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This Man Used HIV+ Blood to Recreate the Most Expensive Painting in the World
In his early twenties, Jordan Eagles was turned away at a blood donation center for being gay. As of today, gay men are still prohibited by the FDA from donating blood if they've had sex with other men within the past 12 months. "That anger has never left me," Eagles tells OUT. "I, like so many others, am continuously fed up with the constant violence and discrimination that we are seeing almost daily in our society."
As a response, Eagles created a series of works aimed to inspire conversation about the stigma still attached to gay men living with HIV/AIDS. Blood Mirror is a sculpture made from the donated blood of 59 LGBTQ+ individuals currently on view at the Museum of the City of New York.
Eagles' new (and most buzzed about) work is 'Jesus, Christie's,' currently on view at the Leslie-Lohman Museum. The piece is made from the famous auction house's catalog, specifically an edition featuring Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi,"which sold last year for $450 million, making it the most expensive artwork in history. "[The catalog] is paired with the donated blood from an HIV+ undetectable, long-term survivor and activist," Eagles explains. "It addresses how society often prioritizes and values object versus. human lives, and that we are not investing enough funds to keep people healthy and put resources in science."
We asked Eagles to take us through his work and expand on why destigmatizing the blood of gay men is so important. Click through the slideshow to see more.
"Jesus Christie's is a work that can have many interpretations based on the symbolism of blood, the blood donor, and the history of the source material, Leonardo Da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," which is the most expensive artwork ever. The work also asks us to imagine how much good could have been done with $450 million to help the sick and needy stay healthy."
"'Blood Mirror' is a sculpture and collaborative project that advocates for equality and peacefully protests the U.S. government's stigmatizing and discriminatory blood ban, which requires gay and bisexual men to be celibate for a full year in order to be eligible to donate blood. This is a ridiculous policy that isn't applied to heterosexual donors, and has no basis in science and continues to perpetuate HIV stigma."
"Undetectability is a miracle. The fact that someone can be HIV+ and be fully healthy with no possibility of transmitting HIV to their sexual partner is nothing short of amazing, especially when we consider where we were 30 years ago. Leonardo Da Vinci's painting 'Salvator Mundi' means 'Savior of the World.' When I think of that meaning, science can be a true 'savior.'"
"In 'Blood Mirror,' the blood of all 59 men could have been used for life-saving purposes if the FDA's blood donation policy weren't discriminatory. 50 of the men who donated their blood to the sculpture are on PrEP. Between undetectability and PrEP, we have made such amazing advances that it's time for the FDA to address these issues through the lens of current science and not through fear and stigma. If we can't donate our blood to save lives, then we can use it for creative purposes and share our voices, anger, passion, and love as a community through our joined blood."
"A lot of people don't know that the FDA's blood ban even exists, or that gay and bisexual men are banned from giving blood, or what PrEP is. And many people have no idea what undetectability means in the context of HIV. If policies are put into place based on outdated science and don't consider the major scientific advances that have been made, then it continues to perpetuate stigma, reinforce outdated fears, and suggest that all LGBTQ people are sick and diseased. This miseducation is a disservice to society and to the LGBTQ community. These artworks ask us to look at current science, medical advances, and our common humanity."
"We must continue to be supportive of each other and create the environment to talk about these issues without shame, fear, or embarrassment. We all have friends on PrEP or who are undetectable and we love them regardless. Understanding and compassion are so key, but we also need to really start by trusting the science."
"Our government and private corporations need to be investing more money into HIV/AIDS research and not jacking up the prices of HIV medication and PrEP. Too often, the people who have access to these important medications are affluent, and they need to be accessible to anyone who needs them, regardless of socioeconomic status. It's imperative that anyone who's HIV+ can get medication and become undetectable, and that anyone who wants to go on PrEP can have that option. If everyone in the world who's HIV+ became undetectable and anyone at high risk were on PrEP, we could end HIV/AIDS in a few generations, if not sooner."