Oral history interview with Nayland Blake, 2016 November 25-26
Transcript: 59 pages
An interview with Nayland Blake, conducted 2016 November 25-26, by Alex Fialho, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Blake's home in Brooklyn, New York. Blake speaks of growing up in a bi-racial family in New York City; visiting museums, art exhibits and shows, and going to the theatre with their parents; attending Charlotte Moorman's Avant Garde Festivals as a teenager; relating their emerging sexuality to the television shows Batman, The Addams Family, and Star Trek; the decision to attend Bard College; the influence of Times Square Show; co-organizing Bard's first gay and lesbian alliance; attending California Institute of the Arts and the different culture they experienced there; their struggle to make explicitly gay work without it being beefcake; not feeling connected to a gay community in Los Angeles but feeling camaraderie with other artists; their decision to move to San Francisco; first hearing about HIV/AIDS while at CalArts and experiencing the first loss of a friend in San Francisco; the undercurrent of more and more men testing positive in their community; the long two-week wait to receive test results; the generational split within the gay community and how that was squashed by the epidemic; the subjects of mortality and mourning in gay art and how that changed the reception of gay artists; the gay and lesbian shows Extended Sensibilities and Against Nature; the organization of ACT UP San Francisco and subsequent split into ACT UP SF, ACT UP Golden Gate, and ACT UP San Francisco; the "imperiled and heightened physicality" Blake began using in their work; participating in Art Against Aids on the Road; directly addressing the frequency of AIDS deaths in their piece Every 12 Minutes; the social network of caregivers that rallied to support those dying from AIDS through home care and food delivery; curating In A Different Life; the pleasure in curating shows; The Shreber Suite installation pieces; purchasing Wayland Flowers' puppet Madame at auction; being a child of the '60s and believing sex is an expression of one's cultural identity; feeling attacked by the dismissive and oppressive Republican government in the 1980s; the extensive symbolism and meaning in their bunny themed work; the technology boom's affect on the Bay Area and their return to New York City; the show Double Fantasy about their relationship with their partner Philip Horvitz; teaching at International Center for Photography and their work in the kink community; the distance their students have to the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and their identification as an American artist. Blake also recalls Jeff Preiss, Cliff Preiss, William Hohauser, Debra Pierson, Nancy Mitchnick, Jake Grossberg, Robert Kelly, Kathy Acker, Gerry Pearlberg, Kathe Burkhart, Judie Bamber, Catherine Opie, Nancy Barton, Julie Ault, William Olander, Robert Glueck, Kevin Killian, Dodie Bellamy, D-L Alvarez, Stephen Evans, Michael Jenkins, Richard Hawkins, Ann Philbin, Rick Jacobsen, Amy Sholder, David Wojnarowicz, Rudy Lemcke, A.A. Bronson, Philip Horvitz, and others.
Place of publication, production, or execution: New York (State)
General Note: Originally recorded as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 5 hr., 49 min.
Citation: Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Nayland Blake, 2016 November 25-26. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Additional Forms: Transcript is available on the Archives of American Art's website.
Funding: Funded by the Keith Haring Foundation.
Biography Note: Nayland Blake (1960-) is a performance artist and installation artist in New York, New York. Alex Fialho (1989-) is a curator and arts writer who is the Programs Director for Visual AIDS in New York, New York.
Provenance: This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Location Note: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
interviewee: Blake, Nayland, 1960-
interviewer: Fialho, Alex, 1989-
Subject: Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project
Subject: ACT UP San Francisco (Organization)
Record number: (DSI-AAA_CollID)17406
Record number: (DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)384314
Record number: AAA_collcode_blake16