My latest excursion into poetry is about one of the most overlooked in the museum. Tucked away in the back of the Perelman Building Atrium, most people think it is just some decorative lighting fixture. However, it is a beautiful piece by Felix González-Torres . He's most famously known for "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), a pile of iridescent candy wrapped in colorful cellophane, located at the Art Institute of Chicago. González-Torres created this piece after his boyfriend, Ross, died of AIDS-related illness in 1991. Visitors can feel free to take a piece of candy with them, as the work calls for an indefinite supply of the sweet treat.
Most of his work deals with HIV and loss, focusing on the AIDS Crisis. It is still a somewhat underrepresented era in terms of education (I certainly don't remember learning about it in any of my high school U.S. history courses), and not often talked about in museums either. Sure, some institutions will do shows featuring artists from that time and their stores, such as the Mapplethorpe retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which does mention his own HIV-positive status and his eventual death from AIDS-related complications in 1989. However, it is still seen as a taboo subject, especially for these "places of high art and culture."
How can we go about incorporating narratives of the AIDS Crisis into our institutions when it is clearly still seen as a symbol of shame and perversion? Yes, situations are somewhat better now, but the AIDS Crisis is still very much alive, affecting primarily people of color (in particular Black and Hispanic/Latinx individuals at a much higher rate than white individuals). It is a part of our lives, our history, and it affects our art too. If art is supposed to hold a mirror to reality, why do we insist on covering it? Should any of you venture into the Perelman Building (opening back up in early June), or visit any other museum, I implore you to look for the hidden treasures, the stories left unnoticed, especially since those stories are still being told today.
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
For "Untitled" (Petit Palais) by Felix González-Torres (1992)
At first I thought you were weaving
to try and reach the heavens
through electric stars, to find
and hold the one plucked too quickly
from the world below. And here
you rest, waiting, but why?
Perhaps the glittering is, alone
a reminder of what lies ahead.
Roads go many ways, but this path
is seldom tread. I can only imagine
what a lonely heart is capable of.
When the world is a window
you must find any light, looking
out to call him home. Defying
death itself, to call forth
the soul of love long gone.m
is a work of art in itself.
Maybe, just maybe, all you need
is to see him in the cluster,
the galaxy, the little palace, coiled
and cloaked in radiance of
the end of the road home.
I'm finally settled into my new job (btw, I got a new job), so now I can more consistently post some content. Springtime has proven to be a much needed cure for my creative blocks, allowing me to spend more time focusing on my photography and my writing. My poetry was a bit slow for a while, but now I'm starting to pick it up again, focusing on works from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, writing in the tradition of Michael Field (aka Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper). Below is a poem based on Benjamin West's The Death of Hyacinth (1771). Onward to more writing!
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
Sunburnt roses on my shoulder,
at my temples and thighs,
stinging, caressing with the promise
of another day amid the fields
and running among columns and marble
throngs of heroes.
As the light dances across my skin,
gilded fingers against the glistening
summer sweat wiped away by soft grass,
I hear the whisper of something, someone
forgotten, a lingering touch on my head,
behind the tree under which we lay.
Pulled by the threads, woven into creation
and out again, the sun must set,
but the wind seldom dies. Even silence
of night cannot shield its embrace,
not even while the charioteer rides over me.
A simple breeze, breath, cuts the thread.
One wrong turn, and the pivoting
to meet one’s end at the hand of immortality,
which is no more than a friendly game.
And when you fall, the sun falls with you
down to earth, laying with you
in the soft grass one last time.
Each moment, cradled in your light,
is an treasure priced at one thousand
kisses, cries, clinging to life for one
final time. It this my punishment?
Like so many others who have flown
too close to your heavenly splendor.
How many of my brothers, and sisters
too, have tried to love you, foolishly.
Waxen wings and prophecies aren’t enough
for you, I’m certain. Although I’m glad
the Fates humored me for this long,
and you stayed until the end.
This pain, breaking my tender frame,
seems to me, meek, when compared
to the anguish on your face. Why then,
do you weep for me? You have seen
and loved a thousand years and more
than I could ever dream of.
