Some Turning Points - An 8-Page Zine
|Larry Wolf, Rough Raw Reclaimed #1 - front cover (2021)|
|Larry Wolf, Rough Raw Reclaimed #1 - pages 1 & 2 (2021)|
That Little Tent of Blue & Fourteen
|Larry Wolf, Rough Raw Reclaimed #1 - pages 3 & 4 (2021)|
T-Shirts & Only Ourselves
|Larry Wolf, Rough Raw Reclaimed #1 - pages 5 & 6 (2021)|
Not The First Time, Not The Last Time & Tear Streaked Cheeks
|Larry Wolf, Rough Raw Reclaimed #1 - back and front covers (2021)|
Action - Life & Rough Raw Reclaimed
|Larry Wolf, Rough Raw Reclaimed #1 (2021)|
|Larry Wolf, Rough Raw Reclaimed #1 - inside text (2021)|
Rough Raw Reclaimed
A tangle of jagged lines forms a pink triangle
A marker of homosexuals in the concentration camps during the 1930s and 1940s
Reclaimed by gay activists in the 1970s
Brought to prominence in the Silence = Death campaign of ACT UP in the 1980s.
Now, 2021, at seventy, I am reclaiming my own past, the rough times in my life, some raw moments of heightened awareness that were turning points, that are the journey of who I am.
that little tent of blue
which prisoners call the sky …
each man kills the thing he loves …
... with a bitter look ... a flattering word …
... a kiss ... a sword!
Oscar Wilde, Ballad of Reading Gaol
When I was twelve, reading A Picture of Dorian Gray for school, my father asked “Do you know about Oscar Wilde?” insinuating “There is something dangerous and shameful you should know, you should avoid, and of which I cannot speak.” Yikes! WTF?
Prison walls protect my tender heart, not yet ready to confront the imagined threats and actual violence. The being within persists in an induced coma. It will awaken, reborn, to fly high and far in the open sky.
I am the love that dare not speak its name
Lord Alfred Douglas, Two Loves
A glorious summer, drenched in sunshine, learning to sail on open waters. A summer of boys imagining we were men. A summer when I yearned for the bodies of men. But not those men – they were incessantly talking about the bodies of women. I kept my thoughts, and hands, to myself.
Advise and Consent – the film turned love to blackmail, bright day to smokey night, connection broken and tossed in the gutter, suicide – collateral damage from others’ battles.
An image lingers – a man in shadow enters Club 602, known by a number, otherwise nameless, a place that dares to exist.
Glimpses of the tribe I did not yet know, out there, waiting for when I would be ready.
Personal. Visible. Bold. Snug to my skin. Layers of contact. The people. The marches. The legislative hearings. Publishing Out in the Mountains. The friendships that made it possible and joyful.
Putting myself on the line, in public, striving for a better world. Comradery. Sanctuary. Community. Domestic. Ordinary.
Sunday mornings of bagels, cream cheese, coffee, swapping sections of the NY Times, in Amherst, San Francisco, Burlington, Waterbury Center, Boston, Cabot, Louisville, Ann Arbor, Chicago.
Moments. To breathe. To feel. To be. This body. Decades of passion and heartbreak, of wonder and celebration. Vibrant. Nurturing. Alive.
I, we, make whole the broken pieces. One life at a time. One square of a quilt. One tear. A flood of cleansing healing tears.
The euphoria of coming out, of living out, came crashing to an end. The very act of love was deadly. Invisible forces were destroying my world. A plague, a hostile society, was killing my tribe, my friends, my lovers, the artists, singers and songwriters, authors and publishers who created the world I lived in. We were cannon fodder in the culture wars.
People in desperate need created How To Have Sex In An Epidemic, a lifeline, practical and wise: living and dying together, with humility, with vulnerability, with honesty, with passion, with information, with love. We invented safer sex when there was fear and panic. It saved my life.
Not the First Time, Not the Last Time
Men lined up in uniforms in the cold grey of December 1938. Branded as homosexual, they were reduced to a number, worked to death, shot for minor offenses or no offense at all.
The society that had been the most sexually progressive changed almost overnight when Hitler became chancellor. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, which advocated for homosexuals as fully human, was ransacked. The longstanding but often unenforced Paragraph 175, which criminalized sexual acts between males, was expanded in 1935; entrapment, denunciation and betrayal followed.
In 1945, when the concentration camps were liberated, the men of the pink triangle were kept in prison. They were denied compensation for their years in the concentration camps. Paragraph 175 remained in effect for another five decades.
Tear Streaked Cheeks
On a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming, a man was beaten and left to die on a cold October night, 1998. Matthew Shepard became the poster child of gay hate crimes. There were candlelight vigils – organized all too quickly and too well. We should not be so good at this public mourning and outcry. Enough is enough.
The trial. The protestors chanting hell for the homosexual. The angelic counter-protests. His parents. Their compassion. Their determination. The plays, art, chorale works and politics that followed.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became law in 2009. Two brutal deaths in 1998, one homophobic, one racist. Two decades. Yet another decade. Much still to do.
Action = Life
Spring 1973. UMass Amherst. No one in the gay student group wanted to have their names used or their photo taken. I volunteered to be the silhouette against the frosted glass of the office door. Visible and invisible. Not the right optics.
Now. A fragmented country, structural injustice and inequity. AIDS still exists, still kills, still divides families, communities. As does addiction. As does racism. As does colonialism. As does COVID. As does class and economics. We live in our intersections.
With thanks and appreciation to the people I’ve journeyed with. The safe places, brave spaces, we’ve shared: Pride, Marches on Washington, even weddings, with and without legal sanction, the family I was born into and the one I’ve created.
Larry Wolf, 2021
Artist's Statement - Inflection Points
This work is a dance of inner and outer, self and society. It’s a coevolution of interdependence - moments of conflict and alignment, filtered through memory, a fresh telling of my life and times.
I begin with a through line of connected inflection points. Remembered as images and fragmentary thoughts, I combine personal and public photographic archives with drawing, painting and writing. These are digitally manipulated and collaged into single-sheet zines, each a thread through my life.
The zines present my story, a gay male growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, coming out shortly after Stonewall, being an activist, surviving AIDS, settling down, becoming an elder.
These zines are intimate objects. They are handled, show the imperfections of their creation, the wear of unfolding and refolding, becoming more of what they are. They fit in a hand, in a pocket. Perhaps they spark a conversation about our lives, intersections, history, difference, agency, connection.