Peggy Frank

Peggy discovered she was HIV+ almost 30 years ago when there were no medicines to fight the disease. She struggled to stay alive - the early years helped her to understand the impact of positive test results, hopeful doctors and living life to its fullest. Today, there is medication where she lives in British Columbia and the rest of Canada, but in poor corners of the world it is still not always available - often not to children. Nothing in her personal life could prepare her for observing the impact the disease was having on grandmothers, women and orphaned children or the mental anguish of realizing that most people are dying when treatment alone would save their lives. She co-founded a grassroots organization, positively AFRICA, after visiting several African countries in 2005. positively AFRICA twins community groups, school children and interested individuals with small but important projects relating to widows, grandmothers, orphans and those living with HIV. A dynamic little group of volunteers remain dedicated to helping those affected by the AIDS pandemic in Africa to live with hope and dignity. PA has successfully raised well over $100,000 for small African community projects. Peggy is also involved in the local AIDS Community, both as a trainer and an elder.

Her art career began with a few years of zoological and botanical illustration. She ventured into water color painting and eventually sculpture, where she feels artistically happiest. Often she is asked to create installations and pieces for AIDS related events. In 2004, she helped create, with a group of Salt Spring Islanders, a ribbon of red crosses in a sea of white ones. The results so powerfully showed the daily deaths from AIDS, that she participated in a community project that saw a version of this extremely large AIDS ribbon on the lawn below the CN tower for the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto. She dreamt of and then created a seven foot cocktail glass from 2000 empty pill bottles and This is NOT a Cocktail Party was entered in a jurored sculpture show in Canada. Peggy is currently working on a book, so her artwork is limited to helping other women to create therapeutic body-maps. She loves the psychological work that evolves through these life-size personal histories and sees herself doing more community work in this arena.

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Peggy Frank created This is Not a Cocktail Party using over 2000 pill bottles!

“Living with HIV for over 25 years, I’ve met a lot of pills. Yes, I consumed 2000 bottles of pills in that time, but these (used for the cocktail glass) are not all mine! When people ask me what the sculpture represents, it really depends on the day and my mood. I might reply:

  • It’s about the pill burden of living with HIV; or
  • I wanted to point out how the medical profession names things inappropriately; or,
  • Look trash is beautiful; or,
  • We are destroying the environment with costly plastics generated to support health care, especially when we throw them in the landfill where both the plastics and the residue of medications are yucky; or,
  • The red ribbons come from Africa where there is little access to medication and, ironically, the largest percentage of infected people, especially children; or,
  • This sculpture represents the difference between life and death. Wanna drink to it?”

The bottles on the stem of the sculpture are most of the HIV medicines that have been developed over the past 25 years, as well as a few common anti-depressants and supplements that positive people take.

The sculpture was delivered from Peggy’s studio in Victoria to a National Sculpture Competition in St Andrew’s New Brunswick - a 29 day journey of 8,792 km. Peggy and a friend made 20 stops along the way - exposing the sculpture to positive communities and political leaders across the country, inviting people to put messages inside the bottles as well as engaging people everywhere in conversation.

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