Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt

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<ul><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 1/9</p><p>White 1</p><p>Adam White</p><p>Professor Berger</p><p>HAVC 46</p><p>29 February 2012</p><p>The AIDS Memorial Quilt and its Implications</p><p>Contemporary Americans often associate the 1980s with mental images picturing the</p><p>time of as a decade of economic success, rock and roll, glamour, a high point in American</p><p>society. For thousands of people this is not the case; the 80s mark a period in American</p><p>history filled with grief, sadness, anger, and neglect. The AIDS epidemic was a prime factor</p><p>in surfacing these emotions. By 1985, thousands across the nation had died as a cause of the</p><p>disease. In that year, Cleve Jones of San Francisco came up with the idea of honoring these</p><p>men and women by a massive public art project taking the form of a quilt, now known as the</p><p>NAMES Project Memorial Quilt. By taking the form of a quilt, this memorial has profound</p><p>unspoken implications based on American tradition. Its creation is indicative of the fact that</p><p>people with AIDS in the 1980s were misrepresented in the mainstream, so marginalized by</p><p>society that without some way to publically and individually remember them they may have</p><p>had no way to leave behind a legacy beyond the stereotypical representation of someone with</p><p>AIDS. Government as well played a role in the epidemic, and they needed to see a visual</p><p>manifestation of the lives lost to AIDS to realize how their lack of intervention perpetuated</p><p>the issue.</p><p>The NAMES Project Quilt1 is the worlds largest public art project that to this day, is</p><p>still being added to. It is created not by one person or for one person, but for thousands.</p><p>Currently, it is made up of over 47,000 different panels, each one dedicated to a person or</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 2/9</p><p>White 2</p><p>persons lost to AIDS. The panels are made by the friends, lovers, or families of the deceased</p><p>and sent to the NAMES Project to be included in the quilt. These panels are symbolic even in</p><p>their basic form. They are three feet by six feet and contain the name of the person it is</p><p>dedicated to, qualities that are not dissimilar to a plot in a cemetery. The scale of the quilt in</p><p>its entirety as well as the similarities between the panels and grave sites essentially give the</p><p>viewer walking through it a sense of being in a cemetery. Although each panel has the same</p><p>basic properties, they all contain visual elements that tell a unique story about the person it is</p><p>commemorating.</p><p>It is not a requirement that the panels be made out of a fabric in the manner of a</p><p>traditional quilt - they are often made out of objects that have some sentimental relation to the</p><p>person being commemorated on the panel, such as a pair of their shoes or some other article</p><p>of clothing, or an object that belonged to them, further individualizing each panel of the quilt.</p><p>By personalizing each panel while at the same time uniting them behind the same cause the</p><p>quilt is affectively challenging the 80s US medias portrayal of a person with AIDS being a</p><p>narcissistic and reckless gay man (Marita Sturkin 150). It represents every demographic</p><p>being affected by the disease; showing that the crisis reaches across all racial, sexual,</p><p>economical, and social boundaries. Through text and symbols panels can go to great lengths</p><p>in constructing a persons identity and providing biographical information about them,</p><p>making it easier for the mainstream to relate to those affected by the disease, successfully</p><p>changing their view of who is susceptible to the disease and putting an end to their</p><p>discrimination. For example, in the panel dedicated to Frank Feeney2, includes important</p><p>dates in his life, and block letters attached to the panel describe his relations with others son,</p><p>brother, uncle, friend, teacher. These types of panels invoke emotional responses, easing the</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 3/9</p><p>White 3</p><p>process of replacing a viewers preconceived notions of who gets the disease with a better</p><p>understanding of the reach and effects of the disease.</p><p>The quilt has been showcased in its entirety only a handful of times, and each time it</p><p>has, it was displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. What is the significance in</p><p>using this location for its display? By being at the National Mall it is surrounded by countless</p><p>war memorials that were made for the sake of remembering individuals that have lost their</p><p>lives in battle and marking those battles and lives as significant in the history of the United</p><p>States. Similarly, the quilt serves to memorialize the individuals whose lives were lost to</p><p>extreme circumstances, while its location serves to imply that the fight against AIDS is a</p><p>significant battle in US history. The difference, however, is that the war memorials will</p><p>always remain the same the AIDS memorial, sadly, only gets larger. Each time it has been</p><p>shown it has been a reminder that American lives arestillbeing lost to AIDS epidemic and</p><p>the battle against it is still not over. In the 80s, displaying it at the capitol sent the message</p><p>that it was a necessary call to action for the US government to finally acknowledge the AIDS</p><p>crisis and to see what their lack of intervention was perpetuating.</p><p>To get an idea of how the government was reacting to the crisis, note that it took until</p><p>1988 for Ronald Reagan to say the word AIDS in public (Steven James Gambardella 217).</p><p>Sturkin explains that at the same time the visibility of the gay and lesbian community was at</p><p>its height and AIDS began killing people, there was the rise of a politically powerful religious</p><p>right wielding a rhetoric of morality, shame, and narrowly defined family values (146).