Today, December 1st, 2018 marks the 29th annual Day Without Art.
During the 1980’s, people around the world were terrified and confused by the AIDS pandemic. Originally known as “the gay disease”, a whopping 22 million people have passed away from AIDS since the pandemic began. As a response to this worsening crisis, the organization Visual AIDS created Day With(out) Art on December 1st, 1989. Covering their art pieces with information about safe sex and HIV/AIDS, over 800 organizations participated in Day With(out) Art. Evolving over time, Day With(out) Art now includes and encourages art projects creating awareness of AIDS and inclusion of artists living with HIV/AIDS. As part of Day With(out) Art, Rare Tempo has decided to honor the legacy of artists that have passed away as well as bring awareness that there are thousands of artists who are still facing the disease.
Living in New York City during the 1980s, Wojnarowicz was a passionate visual artist with a distaste for the status quo. Refusing to conform to one style, Wojnarowicz created a wide range of art that later focused on his struggle with AIDS. Inspired by outsiders, his art is similar to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s saturated colors and grotesque forms. Unfortunately, Wojnarowicz passed away from AIDS in 1992 at the young age of 37.
Known for using his pop art and graffiti style, Haring helped transform street art. Haring often using his art to make social commentary and challenge the ignorance surrounding AIDS. Despite passing away at 31 years old, Haring’s work is still prominent and extremely recognizable decades later.
While Wojnarowicz and Haring used art as a platform and catharsis for their struggle with AIDS, Mercury remained largely silent until right before his death. Known best for being the flamboyant frontman of Queen, Mercury also wrote songs, played piano, and challenged traditional notions of music genres. Though he wasn’t an activist for AIDS, I believe that he is important to include because it is each artists’ personal choice to go public with their AIDS diagnosis. Mercury passed away at 45 but is still considered one of the most influential music artists of the 20th century. Mercury’s legacy is as alive as ever with the new blockbuster hit Bohemian Rhapsody released on November 2nd and sheds some light on his battle with the disease.
It is impossible to know what these and many other artists would be able to accomplish if they had not been affected by AIDS. So don’t forget to participate in the Day With(out) Art to raise awareness and hopefully find a cure for all of the people who are still struggling with AIDS today.