Surely you have more hearts in hand
than stars in your sister’s velvet sky.
What makes me, a child at play,
more special than the others? Perhaps,
because unlike princesses and charioteers,
my only crime was loving you.
But then, humans are mere pets, toys
for Olympian whims. Our paltry offerings
and rites are aimed to please, and tease
out some grand favor that seldom comes.
All I did was make you happy, for a time,
and our sacrament was nothing but a game.
My body, a mortal frame, filled with colors
of lovers, and you the gilded brush, caressing
me with brilliant strokes.
I suppose I was a reflection of you, hung
on the wall of your world, until the angle
of the universe brought me crashing down.
Enfolded in crimson and tears, searing
and dripping from amber eyes, and falling
to bronzed skin, glittering and cold.
Lips, petals, against mine, one last time
as the earth swallows my flesh, and I grow,
reaching for the heavens and my beloved.
Now I stand, swaying, brushed and kissed
by the everlasting touch of two lovers,
entrapped, eternal, and forever at rest
in the meadow of our love long gone.
All that remains of my fleeting youth
is the sun on my skin, and a gentle breeze.
Hello Everyone! It's been, well, quite a while since my last post (some raving a bout a fabulous show that will tragically be closing next month). My art and writing have been slow over the past few months, and whether or not I blame a poor diet, lack of sleep, or Mercury being in retrograde, nothing was made. Well, not nothing, but I definitely consumed culture more than produced it. I was desperately trying to find some way to use my art as a lens for my life, to reflect my reality, but I recently came into problems with that approach. So, I'm pulling an Oscar Wilde quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray, "We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography."
But what does that mean? Yes, art reflects life and visa versa, and my work has almost always dealt with my sexuality, gender, and an exploration of that personal history by relating to other creators. It is a reality, but it's not just an autobiography. And sure, Wilde's work was somewhat confessional (you gotta love a guilty Catholic), and incriminating (literally, quotes were pulled from The Picture of Dorian Gray as proof of his homosexuality while he was in court), but it played into larger themes of desire, morality, art, and cute boys. I've tried to identify themes in my work, such as atemporality and allegories, but I was missing a crucial component: writing!
I don't mean writing as in my blogging and what other ramblings pass through my mind and tap dance their way across my keyboard, but rather, poetry. I haven't composed poetry by any means since my sophomore year of college (shoutout to the Belles Lettres society for weekly prompts and Caf dinners), but as of this November that has changed! Like Tennyson, Wilde, Dickinson, Plath, and Angelou I have taken up the pen to put my thoughts and dreams on paper. Of course, I have a long way to go, and by no means plan to make a life for myself as a great poet (that takes training I do not possess), but there is a strong relationship between my visual art and my literary/creative writing. My senior year was spent on two senior seminars for English and Studio Art, and almost everything I read and wrote influenced my studio practice. Both theses were explorations of queer lineage, and art was a way of illustrating my literary studies.
The challenge now is, what do I write about? For a while I struggled to think of some poignant subject matter with which to craft my poetry, something that would elicit visceral responses from an audience. However, that's not why I started writing. I want it to be a means of self-reflection, but also an exploration of mythologies and queer lineages, and of fantasies. I'm not writing to learn to think, although that is something I am not yet accomplished in, but rather to dream. Okay, I know that sounds pretentious, but I meant it. My writing should be enjoyable, and while it can explore a myriad of themes and perhaps even some proper thinking. For now I just need to write about whatever comes to mind, for pleasure, for myself, and for art's sake.
In ending this post I'd like to turn to my most popular subject matter: mythology. Thankfully, the Greeks, among many other cultures, have given us a vast amount of queer subject matter (an artist, turn to Greek mythology? How original). Narcissus is a popular tale, as portrayed in above painting by Caravaggio, and has a long history with queer creators (Wilde was portrayed as a vain Narcissus in political cartoons of the time), thus I focused on the tragic youth and his relationships for one of my first poems, Ameinias Echo, the title of which is borrowed from the names of two figures associated with the youth's tale. Echo was a nymph who pined for Narcissus, but could not talk with him due to a curse placed upon her by Hera. Ameinias was a former lover of Narcissus, whose cruelty cause him to commit suicide (which is sometimes seen as a cause of Narcissus's punishment).
