|Margie, John Dugdale|
My name is Claire, and I study painting and ceramics at Bennington College in Vermont. Each year, students are sent out (over the coldest winter months) to work internships related to our studies and, if we’re lucky, our passions. I chose Visual AIDS.
Before arriving in New York City, I had a vision of myself strutting down the crowded streets, head held high, relishing the fact that I had the opportunity to work in this amazing city. Of course, my pretty little bubble of naiveté was promptly popped as I stepped out of Penn Station. I was slammed by an icy, biting wind, and more than a few people, on my way to Visual AIDS.
After a few exhilarating and exhausting days, I began to get the hang of navigating busy streets and an even busier office. I started my internship with Visual AIDS right before Postcards From the Edge. When I arrived, the office was a beehive of activity and artwork. I knew that this was my kind of place.
I was quick to find Visual AIDS encompasses many of my passions: art, artists, sexual health, and non-profits. Before this winter, I have mostly kept my interest in art and sexual health separate. I was very excited to have the opportunity to explore the combination at Visual AIDS.
|Healing HIV (1999), Eduardo Mirales|
At the tail end of my internship I began my investigation for this “blog” gallery, reviewing the Frank Moore Archive Project. When I began browsing the images, I assumed I would see specific subjects related to HIV/AIDS—love, sex, drugs, death, etc. All of these can also be found in the art world at large, but within the context of the archive these themes seem to be rooted in a stark honesty.
I could easily have found, and compiled an array of works focused on any of the aforementioned motifs, but I had my own ideas of themes that I wanted to emphasize. Chiefly, I was interested in loneliness, a subject I explore in my own work, and that I find in abundance in our hyper-connected world in which there is an immense amount of communication and so little connection. In my search, I found a sense of loneliness, specifically in reaction to the initial physical and psychological isolation that was so prevalent in the early stages of the epidemic, and in response to the ongoing discrimination and isolation an HIV+ diagnosis still holds.
|Loneliness (1994), Carlos Gutierrez-Solana, Untitled (1982), Keith Haring|
In direct juxtaposition to the loneliness, I also discovered a deep sense of companionship and simple necessity of comfort that quickly equaled, and perhaps surpassed, the number of works focused on loneliness. The correlation between these two emotions is undeniable, especially in conjuncture with the effect of AIDS.
After just a few hours of browsing the archive, it seemed as though I was going to have an ever-growing list of potential pieces to highlight in this entry. When I finally bit the bullet and started to narrow my choices, I spent hours agonizing contemplation before coming up with just six pieces; three for companionship, be it the hands of a dancing couple, or an animated embrace; and three for loneliness shown in solitude, or explained repeatedly across an image.
|Radical Faeries Series (1986), Albert Winn, Well of Loneliness (1997), Yolanda|
Over the course of my time here I have learned much more about what it means to live with HIV/AIDS, the LGBT community, and myself. I have greatly appreciated handling work from artists such as Yoko Ono, Philip Pearlstein, and Ed Ruscha, but the talent housed within the Frank Moore Archive is truly inspiring. I have to thank Amy, Nelson, Ted and my fellow intern for their warm welcome, instruction on what it takes to run a non-profit arts organization, and our hilariously sardonic lunchtime conversations.
Claire Elam is a painter and sculptor currently studying at Bennington College. Elam is interested n exploring loneliness, and the disconnect between our hyper communicative world, and our lack of connection.