Living with illness is living in chaos. Especially in the beginning when there was no effective treatment for AIDS. Everything was coming at me at an unrelenting pace; information that made no sense and I didn’t know what to do with, blood tests, multiple visits to multiple doctors, healers, therapists, opportunistic infections, support groups, charlatans with cures, alternative therapies, guys dying one after the other. Life was madness with a disease that seemed to take over my identity. I needed to make order out of the chaos and so as a photographer I began to make images, calling the work “My Life Until Now,” chronicling my story as a gay Jewish man living with AIDS. It was a way to leave a record. I can’t say it healed me, but it filled a void.
Some of the art I made was a reaction to the lack of response from the organized Jewish community: a community which excluded me because of my sexuality and stigmatized me because of my illness. I created an installation called “Blood on the Doorpost…the AIDS Mezuzah,” a set of “AIDS Dreidles,” and Tzedakah Box to call attention to the need within the Jewish world that was being ignored. It took years for the Jewish community to respond to the AIDS crises and when it did, it was too little too late.
It’s been over twenty some years since my diagnosis. Instead of dying, as I was told I would do, I have beaten the odds, and had to wrap my mind around the concept that I have outlived family and friends who died from other illnesses or old age. Now it is me who is comforting the sick. I have become a long term survivor, an additional identity informed by illness and a challenge to make art that continues the healing process.