The AIDS epidemic in the United States
Beginning in the early 1980s, the AIDS epidemic in the United States rapidly became a public health crisis, as LGBTQ+ communities were abandoned by the government, by medical figures, and by the general society. This thesis documents a variety of artistic responses to the AIDS crisis, where art was utilized as a tool to de-stigmatize the illness, to initiate conversations with the medical and political communities, and to establish a level of basic human understanding of the disease and its impact. Three examples are explored: (1) Gran Fury, (2) the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and (3) Felix Gonzalez-Torres. In the first section, Gran Fury's graphic designs and flyers are analyzed to show its abilities in shifting the blame away from AIDS-diagnosed individuals to leading figures and institutions of the country. In the second section, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is shown to be an effective, therapeutic tool for mourning and a platform to demonstrate the vastness of the disease. Lastly, Felix Gonzalez-Torres's unique art installations create an interplay between private experiences and public settings to highlight the feelings of love and loss and to show the universality of the disease and its influence.