Artist Uses Blood Donations From Gay Men To Protest FDA Ban In Striking New Artwork
NYC-based artist Jordan Eagles has made a name for himself thanks to his talent with a unique medium: blood. The medium lends itself well to Eagles' new project, an artistic protest of the FDA's ban on donations from gay men.
From a press release:
In 1983, in an early response to the AIDS crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual male blood donors. Over 30 years later, on May 13, 2015, the FDA proposed an updated policy that would finally allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they are celibate for a full year. There is no celibacy requirement for heterosexuals, regardless of their risk for contracting HIV. The proposed new FDA policy is currently open for public comment for 60 days, ending on July 14, 2015. A UCLA Williams Institute study found that lifting the ban completely could save up to a million lives annually.
In 2015, artist Jordan Eagles enlisted a group of nine extraordinary gay men, each with a unique life story, to donate their blood in protest of the FDA’s ban and for the creation of a sculpture, Blood Mirror. Leo Herrera, activist and filmmaker, documented the process in an original, political art film, which is being released in advance of World Blood Donor Day (June 14), in honor of LGBT Pride month, and within the public comment period for the FDA’s proposed, updated policy.
The men who donated their blood to this project include: An 88-year-old openly gay priest; A Nigerian gay rights activist on political asylum in the U.S.; A Co-Founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC); The CEO of GMHC; An identical gay twin whose straight brother is eligible to donate; A captain in the Army who served two terms in Iraq and was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (reinstated to service in 2014); A married transgender male couple, and; A bisexual father of two. Dr. Howard Grossman, former director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, was the medical supervisor on the project, as well as a blood donor. Each man is currently ineligible to donate blood under the FDA’s current policy—but since they cannot donate their blood to save lives, they’ve chosen to donate their blood for art.
The sculpture, Blood Mirror, is a seven-foot-tall monolith in which the viewer can see him or herself reflected in the blood of the nine donors, which has been encased and fully preserved. The sculpture will inspire dialogue about the FDA’s discriminatory policy and its equally flawed, proposed revision. A totem of science and equality, the sculpture is a time capsule of the donors’ blood that embodies the 32-year history of the FDA’s discriminatory ban.
“I wanted to create a sculpture that would becomes a time capsule, documenting this moment in time, while showing that this blood could have been used to save lives,” said artist Jordan Eagles. “This discriminatory policy is part of our gay history and part of our nation’s history, and the sculpture asks us to reflect on discrimination in our country, as well as the homophobia that exists around the world. 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.”
Check out Blood Mirror will be "on view at American University Museum at The Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C. from September 12th to October 18, 2015, with works created in collaboration with Leo Herrera, The Carry Nation, and Jonny Cota of SKINGRAFT."