See How Artists Changed the Narrative of AIDS in America

The discussion of AIDS in 2016 is still a very tough conversation to have. We know the alarming statistics and are even aware of a possible cure. Yet, if the conversation arises are we really ready to talk about it?

The traveling exhibition,  Art AIDS America, features over a 100+ artists who create visual depictions of the effect of AIDS. The works tackle the earliest discovery of the disease in the 1980’s until now. For its final stop in Chicago, the interactive exhibition presents exclusive works by a variety of local artist, among them, are major works by the Chicago Imagist Roger Brown.

The works of art are laced with stories of pain, loss, love, family, politics, and truth. Many like, Arch Connelly focused on the physical effects of AIDS on the body, while artists like Deborah Kass and Keith Haring focused on the spiritual and immaterial aspect of the epidemic. Still others,  like Mesami Teraoka and Frank Moore , chose to use art as a tool for activism. Either candidly, to deter social prejudice against those afflicted by the disease, or judiciously to elicit conversation in places where the topic would otherwise never be discussed, if not for the visual arts.

The exhibition shows that the effects of AIDS are inclusive to everyone.  So often the narrative focuses on the effect of AIDS and HIV on white males.

Philadelphia. Charlie Sheen.

Or Africa. The whole damn continent is portrayed as having the disease.

Yet, it can affect anyone. Male or female, gay or straight, black, white or latino. AIDS sees no color or gender. It can affect anybody anywhere. That is why this exhibition is so powerful. It is filled with a diverse set of artists from various backgrounds who share how the disease affected them, and boldly felt it was necessary to share that message with others.

I felt very compelled as a black woman seeing this show, especially the works created by black men. In our culture, sexuality and health are two things we never like to discuss. We avoid it as a community, and that is probably one of the main reasons behind the many negative health statics that we face as a culture. This is why an exhibition like this is so vital, we cannot remain ignorant. We must interact and react so that we can be vigilant in our own lives against this epidemic.

The exhibition offers several impactful events throughout its six months stay. It has partnered with StoryCorps, to preserve and share the stories of those lost to the epidemic. They are also offering on-site free HIV testing throughout the week, along with other events and activities that focus on AIDS awareness.

Don’t miss this beautiful and triumphant showing of Arts AIDS American Chicago on display until April 2nd, 2017 at Alphawood Gallery in Lincoln Park. Free to attend with timed admission. Schedule your time here.

See below for some of my favorite pieces from the exhibition:

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Kia  Labejia, ‘Eleven.’2015.
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Frank Moore, ‘Patient.’ 1998.
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Daniel Sotomayer. 1990.
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Patric McCoy. 1983-1985.
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Niki de Saint Phalle, ‘AIDS, you can’t catch it holding hands.’1987.
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Edward Lightner, ‘Do You Smell My Virus.’2003.
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Howard Pindell, ‘Separate but Equal Genocide/AIDS.’ 1991-1992
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Keith Haring, ‘Altar Piece.’ 1990.
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Roger Brown, ‘ Illusion.’ 1985.
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Masami Teraoka ‘Geisha in Ofuro.’ 2011.
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Deborah Kass ‘Still Here.’ 2007.