where to view Radiant Presence:
Stay tuned for more information on large-scale public projections of Radiant Presence on building facades in various locations around New York, San Francisco and Miami on December 1.

New York City
Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY), December 5, 8:30-10pm, Screening in conjunction with "LATE NIGHT WITH @VISUAL_AIDS: #GoingViral With Your Activism Through Social Media" event featuring Ted Kerr, Shawn Torres, Rusti Miller-Hill and Jawanza Williams ( website)

Studio Museum (144 West 125th Street), December 13, 3-5pm, Screening followed by artist talk with Kia Labeija and Antwaun Sargent (website)

BRIC (647 Fulton St. Downtown Brooklyn, NY), December 1, 5–7pm, Looping gallery presentation before a peer driven program, "Conversation with Mark Segal and David Carter" (website)

Columbia University School of the Arts (Dodge Hall Lobby, 2960 Broadway, New York, NY, 10027), December 1, Looping video presentation

End AIDS 2020 Coalition (Apollo Theater, 253 W. 125th Street, New York NY 10027), December 1, 10:15am–11:00am, Looping theater presentation (facebook event)

Fashion Institute of Technology (227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001), December 1st, 10am - 6pm, Looping video presentation in cafeteria & select monitors throughout the school

International Center of Photography (1114 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036), Screening for ICP's Community Partnership with Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center

Parsons School of Design (2 West 13th Street, Entrance Lobby, New York, NY 10011), December 1, 8am-12am, Day-long looping video presentation on two street-level monitors

New Museum (235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002), November 28–29, 11am–6pm, Looping Presentation

Queens Museum (New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, NY 11368), December 5, 3-5:30pm, Screening in conjunction with artist talk by Luna Luis Ortiz and Voguing Ball (website) (facebook event)

Amherst, Massachusetts
Hampshire College Library (893 West St. Amherst, MA 01002) December 1st- 10th, Looping video presentation

Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (33 Garden Road, Annandale-on-Hudson NY 12504), December 1, 9:30am–8:00pm, Looping video presentation in the CCS Bard Atrium, with a reading of an excerpt from Gregg Bordowitz's text, "Picture a Coalition", at 10am

Athens, Ohio
Ohio University LGBT Center (354 Baker Center, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701), December 1, Looping presentation and screening of “Rent,” followed by discussion of both films (facebook event)

The Contemporary Austin (Jones Center, 700 Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78701) December 1, 11am–7pm, Looping gallery presentation (website) (facebook event)

Bellingham, Washington
Pickford Film Center (1318 Bay St., Bellingham, WA 98225), December 1, 10am–10pm, Looping video presentation

Limelight Cinema (1416 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham, WA 98229), December 1, 10am–10pm, Looping video presentation

Bloomington, Indiana
Community AIDS Action Group of South Central Indiana (Fountain Square Ballroom, 101 W. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47404), November 30, 5:30pm–6pm, Looping video presentation and hors d'oeuvres reception followed by candlelight remembrance, presentation of the Celia Busch Making a Difference Award and performances by Quarryland Men's Chorus and Ladies First (facebook event)

Indiana University, School of Public and Environmental Affairs (1315 E. Tenth Street, Bloomington, IN), December 3, 7–8:30pm, Screening in conjunction with guest speaker and panel

Buffalo, New York
University of Buffalo, Center for the Arts (Lower Gallery, 103 Center for the Arts, Buffalo, New York 14260), December 1, 7pm–9mp, all-day screening in multiple campus locations in conjunction with a panel discussion (facebook event)

Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvard Art Museums, Lightbox Gallery (32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA; 5th Floor), December 1, 10am–5pm, Looping gallery presentation

School of the Art Institute Chicago (Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State, 7th floor), December 1, 1-6p, Looping gallery presentation (facebook event)

School of the Art Institute Chicago (ExTV: Maclean Cafe and Columbus Building), December 1-9, Looping presentation on campus monitors

Gallery 400 (400 S Peoria St, Chicago, IL 60607), December 1, 10am–6pm, Looping video presentation in a dimmed gallery space, information from anti-stigma group Mr. Friendly (Chicago chapter) and free HIV testing by Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) will be available from 2–5pm

Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave, Chicago, IL), December 1, 9am–5pm, looping video presentation (website)

International Museum of Surgical Science (1524 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60610), December 1, 10am–4pm, Looping gallery presentation

Claremont, California
Pomona College Museum of Art (330 North College Ave. Claremont, CA 91711), December 3, 5–11pm, Looping video presentation during weekly Art After Hours event (facebook event)

Columbus, Ohio
Wexner Center for the Arts (1871 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43210), December 1, 8am–6pm, Looping gallery presentation

Southern Methodist University, Doolin Gallery (6101 Bishop Blvd, Dallas TX, 75275), Dec 1, 10am–5pm, looping gallery presentation.

