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David Wojnarowicz - Artist

A man buried in sand with only parts of his face visible. Two halves of a loaf of bread sewn together. Someone wearing a mask of the poet Rimbaud against various backdrops in New York City, sometimes just standing there, sometimes masturbating, sometimes shooting heroin. A film portraying an obsessed fan's behavior as his idol rejects his worship and he falls to pieces very graphically. A man sitting at the docks of Manhattan, his face all painted in blue. And my personal favorite, a take on road construction signs, this one portraying a man eating out of a cow's ass.

This is just a fraction of the art produced by David Wojnarowicz.

As I read back what I just wrote, some might be inclined to believe all his work glorifies destruction and negativity. Personally, I think there's more to his work than that, but even if that was the case, there was a reason. He was dying of AIDS, and being gay and infected with AIDS in 80's America was to be looked upon with scorn from everyone who viewed the half-assed coverage of AIDS as an act of god.

I first discovered David Wojnarowicz when I was living out on Long Island. As a teen, I felt isolated and would always stay in my room listening to music or reading books, not caring about the outside world. In my 20's, I found myself wanting to explore the world a little more. I picked up my first issue of the Village Voice and inside I came across an article about David Wojnarowicz. He had just died. I still remember the picture from that article. He was sitting down and had such a piercing stare that I was mesmerized. To this day, I still can't put my finger on why.

My girlfriend, Tonya, feels that when you die you leave an impression of yourself somewhere, some more so that others. A larger than life personality, or a traumatic death could leave behind such an impression. Perhaps I somehow sensed there was more to this man than just another gay artist who died of AIDS.

Maybe a year or so later, I can't remember when, I would run across another article on him. It was a drawing of him smashing St. Patrick's cathedral. I was in my anti-religion phase back then and thought this was pretty cool. The article was about the comic book, "Seven Miles a Second", which was based on his autobiographical writings. In that particular scene, he is raging against the condemnation by the church on people infected with AIDS. I became more intrigued.

Fast forward to 1999, whereupon I would see yet another article in yet another Village Voice, this one about the retrospective show, "Fever", at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in Soho. Of course I had to go. I ended up spending half the day there. The entire building was full of his work. There were paintings, sculptures, films, even music from his old band, 3 Teens Kill 4. It was an amazing output.

OK, so why write about this now? Who gives a fuck? That's my whole point is that a lot of people don't give a fuck or don't know about his art. Searches on the web only come up with little paragraphs here and there. It's just really sad to me that when most people think of New York Art, they think of Warhol, or Basquiat, who as far as I was concerned were more into keeping up the myth of the artist rather than actually producing essential art. I know I'm probably going to catch hell from some people, but what the fuck did those two do that were so damn interesting anyway? If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong and so be it, but I've never seen anything that Warhol has done that had the pure, honest emotion that David Wojnarowicz put into his work. He had something to say and he said in more ways than most people could, and yet I still don't know how to pronounce his goddamn last name (which could be also due to that I'm your typical American ignoramus who has no experience with other cultures). It almost proves the point that the celebrity of the artist is more important than the art. I guess if David Wojnarowicz looked more like a freak with a white wig or a handsome young black man instead of starving lower east side artist then he'd be more well known.

Hopefully, a forum like this can change that. Let's face it, there's a ton of under appreciated artists from New York City whose work ends up in the trash. I hate to think of artwork rotting at Fresh Kills, because I like to think that art has some type of permanence to it. But it happens every day and the only way to stop it is to make the effort to appreciate it, even if you don't like it.

[This message was edited by TonyaKnudsen on 09-11-02 at 01:06 AM.]
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