Presented At Trinity Wall Street, November 2–December 1, 2015
Nine gay, bisexual, and transgender men donate blood for sculpture to protest FDA’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men
Opening Reception: November 2, 2015, 6–9pm
Trinity Wall Street’s Congregational Arts Committee will present the New York City premiere of Blood Mirror: organized by Jordan Eagles, an exhibition in which the central artwork is a 7-foot-tall, interactive, monolithic sculpture created in response to the FDA’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
Following an acclaimed showing at the American University Museum in Washington, D.C., (currently on view until October 18), the exhibition will move to the monumental Gothic revival architecture of historic Trinity Church. The exhibition includes a documentary work, created in collaboration by Eagles and activist/filmmaker Leo Herrera. The Rev. John Moody, who has served at Trinity over a 40-year period, first as a staff member for the arts and now as a present-day parishioner, is one of nine men who participated in the creation of Blood Mirror by donating their blood. The exhibition will be on view from November 2 (All Souls’ Day) through December 1 (World AIDS Day) in the south vestibule of historic Trinity Church.
In 1983, as an early response to the AIDS crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. More than 30 years later, on May 13, 2015, the FDA proposed an updated policy that would allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they are celibate for a full year, and regardless of marital status. There is no celibacy requirement for heterosexuals, regardless of their risk for contracting HIV. A UCLA Williams Institute study found that lifting the ban completely could save up to a million lives annually.
In 2014-2015, artist Jordan Eagles enlisted a group of nine extraordinary gay, bisexual, and transgender men, all with compelling and unique life stories, to each donate a standard pint of blood for the Blood Mirror sculpture in protest of the FDA’s ban. Viewers of Blood Mirror can see themselves reflected in the sculpture through the blood of the nine donors. This blood has been encased in resin and is fully preserved, ensuring that the organic material will not change over time. A totem of science and equality, Blood Mirror is an archive of the donors’ blood that confronts the 32-year history of the FDA’s ban. Through the work in this exhibition, Eagles, his creative collaborators, and blood donors aim to inspire dialogue about the FDA’s policy and its proposed revision. Presented in the sacred context of Trinity Church, Blood Mirror invites a spiritual reflection and personal confrontation with one’s ability to see the individual as part of the collective lifeblood of the body of humanity.
“I wanted to create a sculpture that would become a time capsule,” Eagles said “documenting this moment in time, while showing that this blood could have been used to save lives. For me, the sculpture is a work in progress; it will never be finished until the FDA’s blood donation policy is fair for all people.
“Bringing this work to Trinity enables us to expand the conversation beyond policy and science to address the intrinsic spirituality in blood and the connection that we all have with one another. In the spirit of giving and sharing inherent in donating blood, the nature of this project is one of collaboration, both with the creative team and medical supervisors, and especially with the nine donors who selflessly and generously contributed their blood and voices.”
The nine men who donated their blood to this project:
- The Rev. John Moody, 89-year-old openly gay retired priest and a part of the community at Trinity Wall Street, New York City, for more than 40 years
- Kelsey Louie, CEO, Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), the world’s first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy
- Lawrence D. Mass, M.D., co-founder of GMHC who wrote the first press reports on AIDS in the early ’80s
- CPT Anthony Woods, served two terms in Iraq, discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (reinstated to service in 2014), Obama White House Fellow, 2012 Congressional candidate
- Loren Rice, transgender man, married to Ethan Rice, also a transgender man, for 6 years
- Oliver Anene, LGBT activist from Nigeria on political asylum in the United States
- Ty Spicha, gay man whose identical straight twin brother is eligible to donate blood
- Blue Bayer, bisexual father of two
- Howard Grossman, M.D., internist at AlphaBetterCare, former director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, one of the first physicians to see cases of AIDS in the United States, and medical advisor on Blood Mirror
Activist and filmmaker Leo Herrera collaborated with Eagles and filmed the blood donation of each of the nine men. This footage, Blood Mirror: Raw Footage (12-21-14, 3-15-15), archives the act as protest, and—through interviews with each donor—documents their unique personal stories, and their perspectives on equality, science, history, and policy. This work runs 44:30 on a continuous loop.
“This work is about how gay and bisexual men overcome stigma through gathering and art,” Herrera said. “It represents homophobia so deep that it infected science itself and spawned a fear of our most precious fluids. For gay and bisexual men to be healthy of mind and body, it is crucial we see each other reflected in our brothers so we can overcome the anxieties specific to our people. Blood Mirror is a symbol of the love of culture and community.”
Trinity Wall Street, part of the fabric of New York City since the 17th century, is continually alive with a message of inclusion, and is an organic match for forms of expression in art that unite and uplift all people. The AIDS crisis left an indelible mark on New York, and it is appropriate to seek healing from its many effects—the FDA ban included—in a place that has long been a sanctuary for the outcast and forgotten.