|curator's statement||october 2005 selection|
m a n n e r o f s o l i t u d e
c u r a t o r :  p e t  s i l v i a
After realizing the scope and extent of the Visual AIDS archive, I wanted my approach to remain simplistic. I needed to place myself within the context of being an artist, and how being HIV-positive affects a person and their work, and those who bear witness to that.
The figure, as interpreted by these artists, hit me immediately. Image after image spoke to me of the isolation of the artist from many sides. First, just for being an artist -- one of the loneliest occupations for sure. It seems too, that an artist working in the figurative genre has to endure more disappointments with their career than those who just make "pretty pictures." Even more so for the erotic artist. Those who persevere with that, through the struggle of their art, can be brought to their wit's end, and even question their integrity as an artist. But the special few who carry forward with their work in this manner of solitude have achieved brave heights. Shown here then, are some of the finest examples I've been lucky enough to gather from one resource.
Viewing the works of so many artists in different styles, media and approaches to their craft still spoke to me of a consistency for a somber and passionate feeling in their work. They have all struggled, and have hit a nerve with their sheer amount of vitality. They also, as artists, show us their isolated side, and we become affected by this, as good art should do to us. Each of the subjects here brings out feelings of dignity, despite any intended humor. They've given a piece of themselves, and we admire that accomplishment.
The art also conveys to the viewer, in some cases, the matter of being gay. Both subtly and distinctly, and often with an element of humor. The sense of honesty, and discovery of defining the true self without any loyalty to societal convention or fear of prejudice. On the level of any orientation, here too, they give of themselves, and again we admire their achievements.
Stricken with this dreadful disease, I know that some of these artists are no longer with us. The people I know personally living with HIV/AIDS have shown me a courage and forbearance I greatly admire, as in the case of the work of these 20 artists presented here this month. The works I've selected all have in common the convergence of isolation and courage. These artists have shown us just how alone they have been, or the representation of that for others in their lives, as are we all. We too, know of that struggle in our daily lives as human beings. All through our days, we carry many of those feelings of isolation ourselves, and rarely get the opportunity to convey them, let alone the courage to do it so eloquently with art.
b i o g r a p h y
Pet Silvia, co-owner of the gallery Art at Large in New York, has been curating exhibitions of art that celebrate the human body and sexuality for over 10 years. Starting in the basement of the Sacred Body Arts Tattoo Emporium on Canal Street, he branched out to other underground galleries and clubs. Between 1996 and 1999, Pet did his weekly cable TV show, "The Malignant Muse." Costumed in drag and wearing lingerie, he promoted the work of unknown artists, and poked fun at the art world establishment because, "they deserve[d] it."
With his wife, Tammey Stubbs, they opened Art at Large in January, 2002, in Hell's Kitchen on Ninth Avenue, to promote and sell the work of artists they feel are making a significant contribution to life and longing in the 21st century. Represented artists include Annie Sprinkle, John John Jesse, Barbara Nitke, Carolyn Weltman, Frances Turner, Charles Gatewood, Tom of Finland, Etienne, Luger, H.R. Giger and photographs from the Quentin Crisp Archives.
Silvia was instrumental, through his association with the Tom of Finland Foundation, in starting the annual New York Erotic Art Fair Weekend, held every May since 2001 at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. In April 2005, Pet was invited to be the Head Curator for the Seattle Erotic Art Festival, bringing in over 40 artists, and helping to make that year the biggest success in art sales to date for the event.
His own work as a performance artist, performing silently from within his studio, uses gender issues as the basis for much of his art. He records himself with still and video cameras, and then the works are finalized with various media, from canvas to digital and 3D dioramas. His longing to be the "pretty girl" in the girly magazines is partly to blame for this inspiration, but also to be an artists' model in a great work of fine art.
For the last 30 years, all of his involvement has helped to make him a trailblazing advocate for what he calls "Art That Excites!" with an equal understanding of those who make this art, and those who hang it on their walls.