Davidson, North Carolina
Davidson College (The Alvarez Union, 207 Faculty Drive, Davidson, NC 28035), December 1, Looping presentation in conjunction with other Day With(out) Art events

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture (10242-106 Street Edmonton, AB, Canada), December 1 at 7pm, Looping gallery presentation in conjunction with Clean, Fit and Decease Free, viewable until Jan.16

Fort Worth, Texas
Texas Christian University, Moudy Gallery (2805 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, TX 76129), December 1, 9am–9pm, Looping gallery presentation

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (3200 Darnell St, Fort Worth, TX, 76107) December 1, noon–2 pm, Looping video presentation in auditorium (website)

Greenville, North Carolina
East Carolina University, School of Art and Design (2000 Jenkins Fine Arts Center, Greenville, NC), December 1, 8am–4pm, Looping Gallery Presentation

Harrisonburg, Virginia
James Madison University, Student Center Prism Gallery (800 S Main St, Harrisonburg, VA), November 30 - December 4, 10a-4pm, looping video presentation

Hartford, Connecticut
Real Art Ways (56 Arbor Street, Hartford, CT), December 1, Looping presentation prior to film screenings

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (5216 Montrose Boulevard, Houston, TX), November 28 - December 6, looping video presentation in elevator monitor

Istanbul, Turkey
Space Debris (Hoca Tahsin Sokak, No:15, Floor:1, Karaköy/Beyoğlu; Istanbul, Turkey) December 1, 1-7pm, Looping gallery presentation

Ithaca, New York
Ithaca College LGBT Center (953 Danby Road, Ithaca, NY 14850), Dec 1, 10 am–4 pm, Looping video presentation

Jonesboro, Arkansas
Arkansas State University Jonesboro, Fine Arts Center (2105 Aggie Rd, Jonesboro, AR 72401), December 1, 10am–5pm, Looping video presentation in lobby

Los Angeles
Women's Center for Creative Work (2525 Glover Place, Los Angeles, CA 90031), December 1, 12–5pm, Looping gallery presentation organized by East of Borneo

Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024), December 1, 11am–5pm, looping gallery presentation in the Annex

Loyola Marymount University, Foley Hall Lobby (1 Loyola Marymount University Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90045), December 2–5, Continuous loop concurrent with performance of “All That He Was” (website)

Melbourne, Australia
Doherty Institute (792 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, Australia), December 1, Screening as a part of a day of free public events, Getting to Zero (website)

McGill University, Moving Image Research Laboratory (855 Sherbrooke Street West, Leacock Building, Room B46), December 1, 2pm–4pm, Looping video presentation

Oakland, California
Queer Trans* Youth Treehouse (1684 7th Street, Oakland, CA 94607), December 1, Looping gallery presentation (facebook)

Orange, California
Chapman University (1 University Drive, Orange, CA), December 1, Looping gallery presentation in student union building

Oxford, Ohio
Miami University, Women's Center (210 E Spring St, Oxford, OH), December 1, 9am-6pm, Looping presentation in McGuffey Hall 127

Miami University, McGuffey Hall 322 (210 E Spring St, Oxford, OH), December 1, 7pm, screening before World AIDS Day panel discussion, "HIV/AIDS in Present Day Communities"

Peterborough, Ontario
Artspace (378 Aylmer Street North, Unit 3, Peterborough, ON) December 1, 12-6pm, Looping gallery presentation

The Andy Warhol Museum (117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212), December 1, 10am–5pm, Continuous screening in the museum's theater

Portland, Oregon
Pacific Northwest College of Art (511 NW Broadway, Portland, OR 97209), December 1, Looping video presentation in the Office of Student Life

Providence, Rhode Island
Providence screenings organized by Headmaster

AS220 (115 Empire Street, Providence, RI 02903) December 1, Looping video presentation in Empire Street windows

Aurora Providence (276 Westminster St, Providence, RI 02903) December 1, Looping video projection

Bryant University (1150 Douglas Turnpike, Smithfield, RI 02917) December 1, Looping video presentation in Fisher Student Center

