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My career as a fashion photographer in the early 1990's was taking off when I was diagnosed with AIDS - a disease which eventually left me legally blind. I also experienced one of the most visible manifestations of the AIDS virus - Kaposi's sarcoma - which produced purplish red lesions all over my face and body. I was easily identified as having the disease and experienced the stigmatization many people living with the virus endured during this time. The inscription of illness and resulting disability has inspired my work.
While working on my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Columbia College in the early 1980's the punk and new wave scene was at its height and performance art was at its rawest. For me, it was an artistically productive time. I have always been passionate about fine art portraiture; so, I would collaborate with and photograph subjects I met at the clubs and performance art spaces - this was during the early part of the AIDS pandemic and many of my subjects would later discover they were HIV positive and most would die from AIDS. We were not sure what was causing the disease which was initially referred to as GRID -- Gay Related Immune Disfunction. Many clinicians thought the disease only affected gay men. Sadly, there were no treatments, no hope. The 80's was also the time of the Reagan presidency, an era which ignored the dying and did nothing in the way of treatment or prevention. It was a time rife with counter culture indignation. So many young gay men had flocked to urban centers such as Chicago to develop new communities and families to replace those from which they had been ostracized. Sadly, so many became infected with the virus which would take away their potential, their future promise and ultimately their lives.
I had friends who were becoming sick and fatigued with HIV disease. At the time I did not know, I too, was HIV positive. I had so many friends succumbed to AIDS related opportunistic infections I felt the scourge of the AIDS plague needed to be represented, in my way, through my art.
In 2018, on December 1st -- World AIDS day the lives and the legacy of those I photographed were exhibited at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana, California. The exhibition featured my black & white portraits of those lost to AIDS while they were still in their prime before the symptoms of the virus took hold. The exhibition "REMEMBER -- an AIDS memorial retrospective," also feature the work of painters Barbara Romain and Alexandria Allan.
I hope the exhibition encourages a new generation of poz artists to make artwork with freedom, openness, and disclosure to create even more visibility for the art which was and is being produced, especially in under-represented communities. My goal is to further promote HIV / AIDS awareness and prevention.
Many of these portraits are now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, web link: https://www.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=browse&f=maker&s=Weston%2C+Kurt&record=6
If you are interested in acquiring some of this work for your permanent collection or you wish to exhibit this work, please contact me at email@example.com