Here are a couple of stanzas from Ameinias Echo:
I sometimes wonder how long I’ve been here
underneath this canopy of silver shadows,
tucked away in some blessed, forbidden corner
of the world, but then I see you
gazing upon me as we admire each other
in our most resplendent ways.
I am so glad you came to see me.
How on earth could I compare you
to a spring morning or the wild dance
of the leaves in the afternoon breeze
kissed by Zephyr as I would kiss you
now? You are the world’s greatest creation.
You’re the only one right for me.
Until next time!
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
In March I had the privilege of witnessing the revival of Once on This Island at Circle in the Square Theatre, a brilliantly told story of love, fear, sacrifice, and the freedom that eventually comes from that love. Based on the novel My Love, My Love; or The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy, and partially inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale “The Little Mermaid,” Once on This Island draws upon the elements of love and sacrifice while adding a much needed narrative dealing with colonialism, colorism, and the burdens placed upon black women.
Originally performed in 1990, with a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, the musical has charmed audiences across the globe (Unfortunately that also comes along with some theaters and schools who perform the musical with a primarily or all white cast. I don’t care how much people love the show, there’s no excuse for whitewashing this story). The show was revived in 2017 by producer Ken Davenport and directed by Michael Arden, providing a refreshing look at the enchanting tale (along with a diverse and, in all aspects, a stellar cast).
Ti Moune, named Désirée Dieu Donne by her adoptive parents (but affectionately called Ti Moune “little orphan”), played by the immeasurably talented Hailey Kilgore, longs to know her purpose in life, having been saved by the gods when she was a small child. She knows she is destined for more than her life as a peasant on her side of the island, wanting to fly wherever she pleases like the white Mercedes of the grande homme who race down the roads. The gods hear her prayers, and grant her request, and satisfy a few ulterior motives of their own.
Erzulie: Beautiful Goddess of Love, played by Broadway veteran Lea Salonga, claims that love is stronger than any other element in the world, even death, much to the chagrin of Papa Ge: the Demon of Death portrayed by American Idol finalist and actor Tamyra Gray. They make a wager to see whether or not Ti Moune will prove Erzulie right. Thus the gods bring together the two worlds of the peasants and grand homme on a rainy and windswept night (thanks to the powers of Agwé, played by Quentin Earl Darrington, but for this particular performance I had the pleasure of seeing David Jennings play the God of Water) causing Daniel Beauxhomme, played by Isaac Powell in his fabulous and charming Broadway debut, to crash his car. Ti Moune saves his life, as the Mermaid saves the prince from his shipwreck, and ultimately falls in love with him after deciding that her purpose in life is to save and love the young man.
Eventually Daniel is taken back to his parents’ hotel on the other side of the island, and Ti Moune sets out on her journey. No one know exactly how she gets to the other side of the island, but we know she has help from Asaka: Mother of the Earth (portrayed by the incredible powerhouse that is Alex Newell), and eventually makes her way to the city of the grande homme. Ti Moune heals Daniel and eventually becomes his lover, much to the dismay of the Beauxhommes and city dwellers, who revile the young girl for her dark skin; However, when Ti Mount dances at the Hotel Beauxhomme’s ball, like the Little Mermaid, she wins the favor of the partygoers. Unfortunately, like the mermaid, she loses her love to another. Instead of a princess, Daniel is engaged to Andrea Devereaux, a grande homme who has just returned from Paris.
Heartbroken, Ti Moune is given an ultimatum by Pape Ge (as the Sea Witch did for the Mermaid): Kill Daniel and regain her old life “as if she had never loved at all.” She grabs the knife Papa Ge gives her, but then drops it, telling Daniel that she loves him. Ti Moune is cast out of the Hotel Bueaxhomme and she descends into sorrow, abandoned by the people who were so enamored with her. The gods “wept tears of compassion” for her, for she proved that love was stronger than any other element, and could survive even in the face of death. Through her sacrifice, Ti Moune is allowed to die peacefully in the sea before being reborn as a goddess. Her body is transformed into a beautiful tree that clings to the walls of the Hotel Beauxhomme, ensuring its gates will never shut anyone out again.
