The Art of AIDS
BY Benjamin Ryan
November 18 2010 5:00 AM ET
Fifteen years ago the musical Rent took the traditions of New York’s bohemian art scene and spun them into pop culture. All along, artist Marguerite Van Cook has remained true to the spirit of the underground and carried on those splendid visions of the avant-garde. Indeed, she has lived, so to speak. As central figures in the East Village artistic community, she and husband James Romberger survived and thrived at the epicenter of the New York City AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
Trained as an artist in her native England, Van Cook says she had an intellectual curiosity and yearning for public forms of expression that have propelled her to try on various colorful hats. Her band, the Innocents, once toured with the Clash. After Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, in the Chelsea Hotel in 1978, the Sex Pistols front man called her house to look for his manager. A few days later the Innocents and some of the Clash, she says, “played the gig that was like the Sid Vicious defense,” a benefit concert for his defense fund.