featured gallery for June 2018

A Positive Outlook

A beautiful nude, an in your face message via the tedious act of needlepoint, medication that doubles as party favors and various instances of daily life are the works by fourteen Visual AIDS artists that are represented in this month’s online gallery. While most of the artists represented in this gallery have dabbled on the typical thematics, including nostalgia, grief, intimacy and loss, they have also been brave enough to acknowledge the beauty that sprouts out of each and every one of us when we celebrate life.

Artists Valerie Caris Blitz and Jessica Whitbread have used their seroconversion to empower their bodies through the joys of nudity and sexuality. Upon seroconverting, Caris Blitz engaged in a series of pin-up style photographs. Meanwhile, Jessica Whitbread puts it all out there with three simple words. Last year, during a conversation with Visual AIDS, she stated “...in the work I do I let everyone know: here I am, I am not a victim, I am just being who I am, I am positive and I want to get it on. If that is a problem - the problem is you!” Got it?

Your sexual preference does not make you immune to the disease. According to amFAR, every day nearly 6,300 people contract HIV. That’s nearly 262 every hour. Many of them will not know it for years, some will choose not to take any action at all or live in self-inflicted misery and sorrow. Personally, it took me seven years to have the guts to go to a clinic and get tested. When we face our demons head on and “say bring it”, the demons slowly fade away and we become, in the words of our current Pop Priestess Beyoncé, “a superpower”. San Francisco based artist Nancer LeMoins has been living with HIV for almost 30 years and her Warrior Bag Backpack brings spirituality front and center. Throughout history, from ancient Toltec wisdom to Darwin all the way to the great American songbook, they all agree on the power of love.

The celebration in this gallery continues with Robert Getso’s homages to serodiscordant relationships and to fighting every fight, even if it’s foreskin pride. Everyone has their quirks, everyone has their preferences and everyone should be heard out. Sometimes, when we are faced with a difficult choice, the smaller things in life start to make more sense. We become in tune with the elements and get to enjoy the little things. In the case of artist Leslie Kaliades, her mother said that the artist took photographs of breezes in trees to represent her breathing. In Untitled c.1996 we can feel the beachside breeze and hear Kaliades lungs better than ever.

Throughout the course of his short-lived career Puerto Rican artist René Santos dedicated his work to the life’s quirks in a Baldessarian way. Like the celebrated Californian artist, he experimented with obscure Hollywood film stills, giving them his own unique spin. Santos was one of the first artists to die from HIV/AIDS complications in 1986 and until the end, he painted incessantly. As many artists do, his work evolved, from large scale black and white tabloid style photographs accompanied by witty texts to massive oil paintings depicting scenes of Caribbean life mixed with stills from horror films. During the last two years of his life, he dedicated himself to painting pets. Another Puerto Rican artist in the gallery is Luis Carle, who has been documenting the LGBT scene in New York for many decades. His candid portrait of Linda Simpson is part of this gallery. If you've had the lucky chance to meet Linda, you will understand why she’s part of this exhibition: she brings life into every room she walks in to.

The gallery concludes with Paul Chisholm’s Love & H*I*V*. According to the artist’s statement, at the core of his interests lie the painful emotions of human nature crossed with the whimsicality of everyday occurrences. His piece is a tough pill to swallow and literally, a cross that many have to bear each day. Denying love to someone who has HIV is one of the biggest crimes someone can commit. If we all open up to the mysteries of life and love, we can see the world in a more positive manner. I take my hat off to these artists and to the rest of the incredible group that make Visual AIDS. Seneca once said, “It is more fitting for a man to laugh at life than to lament over it.” So, let’s party.