RISD Museum (224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903) December 1, Looping video projection in Spalter New Media Gallery

The Dean Hotel (122 Fountain Street, Providence, RI 02903) December 1, Looping video presentation in lobby

Youth Pride Inc. (743 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903) December 1, Looping video presentation in drop-in center

Putnam, Connecticut
The Empty Spaces Project (114 Main Street, Putnam, CT 06260), December 1, 10am–7pm, Looping gallery presentation (facebook event) (website)

Salt Lake City
Utah Museum of Fine Arts (University of Utah, 410 Campus Center Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84112), December 1, 10am–6pm, Looping presentation in auditorium

San Diego
San Diego State University, Montezuma Hall in the Aztec Student Union (6075 Aztec Cir Dr, San Diego, CA 92182), December 1, 9am–8pm, Looping presentation in conjunction with The AIDS Memorial Quilt display/viewing

UC San Diego (Price Center Ballroom East, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, 92103) 12pm – 9 pm, Looping Presentation in Student Center.

San Francisco
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission St, San Francisco, CA), December 1, 2pm–6pm, Looping presentation in screening room

San Jose, California
The LGBTQ Youth Space (452 S. 1st St., San Jose, CA, USA), December 4, 3–11pm, Looping gallery presentation in conjunction with the South First Friday's Art Walk and HIV/AIDS Safer Sex Workshop for teens and young adults ages 13-25 (website)

University Prep (8000 25th Avenue NE, Seattle WA 98115), December 4, 11am, 2pm, Screenings in conjunction with visual arts course "Art & Social Change"

St. Louis, Missouri
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108), December 4, 7pm, Screening on the mezzanine during First Friday.

Sioux City, Iowa
Morningside College (1501 Morningside Ave, Sioux City, IA 51106), December 1, 6 pm, Looping presentation in Lincoln Center, UPS Auditorium.

The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), November 28, 11am, Screening in conjunction with the Women's Forum for Volunteers and Community Members

Victoria, British Columbia
Vancouver Island PWA Society (1139 Yates St., Victoria B.C.), December 1, 7pm, Screening in conjunction with peer-driven program, "We Are Hear, Busting Stigma Through Story Telling"

Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (2200 Parks Avenue, Virginia Beach, VA 23451), December 1, 10am–9pm, Looping presentation in MOCA's Price Auditorium

Wilton Manors, Florida
World AIDS Museum and Educational Center (1201 N E 26th St. Suite 111 Wilton Manors, FL. 33305), Dec. 1, 10am to 10pm, Looping Gallery Presentation

'Life doesn't stop for me; life doesn't stop for anybody.'

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Wyatt Tan, "Carved by Time"

Wyatt Tan finds the beauty in decay. He works in a number of mediums, including photography, drawing and pop-up "installations." His photography explores the beauty of aging, the richness of the lived experience, and finding joy in spontaneous moments. Tan was accompanied by his husband, Mark Nomadiou, when he spoke with Visual AIDS intern Maia Paroginog about artistic integrity, resilience, and embracing all the strange turns in one's life.

Follow Wyatt on Instagram and see his work on his website.

Wyatt, can you give me an overview of your artistic background and practice?
Wyatt Tan: I pick up whatever material is given to me, having limited resources, I make something out of it.

I was never really trained as an artist until I got a scholarship, came to the States, and pursued somewhat of an artistic program at Parson's. Although it was more of a writing than a design aspect, I was seeing and appreciating visual shapes and colors. That's also where I met my husband, Mark, who inspired me to sketch. So I thought, "Wow, I can do this even though I don't know how to draw."

My last show was part of the Open Studios at Peekskill Westchester. I pulled miracles out of no budget and no resources because I was asked to use an old restaurant, which was in shambles. They asked me to utilize that space to create a pop-up gallery.

I used scaffolding and beams and made something out of it. I thought it was brilliant. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I used a space that was deemed a liability. And I always deliver on my promises.

What did the restaurant look like when you were done with it?
Tan: It looked like a steam punk-y, industrial carpenter's workstation, kind of like Frankenstein's lab. There were old candlelight fixtures, an installation out of paella pots, a Buddha I carved out of flatware, and an old stepladder to create a shrine. We pulled off some amazing stuff. We used a lot of found objects. The restaurant itself is a historical building from the mid-1700s. The wood is beautiful and they wanted me celebrate that space.

