November 1 - December 31, 2008

Visual AIDS and The Body

Curated by HIV Plus Magazine

Sam Orwen, Lovers, 1982
Kissing ('Safer Sex' Series),
Richard Sawdon Smith
, lambda print, 38" x 30"

Featuring the artwork of Archive Members: Eric Stephen Abrams, Barton Lidice Benes, Robert Blanchon, Rene Capone, Luis Carle, Gregg Cassin, Keith Haring, Jerry Hotten, Derek Jackson, John Lathram, Joyce McDonald, Frank Moore, Hunter Reynolds,
Eric Rhein, Richard Sawdon Smith, Steed Taylor, George Towne,
Christopher Trujillo, and Albert Velasco.

From the artist: "'Kissing' is just one image from the six-part 'Safer Sex' series, with the other five becoming more sexually explicit," Sawdon Smith says. "On one level the images could be read, ironically, as saying the only safe sex is sex with yourself. While the series is intentionally humorous, it also touches on the fear of contamination and infection and the often isolating nature of an HIV diagnosis."

Why we chose this piece: This unique double-exposure print strongly re-creates the pervasive fear of the earliest days of the pandemic, when we were so afraid of exposing ourselves to the virus that we literally were afraid to even touch another human being -- much less progress to a level of intimacy.

In the Curatorís Statement:

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day and the corresponding "Day With(out) Art," HIV Plus magazine wanted to honor the visionaries who've brought -- and those who continue to bring -- beauty to our world. We've collaborated with the organization Visual AIDS to curate this special anniversary exhibit, which we call "Salute."

The 20 works we selected represent a wide range of artistic forms -- paintings, drawings, sculpture, posters, photography, collages and mixed media. This variety is a mirror of the vast diversity of the pandemic and of the people affected by HIV -- men, women and children; mothers, fathers, daughters and sons; gays, straights and bisexuals; the old and the young; the rich and the poor; and people of all colors and ethnicities.

We've included both well-known artists, including renowned graffiti artist Keith Haring, and those living outside the limelight who draw strength from their art for their own battles against the disease, inspiring others to find that same commitment, focus and sense of purpose.

We also spotlight seminal works by both artists we lost far too early and those who are still fighting the good fight against HIV each and every day.

Some of the pieces in "Salute" are overtly sexy, many are deeply layered and nuanced, while others are forceful through their simplicity and starkness. Some stir feelings of sadness, loss, emptiness, or nostalgia; others inspire and enliven. Some are timely; others, timeless. Some reveal new truths and spark different feelings each time they're examined, while others sear into your soul upon first glance.

But all of the pieces are poignant lessons on what it truly means -- on a personal and individual level -- to be living with or affected by HIV.

So, please, take a few moments with our exhibit -- and visit the HIV Plus website at -- to revel in just a tiny piece of the enriching beauty that the pandemic can never take from us.

b i o g r a p h y

HIV Plus is dedicated to helping our readers lead their fullest life possible by giving them tips, tools and personal stories that motivate them to make the best of their friendships and relationships, work and leisure time, health care, and overall sense of well-being.

By helping our readers seek out their most rewarding and fulfilling experiences and to improve their outlook in everything they do -- to live out their lives above and beyond being HIV-positive -- they get the holistic effect of HIV Plus's Health+Spirit+Culture+Life focus.

Please check out the November/December issue of HIV Plus for an additional story of Visual AIDS "Art for Everyone, Art Forever" by Benjamin Ryan.

Every month, Visual AIDS invites guest curators, drawn from both the arts and AIDS communities, to select several works from the Frank Moore Archive Project.

Founded in 1988 by arts professionals as a response to the effects of AIDS on the arts community and as a way of organizing artists, arts institutions, and arts audiences towards direct action, Visual AIDS has evolved into an arts organization with a two-pronged mission: 1) Through the Frank Moore Archive Project, the largest slide library of work by artists living with HIV and the estates of artists who have died of AIDS, Visual AIDS historicizes the contributions of visual artists with HIV while supporting their ability to continue making art and furthering their professional careers, 2) In collaboration with museums, galleries, artists, schools, and AIDS service organizations, Visual AIDS produces exhibitions, publications, and events utilizing visual art to spread the message “AIDS IS NOT OVER.”

The Body is now the most frequently visited HIV/AIDS-related site on the Web, according to the Medical Library Association and also the most frequently visited disease-specific site on the Web, according to Hot 100. The Body contains a rich collection of information on topics ranging from HIV prevention, state-of-the-art treatment issues, humor and art. An invaluable resource, The Body is used by clinicians, patients and the general public. Part of The Body's mission is to enable artistic expression to reach the Web, and to join art with other resources needed to help the public comprehend the enormity and devastation of the AIDS pandemic and to experience its human and spiritual dimensions.

Visual AIDS 
526 W. 26th St. # 510, New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212.627.9855  Fax: 212.627.9815

Visual AIDS Gallery

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“In those days, a gay man was made to feel nothing but shame about his feelings and his sexuality. I wanted my drawings to counteract that, to show gay men being happy and positive about who they were. Oh, I didn’t sit down to think this all out carefully. But I knew — right from the start — that my men were going to be proud and happy men!"
— Tom of Finland