About this iReport
  • Approved for CNN

  • Click to view ANO07's profile
    Posted January 15, 2011 by
    United States
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    30th anniversary of AIDS epidemic

    More from ANO07

    Reflections on a Lifetime of AIDS


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     ANO07 has written about photographer/artist Kurt Weston, who became legally blind after contracting retinitis due to HIV. I spoke to Weston and he said he finds creating art to be a therapeutic way to express how he feels, and the frustration he experiences from his diminished vision. Weston is completely blind in his left eye and has peripheral vision in his other eye, which is often marked with 'floaters,' or moving streaks.
    - nsaidi, CNN iReport producer

    I'd like to share with you a few reflections on living with HIV/AIDS of a  long-term survivor, a true warrior, an award-winning visual artist who  has lost most of his sight to AIDS-related retinitis. This is an excerpt  from the last chapter of my book, Journeys Through Darkness. The chapter is called "Arrival of the Angel," a titled inspired by one of Kurt Weston's images, one that reminds me of Angels in America.

    Hope you enjoy the read. As always, thanks for stopping by.

    Weston’s AIDS diagnosis has re-prioritized his life, reducing it to pure  survival. His career took second priority, as did other aspects of his  existence. What remained was his intrinsic desire to survive, which  demanded his full and undivided attention.
    It also required Weston to make a shift in consciousness, to realize  that his life had to go into survival mode. It hasn’t been easy to  change his mindset, to actually realize the importance of switching  priorities from the safety of a regular day job to the insecurities of  living without a job and with a terminal disease. In the end, his  survival instinct won and allowed him to let go of the life he knew and  to go out on disability and, with that, into a life full of insecurities  and unknowns.
      Once he has begun nurturing his physical and spiritual being, he has  also started tapping into all sorts of metaphysical philosophies that  later influenced his artwork. After a while, his health became stable  enough to allow him to resume his life from where he’d left off when  AIDS had hit. Only first, he had to relearn how to live with his disease  and, a few years later, with his visual loss.
    Today, the artist talks about his hopes for the future, for his art and  life. He believes that stem-cell research will be an integral part of  finding a cure for AIDS, one that will come from some type of genetic  therapy. Until then, he reminds, there is so much work to be done.
    Kurt Weston also believes in the resurrection of a person’s personal and  professional life. Surviving and living with his AIDS represent only  one part of the artist’s own resurrection. By becoming a visual artist,  he also resurrected his artistic career.
    Weston’s artwork, in particular his AIDS-inspired body of work, has a  lot of iconic imagery and references to mythology. It is also rich in  symbolisms. Inspired by the play Angels in America, Prophet Angel  expresses the prophecy of AIDS epidemic. In the photograph, the angel is  holding a crucifix, which symbolizes his modern crucifixion, because  the person in the photograph is HIV positive himself. While angels are  associated with the resurrection and ascension of the Christ, Weston’s  angel professes the resurrection of AIDS and, by extension, of any other  terminal illness.
    “I think that when you’re living with a terminal illness you really are  very conscious that the physical reality is not the only reality,” the  photographer comments. While finding himself so often on the brink of  death, Weston became very conscious of the multi-dimensional  reality—from physical to metaphysical—surrounding him. When he started  to work with his chi, while at SWAN, he also learned that his life  energy usually extends beyond the physical realm. Years later, this  chi—his life energy—started to inspire his artwork. 
    Also, while making hospital visits to see people who were dying and who  were also very spiritual—like the yoga teacher and tai-chi  instructor—Kurt learned that they, too, were experiencing life on  multiple dimensions. They were talking the language of people who  understood life as a greater, more in-depth process, and perceived life  on a deeper level. These people have influenced Kurt’s life and artwork  like his Blind Vision series of self-portraits, meant to be somehow  abstract and quite figurative, thus adding a metaphysical dimension to  his journey through darkness.
    “I am sort of there but not really there,” the photographer explains,  talking about Blind Vision.  “I’m kinda half in physical state and half  in metaphysical state. Not completely solidified.” The artist appears  with his eyes closed, enveloped in blackness. The streaks running  through the picture (the foam sprayed on the glass) simulate a stream of  consciousness, portraying the artist’s metaphysical journey through  eternal blackness. 
    Nowadays, the artist continues using his life’s experience to create art  that is dynamic, informing, and also transforming. Weston believes that  art has that kind of power, to make a difference in people’s perception  of life and its realities. “I want to continue making visual art that  creates a consciousness shift when people look at it,” he says.
    Weston also believes that dreams, like art, are necessary in life, as is  the struggle to make them true and see them become real. Sometimes,  even more important than their dreams is the life journeys people need  to take in order to reach their dreams. Also important is the  transformational process they go through while on their journeys, even  if they may not always be able to actually fulfill their dreams.
    It’s hard for anyone to predict the future, but Kurt Weston hopes for a  bright one for his art and his life. Therefore, his dream is to continue  to create art.
    Sometimes, life’s goals change and so do individuals’ journeys through  life. In that sense, Kurt Weston will always be searching for new ways  of depicting his reality through his art and discovering new ways he has  yet to explore. Kurt’s art is always evolving because, as the artist  comments, “it’s not good for anybody to remain static.” For Kurt Weston,  creating visual art will always be an ongoing, life-long process. It  will continue to expand and change and show itself in different ways.  Ultimately, it will remain inspirational and transforming."

    Add your Story Add your Story