World AIDS Day on Thursday will mark 30 years since the Centers for Disease Control first reported on the disease that came to be known as AIDS. To mark those three decades, a Manhattan gallery is presenting an exhibit, "The Sword Of Damocles," that features works by a dozen artists who have lived with HIV for many years. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Patrick Webb is an artist who has been living with HIV for years.
"It's been like being in a war to some degree, watching your comrades die around you," Webb says. "And you survive and it's a combination of 'Oh my god, I survived, isn't this wonderful?' There's also sort of, 'Why me?'"
Webb's artwork is part of an exhibition he curated called "The Sword Of Damocles" at the Painting Center in Chelsea. The exhibit, named after an ancient tale of looming peril, features 12 artists who are also long-term survivors living with HIV, who were chosen from the extensive image library of the organization called Visual AIDS.
"I think we do work, not only to honor all of the people that we have lost to AIDS, but also to share the work of people who are living, surviving, thriving with HIV," says Visual AIDS Executive Director Amy Sadao.
Webb included a canvas he painted one month after losing his partner to the disease in 1992. He also included a piece done in 2005 that shows a couple building a life together as they construct a house of cards.
The transition of the artists over the years is a theme of the show.
"I chose an early work from the early '90s, and a later work from the 2000s, and they sort of bracket the period where the protease inhibitors and drugs that allowed people to survive emerged," says Webb.
Webb says he placed the works against one another to explore the contrast.
"I never expected to be around. I never expected to reach late middle age and it's kind of extraordinary to reflect back on the last 30 years," Webb says.