The Jewel of the Antilles (the name of the Island, which is also read as Haiti) represents a divide caused by the hatred, violence, and ignorance of a white colonialist. So how can the island and its people find healing? It was Ti Moune. All her life she questioned her purpose and why the gods saved her. She thought her destiny was so save and love Daniel, but that was only one part of her fate. The Storytellers explain that the tree (which Ti Moune dreamed of having in her garden when she and Daniel would get married) she transformed into sheltered both peasants and grande homme. One day, Daniel’s son saw a beautiful young peasant girl sitting in the tree, gazing out at the world. In that moment, Ti Moune’s love and sacrifice helped unite the island, bridging class, color, and gender. That is why they tell the story, it is about love, hate, sacrifice, and forgiveness.
In comparison with “The Little Mermaid,” there are several important distinctions that need to be made. The first is the aspect of colonialism and colorism that the musical deals with. The grand homme are born of violent oppression, as General Armand (a French invader) sexually assaulted many of his slaves. The song “The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes” details the history of the colorism on the island as well as its racial divides, which concludes with Armand cursing his son, Beauxhomme, and his descendants. The grande homme are bound to the island by their Black heritage, while their hearts yearn for France. This is why the grande homme hate and resent the peasants, for they are a reminder of the grande hommes' blackness as well as the trauma caused by General Armand and his soldiers.
"The Little Mermaid," on the other hand, is more or less a tale of longing for freedom (and to have a soul), followed by an unrequited love. First and foremost, it is important to recognize that both the Mermaid and Ti Moune long for freedom and adventure first, the love for their prince/grande homme comes second. When the Mermaid sacrifices herself instead of the prince, she becomes a Daughter of the Air in order to earn her human soul after 300 years of service to the world’s children. The tale itself could be a metaphor for Andersen’s unrequited love for another man, but overall it is a story of sacrifice (and not very feminist). It’s also a case of mistaken identity, as the Prince thinks that a nearby Princess was the one who saved him, rather than the Mermaid. Ti Moune’s rejection is purely based on classism and colorism, which she breaks down through her sacrifice. The production itself also offers a more intersectional representation, including gender neutral casting (namely Tamyra Gray and Alex Newell), creating a near all encompassing and inclusive experience for actors and audiences alike.
After the performance, I sat and pondered for a while and pondered what type of goddess Ti Moune had become. Was she a minor deity of love? A tree goddess (which of course could come to represent other things)? Erzulie governs love, but Ti Moune was close to her, so it has to be something akin to love. It was at this moment that I realized the true significance of Ti Moune’s destiny. In sacrificing herself, eventually uniting peasant and grande homme, she broke General Armand’s curse. To quote the Storytellers, “And the spirit of Ti Moune touched their hearts and set them free to love. And she stands against the lightning and the thunder, and she shelters and protects us from above, and she fills us with the power and wonder of her love.” Ti Moune freed her people from the curse of the colonizer, bringing them together through love, freeing them of their pain and resentment for each other, and allowing them to move forward as a united people. Ti Moune is a Goddess of Freedom, freedom to love, to explore, and to live, which, like the Little Mermaid, is all she ever wanted.
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
It's been, well, quite a long time since I've been active on the blog. Nowadays I feel as if that is how I start off every one of my posts. Unfortunately I have been going through a bit of a pre-quarter life crisis (and I CANNOT wait for the next crisis in two years, or months, depends on how life goes), rethinking my career and artistic paths. However, not all is lost! Like the tides, I am constantly changing, and now that my latest temper tantrum is over I have embarked on what hopefully will be the next great step of my journey.
BUT NOAH!!! HOW WILL YOU DO THAT??? YOU HAVE A MELTDOWN ALMOST EVERY OTHER DAY!!
