Jean Carlomusto, Alexandra Juhasz, and Hugh Ryan offer a tribute to two artists featured in their 2016 video COMPULSIVE PRACTICE who passed away in 2022.

In 2015, Visual AIDS invited the three of us (Jean Carlomusto, Alexandra Juhasz, and Hugh Ryan) to curate an exhibition drawing from their artist registry (among other sources), and to create an accompanying video to be shown around the world on World AIDS Day/Day Without Art 2016. Together, we developed a focus for the exhibition on the “everyday-ness of AIDS,” and for the video, COMPULSIVE PRACTICE, we translated that idea into showcasing under-recognized filmmakers (in a broad definition of the word) who had cataloged their daily experiences with AIDS, or the experiences of their community, in an ongoing manner which we understood as “compulsive,” that is, they couldn’t stop making video about AIDS even if they wanted to; this was how they lived, engaged, healed, and fought.

Two of the artists who allowed us to feature their videos were Carol Leigh (1952–2022) and Juanita Mohammed Szczepanski (1957–2022), both of whom died at the end of last year. These women were visionaries in the fight against AIDS, creating moving, informative, funny, and heartbreaking videos, over many decades, that focused on communities that were too often ignored, or worse, blamed for the crisis: sex workers in the case of Leigh, and women and the Black community in the case of Szczepanski.

Watch Juanita Mohammed Szczepanski discuss compulsive video making, collaborative women's AIDS activism, and accessibility during a panel at the Brooklyn Museum.

We were lucky enough to have them both at our New York public events at the New Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, and there we reveled in their in-person humor, power, and commitment. We will miss this spark, their unique voices, and their embodied beauty and wisdom even as we can continue to learn from them in video.

We have put this page together, with the support of Visual AIDS, to memorialize and thank them; to call attention to their work and the still-unheralded work of so many women; and to remind all of us that AIDS is still an everyday experience; that people are still living and dying with it; that making art about is is always part of a solution; and that sex workers and Black women are still creating vital interventions into the ongoing crisis.

— Jean Carlomusto, Alexandra Juhasz, and Hugh Ryan