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one’s brain and have an effect, which to me leaves a more lasting impression. Robert Mapplethorpe was another artist who, like Haring, set up a foundation in his name to preserve and manage his archive of photographs, to help support museums in creating photography departments, and to support medical research in the HIV/AIDS area. Since its creation in 1988, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation has spent millions of dollars to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV infection. It has also provided study grants to university research centers and established important medical facilities and programs, such as the Robert Mapplethorpe Laboratory for AIDS Research at Harvard Medical School in Boston, the Robert Mapplethorpe AIDS Treatment Center at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Center for HIV Research at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center of New York. The Foundation has also provided substantial financial support to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR).11Mapplethorpe did not take photographs that were always specifically about AIDS, but were more about glorifying the human body (Figures 9 &10). He 11The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc., , April 2008.
shot many portraits of famous artists and celebrities, such as Andy Warhol and Isabella Rosellini, as well as many self portraits and nude portraits of both males and females. Mapplethorpe represents an artist who was diagnosed with AIDS (he died in 1989) that took a stand in trying to increase funding and research centers in order to put a stop to the AIDS epidemic. In 1988, Mapplethorpe took a self portrait (Figure 11) that shows him sitting against a black background, holding a cane with a skull on the top. Here he comments on his diagnosis with AIDS and how death is always a constant thought in the back of one’s mind. Ted Gott wrote in the compilation Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS, “It is hard to convey the manner in which AIDS turns one’s life into a series of ‘lasts’- last dinners with ill or dying friends, last birthdays and festivals, last shopping expeditions, last year of health, last visits to hospitals and hospices- but somehow never last funerals. Only those who love on the razor’s edge truly know the sharp cut of its blade.”12This work speaks worlds in that the only thing the viewer sees coming out of the blackness is Mapplethorpe’s head and his hand holding the cane. His disembodied head stares out at the viewer with an intensity that dares them to look away. The skull cane in the foreground symbolizes the artist’s internal struggles with AIDS slowly killing him, but also the death that he sees everyday when his friends die around him. Mapplethorpe was surrounded in controversy over his choices to use black subjects, interracial couples, and the portrayal of upfront male nudity. Many critics thought that his 12Ted Gott, ed., Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS(Melbourne, London and New York: National Gallery of Australia and Thames and Hudson, 1994), p. 21.
works should be banned because they were too homoerotic and included interracial couples (Figure 12).