Well I'm glad you asked, voice in my head! One of my mentors, a fellow artist who currently resides in the Hudson Valley, told me to focus on "the rules" aka the principle characteristics and themes of a person's body of work. For example, when people think of Caravaggio, his name usually brings to mind soft but full figures, strong contrast of light and shadow (chiaroscuro for ya artsy folks), and strong religious scenes (he also painted some mighty fine men, but that's beside the point, for now). My mentor told me to identify the rules of each artist that draw inspiration from, and that list can be found here, and in doing so I will be able to more effectively define the rules of my own work.
Now that there are some rules in place (that will eventually be broken), I should have an easier time pursuing new projects and revitalizing old ones. Right now I'm drawing from a local crowd, and will hopefully find a few regular models for projects and collaborations (so if you know of anyone in the Philadelphia area, please let me know!). I've also joined the Center for Emerging Visual Artists as an Artist Member! They're a great organization that provides career guidance and support for emerging artists, as well as exhibition and teaching opportunities. I have not had any shows since my senior exhibition (and part of my time has been spent telling myself that it's okay, seeing as I have been focusing on my financial situation). As a dear friend and mentor of mine once said, "You've spent your time finding a way to survive, now you need to find your voice."
Thus, as a reminder, it's perfectly okay to take time for yourself, even if that means focusing on you financial situation. People will say "you need to accept that you're going to be poor for a long time if you want to make art," and while it is not always a lucrative career, or a quick track to success, it's okay to take that break from art. Some artists put down the brush, pen, camera, for years while they focused on working and getting themselves to a point where they feel stable. AND THAT IS PERFECTLY FINE. There is only one path to success that remains constant (and no, as much as I would love to say it's your own) and that is nepotism. Everyone else has to forge their own path, but even then we're not alone. As long as we are putting our work out there and making connections, someone will eventually notice. And that's all it takes. That one person will change your life for the better. So chin up.
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
It has been some time since I last posted, but (in good news) so much has happened! I've been working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which gave me some time and resources (aka wages after bills and food, a queen's gotta eat!) to focus on my studio practice. Now that I have a creative space set up in my apartment I have been able to connect with other artists and begin work on some collaborations! I met Sam almost a month ago, and I must say he impressed me right from the start. He's mostly a self taught photographer, and he run his own fashion line called "Tag Times."
Sam's devotion to his craft, as well as his willingness to learn, has inspired me to work harder, and not make excuses for why I'm not creating photographs. As my studio practice grows and evolves I hope to have more opportunities to work with artists like Sam, and expand my social and artistic circles. Now, more than ever, is the time for artists to come together, for our collective experiences and visions weave a tapestry that will tell stories to future generations. In the mean time, we'll see what happens, so keep an eye out for more portraits and projects!
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
It's been a while since my last post (as is the case these days with many of my posts), but everything is going well! I have been living in Philadelphia for the past two months, and while there have been some struggles, I'm doing alright. My photography, on the other hand, has been a little lacking. For the longest time I couldn't bring myself to take a photograph, and when I did, I felt lost, useless. Part of it had to do with an arts position I was rejected from, and since my graduation I have been questioning my art and whether or not my life up until this point has been a complete waste.
However, there is a brighter end to this story. I was recently hired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a Visitor Services Assistant! It is a wonderful opportunity to be surrounded by important works, as well as learn the inner machinations of the museum. There are other artists who work at the PMA as well, and I have begun to feel a sort of kinship with my colleagues, so this is the right place for me to be. Hopefully in time I will be able to prove myself to the museum as well as my fellow artists, and make this City of Brotherly Love my new studio.
Now, you may be asking yourself at this point, what does this have to do with the pictures above? Didn't I say that I hadn't created any works since graduation? Well, yes, until recently. I was trying to get back into the gear of photography, working it over and over like a group of muscles. That is when I realized I had to go back to the basics. The first digital assignment I had in my photography course was "abstraction," bending the world around me using nothing but my lens as a way to crop and turn my surroundings. In a way, they are puzzle pieces that will never fit together, but when spread out, you start to notice the similarities. Thus I ventured out into the only place I was familiar with: my neighborhood. It's a small start, but these photographs are a step in the right direction.
I haven't really taken any photographs since the ones above, but I'm well on my way to working my photographic muscles (if you can call them that) and getting back into shape. I recently received my grandfather's old Polaroid cameras, which still work, much to my absolute joy, so that is another project for me to work on. Now all that's left to do is feel the rhythm of life and go about my days learning what I can and doing my best.
