Bon Voyage, Tom: Introduction

Tom Bado’s full memorial panel.

My artifact is a quilt-poster that was made for Tom Bade, a man who died in his battle against HIV. Tom Bade was not only an activist for those struggling with his same condition, but also an actor, novelist, painter, and poet. Tom’s friends designed the poster with the message“Bon Voyage, Tom” written across the quilt. The message was meant to say farewell to Tom, as he was getting ready depart on a vacation to London, England. After his return to the United States, Tom decided to hang the poster over his bed. During the period of time that Tom endured the effects AIDS, he offered to paint portraits of others who had contracted the disease in an attempt to commemorate them forever, even after their passing. It is evident that Tom used art as a way to express his emotions generated by his battle against the disease. His condition must have caused a great deal of unrest in his life, and his artwork probably allowed him to hold onto the things in life that he valued most: his loved ones.

Like Tom, many other artists and activists diagnosed with AIDs have used modes of expressionist art as a healthy outlet for their feelings. Since 1981, people whose lives have been affected by the sad reality of AIDs have contributed to this movement in hopes of diminishing the stigma that surrounds those who are HIV positive. When the AIDs epidemic first plagued the gay male community, activists in the social justice arena caught the attention of the public by adapting classical, well-known pieces into displays of the graphic nature of the virus; such works included paintings originally completed by the renown Henri Matisse (Hans). The original intention of HIV related artwork was to educate the public about the tragic nature of the disease. These artists felt as though not enough medical research or education was being implemented to combat the worsening conditions of the growing community of those who were HIV positive (Hans).  Many organizations have been founded since the early 80s to perpetuate said cause, which in turn has fostered a gradual shift in the public consensus of AIDs, raised financial support in search for a cure, and have touched the lives of many people that suffer from the disease (Hans).