There is not a day that goes by without me thinking about this piece by one of my favorite artists. It was sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in 1991, the year that I moved to New York, and was installed throughout the city on various billboards. Quietly integrated into the visual noise and cacophony of typical billboard ads, I was so touched by the extreme sadness and the public way that sadness was conveyed, infusing such a typically impersonal mode of communication with the utmost of personal sentiments. The piece was a photo of the artist’s bed shortly after his lover died of AIDS complications and rumination on the artist’s own personal battle with the disease.
This was the first time I felt the “presence of absence” in such a moving, visual and conceptual way, and when I think about creating my own work now, I always think about the lessons I learned as an artist and a person here. How do I embed meaning into what I create?