</p><p>Because gay men were the first demographic to visibly be dying of AIDS, this religious right</p><p>primarily associated the disease with moral deviancy, and formed their public policies as</p><p>such. To them, AIDS was a gay issue that they did not need to intervene with. The AIDS</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 4/9</p><p>White 4</p><p>Quilt, by representing everyone who was being affected by this issue, acted as a visual</p><p>counter argument to this false rhetoric and a successful protest against the discrimination in</p><p>US politics</p><p>It makes perfect sense to use a quilt as the medium for this memorial. Although its</p><p>use of unconventional materials and objects challenges the idea of what constitutes a quilt, it</p><p>shares remarkable qualities with traditional quilts and the reasoning and function of making</p><p>them. Indeed, quilts have a rich legacy that makes them culturally relevant and socially</p><p>powerful. Traditionally in the United States, quilt making has allowed marginalized and</p><p>misrepresented groups, almost exclusively women, to come together and unite behind similar</p><p>social and political issues. Carolyn Senft writes that during the womens rights movement,</p><p>for example, quilting bees supported quilt making for raising funds and recruiting new</p><p>members (146). Comparable to these quilting bees, the AIDS Quilt brings people together in</p><p>the fight against AIDS and to fundraise for community-based AIDS service organizations. It</p><p>reworked the traditional past time of using the social process of quilt making for bringing</p><p>people together in the name of a common goal to be more affective in a more contemporary</p><p>setting. It also has a striking resemblance to a patchwork quilt, as well as sharing functions</p><p>inherent in their design. Patchwork quilts are made of an assortment of unused, recycled, or</p><p>remnant fabrics. The nature of these fragments in many cases can cause the maker of the quilt</p><p>to associate them with memories of a time, a place, a person, or something else significant to</p><p>the maker. By selectively piecing together these fragments, the quilt maker forms a narrative</p><p>of their memories. The patchwork quilt, in a way, is a method of linking the past to the</p><p>present (Janet Floyd 55) time will pass but the memories of the past remain current through</p><p>the physical embodiment in a quilt. Panel makers of the AIDS Quilt in many times use a</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 5/9</p><p>White 5</p><p>patchwork motif to tell a story about the person they are commemorating. The entire quilt,</p><p>when looked at as a whole, is a patchwork quilt that pieces together fragments of individuals</p><p>lives to commemorate not just the individual, but the entire spectrum of communities that</p><p>experienced the AIDS epidemic first hand, and memorializes them in a way that respects them</p><p>and does not marginalize them.</p><p>It must also be remembered that quilts, at their very basic level, are utilitarian devices</p><p>that have a specific purpose to provide warmth and comfort. When it was created, the AIDS</p><p>Quilt, in a sense, was a way to give these feelings to the communities being affected by AIDS.</p><p>There was wide spread feelings fear, grief, loss, anger, neglect, and confusion. The AIDS</p><p>Quilt served a therapeutic purpose to calm these feelings and provide comfort. It is not just</p><p>about memorializing the dead, it is also about bringing together those living that are affected</p><p>by the grief the epidemic brought on- creating a diverse community with a common bond that</p><p>can help each other get through the emotional pain.</p><p>The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is a significant work of art that made</p><p>during the height of the AIDS crisis that reveals a great deal about the social, political, and</p><p>cultural climate of the 1980s. By drawing upon and expanding upon the traditional uses of</p><p>quilts in American culture, it served as a means to change opinions and gain political power</p><p>and social acceptance. It makes a statement that people with AIDS were a highly marginalized</p><p>group of people in the 1980s that perhaps may have had no means to leave behind a legacy</p><p>beyond the medias the inaccurate representations of them. Government, in addition, played a</p><p>significant role in the epidemic. They further marginalized by willfully ignoring the problem,</p><p>perpetuating the spread of the disease, and needed to see a visual manifestation of what their</p><p>neglect was causing. To this day AIDS still affects the lives of thousands of people.</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 6/9</p><p>White 6</p><p>However, the quilt was successful in bringing the issue in to the main stream, getting the</p><p>government to acknowledge it as a problem, and correcting preconceived notions and</p><p>stereotypes of who is affected by AIDS that were formed in the early years of the epidemic.</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 7/9</p><p>White 7</p><p>Images</p><p>1.</p><p>The AIDS quilt on the National Mall in 1996. (Paul Margolies)</p><p>2.</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 8/9</p><p>White 8</p><p>Frank Feeneys Panel, on the bottom row.</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Adam White Aids Memorial Quilt</p><p> 9/9</p><p>White 9</p><p>Works Cited</p><p>Floyd, Janet. "Back Into Memory Land? Quilts And The Problem Of History." Women's Studies 37.1</p><p>(2008): 38-56. Print.</p><p>Gambardella, Steven James. Absent Bodies: The AIDS Memorial Quilt as Social Melancholia.</p><p>Journal of American Studies 45.2 (2011): 213 226. Print.</p><p>Senft, Carolyn. Cultural Artifact and Architectural Form: A Museum of Quilts and Quilt Making.</p><p>Journal of Architectural Education 48.3 (1995): 144-153. Print.</p><p>Sturkin, Marita. Tangled Memories. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1997. Print.</p></li></ul>


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