August 1 - 31, 2013

Visual AIDS and The Body

Love Minds and Anatomical Gardens
Curated by Aldrin Valdez

Sam Orwen, Lovers, 1982
bodies + virus, 2012

NOTE: Previous exhibitions are also available on the website.

“AIDS is not only a medical crisis on an unparalleled scale, it involves a crisis of representation itself, a crisis over the entire framing of knowledge about the human body and its capacities for sexual pleasure.”
Simon Watney, Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS, and the Media.

For the August web gallery, I began with the work of Robert Flack, whose art I recently discovered through the Visual AIDS's Tumblr site, Not Over, a useful resource and part of Visual AIDS’s programming for its 25th year of working to fight AIDS through art.

Flack was a Toronto-based artist involved with Art Metropole, an art center founded by members of General Idea and dedicated to producing and distributing artist publications. I'd never seen any of Flack's work before and I didn't know anything about him until I saw his photograph, Anatomical Garden. An upright figure—it seems like this anatomical garden humanoid shouldn’t be standing at all, opened and exposed as it is—made up of spine, nerves, and blood vessels all leading not to a head but to a tangle of flowers, the colors of which echo those of the blurry background.

I love this image for its colorfulness, for how it makes me feel those colors, for its strange hybrid forms that remind me of anatomy books and superhero comics, and for its mixture of photography and painting (I learned that Flack painted on acetate over his photographs and then photographed the images again, creating seamless collages, pre-Photoshop).

I love this image because it makes me think about my own body’s complexities. There are processes I can’t see, but I know and trust that they are going on beneath my skin, through and with my skin, and outward, caught up in many more complex relationships with the environment and with other people’s bodies. And on a very basic level, I love this image because it makes me happy.

Like Anatomical Garden, Robert Flack’s other photo-collages and works by Curtis Carman, Chloe Dzubilo, Paul Thek, John Hanning, Hector Toscano, and Eric Rhein raise questions about the complex invisible and visible workings of bodies and the relationships of those bodies with other systems, other bodies, smaller and larger, singular and collective. Institutional, cellular, spiritual, political, ecological, and social bodies.

What are feelings?

What is trauma and how does it move (through) bodies?

What privileges does this body have that another body does not?

How is this flower 1981 or 1996 or 2013, or that thing that happens when you see the birthdates of so-called baby boomers and their deaths at '83, '85, '88, '91, '94, and you know why even if you haven't learned much else about them?

And what do you do with that knowing?

Is violet a lover?

How is my liver related to my blood, my hair?

What is a person?

Is this seat taken?

Do you know what I mean?

In the Curatorís Statement:

Love Minds and Anatomical Gardens

B i o g r a p h y

Aldrin Valdez is an artist, writer, immigrant. He studied painting and writing at Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts. He is a 2011-2012 Queer/Art/Mentorship fellow and a contributor to

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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