Until Next Time!
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
If most digital photographs represent 1/60-1/100 of a second in a person's life, then pinhole photography consumes the most time. Over the course of the spring semester I have conducted an independent study of alternative photography, exploring processes such as Polaroids, cyanotypes, and pinhole cameras. The self-portrait above is one of the first images I made in the study, and it is one of my most successful photographs from that experimentation. There are a variety of other subjects as well, such as buildings, abstractions, and a few somewhat successful attempts at overnight exposures. I also lent the camera to a few of my friends, and with minimal instruction they were able to create images.
Overall I would say letting go of my control over the camera was the biggest challenge, but in the end it taught me a lesson in patience. Part of that lesson involved realizing that I do not need to spend every second guarding the camera (which is somewhat anxiety-inducing). As I sequestered myself in Goodyear for a large portion of the semester while I worked on both of my theses I had the opportunity to be in close proximity to my camera but not have it on my mind at all times. That is where the mobile app Pinhole Assist became quite useful. Not only does it tell you what exposure time you need based on aperture, ISO, and the sensitivity of the paper, but it also acts as a timer for the exposure, allowing one to go about their other assignments, chores, etc. until the photograph has been fully exposed.
The independent study was also a good chance to reestablish a darkroom practice, which acts as a closed off creative spaced that has been sometimes likened to a womb (I'm unsure as to how I feel about that, but let's roll with it for now). While this means my practice at Dickinson is coming to a close I am fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to explore a variety of photographic processes. I've moved beyond my college career, so I'll be somewhat lacking in terms of a studio space, and while that may mean mediums such as pinhole and analog photography will be a bit more difficult to come by, but I can still take photographs every day. Art is a lifelong career and I don't plan to stop any time soon.
You can see more of my photography from the independent series here.
Until next time!
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
Well, here I am! It's been quite a while since my last post (since the elec- let's not talk about that), but I've been keeping myself busy with school. Graduation is just around the corner and I'm unsure as to what the future holds, and part of me will always look forward to endless possibilities. Unfortunately, reality has a bit of a bite at times. Don't get me wrong, pessimism is not one of my strong suits, but everyone has moments when they feel clouded and lost, almost cast out to sea wearing nothing but last year's swimsuit. I may be a Pisces and a former competitive swimmer, but I ain't a fish. Leaving college makes me feel as if I have floaties on, or at least should have a pair. I've been in academic institutions since preschool, almost 20 years of education, it's all I and my peers have known.
However, I'm sure that everything will be alright. Yes, there will be challenges, but the next few years will be a transformative experience full of uncertainty. Dickinson, even with its extensive education, can only prepare you so much. Initially I wanted to stay in Carlisle another year working as a post-baccalaureate artist in residence, but part of me knew that it was just to be safe, because I doubted myself. Within my thesis seminar I grew immensely as both a writer and person, cultivating a stronger sense of self-confidence in my voice, but I know that doubt will always be a struggle. But at least I will be better equipped to deal with it. All I can do now is be kind, to myself and others, the former being especially important, and continue to look forward to what the future holds.
On that note, entering into the adult world as a hopefully artist is a tricky situation, but thankfully my education has been, as Dickinson would put it, a "useful liberal arts education" and very "interdisciplinary." Right now I'm just trying to find ways to combine my passions of writing and art with helping others. Social justice, arts advocacy, etc. All are wonderful and worthwhile careers, and maybe those paths will intersect throughout my life. Where those paths lead? Who can say? Philadelphia and D.C. appear to be my next destinations, so I will seek out opportunity there (Aren't I the wayward traveler? "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, both need some serious landscaping."). In any case, we'll see what the future will bring. All we can do now is live out our lives in honesty, kindness, and whatever clichéd, but still valid virtues we humans might possess. Hopefully, there will is still a time and place to make things right. Until then, I feel it best to end this post with a quote from Leonard Bernstein's Candide: "We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good, we'll do the best we know. We'll build our house, and chop our wood, and make our garden grow."
