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Over 300 empty HIV medication bottles collected during the past 15 years – including those of HIV positive artist Daniel Goldstein and his partners and friends, some dead, some living, were used to construct Medicine Man 2. The suspended sculpture is over seven feet tall. Strands of steel wire are threaded with translucent orange and white bottles of various sizes to create the elements of the floating figure.
Viewers are reminded of the countless pills HIV positive people must take and of the life-sustaining power these medicines provide. Encircling the human-shaped cluster of bottles are 139 syringes, each tipped with a red droplet. This elicits both a feeling of being bombarded and of energy radiating out from the body. “The piece speaks to the joy of living after having experienced so much death,” says Goldstein. “The shapes in this piece echo many spiritual traditions. From the resurrection in Christianity and the enlightened Buddha on the lotus, to the halos that surround the saints of all cultures.”
List of people whose bottles are in this sculpture:
Daniel Goldstein – the artist
Dennis Robbins – Daniel’s first partner (1973-1974)
Gary Denys – friend since 1983
Mark Garrett – friend since 2000
Stephen Pelton – friend since 1992
Tim Oates – partner (1986-1996), Died of AIDS 1996
Ron Newman – partner (1997-2002)
Denis Chicola – Ron Newman’s current partner (and husband)
Ken Leeds – friend from 1996-2002, Died of AIDS/HepC in 2002
John Kapellas – friend and artistic collaborator since 2000 (introduced by Ken Leeds)
Steve Moorman – John’s partner (1991-2006)
Michael Harriman – John’s partner (2006-2008)
Daniel Goldstein, “Medicine Man 2”, 2010, mixed media installation
In the late 1980s the well known San Francisco gym The Muscle System began disposing of many of its leather exercise bench covers. For decades the gym had been a social nexus for the gay male population that would later be decimated by HIV/AIDS. Daniel Goldstein saved almost all of the leather skins of the gym’s workout machines which over the years had been worn smooth and imprinted with the human shapes of the thousands of men who had worked out on them. Icarian II and Angel are two of 28 pieces in this series, named for the Icarian exercise machines from which the leather coverings were taken.
The friction and sweat on each of the leather skins over the years had left markings both indelible and mysterious. Seeing these ghostly images one is reminded of the numinous Shroud of Turin or the Sudarium (literally “sweat-cloth” in Latin), the legendary Veil of St. Veronica that bore the face of Christ. Goldstein lovingly mounted each of these pieces of leather as reliquaries. Icarian II and Angel are both document and memorial to the unique social situation at The Muscle System gym. Here gay men had come together to create communities of erotic love and brotherhood. As HIV/AIDS began to take its toll on many men’s bodies, the regimes of weightlifting and exercise allowed them to maintain a sense of control over their physical well-being.
Daniel Goldstein, “Icarian Series: Reliquaries”