Art, Activism and the Age of AIDS Favorite 



Jul 10 2019


Madrid, Spain

David Wojnarowicz was born on September 14, 1954, and died on July 22, 1992, at the age of 37 due to AIDS-related complications. Before he became an artist, he attended a Performing Arts high school from which he dropped out of in order to make a living as a farmer in Canada. This was up until he made a name for himself as an artist in New York’s cultural scene. Throughout his life, he was involved in many different types of art that ranged from producing films to even performing. Often times, he was considered a radical due to how much his work went against hegemonic values.

Wojnarowicz's art went against the norm in how much of his work revolved around the gay community. In particular, he worked to bring awareness during the AIDS epidemic as many people suffered silently.

Image result for Peter Hujar death photos

The photo above is of Peter Hujar. Wojnarowicz would describe this man as a "teacher of sorts to me, a brother, a father." These photos were taken recently after his passing having been put in that state due to AIDS. The photos are captured in extreme detail and in contrast are permanent relative to how Peter as a person was only temporary. This contrast serves to emphasize how the photos are not just temporary but will last.

The feet made me realize just how frail Hujar’s body was; his skinny legs and curled toes were reminiscent of a person in a fetal position; it showed the vulnerability. The image of his head, with the slightly open eyes described how Hujar recently passed away, having only just crossed the path of life into death and emphasized how these photos could have only been taken in that moment, followed by pale marble-like hands that make the images look permanent in contrast to the other images that showcased frailty. Despite being vulnerable, there was something powerful and lasting. The photos were a recording of a life that no one from the dominant society cared about.

Many people viewed AIDS as a disease that solely afflicted gays and lesbians thus, people with this condition were considered social outcasts since the hegemony at the time dictated that people who strayed from traditional gender roles were considered inhuman. The artist sought to bring light to the AIDS epidemic. The photos showed just how human Hujar was. Therefore, Wojnarowicz was able to bring not just a different perspective, but a different perspective that lasted. The suffering endured by the gay community was one done in loneliness but with his political artwork that draws attention from the critical temporary moment of Hujar’s death and capturing it, creates an effective space for representing oppressed people. The photos were some of the first pieces of art that pointed out the silent suffering of the gays and lesbians and how the political atmosphere needed change.

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