Mark Nomadiou: Wyatt created a space that was nostalgic. People thought, "wow I remember that!" Wyatt had used so much of the material from the building, like, the cash register.

Tan: There were objects that were heartbreakingly beautiful. This woman came up to me and told me, "I remember this cash register. I came here to eat and I remember that cash register specifically the day before I gave birth to my daughter." She was in tears.

Nomadiou: Wyatt was really creating community around this pop-up space. This was something Wyatt had never really done before. It was very effective, what he did. In terms of creativity, it's like who and what are you producing for? Your work can be hijacked. It inhibits your ability to create, because it's hard to proceed if you're being told what to do.

Tan: There was a functionality to it, me using that space. Some people definitely saw it as a piece of art.

That work you did with the restaurant really speaks to your Visual AIDS artist's statement. You talk about decay and aging. Can you elaborate on this?
Tan: I've always had a fascination with the grotesque. I see beauty in it. I like rainy days, I hate sunny days. When people complain about how they age, I see their story, the provenance, and everything rich coming from what they experienced. That's why I love things that have an age to it. I love to take pictures of people when they least suspect it, especially my grandmother. There's a picture of her that I took that the day before I left for the States, and she passed four months later. It opened up a lot of conversations. People loved that her face was carved by time.

Sometimes I feel like I'm racing against time because I'm HIV positive. My health isn't at its peak stage. I'm dealing with a lot of pain. But I have that little shred of time where I can enjoy things and people who have experienced more--people who have long chapters in their lives. It makes me see my experience through their eyes.

I even see it in objects like old bottles and dead flowers. I watch all the beautiful dahlias flop over, and it saddens me that it's the first time I've watched the whole cycle of something grow, flower, and die. I have a grasp of those cycles, which makes it easier to go through life.

Nomadiou: You [Wyatt] were surprised at your artist's ability when you picked up a pencil. But you knew your abilities with the camera. I hated pictures of myself until Wyatt started taking them. When he uses the camera to see things that he cares about and loves, the pictures are amazing. He shot faces, our cat, flowers and birds. This is why I fell in love with him. It was when we first met; I couldn't reach him one day on the phone because he was out chasing squirrels in the backyard. I thought, "That's a guy who's got his priorities in order."

That shows in his pictures. I wanted to encourage Wyatt as an artist because there's so much affection in how he looks at things.

Tan: What scares me too is the flip side of that. I can see the beauty of things but also the grotesque parts. A lot of my new pieces are more violent--shards of glass, splashes of red. I don't know what that means because I don't want to celebrate violence as a part of me. I still want to find a medium where I can express those emotions that are not conveyed verbally.

How did learning you were HIV positive affect your practice and your life?
Tan: Finding out I was positive was the turning point. It was when all the artistic stuff kicked in because that was the time I was cut off from my family in Malaysia. I was on my own.

Not being able to go back to grad school and feeling lost, that was when I had too much time and had to do something about it. I fell into depression during my last few years of undergrad and my professor gave me a book. Every page had a circle, and you would meditate for five minutes. When you come back, you move your hands--write, draw, whatever. It was a process of catharsis. I picked up drawing after that too. I had a little notebook everywhere I went.

I went to FIT for some classes. And I went to the ALPHA workshops for some semi-formal training.

Not understanding most conventional, academic art practice helps me stay within the confinements of myself.

It was the whole pain of realizing there's an end to me, and that my life might not be as long as I thought it would be. Realizing that I had a sentence.

I'm not saying it's a bad sentence. It gives me a timeline of purpose to do something in my life. I may sulk, but life doesn't stop for me, life doesn't stop for anybody. I had to pick myself up and move on, and I've been doing an OK job so far. It's helped me maneuver my life in a direction that I didn't know was possible.

I actually went to med school but I dropped out. I went to Taiwan to study language and linguistics--literature. I graduated first in my class, but I got so nervous that when I went up to accept the dean's award, I blurted out: "I have serious ADHD and I slept for four years of college." It was the most embarrassing thing ever!

When I lived in Taiwan, I was like a monk. That's when I started to pick up photography. I lived in a town that was so beautiful that it helped me calm myself down and appreciate what's around me. When I moved to the States it was an onslaught of sounds and people, but at the same time, having people who care about me and took care of me since the beginning. And then this whole HIV thing opened up a lot of doors. My friend used to work in the department of health for HIV and it has given me a platform to help others. I was also with the Metropolitan Community Church in New York. They have a gallery and I would help out, eventually becoming their stand-in curator. And Visual AIDS has been the first institution where I gained traction. I was surprised. It's just amazing that one of my photographs ("Strap," 2013) was picked for a web gallery. And the doctor that I'm working for owns the artist's print for it. There are people who appreciate my work now.

