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about The Still- Life Series

The “Still-Life" series came out of a desire to make art about my ambivalent feelings regarding living in this era of the HIV cocktail and the industry that has flourished around the disease.

Twenty years ago, art that dealt with AIDS was about the governmental inaction, homophobia, AIDSphobia, and the wave of death decimating the artist population. Art tended to be political, angry (righteously so) and emotional. Explorations of the body, commemorative odes to fallen comrades and/or agit-prop of tremendous power, Collectively the body of work from that era has become a memento mori- i.e.- a reminder of death, human mortality and political failure.

My desire was to make art that reflected my observation as a long-term survivor, of the place where HIV has landed in the U.S marketplace and popular culture two decades after it’s discovery. I chose to use the formal language of Pop Art, taking my cue from Warhol, Hockney, Ruscha but especially Wesselmann who’s still- lifes from the late 50’s –early 60’s made from collaged “found” advertising and materials were ironic illustrations of American consumerism and sexuality. The skewed perspective resulting from placing illustrations of products from different advertising sources next to one another on a table top imbued his pieces with a hyper-reality and humor that felt like an accurate method of evoking the skewed perspective of long term survivors at the beginning of the 21st century. On the one hand we have the psychological (and physical) reality of being alive while most of our friends are dead, coupled with the bombardment of pharmaceutical advertising portraying a healthy, athletic, even sexually vibrant way of life with full page imagery of men climbing mountains, looking at sunrises, holding hands and smiling with fulfillment. The marketing of pharmaceuticals, (with HIV drugs as a subset niche market) has become an accepted part of American life with ads in media outlets from radio and television to billboards and magazines bombarding us with a range of pills, capsules and tablets.

Underneath these pictures of health and vigor one finds the fine print detailing the harsh realities of potential side effects, with a range of human misery from fevers, rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, onset of diabetes, and heart failure to “in some cases”… death.

The possibility of severe side effects is most evident with people who by their diagnosis already have suppressed immune systems, which in turn are clobbered by toxic remedies that may or may not work. It’s a rather schizophrenic perspective on the pursuit of happiness. Yes, we are glad to be still alive, but the journey is filled with side detours, side effects and in fact I have had friends die from complications arising from long-term use of HIV medications.

Lest you think I’m “anti-HIV drugs” let me state that I am not. I recognize the tremendous work and dedication of doctor’s, scientist’s and political activists (myself included) whose efforts have led in one way or another to the varied options for combating this “smart” evolving, mutating virus that used to be an automatic death sentence. But the marketing and billions of dollars in profit made by the drugs manufacturers puts these “life-saving” medications in the same category as any consumer product in American culture. In the Still-Life series product placement puts Viracept, Zerit, Videx …et.al. next to Peter Pan peanut-butter, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and Coca-Cola.

—J.T.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

about the artist

 

 

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Still-life with Viracept
2003, 48" x 36"
acrylic/mixed media on canvas

Still-life with Zerit
2000, 48" x 36"
acrylic/mixed media on canvas

Sustiva Still-life
2000-2001, 48" x 36"
acrylic/mixed media on canvas


Still-life with Vidext
1999-2000, 48" x 36"
acrylic/mixed media on canvas
 

Oscar/Ernesto
1992-1993, 48" x 30"
acrylic on canvas

Remembrance
1989, 48" x 24"
acrylic on canvas

Jeff, Victor, Luiz and George
1992-1993, 41.5" x 52"
acrylic on canvas

Tom Gutierrez
2001, 48" x 36"
acrylic on canvas

Midnight
2000, 36" x 24"
acrylic on canvas

Loren Putting on his Socks
1995, 40" x 30"
acrylic on canvas

Orlando Waiting for Toast
1999-2000, 30" x 48"
acrylic on canvas

Mother and Son
1987, 27" x 51"
acrylic on canvas

Martin, New Year's Day
1995-1996, 40" x 30
acrylic on canvas

Afternoon
2001, 40" x 30"
acrylic on canvas

I Got Drunk, Called His Machine and Threatened to Punch His Fuckin' Face In
1996, 40" x 30
acrylic on canvas

My Friend Peter
1998, 30" x 24
acrylic on canvas


Beach
2004, 18" x 24"
acrylic and oil on canvas


Bite Me
2004, 30" x 48"
acrylic and oil and rhinestones on canvas

Mundo, Luciana, Robert, Steve, Therese, Jef and Simon
2004, 40" x 30"
acrylic and oil on canvas

My Mother's Maiden Name, New York-1980
2006, 60" x 36"
acrylic on canvas


The Disposition of Christ 5 Times
1993, 12" x 12"
acrylic/collage on canvasboard


Ana and Cousin Pat
2002, 40" x 30"
acrylic on canvas

Charles Taking a Bubble Bath
2004, 8" x 12"
oil on canvas