When Robin Tichane created a series of prints in response to the AIDS pandemic in 1994, almost 400,000 Americans had died from a disease that still has no cure and the country was a year away from the introduction of drugs that would make HIV a mostly manageable chronic illness. Tichane was raised in the neighboring village of Painted Post, NY, and worked as an artist and art conservator in San Francisco. He contributed to the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS (now Visual AIDS), which preserved the work of makers who were sick or dying. Tichane created this series of artworks to chronicle his own spiritual journey as a person living with HIV after the death of his partner, John Schmitt.
Many artists found the fullness of their creative voices by making works of art that documented, protested or educated about the AIDS pandemic at the same time their friends, chosen family, partners and lovers were succumbing to the disease. The work they created ran the gamut from reactive and reflective of their own personal experiences to iconic visual graphics like “Silence=Death” in protest of the stigma, ignorance and indifference of society. For many artists, those fraught years were a time of rapid production, exhibition and activism. For others, their creative evolution was cut short by an early death, leaving a few fragmented expressions of an unfulfilled aesthetic perspective and vision.
This series of woodblock prints encapsulates Tichane’s own experience and perspective as an HIV+ artist as well as his interests in Zen Buddhism, pilgrimage, color theory and Japanese printmaking techniques. Utilizing the American landscape as both a metaphor and a lens, AIDS’ Dark Terrain illustrates Robin Tichane’s spiritual and intellectual journey in the midst of a global pandemic.
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