When you're so low in a hole there's no way to go but up. So I've had all these weird turns in my life. All these things helped shape who I am. I'm only 26 and sometimes I really do feel like someone who has seen it all. It's not easy but I know I'm resourceful and resilient.

Wyatt Tan is a multidisciplinary artist who likes to depart from conventional norms. Born in Malaysia, Wyatt moved to New York after being accepted to the Master's in Fashion Program at Parson's, but unfortunately was unable to complete his degree. Wyatt embraced photography, but his interests have expanded to several mediums, including assemblage art. Instead of a gallery, you are more likely to find Wyatt perusing thrift stores or flea markets looking for inspiration for his next project.

Maia Paroginog is an intern at Visual AIDS who is entering their final undergraduate year at Stanford with focuses in visual art-making, arts writing, and comparative studies in race and ethnicity. Their work employs several mediums and representations, which range from abstract sculpture to figurative painting. Their artwork and academic interests revolve around bodily dysphoria, queering interpersonal relationships, intersectional feminism, power/privilege, and the abject abstract. They use queer art to interrogate notions of "identity" and are interested in its uses in addressing collective trauma.

Tiger Blood / Bad Blood: Pop Goes HIV

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Bad Blood

One of the earliest horrible "jokes" I read about Charlie Sheen and his HIV status was something like, "How is that tiger blood treating you now?" My pop-sick brain started singing "Tiger Blood" to the tune of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" and suddenly I was able to articulate something I had been struggling with all summer:

HIV criminalization is like a Taylor Swift Song: worthy of further consideration and often rooted in revenge.

"Bad Blood" of course is the best example. As someone who writes and organizes around HIV/AIDS and often uses pop culture to talk about the ongoing epidemic, I can't help but hear the song through the lens of HIV, both historically, and relate it to HIV criminalization. And now it seems entwined with Charlie Sheen.

The song of course is from Swift's latest album, 1989 (which is also the year Swift was born, and Sheen starred in Major League). When I first heard "Bad Blood" I imagined how if Taylor Swift had released it in 1989, at a height of the ongoing AIDS crisis, many may have thought it was about HIV, and that she was singing about how changing sexual norms were to blame for the epidemic.

"We used to have mad love, now we have bad blood," echoes the thinking many people had at the dawn of the virus in the United States. HIV was understood to be God's wrath on a country that lost its morals in the 1960s and 1970s with free love, growing acceptance of same sex desire, and the evolving role of women. For the first five years of the nation knowing about the epidemic, President Reagan did not even say "HIV/AIDS." For people that were living with HIV and those understood to be at risk amid Reagan's silence, the sentiment of Swift's line "now we have problems" was an understatement.

Even the term "bad blood" highlights something we take for granted now. Once HIV was determined to spread through bodily fluids, blood (rather than semen and vaginal fluids) became the leading symbol of the illness.

In TV and movies, blood was used to express a fear of contagion: Think of vials of blood on the nightly news, and Joseph Mazzello in The Cure screaming, "My blood is poison." Universal precautions were introduced in medical and law enforcement situations to reduce contact with blood regardless of the actual risk of transmission; and the blood supply was more intensely screened, leading gay men and others to be banned from donating.

Bad blood was everywhere, and rather than focusing on what people living with HIV needed to increase and maintain their life chances, resources were spent on containing people living with HIV. Quarantine was up for debate; the idea of tattooing HIV-positive people was written about in The New York Times; and until the current administration repealed it, there was a ban on HIV-positive people traveling into the United States.

Then, starting in the mid-1980s, the criminal justice system became heavily involved, enlisting citizens to round up people living with "bad blood." This is what is known as HIV criminalization laws.

As it stands now, 34 states have specific laws criminalizing people with HIV, mostly focused on disclosure, making it so a person living with the virus is held solely responsible for not only disclosing, but also being able to prove the disclosure in a court of law.

As Sarah Schulman wroted on Slate, "HIV criminalization is denunciation-based: the state encourages people who are HIV negative to bring charges against HIV-positive sexual partners who they say have not disclosed their status."

