featured gallery for May 2008

Linear Progression / Progressive Deterioration

Linear Progression by Steven Gordon

Something that has always fascinated me, both in my work and in my personal life, is the post 9/11 effect on the city's health, especially the topic of HIV. Have certain behaviors changed since the fall of the towers? That question may be a hard one to answer. What I can answer is that the rise of HIV infection has risen among people under the age of 25 in NYC. Rates of infection in African American women and African-American MSM have also increased in the past seven years. My selection of artworks will seek to explore what I have seen in both my personal life as a black gay man and in my career working with HIV positive people in post 9/11 New York.

In working with HIV positive folks, I have seen the full spectrum of emotion and behavior. Jack Brusca's "Beck" represents the despair on top of isolation many people feel when dealing with a stigmatized condition. Tal Zargarhof's "Chris Getting High" is the idea of escape from reality. The artworks that include HIV medications represent the gift and curse of modern medicine. The gift being a prolonged and better quality of life, while the curses are the side effects and pressure of staying adherent. Rodrigo Zuniga's "El Abrazo" speaks to the human need for intimacy, touch and sex. I chose Tim Greathouse's "Untitled" because oftentimes I think it is assumed that HIV does not mix well with romance, sex or marriage. To me this photo challenges that stereotype. Max Greenberg's "Ten Years" photo is essentially hope. The photograph of a man, who is not ashamed of his HIV and after living with it for 10 years, remains healthy. This picture represents the most important idea I want this gallery to represent: hope.

From my perspective, this gallery is a linear story that represents basic human emotions in the face of any true obstacle: fear, denial, anger, and hope. The resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.

Progressive Deterioration by RJ Supa

I recall my teenage obsession with Madonna as overwhelming, defining, formative, obsessive and most things in between. It was 1991, I was 15, and I had to have my aunt buy me The Advocate with Madonna on the cover from our local adult bookstore, the only place one could buy any gay magazine in upstate New York.

After voraciously reading and re-reading Madonna's "X-Rated Interview" I continued my exploration of the magazine. At this time a good portion of The Advocate was filled with sex ads, offering every bit of kink one could ask for. Those ads no longer exist, at least not in that format or in that magazine. I miss that. The end of those ads -- for me -- was the beginning of the disappearance of our Queer Identities.

The works I have chosen here all represent a vanishing act. From the haunting images of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Richard Sawdon-Smith to the nowadays non-existent ACT UP posters that I loved so much to the thousands of friends, family and amazing artists that we have lost, MY QUEER CULTURE IS VANISHING.

The pieces, in relatively chronological order, document my feelings and experiences on queer culture, HIV & AIDS and our place as a community in all of that: Where is lesbian representation among HIV/AIDS studies & statistics? Where is Peter Hujar? Why did he have to die? Why is it the further we come out of the closet the more our sex lives are shoved further back inside?

Shame was taken over by anger, which has now been replaced by complacency. Our Queer Culture MUST recognize all of this. While we may be more visible on TV and in the national zeitgeist, I ask, "At what cost?" I do not want to be either Will OR Grace. I miss being subculture; I miss people storming St. Patrick's Cathedral; I miss David Wojnarowicz and Robert Mapplethorpe! I miss New York and the gay theatres and a dirtier Times Square. I miss art that is organic and happening on the sides of buildings, on streets and in dilapidated warehouses.

In working with an LGBT youth population I have become aware that information is also disappearing; urgency and agency are disappearing; facilities, funding, resources and good, decent caregivers are fading. Interest in HIV/AIDS is at an all-time low. Practically gone are the days when we were all wearing red ribbons, buying our Red, Hot & Blue records, displaying our Safe Sex Is Hot Sex ad campaigns in our lockers, offices, dorms and bedrooms.

While I never again want to be relegated to buy a gay newsmagazine from an adult bookstore, I too do not want to be a sexual eunuch; I want my cake and I want to eat it too! To quote Larry Kramer on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of ACT UP: "We are not crumbs; we must not accept crumbs." Perhaps what I should say is, "I want my FULL piece of cake and I want to eat all of it!"

This leads me back to Madonna. She has clearly had her full piece of cake and continues to demand more (she's a queer icon for a reason). Back in 1991, during the second part of her "X-Rated Interview," she said "people are afraid to say 'I wish President Bush would spend less money on arms and more money on funding research to find a cure for AIDS.' There just aren't enough people doing that." Some things change, some things remain the same. At the very least we have the images to remind us of what was, what could have been and the things that might have happened.