Jordan Eagles is an artist who doesn’t hesitate when his craft requires a little blood, sweat and tears. In fact, his works of art require it — especially the part about blood.
In reporting on his latest piece, the Daily Beast appropriately dubbed Eagles The Man With Gay Blood on His Hands.
Up until now, the New York-based artist procured the blood he uses as the primary medium for his works from a slaughterhouse, telling the Daily Beast he strives to tell a story of regeneration: “it’s about taking something not living and presenting life again.”
Eagles’s website explains his ambition is “to preserve blood to create works that evoke the connections between life, death, body, spirit, and the Universe.”
But his latest piece, Blood Mirror, is overtly political. It will be on display at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center in Washington, D.C., this fall.
Blood Mirror stands over seven feet tall, and as writer Justin Jones describes it, “the massive Plexiglas sculpture glows a deep and vibrant red. The boxy monument is large enough to step inside and contains the exact same matter that gives us life — human blood. As you stand before it, the bold color illuminates your reflection in the polished casing.”
The work is a statement, and Eagles has nine people to thank for helping him make it, including a gay priest, a gay veteran, a gay twin, a bisexual dad, a trans man, and LGBT activists. They and Eagles are taking a stance, as reported by the Daily Beast, against the restrictions on blood donations set by the FDA.
Videographer Leo Herrera captured the two-year span of the work in progress as Eagles combined the lifestuff of those willing to donate with his artistic vision.
Each person donated up to a pint of blood, the standard amount for a regular donation. “And everyone,” said Eagles, “has a very unique story.”
Rev. John Moody is an 88-year-old Episcopal priest at the historic Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan. He was ordained 61 years ago, and has been in a relationship with his partner for 37 years. But even he can’t donate blood.
“This particular subject has always been in the back of my head simply because I was turned away from giving blood,” Eagles told the Daily Beast. “So my first question was really figuring out if it could help the conversation. Then, if there was a way to do it tastefully and thoughtfully.”
Lifting the ban, which the FDA has proposed be modified to allow donations from men who have sex with men after one year of abstinence, could save up to 1 million lives per year, according to the Daily Beast.
Ty Spicha, a twin, could not donate blood to save his identical brother’s life, if it were needed, because he is gay.
Blue Bayer, a bisexual man who has partners both male and female, can’t do the same to save his two children, so long as the FDA restriction remains in place. This applies even if a rare blood type — or emergency situation — makes them the best possible option.
Capt. Anthony Woods (ret.) risked his life in another country, but cannot save a life back home. He safely led two groups of soldiers to and from Iraq, but is unable to donate his blood. The West Point graduate also graduated Harvard University, where he was one of three chosen to deliver a prestigious commencement speech, and then became a White House Fellow in 2011. Woods ran for Congress in 2012. But because he has been legally married to his partner for three years, his blood is not eligible for donation, according to the FDA.
“We talk about American heroes and men putting their life on the line,” said Eagles. “And here’s this guy who is what many parents want their children to become, and he can’t give blood. People like him are what inspired me through this project.”
Eagles’s work also highlights the struggles that the transgender community faces when choosing to donate blood. “We are in a time where gender identity is something that has to be accepted,” he said. “And as long as the screening process involves gender it’s flawed and eliminating people.”
Loren Rice, who, identifies as a male, has been legally married to his partner for six years. He’s not had sex with another gay man while identifying as male, nor when he was labeled a female. But despite proposed changes in the FDA restrictions on transgender blood donations, since his partner is also a trans man, Rice is forbidden from donating, when “based on what the FDA is actually looking for through the screening policies, they [should be able to] give blood,” according to Eagles.
Other donors include Dr. Lawrence Mass, co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Kelsey Louie, GMHC’s current CEO, Dr. Howard Grossman, the former director of the Academy of HIV Science, and Oliver Anene, a Nigerian LGBT activist who took political asylum in the U.S. while working on HIV prevention in Africa.
“We are lucky we live in America where we have access to healthcare and HIV is not what it was in 1983,” Eagles said. “But in Africa, they are still living like it’s 1983. So let’s get it right in America, and hope that the rest of the world can get it right, too.”
Watch videographer Leo Herrera's behind the scenes look at Blood Mirror, below.