HIV criminalization laws and how they are applied do not consider barriers to disclosure such as power imbalance within sexual relationships, nor how hard it is to prove disclosure. (Are you able to prove that what you said was understood by your last sex partner? When was the last time you had to?)

These laws also don't reflect how HIV is transmitted, nor are they informed by medical advancements, such as PrEP and the fact HIV-positive people with undetectable viral loads pose virtually no risk for transmitting the virus. People living with HIV have been arrested, convicted and sent to prison for instances where no transmission occurred, and no risk was posed.

Hopefully Sheen's interview will shed light on "undetectable" and what it means while beginning to unravel HIV criminalization. Until then criminalization will continue to hurt prevention efforts by increasing stigma around HIV, making it less appealing for people to learn their HIV status. A popular refrain among communities deemed to be most at risk is, "Take the test and risk arrest." People who fear they may be living with HIV would rather suffer with the virus, managing it alone rather than risk having the criminal justice system involved in their lives.

In states without specific HIV criminalization laws, people living with the virus can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon--their body. And as we see with Sheen, it also opens people up to civil law suits. In his interview on Today, Sheen spoke about how he has spent millions on trying to suppress his HIV status from the public. More than 30 years into the world knowing about the virus, we still have a construction of people living with HIV as "bad," something the November 18 National Enquirer cover about Sheen makes clear.

Fear of HIV and the related stigma not only impacts those living with the virus, but also those who have recently come into contact with someone living with HIV. "Now look what you've done," repeats Swift throughout "Bad Blood"; it's a way to point blame, a suggestion that although the "bad blood" was shared, only the person she is singing about is responsible. In this arrangement Swift gets the upper hand by taking the issue to the public. She distances herself from being in a shared situation by calling attention to what has happened to her. Swift gets to be both victim and victor, while the other person is only villainized. This is the story of many of Swift's songs, and of HIV criminalization. The hurt, shame, fear and confusion of the recently exposed and possibly seroconverted is used by authorities and lawyers to bring cases and charges against people living with the virus. I do not think that Swift is singing about HIV, yet for me "Bad Blood" mirrors the flawed logic at the heart of HIV criminalization: public revenge stemming from intimate pain.

It can seem silly or maybe even a form of distraction to focus on pop culture when dealing with issues as serious as HIV/AIDS and criminalization, and yet this is where much of the public gathers not only to learn about issues, but how to discuss these issues. As has been noted, the media surrounding Charlie Sheen's disclosure, while terrible at times, was made better in part because of activists and artists in the US who are good at marshaling pop culture and the media for activist and educational purposes (a legacy of the earliest HIV activism). People will not always pay attention to an earnest pronouncement about important issues, so meeting people where they are at is not only a form of harm reduction, it is a good public education strategy.

So I think it is OK in this current Sheen / HIV news cycle to explore Swift's words, and, following her logic, remind people that just as "band-aids don't fix bullet-holes," criminalization doesn't stop HIV.

Theodore Kerr is a Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based writer and organizer. He was the programs manager at Visual AIDS and is currently doing his graduate work at Union Theological Seminary.

Looking for Program Ideas for World AIDS Day?

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Jeffrey Scott, "HIV Sampler" (2013). Canvas, needle, thread, 11 x 8.5 inches. Artwork example from Radiant Presence.

Visual AIDS is working with nine influential artists, activists and curators--Bill Arning, Ian Alteveer, Chris Vargas, Rae Lewis-­Thornton, Mark S. King, Allen Frame, Maria Mejia, Jack Mackenroth and Kimberly Drew--to present Radiant Presence, a digital slideshow with images from the Visual AIDS Artist+ Registry, the largest database of works by artists with HIV/AIDS.

For the 26th annual Day With(out) Art, Visual AIDS will partner with organizations like yours--art institutions, AIDS-service organizations, and universities--to present Radiant Presence internationally. Radiant Presence is a digital slideshow for programmed screenings and looping projections and presentations. The curated images will be interspersed with text, including current statistics and statements about the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Radiant Presence will run for approximately five minutes, can be easily looped, and all technical and presentation logistics will be coordinated with you by Visual AIDS. Visual AIDS will also project the slideshow in highly visible locations in major cities including New York, San Francisco and Miami (during Art Basel).

If you're interested in screening Radiant Presence at your organization, or highlighting the project through your organization's social media platforms, please contact Visual AIDS Programs Manager Alex Fialho at or 212-627-9855.

