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White Walls for Paul Thek



In 1966 artist Paul Thek had a cabin studio in Fire Island, New York. There he made paintings on newspaper and cast parts of his body to assemble into his beloved, spiritful sculptures. In 1967 he began work on one of his most famous sculptures entitled Tomb Figure. This work was a full body cast in wax, painted pale pink, and nicknamed “Dead Hippie”. Critics celebrated Thek’s Hippie as a masterwork of American sculpture and it was exhibited at museums throughout the United States and Europe. Eventually, it became the first great work of Thek’s to be lost after Thek failed to retreive it from a shipping company. Thek died from HIV/AIDS related-illness in 1988.

During the summer of 2019 I was granted a 4-week residency on Fire Island where I danced with, through, inside, and alongside the spirit and legacy of Paul Thek. I cast parts of my own body and used them as esoteric elements for conjuring rituals in the Sunken Forest. I made paintings on the Fire Island Chronicle of the natural elements that come together in this landscape: the bay, the sea, the sunset, the dunes, spiders, shooting stars, the woods, the deer and human bodies on the beach.

Continuing my Calling All Divas manifesto, I see queer lineages as following idiosyncratic energetic currents that connect us, individually and collectively, over time. These inheritances are not biological, rather chosen based on material and ideological sensibilities and sensitivities. This body of work is an exploration of these theories (inheritance, idol worship, and imitation) as an attempt at locating my queer artist body while reckoning the intergenerational loss caused by the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The project culminates in a video poem entitled:
White Walls for Paul Thek