Friday, June 05, 2009

Living With HIV, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Living with HIV, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Didn't always practice safe sex. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. 25" x 19", unframed. 31" x 25", framed. Hand beaded and stitched. Click on image to enlarge.)

A year ago the Decision Portrait Series started. Since that time I've talked and written about the more than 30 finished pieces and the dozens of potential works I'd like to stitch. Frequently, I say, "This series isn't about value judgments." IT ISN'T!

Yet, everyone doesn't agree with all the decisions being depicted and some of the choice made aren't exactly examples of prudent behavior. This still doesn't change anything; the series still isn't focusing on value judgments. Besides, who among us hasn't made a mistake, made a less than ideal decision?

From the beginning, I planned to exhibit the entire group....and I've started submitting proposals for solo show already. I want people to come face-to-face with the stitched xylene photo transfers....confront the myriad of complex decisions. I want people to react to the work. I want to stimulate an emotional and intellectual response. It is supposed to be thought provoking.

Some of the portraits are meant to have viewers question how they might act in a similar situation. To ask, "Would I donate a kidney? Leave an abusive spouse? Take a loved one off life support?" Some of the portraits, like this one, will hopefully get viewers to think about their reactions to someone else's choices: "How would I respond to an interracial couple or people with different religious beliefs or to someone admitting to a poor choice made during a passionate moment resulting in a lifetime with the HIV virus?"

(Above: Living With HIV, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Well, I know exactly how I would react. I've been there. The man who posed for this portrait once worked with me. He confined his condition shortly after being diagnosed. At the time, we were best friends. I considered him the brother I never had. My reaction to his news made me care more deeply; and, for a short time, we were even closer. His medical condition certainly didn't pull us apart. There were other issues....and that's another, long story.

Suffice it to say, our friendship and working relationship ended badly. I was very hurt. We didn't communicate for nearly eight year....until this portrait.

Forgiveness is a powerful force. Hearing an apology did wonders for my soul. A fragile reconciliation made this artwork possible. I sincerely hope this portrait, when viewed by others, touches people as much as stitching it has touched me.

(Above: Living With HIV, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

HIV affects millions worldwide. Compassion and understanding are necessary to deal with this infection.

I finished this portrait several days ago. Today, Kim Lemaster came to my studio and saw the work and read the statement I'd composed. He had no problem with his name being used and suggested the MCC Clinic as a link as well at PALSS, a South Carolina organization that raises fund and awareness for the battle against Aids. (I've been a long time supporter myself and have written several blog posts about the annual Dining With Friends charity art event with which I've been involved.) It was nice to talk about art with someone I care about.


Wanda said...

Wow....very powerful. Very open. I think this series is awesome. and I think it must be a ride that can never truly be described for you. There is another decision in this story....forgiveness. And it's one that everyone one has to make some time or another.

Doris said...

This one made me cry. In my office over lunch. Knowing you and Kim, and the full story...I'm glad you are speaking again, and I hope this is a start for other reconciliations to take place. I hope I have the chance to see these all exhibited together one day... they are all so powerful.

Susan Lenz said...

Hi Doris!
I don't know if you'll come back here to see this comment; but, if you do, please know I thought of you more than once while stitching and posting this piece. Charlene felt the same way about have others. Thankfully, the tears this time are for joy. Kim is doing okay now though his mother died within the year and he and David broke up after 23 years together. Still, he seems now to be in a "good place" and like the "old Kim". I'll see where the future goes and am hoping for the best.