The Kintsugi of Billie Holiday and Judy Garland

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Kintsugi pottery from Japan

"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful." -- Barbara Bloom

Kintsugi (or Kinsukuroi) is a Japanese art form where broken pottery, rather than being discarded, is mended using a technique of putting the shards back together using a lacquer mixed with gold, silver or platinum in order to make the seams stand out even more, rather than trying to conceal them.

Legend of its origin is that the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent his favorite tea bowl to China to be mended, and it returned repaired with ugly metal staples. He undid the bowl again and worked with Japanese craftsmen to develop a more aesthetic means of repair.

The philosophy behind Kintsugi is that the history of something should become a part of it, and not erased and that something becomes more beautiful after it has been broken and remade. A sort of badge of honor that resonates very strongly with me as a gay man living with HIV, and I suspect many others. Our weaknesses can become our strengths and can bring us back to some semblance of wholeness as badges of honor and sources of pride and resilience.

I had been thinking about this for quite some time and thought the concept applied very well to two icons of gay culture, and two of my favorite musicians, Billie Holiday and Judy Garland, and wished to share some of this rumination with you.


"I hate straight singing. I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That's all I know." -- Billie Holiday

Growing up in Vermont, a place known for liberal politics, cultural vibrancy and an excellent public school system, I was exposed to all forms art, creativity and expression--from our Mozart, Jazz and Shakespeare festivals to regionally renowned theater; I had a wealth of opportunity and access to creative expression in its myriad forms.

In high school, I was heavily involved in the art studio and photography lab, sang in a renaissance music group, participated in what was considered some of the best theater productions in the region. My school's jazz band and chorus was repeatedly in top place for regional awards; jazz and the Harlem Renaissance were a huge part of our musical culture and I owe to many wonderful teachers my deep appreciation of artists like John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

In my circle of friends at the time, Ella was the queen. Our teachers loved her technical precision and three octave vocal range, and an Ella Fitzgerald scat session is just plain fun to listen to. She was the standard to which we were set to, hit the notes, hit them perfectly.

"Even when handed a sad song, Miss Fitzgerald communicated a wistful, sweet-natured compassion for the heartache she described... viewing [it] from afar, she seemed to understand and forgive all. Her apparent equanimity and her clear pronunciation which transcended race, ethnicity, class and age made her a voice of profound reassurance and hope." --Stephen Holden

I performed to task, I played trumpet and sang in multiple of my school's bands and took my teacher's lessons to heart--learning the notes and playing them perfectly. I was the kid who could draw, paint, act, sing, dance and develop a perfect darkroom print. I sought to master every technical discipline in the arts as near to perfect as I could.

But secretly, inside, I rebelled--my heart belonged to Billie. Her naked vulnerability, the pain in her sometimes cracking laconic voice, she simultaneously exposed herself and hid part of herself too, making you want to know more; to know where the pain came from and how she understood your pain. The brutality of the human condition and the tender agony of living.

To a 15-year-old gay kid, the technical perfection of Ella was the face I presented to the world; hitting all the straight notes. Billie was the longing, vulnerable face inside the closet I was so desperate to break out of.

Ella Fitzgerald was a world we wanted; Billie Holiday showed us the world we had.

"Her bluesy vocal style brought a slow and rough quality to the jazz standards that were often upbeat and light. This combination made for poignant and distinctive renditions of songs that were already standards. By slowing the tone with emotive vocals that reset the timing and the rhythm, she added a new dimension to jazz singing." --PBS

I'm reminded of a remark by Claude Debussy that "music is the space between the notes" and that's a good analogy to my relationship between these two women. I respect Ella's technical precision and skills, but listening to a record of hers is something I do to clean my apartment or have an enjoyable cocktail party.

Ella Fitzgerald singing "Stormy Weather" is like listening to the vocal equivalent of Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause, the wistful loss of a teenage girl for the boy she couldn't hang on to. Listening to Billie Holiday sing "Strange Fruit" or "Gloomy Sunday" is like seeing Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, abused, skirting death and disaster, the heart ripped out and stepped on by the men in her life and maybe part of her likes it. It is suicides and lynchings, the acceptance of a part of the human condition that Ella Fitzgerald's hippy optimizing at best glosses over or references only obliquely and at worst, outright denies.

