Sunday, January 16, 2011

AIDS-Inspired Artwork: Kurt Weston's Blind Vision Series


 AIDS-Inspired Artwork: Kurt Weston's Blind Vision Series

No matter its tragic outcome or maybe it's the tragedy of AIDS itself that , to this day, has inspired many artists, especially those having to deal with the disease during its darkest of times--the eighties. In that sense, examples are many, some more well-known than others: 
* Randy Shilts' body of work, in particular the book (made into movie) And the Band Played On
* Angels in America, by Tony Kushner, a play that later on was made into movie
* visual art is part of Kurt Weston's photography work

I'd like to share with you an excerpt from my book on the life and art of Kurt Weston, Journeys Through Darkness, an excerpt which talks more about the visual artist's body of work inspired by AIDS and his losing his sight to AIDS. Hope you'll enjoy the read.
As always, thanks for visiting,

Alina Oswald

It’s only natural for the body of work Weston created during the eighties to be inspired by his friends’ and his own experience with AIDS. Living with a terminal illness has allowed the artist to discover and connect to a more complex reality, one that resides somewhere between the physical and metaphysical spheres of human existence. Being so many times on the brink of death, Weston has become very conscious of the multidimensional world surrounding him. The physical reality was only a small part of this world. There was something more to it. The artist could only wonder if this something had anything to do with the chi energy—the energy of life pulsing with such strength through his body—the acupuncturist had mentioned at the SWAN workshops.
Or maybe it had to do with the survivors the artist had met at SWAN and from whom he learned to keep alive the belief in his ability to survive AIDS and turn it away from a sure death sentence and into something more manageable. Along the years, these survivors, Weston’s “first angels,” have inspired his life and also his art. Elements of the artist’s view of his physical and metaphysical journey towards recovery are found in works like his Blind Vision series of self-portraits that show people the physical and emotional impact that visual loss can have on an individual.
The Blind Vision series is only one of Weston’s works to capture an allegorical portrait of the visual artist as he traverses through his journey. In that sense, art becomes an amazing vehicle for Weston, allowing him to use his own life experiences to communicate, inspire, inform and also to visually intrigue his audience. From his perspective, Kurt Weston considers art a means through which people can experience the nature of their humanity. Art can be silly and fun, and it can be entertaining. It can communicate a tremendous amount of information, emotion, and inspiration. In today’s society, consumed by superficial realities, Kurt Weston’s art goes beyond the physical realm of human existence and into a metaphysical dimension, connecting with the viewer on a more profound and spiritual level.
“I think my life is meaningful,” Weston comments, talking about his source of inspiration. For him life is so fragile and it can be gone in an instant. That’s reason enough for the artist to capture his experience with disability, loss, pain and death in his visual art, because the experience defines him as a real person and also as an artist.
Although his most recent works include digital photography and sometimes require no camera at all (just a flat scanner which he uses to scan in people’s faces and also his own face), Weston uses regular film and he prints his images on silver gelatin paper so that they can last forever. He wants future generations to be able to look at this work and say, “This was happening at this time in history and this is the impact it left on people whose lives it touched, this pandemic.”
To Weston, black-and-white is a medium in itself in terms of representing reality. He doesn’t want color to be an “intrusion” in his work, a “distraction” from the message his art communicates to the viewer. Black-and-white offers Weston’s art a concentration of expression. And he likes that intensity, in particular in his portraits.
Kurt Weston began creating the Blind Vision series in 2000. To represent his visual disturbance described as “pieces of cotton stuck in my eye, floating every time I move my eye,” the artist sprayed a glass with foaming glass cleaner and took a self-portrait sitting behind it. “You see my hand pushing away the foam, which is what I would love to do,” he explains, “I would like to be able to wipe away all that cotton that keeps floating in front of my eye and get a clear view of what I want to see out in the world.”