The 2018 Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards (VAVA Voom) and fundraising dinner honored three artists: Lyle Ashton Harris, Thomas Allen Harris and Steed Taylor.
Held Monday, March 21, at event space Tribeca Three Sixty° in New York City, this year’s gala was hosted by Morgan Bassichis and Pamela Sneed and featured musical performances by the hilarious Jackie Hoffman and soulful Nona Hendryx, along with pre- and post-dinner dancing with DJ Ryan McNamara. The evening also included a silent auction of works by the three honored artists as well as Barton Lidice Benes, Kiki Smith, Paul Thek, Carrie Yamaoka and many others.
Founded in 1988, Visual AIDS supports artists living with HIV and employs art to draw attention to the epidemic through exhibits and projects such as its annual Day Without Art event, the first of which took place on World AIDS Day, December 1, 1989.
The Visual AIDS website includes detailed bios of the honorees, presenters and hosts. The following excerpts describe the three artists celebrated at VAVA Voom this year:
Lyle Ashton Harris
For more than two decades, Lyle Ashton Harris has cultivated a diverse artistic practice ranging from photographic media, collage, installation and performance. His work explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic. Known for his self-portraits and use of pop culture icons (such as Billie Holiday and Michael Jackson), Harris teases the viewers’ perceptions and expectations, resignifying cultural cursors and recalibrating the familiar with the extraordinary. Harris is currently an associate professor of art and art education at New York University. Harris created Selections from the Ektachrome Archive, 1986–1996 for Alternate Endings, Radical Beginnings, Visual AIDS’ video program distributed internationally for Day With(out) Art 2017.
Thomas Allen Harris
Thomas Allen Harris, an award-winning director, is the president of Chimpanzee Productions, a company dedicated to producing unique audio-visual experiences that illuminate the human condition and the search for identity, family and spirituality, including feature length films, performances and live multimedia productions. Mr. Harris’s deeply personal and innovative films—Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014), Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (2005), E Minha Cara/That’s My Face (2001), VINTAGE—Families of Value (1995)—have received critical acclaim. In 2009, Mr. Harris and his team launched the transmedia community engagement project, Digital Diaspora Family Reunion LLC (1world1family.me), a performance-based touring road show and virtual gathering space, where individuals are invited to explore and share the rich and revealing narratives found within their family photo albums. Harris is currently working on several Digital Diaspora–inspired projects, including Remember Me: The Family Album Project, a documentary exploring how the family album shapes memory and identity in the digital age. Harris created About Face: The Evolution of a Black Producer for Alternate Endings, Radical Beginnings, Visual AIDS’ video program distributed internationally for Day With(out) Art 2017.
Steed Taylor’s art practice includes public artwork as well as work for gallery settings. His art has been shown around the country. Recent commissions for his public artwork include the cities of New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, New Orleans and Arlington, Virginia. An activist for many years, he has worked with a wide variety of both arts and AIDS organizations, including the Whitman-Walker Clinic, He has also served on the artists board of Artists Space, as cochair of the 21st Century Committee for the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture (1999 to 2005) and on the board of directors for Visual AIDS (1995 to 1998; 2010 to 2018) and Cannabis Cares (1999 to the present). Steed will receive the William Olander Award, a special VAVA presented each year to an individual in the creative arts living with HIV and named in honor of the late New Museum curator and cofounder of Visual AIDS.