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PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES brought together three Artist+ Members—Jerry the Marble Faun, Joyce McDonald and Raynes Birkbeck—to consider the imaginative potential of work by self-taught, visionary and outsider artists.

The evening of artist talks, moderated by Alex Fialho, started off with Jerry the Marble Faun, who discussed the formation of his sculptures and his role cult classic documentary Grey Gardens. Joyce McDonald followed, speaking to spirituality, personal history, and her process of creation. Finally, Raynes Birkbeck took us inside his imaginative works to discuss the future, politics, and Moby Dick in the post nuclear age. Links to the full documentation and excerpts are below.

PERSONS OF INTEREST, curated by Sam Gordon for Visual AIDS, featured a wide cross section of Visual AIDS artist members and friends. The exhibition, presented by Visual AIDS at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, features the trained and self taught, long term survivors and the prematurely lost, and individuals who live for us very much in the present, some only in our hearts and minds.

PERSONS OF INTEREST includes work by Raynes Birkbeck, Mark Carter, Ben Cuevas, Chloe Dzubilo, Arnold Fern, Tim Greathouse, Keith Haring, Hudson, Affrekka Jefferson, Jerry the Marble Faun, Joyce McDonald, Lucas Michael, Nicolas Moufarrege, Luna Luis Ortiz, Hugh Steers, Hunter Reynolds, Tseng Kwong Chi, Muna Tseng, and Frederick Weston.

Jerry the Marble Faun's full discussion here.

Jerry the Marble Faun on His Famous Friends. PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: "I think Mrs. Beale, opened my mind up to freethinking, and nobody was above her. I loved Mrs. Beale, she was the most unusual character, and she was a Bouvier you know, and I said to her one afternoon, what happened here? And she said nothing, I’ve insisted on living my own life, I wasn’t a banker from the United States, I was a bouvier. And I said well what does that mean. She said well the history of they're (my) family came from the French, they were an aristocratic family. Mrs. Beale’s great great grandfather was a general in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, and they built an altar at St Patrick's along the way. I learned a lot about being yourself and meeting people. How did I meet these people, I don’t know, I don’t know, how did they meet me, who knows?"

Jerry the Marble Faun on Inspiration. PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: "I always begin my sculptures with the lords prayer, sit with the rock quietly, (well know one hears me anyway), and its just something that allows me the courage to proceed. And when the subject comes in, for instance I’m touched by nature, and of course personalities, I remove what’s not necessary, I free the subject from the enclosure of the stone, I remove what's not needed. It’s moving the abstract to the positive, I call it that term."

Jerry the Marble Faun on Finding Sculpture. PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: "Chaim and I were friends and he would use me as a model and influenced my ideas further along , and it was like a god send, because I had already been touched by stone, from my relatives, my uncle, and the cemetery and the Pieta at the worlds fair, he influenced so, that when I got my first hammer that I still have, its like 40 years old, it’s a treasure, it’s a great hammer, I wouldn’t even sell it to you, I really like it. Its what I carved my first piece out with."

Joyce McDonalds full discussion here.

Joyce McDonald on Her Whispered Gold Pieces. PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: "I remember crying out to god, because I didn’t want to die. And then all of a sudden I started seeing this fabric, it was like a blue fabric, like unwinding, because for my next art show after that I had nothing but blue fabric, I started seeing this blue fabric."

Joyce McDonald on Finding Her Medium. PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt:" First of all, I didn’t even know what the word, I remember my first art show at this place that I was attending an HIV program, and when I started doing my art they kept saying ‘ what medium did you use’, like you just said medium, and I thought they was talking about a Ouija board, like a medium. And then someone looked at my work and they said ‘ oh Rodin, you remind me, did you study him?’ at first I thought he was talking about rodents, and I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought it was roach spray, Rodin."

Joyce McDonald on Prayer of Hope. PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: "It was like something came over me, and it was a collection probably, of feelings of prayer and feeling that atmosphere of people in hospitals, my own diagnosis and things all over the world, and I don’t remember the exact experience, but its like a lot of experiences that came, and one day I just sat and you know that song, ‘he took a hundred pounds of crack’, you know that song, and I just started and as I did it, I know that I was in a prayer state, and I just started feeling like I was praying for the whole world. And that there was still hope no matter what you went through."

Raynes Birkbeck's full discussion here.

Raynes Birkbeck on Happy Endings, PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: "Well fortunately, in my scenario, we have a happy ending, and as an example of one of the happy endings that we have. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the big white whale, in the the 1800s, Moby Dick? Well I have a Moby Dick in the post nuclear age, there’s Moby Dick right there on the ocean. And he’s a very impressive whale in the water. I wanted to do the sea and him in it, and the sun above. And that’s one of the happy endings we’ll have."

Raynes Birkbeck on the Making of His Work & 9/11. PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: "Some drawings are made at home, but a lot, some of them are made in one of the other studios I go to. I don’t know where I made that plane, the one with the space thing; I think that one was made at home. This one was made though at one of the studios. The big guy that you see there, the big guy with the gun, and the white hair, that’s Sabil. The guy in the trousers and the white shirt, that’s one of his agents, and of course their IMS as an Englishman. And of course Billy is angry about something; there’s shooting going on, and he’s always angry about something."

Raynes Birkbeck on What We Need to See at Museums. PERSONS OF INTEREST: SELF-TAUGHT VISIONARIES from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: "And when I speak of these guys, whether they’re from the present or the future, or whatever, they all tend to be gigantic, I have a thing about size, I love size. I like guys who are heavy. Well that guy is from the future, and he’s in the future in the picture, and that’s a type of space craft or jet plane, and this is somewhere in Europe, in Southern Europe."

Raynes Birkbeck

Joyce McDonald

Jerry the Marble Faun