I strongly recommend the show, ArtAIDSAmerica, which The Advocate is calling “Uncomfortable, wistfully beautiful, and vitally important.” The exhibit features a wide variety of artistic reactions to the AIDS epidemic, including journalistic documentation of the early days of our awareness, elegiac tributes to lost friends and lovers, and even abstract pieces containing coded references to the disease. You will recognize some of the big-name artists, such as Keith Haring; others are more obscure.
Through these different points of view, a story emerges. In particular, it is part of our story as gay men, one that is easily forgotten in the days when modern medicine has made HIV a manageable disease and more difficult to contract. Even so, one cannot help but feel outrage when one is reminded of the ignorance and hatred with which our elected officials condemned so many people to die.
There were several panels from the AIDS quilt on display. These pieces really got to me, probably because my mother is a quilter. Although she has never made an AIDS-related quilt, she has created numerous memorial quilts for families who lost loved ones. These pieces always include swatches of fabric from clothes worn by the deceased. They create something tangible for the families to hold onto. I think the AIDS quilt panels are a lot like that, only they take the extra step of making these people’s lives and deaths visible for everyone.
That’s what this exhibit does too. ArtAIDSAmerica runs through Sunday, April 2 at Alphawood Gallery, which is located at 2401 N Halsted.