When I listen to Billie Holiday there is a visceral gut reaction, I am moved and touched in ways few other artists can move me--because the tortured life she lived between the notes inflects them with such a palpable desire for authentic human connection, want and loss. Ella is the friend you meet for brunch, Billie is the friend you can call in the middle night when the mind closes in and turns on itself.

By being broken, she gave us something better than perfection.


"I was born at the age of 12 on an MGM lot." --Judy Garland

My favorite film growing up was The Wizard of Oz. I would watch it three times a day (Lassie was another favorite, maybe I have a savior complex). For years, I had all the toys I could find and would spend hours in the woods pretending I was in Oz; I even had a pair of ruby slippers when I was 6 (I'm still amazed I had to ever come out of the closet). "Over the Rainbow" is sort of the unofficial anthem of my family.

I was into JUDY! JUDY! JUDY!

Much like Billie Holiday, Judy Garland (born Frances Gumm) came from a tumultuous unhappy childhood. Her father was a closeted homosexual whose frequent dalliances forced them to move around, and her mother was basically the stage mom from hell, who dragged her daughters around the country performing vaudeville acts.

She rose through the ranks of the MGM studio system, while constantly being compared to Lana Turner and criticized for her weight and what they considered 'homely' appearance as they pumped her up with speed and benzedrine. But the 'little girl with the big voice' persevered; though the rest of her life was a yellow brick road tinged with loneliness, insecurity, substance abuse failed marriages and suicide attempts.

Nevertheless, she sang for her supper whenever she needed to and even after years of being considered a has-been, struggling with pills and alcohol and her weight, her April 23, 1961, concert at Carnegie Hall was called by some "the greatest night in show business history" and she was billed as The World's Greatest Entertainer. Audiences left their seats to be closer to Judy and even the hyper-critical Hedda Hopper said "I never saw the likes of it in my life."

Someone like Doris Day is probably a better 'technical' singer, but Judy Garland is an icon. Watching Youtube videos of Judy Garland sing "Old Man River" or "Battle Hymn of the Republic" can consistently and reliably bring me to tears--and her rendition of "Over the Rainbow" dressed in hobo drag is hopefully archived in the Library of Congress.

When Judy Garland sings, you hear the divorces, the booze, the cigarettes, the loneliness and the longing for a love she would never find, in between the notes she used as steps to reach great heights--something that transcends just singing, but a full body performance through music that laid everything out to bare and kept audiences begging for more.

Billie Holiday and Judy Garland both had a warble, a raw shaky undercurrent that spoke to everything they had both been through: divorce, drug addiction, loneliness. Both singers gave more than a performance, they gave us completely and utterly of themselves.

They didn't always hit the notes perfectly, but they played the music flawlessly.


"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." --Ernest Hemingway

Gay political and social organizations have existed since at least the 1950s--including The Daughters of Bilitis and The Mattachine Society, however a larger social and political visibility for LGBTQ people didn't really begin to take hold until the late 1960's/1970's--a period of great social upheaval for many marginalized groups including women, African Americans and homosexuals. Prior, they typically operated through more conservative efforts of lobbying and orderly protest, however with the rise of the women's liberation and black power movements, became increasingly radicalized.

The primary driving force behind a lot of the early gay movement was for sexual freedom, promiscuity and an avoidance of police and social harassment. With the advent of HIV/AIDS many scholars and activists assert that a new form of community was formed out of necessity.

Political community, health care, laws and protection and support of our gay, lesbian and queer brothers and sisters in the face of horrifying death became the driving force and a focal point for collective identity.


"Yet the paradoxical result of the first decade of AIDS was that homosexuality had achieved a voice as never before. As open lesbians and gays were drawn into policy formation and service delivery, and knowledge about gay lifestyles and sexual practices speak as a result of HIV/AIDS, so the homosexual community achieved a new openness and public presence." --Aviva Leber

HIV/AIDS galvanized the gay community as never before--previously disparate elements united around the indifference of the larger society; lesbians nursed gay men as they lay dying, families came to terms with the sexuality of their children, unbreakable bonds were formed. The powerful coalitions formed to fight social and political indifference have carried us to where we are today, where our love for one another is equal in the eyes of the law and where have gone: from a whispered about menace, to fully proud and often embraced citizens, friends and neighbors.

The AIDS crisis was a terrible time, a plague that ravished an entire generation of people who could have contributed politically and culturally to our nation and the world--but on the one hand it galvanized us and made the LGBTQ community a force to be reckoned with.

By almost breaking us, it made us stronger.

In our wounds, there is gold.



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