the life and work of late artist Robert Mapplethorpe, two defining
trends of the 1980s came together: the emerging awareness of the
AIDS epidemic and a growing movement to limit funding for "obscene
is best known for his homoerotic photographs that captured New York
City's gay community in the late 1970s and the self-portraits that
unflinchingly traced his physical deterioration from AIDS a decade
of his black-and-white prints is titled "Larry and Bobby kissing".
Others are photographs of black male nudes with gleaming muscles.
Among his self-portraits is one from 1978, which displays a playful
Mapplethorpe, clad in cowboy gear, bending over to expose his bare
buttocks to the viewer. In one hand, he is holding a whip.
the late 1980s, Mapplethorpe's photographs revealed a man coming
to terms with his upcoming death. In one self-portrait, only two
body parts are visible against the black background: his gaunt,
somber face and his fist. Instead of a whip, he clutches a cane
topped by a miniature skull.
want to get a picture that is the way I want to remember someone,"
Mapplethorpe once said. "It's like a diary in the end."
political and cultural climate of the 1980s was not ready for the
frank sexuality portrayed in Mapplethorpe's photographs. Conservative
North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms railed against the National Endowment
for the Arts (NEA) for funding controversial art, including "The
Perfect Moment," a traveling exhibition of Mapplethorpe's works.
Just months after Mapplethorpe's death in March 1989, Congress cut
the NEA budget by $45,000 and passed a bill that prevented federal
financing of works that display "sadomasochism, homoeroticism, the
sexual exploitation of children or individuals engaged in sex acts."
ensuing media fracas granted Mapplethorpe heroic status, transforming
him into a symbol of the struggle for freedom of expression.
It was not Mapplethorpe's original intention to become a poster
child for any cause. "I just want to be written about as a normal
artist," he said in American Photographer magazine.
year before he died, Mapplethorpe changed his mind. He created the
Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to support AIDS research and visual
arts, particularly photography. The press attention he received
in 1989 instantly generated funding for the Foundation. His work
became so popular, that proceeds from its sales raised more than
would be pleased with at least one of the Foundation's works.
Six years ago, the Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Treatment Facility
opened in New York City. It provides long-term care for HIV-positive
patients with a full range of medial and social services, including
psychiatric evaluations, education and treatment for drug addicts
and of course, art therapy.
Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Treatment Facility has proven itself
over and over as an excellent model of care," said Matthew E. Fink,
M.D., president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center. "It has successfully
enhanced the quality of life of its residents by offering them specialized
care in a compassionate, supportive and mutually respectful environment."