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Upon learning of his HIV-positive status, Steven Wolf departed from the landscapes and formal figurative style of his earlier work. He began a series of emotionally charged allegorical self-portraits that narrate the course of his life as a person with HIV.

 

Immersed in depression and denial, Wolf initially sought escape and solace in a "back to earth" metaphor. Retreating to the mountains of Virginia, he painted solitary, faceless male nudes in the rugged landscape. Though their well- formed bodies exhibit no signs of illness or wasting, they seem to have collapsed upon the earth, into which they literally meld. Introspective and solated, they are totally withdrawn from the world around them.

 

The quiet, languorous aspect of the paintings and drawings contrasts withthe figures' uneasy, contorted poses. Their nakedness reflects vulnerability rather than availability. They are not homoerotic objects so much as victims of some unseen attack. A darkly vibrant palette and the dramatic use of light heighten the surreal, disquieting effect.


Seeking Solace
at Heights
1994
Alkyd-resin on linen
48" x 48"
The Sunset Covered
Him Like a Blanket
,
1995
Alkyd-resin on linen.
44" x 38"
HIV Blues #1, 1994
Alkyd-resin on handmade paper.
28" x 35"
 

 

HIV Estrangement, 1994
Charcoal on BFK paper.
35" x 47"
HIV Isolation, 1994
Charcoal on BFK paper.
48" x 35"
After a period of grieving and reflection, a remarkable transformation took place in the artist and his work. A new, defiant attitude found expression in a series of paintings in which the figures literally defy the force of gravity. No longer earthbound, they float among the clouds, simultaneously contributing to and reflecting the spiritual growth and healing of the artist. HIV, the invisible enemy overwhelming the body, is now depicted as a separate entity, controlled if not entirely conquered.

 

In confronting his anxieties Wolf finds the freedom to rise above them. His work aims to express his own brand of truth, the gospel of expression and creation. "I have triedto provide myself with good role models," he writes. In so doing he has become one himself.

BH.

 

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Steven Wolf's Poetry

Pontormo's Angst, 1995
Alkyd-resin on linen.
44" x 54"
Tiepolo's Message, 1995
Alkyd-resin on handmade paper.
23" x 26"
Carrying My Demon
With Me
, 1995
Alkyd-resin on linen.
54" x 44"