Saturday, November 27, 2010

World Aids Day

I read with interest in the Sydney Morning Herald recently that Pope Benedict had said the use of condoms in cases where men have sex with other men may be condoned as an effective method of prevention of sexually tranmitted diseases. I gather this is because contraception is not an issue in such instances and therefore not a mortal sin. Curious. No mention of homosexual sex still being considered a mortal sin. Apparently the Vatican back-pedalled very soon after the announcement, saying that Il Papa didn't really say that at all, he meant something else. Which kindof brings into question that old infallibility issue as well.

All very strange. The more so given that the highest incidence of transmission of AIDs in the world occurs between heterosexual couples in Africa. But the Catholic Church still forbids the use of condoms in such circumstances and conservative elements worldwide, including Bishop of Parramatta Anthony Fisher and Archbishop of Australia George Pell and have reinforced this teaching over the last couple of weeks.

Should I be discussing these things in my blog, when the Catholic Church is one of my major clients? I find it impossible to ignore such issues and at times am moved to speak out.

It's been 23 years since the death of my brother Colin due to AIDS-related diseases. We were close, and while I remember him with fondness, I thought I had let go the grief. For the last few years I have given his name for rememberance at the Sydney ACON Candelight Memorial and had a bizarre experience when I volunteered 2yrs ago to assist with cataloguing the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Powerhouse Museum's Castle Hill facility.

On my second day there, as I walked into the room where all the other volunteers were busily listing names and details, someone called out the name "Colin Hamilton" to be recorded. I froze. It was quite an emotional moment for me to actually see the quilt panel put together by Colin's friends and workmates at Telecom Pitt Street Excange. I have never seen the quilt in it's entirety... in the early days of the epedemic when the quilt was regularly displayed, the grief was just too raw for me to go through that. I will definitely be getting in to Sydney Town Hall House next week, where the Quilt is currently on diplay until Dec 7th.

Sometimes some unrelated news article will push the loss and sadness to the front of my consciousness with a vengeance. This happened just a few days ago. And by a strange conincidence that night I rented a DVD "Prayers for Bobby" starring Sigourny Weaver as Bobby's mother. What an emotional ride that was! I didn't realise how devasting a movie it would be.

Based on the book “Prayers for Bobby” by Leroy Aarons and directed by Russell Mulcahy, the movie only deals with the spectre of AIDS obliquely, as God's vengeance against the sin of homosexuality. It is more focussed on the disastrous efforts of his family, particularly his mother, Mary Griffiths, to "heal" her son from this abominable affliction and save him from eternal damnation (and avoid unbearable shame herself). After Bobby's tragic suicide, Mary eventually comes to see through the bigotry of her Church and goes on to become a leading figure with PFLAG, working tirelessly for acceptance of gays as valuable members of the fabric of human society, as deserving of love as the next person, speaking out against their vilification and condemnation by much of the Christian Church.

Weaver puts in a sterling performance as Mary Griffith, totally convincing. Her speech to the legislative assembly supporting a vote for a local Gay Pride march is truly inspiring. Definitely recommended viewing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I breath a big sigh of relief as today I received verbal acceptance of my quotation for a stained glass window to St Augustine's Anglican Church in Merwether, a suburb of Newcastle. I'd already put a considerable number of hours into developing the design for this window and was not at all certain that the donor would accept the price but my fears were groundless; he is very happy with both design and price.

Costing a window is always a difficult and treacherous task: the client requires a quote up front yet one can never be certain exactly how long a project will take, even when a design has been approved, because each job is a new project, presenting new challenges. Making art is not an exact science. One tries to cover all the bases and also make a profit but it's never guaranteed. At just under half a square metre in area $6,000 is somewhat above the market rate (in this country) but I feel this window will be an important artwork. It's also quite an intricate design with a lot of painting and decorating to achieve the desired result. It will be an interesting development in my oeuvre.

Out in the street yesterday I got into a collaborative artwork with my friend Sallie Portnoy, a fellow glass artist. We had several comments from passers by, congratulating us on adding some fun and livening up the street environment. While I've been painting construction hoardings for some time now, this was my first collaboration and I really enjoyed the experience. It certainly pushed the work somewhere else.

Those who know Sallie's work will recognise her familiar motifs of winged objects. There may well be more appearing in the coming weeks, if the artwork stays up for a while.