AIDS poster exhibition of a native of Batavia visits his hometown
An exhibit drawn from more than 8,000 posters collected from Batavia native Dr. Edward Atwater is coming to Batavia, Mary Jo Whitman said.
Director of Education for GO ART!, Whitman has been busy setting up the exhibit at GO ART!, 201 East Main St. Known personally and professionally as a history buff with an affinity for collecting relics from At the time, Atwater saw his first poster on a subway, and he never looked back.
The late doctor has made it his mission to get AIDS awareness posters – from all corners of the globe. The Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester is currently hosting the first major exhibition of the University of Rochester’s extensive HIV/AIDS-related posters.
“For those of us who have not experienced shame, guilt or fear, it is difficult to put into perspective the magnitude of the AIDS epidemic, especially at the beginning. I think this exposure really helps in that capacity. Some of these posters are very revealing and heartbreaking,” Whitman told The Batavian. “Some are foregrounding how awareness groups have tried to dispel misinformation about contraction and how the impact was beyond the reach of a few marginalized groups. Certainly I encourage everyone to go to the Memorial Art Gallery to see the larger exhibit, it’s worth the trip to Rochester, but I also think even on a much smaller scale, the part of the exhibit we have at GO ART! is a must-see.
An opening reception for Against the Wall: Art, Activism and AIDS Poster was set from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on June 10. GO Art! will have 28 of these posters on display in the Seymour Dining Room Gallery.
Described as “visually arresting”, the exhibition – even on a smaller scale in Batavia – tells the story of the evolution of the very subject of AIDS with knowledge, awareness and treatment. From crude but necessary – pictures illustrating how to put on a condom – to poignant messages that life should be protected by both men and women, this exhibit covers it all. There are black and white images with dark messages, a superhero named Condoman, and brightly colored graphics, all trying to convey the importance of protection in the face of a deadly disease. These displays are not without a grain of humor, as one image shows a man with an umbrella and the words “Don’t forget your rubbers”.
In the early 1980s, there was not much talk or action to prevent what turned into an epidemic of disease, death and shame.
“Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, groups already stigmatized by the community have been most affected, including gay men and injecting drug users,” Whitman said. “As if losing members of their community at an alarming rate and living in fear of catching a deadly disease that the medical community knew little about wasn’t bad enough, the outbreak has been used as a platform to present HIV-infected people as the dangerous “other” who posed a threat to public safety.
“The prominent rhetoric pushed the idea that those infected were degenerates, that they were filthy and eaten away with disease, ultimately bringing HIV/AIDS upon them with their undesirable lifestyles,” she said. . “This mentality and unfair treatment of infected groups has not only had adverse psychological effects, with stigma manifesting in discrimination in many aspects of society including health care, education, employment, families and communities. The shame placed on these people, in many ways, allowed the virus to spread as many were afraid to get tested, take proper precautions and have open conversations with their partners for fear of being harassed or even assaulted.
Atwater’s insights led him to obtain posters from various governments and health departments as tangible proof of how this topic was portrayed in the press. Posters were hung in bathrooms, subways and other public spaces, and he worked diligently to obtain copies. Its collection has swelled to over 8,000 posters from over 130 countries and in multiple languages.
A medical historian dedicated to his workplace, the University of Rochester Medical Center, Atwater donated his collection to, among others, the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation of the River Campus Libraries. of the University. Not only did the posters illustrate the different colors, graphics and words used around the world, but they also demonstrated “the wide range of communication strategies used to educate and inform people about this devastating global epidemic,” Whitman said. All of this highlights “how beauty and creativity are born out of the tragedy and destruction of this deadly virus,” she said.
“Dr. Atwater, originally from Batavia, would have been delighted to see a selection of the posters he collected displayed in his hometown,” she said.
The Batavia exhibition will run until June 12. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The Rochester exhibit will be available through June 19.
The University of Rochester’s Atwater Collection shows how HIV/AIDS-specific public health posters represent “one of the most important, prolific, and creative chapters in the more than 150-year history of the art of ‘poster,’ said the curator of the collection and Against the wall book editor Jessica Lacher-Feldman.
The AIDS Education Poster Collection (aep.library.rochester.edu) is housed in its entirety in the U of R’s Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, and is the largest the world’s largest collection of disease-related visual resources. , Lacher-Feldman said. The entire collection has been digitized and is available and fully searchable online.
She encourages viewers to explore the posters and reflect on the extent and impact of HIV/AIDS in our communities and around the world. For more information on the GO ART! exhibition, call (585) 343-9313. For more information on the collection, contact Jessica Lacher-Feldman at [email protected].
Top photo: Dr. Edward Atwater with part of his poster collection. Photo by J. Adam Fenster, University of Rochester. Mary Jo Whitman shows part of the collection at the GO Art! building, 201 East Main St., Batavia. Photos by Howard Owens.