Inspired by the themes presented in Pacifico Silano’s solo exhibition, Cowboys Don’t Shoot Straight (Like They Used To), at Houston Center for Photography, the Spring 2021 issue of spot includes a series of interviews and essays from artists and curators reflecting on health, community, and connection. Silano’s exhibition features large-scale, photo-based installations, utilizing imagery sourced from vintage gay pornography magazines published after the Stonewall Riots of 1969. As a child, Silano lost his uncle due to complications from HIV/AIDS and subsequently watched as his family erased the visual record and reminders of his uncle’s life. Like the Pictures Generation artists before him, Silano’s interventions with his source material recontextualize and reveal the previously unseen, producing thoughtful memorials to what’s been lost.
Silano’s exhibition moved me to consider the archive’s power to preserve stories of the disappeared and make visible the experiences of those who have often been invisible. I am grateful for the archive and the work the featured artists are doing to preserve, reclaim, and respond to the AIDS/HIV and COVID-19 pandemics. Their work urges us to look at the present and past with empathy and confront how bigotry and a lack of access to justice and equity in healthcare lead to mass harm. There is an unfortunate recurring pattern of prejudice affecting health outcomes; as I write this, legislatures in states across the country, including Texas, are considering legislation that would criminalize gender-affirming health care, which promotes discrimination against the transgender community and trans children in particular. The work of Pacifico Silano, Derrick Woods-Morrow, Logan Bellow, and Oli Rodriguez is more urgent than ever.
Additionally, in this issue, Artist Ana Vallejo’s work meditates on our human need for connection and exposes the struggle of isolation. These themes feel remarkably relevant as we hurtle past the one-year mark of the COVID-19 Pandemic. A year ago, in response to the pandemic, HCP opened up a virtual open-call for Togethering, which invited photographers from around the world to submit their images of life during the COVID-19 Pandemic. HCP’s Marketing and Sales Coordinator Jaelyn Lyles reflects on the experience of living through COVID-19 and checks in with Togethering contributing artists, asking them to consider, “How can we move forward?”
How do we move forward? As I consider the monumental, almost inconceivable loss that so many of us have faced this year, I hope this experience will inspire us to deepen our connections with each other and have more empathy. As photographers, it’s our responsibility to continue documenting and using lens-based media to interpret and find meaning in our individual and collective experiences.
—Shannon Crider, Education Director