Nancy Pelosi's Living Room, San Francisco, 1986

Curated by Matthew Terrell

Robert Sherer, Protect Yourself from Pricks, 2004
  • Online: 
    starting June 24, 2023
    Opening: Sat, Jun 24, 18:00

    On view at
    Aviation Community Cultural Center
    Fulton County "Charlie Brown" Airport
    3900 Aviation Circle, NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30336 
    June 24 - July 24, 2023

  • Matthew Terrell curator interview, 2020
The AIDS Memorial Quilt began in San Francisco in 1986 as a way to remember those who died from a mysterious and frightening new disease. A group of friends, including prominent AIDS activist Cleve Jones, gathered in Nancy Pelosi's living room and began to stitch the beginnings of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Soon people from around the country sent Jones their own panels, and the project grew to become the largest community-based art project in the world. The quilt currently consists of more than 48,000 individual memorial panels and weighs an estimated 54 tons. In 2020, Pelosi announced that the quilt would soon be permanently housed at the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.

"Nancy Pelosi's Living Room, San Francisco, 1986" will recreate the early days of the quilt, while also bringing in work from contemporary artists who address issues of HIV/AIDS and its legacy. Instead of a blank gallery, the space will be a living room in an actual San Francisco Victorian-style home, complete with era-specific furniture and décor. Early panels from the quilt will be on display in the room, and (using research from the National Archive) elements made to look like preliminary sketches, meeting notes, Polaroids, and more will be placed throughout the room for viewers to discover.

For this show, artwork on the walls of this recreated living room will be from contemporary artists affected by HIV/AIDS. Robert Sherer, who was featured in the acclaimed show "Art AIDS America," will display drawings made from both HIV+ and HIV- blood. Other artworks will include queer fiber-based art, continuing the theme started by the Quilt. Aubrey Longley-Cook will display his hand-stitched embroideries of 90s RuPaul, sexy men in Speedos, and a mustachioed drag queen.

A vintage floor-standing television will play a video loop, edited to look like classic MTV, of work by artists directly affected by HIV. Kia LaBeija creates sociopolitical commentaries about growing up as an HIV+ woman of color. At the top of the hour will be a video by LaBeija where she vogue dances to her poem "Drafted." Included in this looping TV reel will be works by artists who died of AIDS in the 1980s, before there was any treatment. This would include the music video "Rock Your Body" by John Sex, and the the short films of Tom Rubnitz, including "Pickle Surprise" which features a young RuPaul.

This exhibit will be an immersive celebration of art as community activism. What viewers will leave with is an understanding of how grassroots projects, like the AIDS Memorial Quilt, can have long lasting impact. Viewers will get to step inside an everyday living room, and through strategically placed archival material and reproductions, feel like they are witness to history. The mix of artists affected by HIV/AIDS will trace a long legacy of HIV activism as art. As the AIDS Memorial Quilt moves to San Francisco permanently, this exhibition will give viewers a better understanding of this incredible piece of community art.

*The text above was submitted to apexart's 2020-21 INT'L Open Call, and rated by over 550 jurors. Any specific artists mentioned are unconfirmed and subject to change.
Matthew Terrell is an artist and writer based out of Atlanta. Terrell's most recent project, The Hate Shield, was a series of mobile soundproof walls that block hate speech. His public sculpture Atlanta's HIV+ Population Now at The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, used CDC data to chart HIV growth in Atlanta. Terrell has been an artist in residence at Djerassi, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and The Studios of Key West. His writing has appeared in Slate, VICE, Hyperallergic, San Francisco Weekly, and many more. Terrell received his BFA and MFA in writing from Savannah College of Art and Design; he also has an MA in communications from Georgia State University.

apexart’s program supporters past and present include the National Endowment for the Arts, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Kettering Family Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, The Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Spencer Brownstone, the Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation, Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation/Affirmation Arts Fund, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Puffin Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and administered by LMCC, funds from NYSCA Electronic Media/Film in Partnership with Wave Farm: Media Arts Assistance Fund, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.