Good luck. Until next time.
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
If those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it then the United States is in a slew of problems. However, one that has remained untouched by much of the mainstream media is the reemergence of an AIDS epidemic, due to the legislation of conservative lawmakers and politicians. For those of you who are unfamiliar with 80s Reaganite America and the devastating effect it had on LGBTQIA+ people (aside from Reagan tripling the national deficit), allow me to illuminate a troubled past that is seldom taught or mentioned. In 1981 a study was published focusing on five gay men with a rare lung disease, this would quickly become known as "gay cancer" before receiving its official term: AIDS.
Four years after the first case of AIDS, Reagan used the term publicly for the first time, but it was four years too late. He called it a "top priority," but for the past four years he had been joking about it, laughing and dismissing the issue as Americans were dying, and most of them were LGBTQIA+ people of color. Hollywood star Rock Hudson came to Ronald and Nancy Reagan for help, but they dismissed him, and when reporters started to inquire about his health they pretended it was nothing more than the flu or pneumonia. That same year Elizabeth Taylor became chairman of the American Foundation for AIDS Research and would later go on to create underground circles to distribute AZT (which had not been approved by the FDA for public use) to people with HIV/AIDS.
In 1987 Reagan made his first speech about AIDS, but it was six years too late at that point. Panic and stigma had already become a fast-acting poison among the American people, leading to mistreatment and violence against people with HIV/AIDS and the people who cared for them (Joseph A. Sonnabend was a doctor who was threatened with eviction from his apartment for treating patients with AIDS. This lead to the first AIDS-discrimination lawsuit in 1983). By the end of the 1980s 100,000 people had died of AIDS-related illness, and by 1999 it was labeled the fourth biggest killer worldwide, with almost 30 million people living with HIV and an estimated 16,000 new cases each day. We have come a ways since then, with improved treatment and medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), but unfortunately there is a movement by the Republican presidential candidate to undo decades of work.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence have led a terrifying campaign that I can really only describe as the Swiss Army Knife of bigotry and hatred (racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQIA+, classism, islamophobia, xenophobia, etc.), but one point left out by many mainstream sources of journalism (excluding sources like OUT Magazine, The Advocate, and Pride) is how Mike Pence is already creating an AIDS epidemic in Indiana that is spreading across the south and midwest. Trump wants to appoint justices who bear resemblance to Scalia in their politics, but Pence wants to take funding for HIV research and put it towards conversion therapy. Yes, that includes shock therapy and ultimately leads to anxiety, depression, trauma, and ultimately suicide for most LGBTQIA+ people who are forced to enter conversion therapy, most of them being minors.
If these men reach the presidency (and in the event Pence somehow becomes the president) then it spells certain doom for many LGBTQIA+ people in the United States, especially Black and Latinx people within the LGBTQIA+ community. With HIV research funding cut who knows what else will happen, besides a lack of distribution of HIV/AIDS medication, hospitals, apartments, hotels, restaurants, and stores refusing service and/or accommodation. We will enter back into a Reaganite era where not only LGBTQIA+ people, but anyone with HIV/AIDS will be presented with harsh stigma and discrimination, and ultimately death for many. Men who have sex with men are currently banned from donating blood despite the fact that every donor is screened for diseases, and that puts a huge damper on the amount of blood that could be life-saving, and the law was only temporarily repealed so that queer men could donate blood for the victims of the Orlando shooting in the summer of 2015, so imagine what would happen with this type of legislation in place. Thus I ask you to engage in dialogue about these issues, question as much as you can, and help educate others, just like Gran Fury and ACT UP (the artist/activist groups which created the posters featured above). Silence on these issues is a form of violence, so speak up, and help others whose voices cannot be heard, for there is a chance they may be silenced forever. Please do not take this as fear mongering, I am simply pointing out the similarities in anti-LGBTQIA+ politics in multiple decades. We all have something to learn from history.
If you want to learn more about HIV/AIDS you can go to www.aids.gov or look at their timeline documenting the history of HIV/AIDS.
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
To See With One's Body and Soul
This blog documents all of my adventures, as well as my development into an artist, writer, and a better person.