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Art for Everyone, Art Forever

Posted Dec 01 2008 12:00am

from HIV Plus Magazine

Art for Everyone, Art Forever

By Benjamin Ryan

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day and its associated “Day With(out) Art,” HIV Plus give a nod of honor to the visionaries who’ve brought—and those who continue to bring—beauty to our world.
Steed Taylor is a long-term survivor—not only of his own HIV infection but also of the devastation of the early AIDS crisis. Born in 1959, he turned 22 the year the first AIDS cases were reported and is one of the lucky few from his generation of gay men who didn’t succumb to the disease.

A working artist from New York known for elaborate “road tattoos,” in which he paints artwork across city streets and sidewalks, Taylor said at first he tried his best to push AIDS out of his creative consciousness. “I wanted to get some kind of grace from the disease, so my goal was not to include it in my artwork,” he says. “But, of course, it was seeping in.”

The HIV pandemic would become a dominant driving force behind Taylor’s work in the early 1990s after he became involved with the growing arts-centered advocacy group Visual AIDS. After eventually joining the nonprofit organization’s board, Taylor met and was inspired by fellow board member and celebrated artist Frank Moore, who was unapologetically incorporating the disease into his own work. Taylor eventually followed suit, and the benefits, he says, were manifold.

 “For artists, their real strength is their personal vision and their own personal experience,” he says. “I was confronted with so much death at such an early age. I think the way for me to deal with it at the time was to think that I should try to avoid it. I guess the positive thing was realizing that I could confront it—maybe, you could say, see the poetry in it.”

Saved for Posterity
Sharing that “poetry” with the public is part of the ongoing mission of Visual AIDS, founded in 1988, which maintains a vast image archive of more than 13,000 works by some 320 artists who are living with HIV and from the estates of 90 artists who have died—most notably, works by former board member Moore, for whom the archive was named following his death in 2002, and those of renowned pop artist Keith Haring, who died in 1990...

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