«One day this kid will get larger» is an exhibition now taking place at the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago. It unites artists who explore the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic in North America through the lens of childhood, education, pop culture and race. The exhibition was created in companion to the Art AIDS America which is represented by artists, activists, and photojournalists who showcase diversity of people who have faced HIV/AIDS.

DePaul Art Museum in Chicag

The purpose of this exhibition is to remind again that HIV/AIDS crisis is not over especially in some areas and among some communities. Curator Danny Orendorff says: “The focus on youth in the show is really compelled by the fact that the AIDS crisis is not over, and some communities that are most vulnerable to HIV infection today are primarily young, gay or bisexual identifying men of colour.”

The choice of artists that have been represented here is great. “This collaboration and Danny’s expertise can bring to light issues that are overlooked and artists who are under-recognized,” said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, the museum’s director and chief curator. “DePaul Art Museum is focused on diversity and inclusion, and in this exhibition we hear from voices that are not part of the mainstream dialogue about AIDS and HIV.”

Orendorff admits that conversation with one of the artist – videographer Rudy Lemcke – made him think about the intergenerational divide with the epidemic. “I began to think about how that is the priority of this show,” Orendorff says. “The sort of effort to make a case for HIV and AIDS being just as urgent an issue to organize around and bring awareness to as it has always been. Despite the fact that AIDS is no longer seen as the death sentence disease that it was, it still brings up a range of issues, primarily for low-income people.”

It has been a great achievement for our culture to start perceiving HIV/AIDS as diseases, but not a curse. Unfortunately, not all countries has come to this idea and HIV/AIDS is still believed to be some marginal problem, that doesn’t occur «normal» people.

Artists of the exhibition aimed at showcasing the voices of all those people who suffered not only because of this disease, but because of people’s perception of their health state. They tried to show and normolize their stories. In a video piece, Mexican artist Ivan Monforte, eyes wide and forward before a creamy plain wall, receives passionate hickeys from an unidentified black man. 

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Artist Oli Rodriguez is telling the story of his father who participated in the gay cruising scenes of Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, and Berlin before succumbing to AIDS complications. Rodriguez’s images are displayed alongside correspondences between the artist and some of his father’s lovers—whom he sought on Craigslist—and presented like a museum display.

DePaul Art Museum in Chicag

Orendorff also points out the work of Tiona McClodden whose short film Bumming Cigarettes is exploring the anxiety that follows an HIV test from the point of view of a young black lesbian. “Trying to form positive relationships between community care clinics and very vulnerable populations I think is an aesthetic that Tiona is exploring, and I think it’s really revolutionary,” Orendorff says.

DePaul Art Museum in Chicag

DePaul Art Museum in Chicag

Not all the artists’ works are focused on pain and suffer. Some of them explore joy and living fully and freely. Like, photojournalist Samantha Box‘s series INVISIBLE: The Last Battle which presents members of New York City’s Kiki Ballroom whose strong and beautiful bodies send out only the feel of power and joy.

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“It was important for me that there be joy,” Orendorff says, noting that it was important to show that “regardless of they’re experiencing HIV infection or not, that there is community and joy and freedom and art and music that’s part of their life. It’s so essential as well. I didn’t want this to be a show that was just about pain.”

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