Painting 3.2%: Artist Regina Holliday Depicts D.C.'s HIV Epidemic


Highlights from the 2011 Benevolent Media Festival: On Monday, November 7, Benevolent Media organized an Open Mic Night, "Breaking the Silence: The Story of D.C.'s HIV Crisis and the Everyday Heroes Working to End It," at Artfully Chocolate Bistro to share empowering and inspiring stories about living with HIV/AIDS in the District, and what's being done to help people move from crisis mode to compassionate relief. Fifteen percent of the night's proceeds will be donated to Whitman-Walker Health, a Washington, D.C. community health center specializing in HIV/AIDS care and lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender care.

The following is an excerpt of a blog post, "Can you catch Activism?" by Regina Holliday, a D.C.-based patient rights arts advocate, who attended the open mic night and presented a new painting she created during the festival, called "3.2%", to raise awareness about the HIV rate in the District.

In this painting, I depicted a version of the Starbucks I saw before me.  There are no faces or people in this work.  If you have seen my work before, you will understand how atypical this is.  You see I paint people.  Buildings are just props and symbols to support the patient story.   But what person wants to tell this story?  Who wants their name and face attached to the story of a possibly fatal communicable disease?
Painting this was a very eye-opening experience for me.  I paint about disease constantly.  I paint about suffering patients everyday.  This became my life mission after my husband died of kidney cancer.  I painted on this very street for three months in 2009 about our tragic family journey in the world of medicine.  The people, who stopped to talk with me during that time, embraced the subject and talked wholeheartedly about their own life experience as patients.  Most of them related very personally to a diagnosis of cancer.
Talking about HIV and AIDS in relation to art was very different.  People were less open.  Often taking a step back, literally, when I began to discuss the genus of the painting.  I was astounded.  What did they think they could catch from standing close?  Was this response a manifestation of  the  fear of HIV or of activism itself?
I paint because I care.  I want to change things.  I want to help patients lead happier and healthier lives.  The folks at the Benevolent Media Festival think the same.   Hence they promote and create great media in its many novel forms to address tough subjects in DC.
Read the full post here.