Opinion : Art & AIDS: Perceptions of Life - by Osvaldo Perdomo

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December 12, 2013

Art & AIDS: Perceptions of Life

by Osvaldo Perdomo

An HIV-positive artist celebrates his fellow artists living with the virus.

Osvaldo Perdomo
Osvaldo Perdomo
Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in 1981, art has been utilized as a platform to minimize stigma and a voice to call for action to government and medical officials in a time when little hope was available for those living with HIV and AIDS. Today, art continues to be a powerful source of communication in the epidemic. Even though we have advancements in medical care, the truth of the matter is that AIDS is not over. Effective medical treatment and necessary financial support is not available to help all people living in the United States who are affected by the virus. Art & AIDS: Perceptions of Life is an art exhibition geared to increase awareness, uplift the spirit of those living with the virus and minimize stigma.

Osvaldo Perdomo, "Emotions" (Oil and acrylic on canvas) 36" x 24"
I recently watched The Universe of Keith Haring, a documentary screened at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). The film offers a compelling reflection on the artist whose impulse was to do his art, create consciousness and live life until the end. Keith Haring died when he was only 31 years old from AIDS complications, leaving behind his art legacy and the Keith Haring Foundation where his ideals are preserved and enhanced to continue assisting those in need of help and support.

Art & AIDS: Perceptions of Life displays the works of 46 artists living with HIV/AIDS—professional artists as well as those beginning their creative exploration. They have come to GMHC at some point after learning about their HIV diagnosis to access services. I personally began my involvement with GMHC after I moved to NYC in 1989 and started participating in its annual fundraiser, AIDS Walk New York.

I went back to GMHC in 2005 and this time, I went through the doors looking for help, shortly after I learned I was living with AIDS. My fear of dying and facing my new reality made me search for help at GMHC, the LGBT Community Center and Friends In Deed, where thankfully I was able to receive help and support while addressing my circumstances. However, GMHC was the only place where I was able to creatively open up and stop the constant chatter going on my mind telling me I was facing death. The weekly therapeutic effect I experienced in the drawing class offered by GMHC’s Volunteers, Work and Wellness Center changed my outlook on life. The first Wednesday I went to a weekly drawing was the first day I was able to live for two hours without thinking about the virus. That day and thereafter, I was able to disconnect from AIDS and just live life. One drawing at the time, one painting at the time, one brush stroke at the time.

George Towne, "Ricardo with Tree" (Oil on canvas) 30" x 24"
Today, while I continue to be a GMHC client, I am a member of GMHC’s Board of Directors and I volunteer as co-curator for this GMHC exhibition with artist David Livingston at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. This year marks the fifth anniversary of presenting GMHC’s Art & AIDS exhibition at the museum with heartfelt thanks to Charles Leslie, the museum co-founder and his staff. This museum is the first dedicated LGBTQ art museum in the world with a mission to exhibit and preserve LGBTQ art, and foster the artists who create it.

The common denominator among the artists in this exhibition is to bring our art and demonstrate our Perceptions of Life. The artwork sold during the exhibition goes 100 percent to the individual artists, which is particularly important for those who live on limited income. This is a wonderful opportunity, especially for some artists who will be participating in their first professional show, displaying their artistic talents. Seven artists have donated a piece of artwork for a Silent Auction to benefit GMHC. The Silent Auction will close at the end of the exhibition on January 5, 2014.

James Horner, "Pilate Washing His Hands" (Acrylic and mica chip on tarp) 54" x 90"
During the opening reception on Thursday, December 19 (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.), members of the Imperial Court of New York, a longstanding group that raises funds for community-based organizations, will be volunteering their time to greet guests as part of the festivities.

Admission is free of charge and open to the general public.

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is located at 26 Wooster Street (between Grand and Canal) in Manhattan. Museum hours are Tuesdays through Sundays, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Mondays, as well as December 25 and January 1, closed. The exhibition runs from December 19 to January 5.

Please visit gmhc.org/art-and-aids for more information.

Search: Osvaldo Perdomo, GMHC, Leslie Lohman, art


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