During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.
Tim Tate is an HIV+ studio artist co-founder of the Washington Glass School in Washington, DC. Tim’s work is in the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. He was president of the Triangle Artist Group ( TAG -a queer artists coalition ), and chairman of the first Art Against Aids in Washington, DC. He was also the 2010 recipient of the Virginia Groot Foundation award for sculpture, 2nd place in the 2017 London Contemporary Art Prize, and is a 2018 James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Artist. He participated in the Glasstress show with Ai Wei Wei and Vic Muniz during the 2019 Venice Biennale.
AS: How are you coping?
TT: Like most people, I spent the beginning of this pandemic attempting to make sense of this new world. Ultimately, as an artist, I make sense of my world by creating art. After finishing the commissions and pieces I had been working on, my focus went to our current moment in time. While working towards that goal, I discovered that my earlier work dealing with HIV and its impact on my community was startlingly similar to the work I was creating about the world’s reaction during Covid19.
So now I am using social media to “repurpose” pieces of my work which dealt with HIV, and now mirror my feeling about this new world order.
The inner dome is the etched story of how my life changed after becoming HIV+. The outer dome is my fantasy of what my life would have been like if things had been different. Both lives have their pros and cons. What I lost in one narrative I gained even more back in the second. The Magic 8 ball in the center references the role that chance played in my life.
AS: Has your routine changed?
TT: Several years ago at the Whitney Museum, I saw two Paul Cadmus paintings depicted underground gay life in the 1940’s. I suddenly realized that much of gay life in the past has been lost to us. So few paintings or photos exist. I wanted to memorialize a past that might be lost as well. This refers to the Christopher Street piers from 1985
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
TT: I think that we have been overwhelmed by the sudden way this hit the USA. Who knew what to think? Slowly it has become obvious that this is a totally random killer. It knows no age, race or sexuality. Anyone can contract the virus. As a world, we have begun to see things almost only in terms of the virus. Was that person positive or negative? How many new cases were on the news from our city? Would we be able to get food? Would they hold the elections? And how many would admit that they were positive? Would this carry the same stigma that HIV did?
TT: Staying safe and honoring not only those that have been lost, but also those who remain on the front lines to keep hospital open, food deliveries coming, those who make masks for front line workers, those who give money when they can to humane causes and all who maintain our way of life.
What if there was just one God responsible for the United States? I believe he would a hard working regular guy, always traveling. There are so many regular people who do such unheralded kindnesses in the world. I learned that in the days of HIV, and now Covid19. I dedicate this piece to all of them.
AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
TT: During this pandemic and when this is all behind us, art can heal. Artists have always held a mirror up to society to allow truth to enter the consciousness of the survivors. Just as it did during and after the HIV pandemic when it was at its height. As normalcy returns, memorializing will begin. I hope that happens as quickly as possible. This will be my second pandemic. Let’s hope we all learned from the first. My best advice is to make art NOW! Art can heal, art can educate, art can enlighten! Art represents everything glorious and terrible in human kind. Share what you are going through, be the voice of those passed, scream from the rooftops with your art! Nothing is too much in these days. With social media you can reach anyone. This is the time and place your voice has been waiting for.
This piece was made for the first LGBTQ glass show in history at the National Liberty museum in Philadelphia. The show is called “Transparency” and all work in the show is made by openly LGBTQ artists and is now on display at the Tacoma Glass Museum. This piece, because it is an endless mirror, creates a space that has never existed before and is not a real space in this dimension. Only in the viewers mind does this space hold form. I hope anyone who views this with its countless images of positive souls will see those they lost peering out at them, finally visible again in this imagined space. Seen and not forgotten; alive again for this brief moment.
And I leave you with this one, as a farewel…a dance of love and longing….