The Art of AIDS
BY Benjamin Ryan
November 18 2010 5:00 AM ET
In addition to producing their own work, she and Romberger ran the
Ground Zero art gallery in the East Village in the mid 1980s, and the
two of them have curated together over the years. More recently she ran
New York City’s Howl Festival, the ad hoc tradition that keeps alive the
spirit of beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s revolutionary 1955 poem. She also
completed a bachelor’s degree in English at Columbia University and has
gone on to master’s work in European studies at the university.
1980s were so traumatic, she says, that she found it “almost impossible
not to make art” about AIDS. Her most HIV-specific work was a
collaborative effort between her, her husband, and renegade HIV-positive
artist David Wojnarowicz: a three-part comic book called Seven Miles a
Second. Wojnarowicz, a former child street hustler whose provocative
work was held up by conservatives as an example of why the U.S.
government should cut funding to the National Endowment for the Arts,
died of AIDS-related complications in 1992. Afterward, Van Cook and
Romberger took Wojnarowicz’s diaries, which chronicled his death, and
used them for the story of the series’ final installment.