“Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz” by Cynthia Carr— An Artist at Work and Play

Carr, Cynthia. “Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz”, Bloomsbury USA, 21012.

An Artist at Work and Play

Amos Lassen

This is the first biography of David Wojnarowicz and Cynthia Carr has done him proud. Wojnarowicz went from a hard childhood that included orphanages, absent parents, abuse and working the streets to become if the important voices in the art world. He received his first acclaim in the East Village of New York City in the 70’s and 80’s. He was part of the group that included Keith Haring, Nan Goldin and Michel Basquiat that helped new definitions to art and uptown art dealers began to look downtown and before anyone thought that it would happen, the art scene shifted and changed. But it was not to last long as AIDS devastated the East Village and voices were silenced. It was at the same time that gentrification began. Suddenly Wojnarowicz was dead from AIDS at the age of only 37. However, the fact that he lived for a while was responsible for great changes.

Cynthia Carr brings the artist to life with her beautiful writing and her book is a monument to the man. It is a love letter that has a great deal to say and Carr really knows how to say it. Wojnarowicz was controversial and it was the way that he lived that influenced his art. He was complex and defiant and Carr had access to his friends for interviews from which she drew so much information. If I did not know that this book is a biography, I would have thought that I was reading a novel—it reads that smoothly. One of the most important characters in this book is the AIDS epidemic and we see how it changed everything. We are now living at a time that AIDS seems to be a forgotten issue, something that happened a long time ago. We cannot underestimate the importance that AIDS played and while it robbed us of so much, it also caused a feeling of family among those that survived. We see the artist as flamboyant and self-destructive yet he was one of the most creative people working back then. This is an amazing book about an amazing man and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

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