Ran smack into snow storms in the Sierras, run over by dust storms in the desert, jumped out of the path of humungus snakes on the Navajo Reservations, knocked out by the heat in Death Valley, buried my face in the earth of Chaco Canyon, slept in ex-con hotels in New Mexico.
THE QUALITY OF LIGHT is a crucial feature in all of David Wojnarowicz's art, and photography is the art of light and shadow, life and death. For a sensitive child raised in a loveless darkness, light must always have played a heightened role.
HOW WAS IT THAT WE BEGAN discussing cameras on that particular day? I mean the day that David’s feet swelled to twice their normal size. He was staring at the awful things when I got to his room. There were cracks in the skin, and he could feel things breaking inside.
DAVID WOJNAROWICZ did not grow up dreaming that some day he would become an artist. A famous artist. He was born with more than his share of talent, not a particularly rare abundance, but a significant one. Talent is easy, especially when it’s innate.
IN 1979 I STARTED MAKING WORK USING human-body images. My father died, and for several years after that, my work was primarily about death—until about 1983 or '84, when Maggie Smith and I went to Mexico for the Day of the Dead. I was so impressed by the vitality of the Mexican people that I decided to start making work about being here in the body.
IT EVIDENTLY IS TIME NOW for David Wojnarowicz to be entered in some way into the realm of history—where art exists to deny and defy that cultural nullification of death with the delusion of cultural immortality. I cannot, however, seem to separate my recollections of David from the stream of events and people surrounding our lives then.
BEING A LAWYER FOR David Wojnarowicz put me in a curious position. David spent most of his life outside the law. As a child, he ran away from home, lived on the streets, dropped out of high school, stole, used drugs, and hustled. In a Lower East Side version of Horatio Alger’s American dream, he somehow managed to pull himself up out of all that and become an enormously talented and succesful artist and writer.
I’M TRYING TO WRITE something that makes sense but nothing makes sense. I’m trying to tell you how much I miss him. But you’ll never know. In the courtroom—that asshole creep Wildmon is pretending he doesn’t know what a collage is—how he raped David’s work.
Death Valley, May 1991 Hey Vince, Just what the doctor ordered. Lots of rest and silence and beautiful landscapes. Am on a ranch but no horses. A motorcycle cowboy walked by with no shirt army tatoos unbelievable body and sexy bowl legs and I was standing in a field and dropped to my knees and quickly made the sign of the cross.
DAVID HELPED ME BUY A CAMERA and encouraged me to keep shooting. The first moving images of his I saw were in the form of a short super-8 film called Fire in My Belly, made during a trip to Mexico. It included haphazard images from the bus mixed with bullfighting shots from the TV, a pendant globe turning, human lips sewn together, nude torsos dancing in stroboscopic lights, ants crawling in microscopic detail, and a little red rubber devil.
CAMERAS WERE DAVID’S constant companions. On our first date, we went to the beach on a cold January evening and photographed each other photographing each other at sunset. Riding around in a car, David would snap photos through the windshield or from a camera held outside the window in one hand while steering with the other.
Love, sex, art, and death: in September of 1990, David Wojnarowicz and photographer Nan Goldin, longtime friends, sat down to a three-hour conversation....
David Wojnarowicz: Nan is kvetching about the size other calamari. Nan Goldin: It’s tiny. D W : They yank these squids out of the deep blue sea and.... N G : They’re like your sperm sculptures! DW: Little mutant sperms! Nan’s eating mutant sperm at a fashionable Lower East Side restaurant.
IT'S THAT LATE MORNING LIGHT that bathes everything in the landscape giving it an apparition of warmth. I’m sitting at a second story table of a restaurant, behind the plate-glass windows of some crummy piece of architecture feeling dark.
Close friend to both David Wojnarowicz and Peter Hujar, writer Fran Lebowitz renders an intimate portrait of both artists....
Melissa Harris: How did you and David meet? Fran Lebowitz: I met him through Peter Hujar because Peter was very intent on me meeting him. Peter didn’t like that many people. He liked more people than I do, but still not that many. And he was extremely enthusiastic about David in every respect.
LUCY R. LIPPARD is a writer, teacher and activist, author of sixteen books on contemporary art and the novel I See / You Mean. She has created performances, comics, street theater, and has worked for twenty years with artists’ groups as co-founder of: Printed Matter; The Heresies Collective and journal; Political Art Documentation/Distribution and its journal Upfront; Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America; and Boulder Women’s Action Coalition.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all works are courtesy ofP.P-O-W Gallery, New York, and the Estate of David Wojnarowicz. Contents page, pp.3, 4 — 5, 56, 59 — 61, 63-65 private collection, subsequent edition of 12 at 16 x 20", various collections;