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1994 Art/Medicine Actions
Healing Before Art: Public HIV Blood Testing
(Click on an images for a larger version)
Click here to enlarge "Evenings are always so...lighthearted with you, Eric," artist Sue Coe said, laughing nervously about her friend Eric Avery’s Healing Before Art: Public HIV Testing at New York’s Mary Ryan Gallery on May 11. Avery, who is also an AIDS psychiatrist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, invited artists, collectors, curators, and gallery staff to have themselves tested for HIV before a small, invited audience. The evening featured the entire process, from an open pretest counseling session with volunteer artist Billy Quinn to blood drawing in Avery’s installation The Stuff of Life a room of painted red and white blood cells bumping among each other on a lush red background, and blue and silver HIV-infected cells dangling from the ceiling-almost in the spirit of the gigantic toothbrushes and floss containers found at the local dentist’s office. The results, which became available three to six weeks later (the normal waiting period for test results at a public clinic), remained confidential.

Such a charged subject would make unease seem natural. Appropriately, question and answer discussions about the event were followed by statements by doctors Philip Muskin and Jane Petro on “AIDS and Denial” and “HIV Risk and AIDS.” Participants also discussed their reasons for being tested publicly: to demystify the process, said some. To encourage people to be tested and change their behavior, said others. Avery’s own mission is “to get testing normalized. This should be happening in churches, for example.” He also hopes that testing in an artistic context-“raising questions about who we are and what we are doing,” says an announcement for the event-will demonstrate the usefulness of a crossover between medicine and humanism, as any healing process dealing with AIDS is as much about the mind as the body. One participant reflected that being tested in Avery’s installation was, in the end, surprisingly preferable to the bright lights and sterility of a hospital. Indeed, the event and exhibition (which closed June 11 before moving on to the University of Mexico at Albuquerque) were remarkable not only for their informational and artistic effectiveness, but emotional insight and compassion.

The Print Collector's Newsletter
Vol. XXV: No. 3, Page 101
July-August 1994
Healing Before Art: Public HIV Blood Testing
Studio installation of 3" x 6' sheets of linocut blood wallpaper and round 8
½" HIV woodcut spheres
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Installation in Mary Ryan Gallery
New York City

A clinical art space to be used for public HIV testing of art world representatives (artists, art dealers, collectors, curators)
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Artist Sue Coe’s blood being drawn by Phil Muskin M.D. during Healing Before Art: Public HIV Testing Action, May 11, 1994
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Artist Rober Haile’s blood being drawn by Jane Petro M.D. during May 11 Art Action, Mary Ryan Gallery
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Eric Avery M.D. doing public pre-HIV test counseling artist Billy Quinn in Mary Ryan Gallery, May 11, 1994
Photo: Roger Haile
Participants: from left-Brian Heard, David Becker, Phillip Muskin M.D., Guy Demange, Robert Petro
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Eric Avery hand printing 3’x 6’ linoleum block print
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Print on Okawara paper
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Pressing handmade paper into wooden inked bowl to print HIV Condom Piñatas
Artists' Peripheral Blood Smear  
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