LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN 2017 Pop-up Exhibition: Valerie Reyes-Jimenez, Joyce McDonald, Cindy Krampah, Shirlene Cooper and Lydia Bryant at the Opening Reception. Photo by Kaz Senju.

We would like to thank everyone who joined us on January 26th for the reception of our LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN Valentine Pop-up Exhibition at the Bureau of General Services Queer Division.

The LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN Valentine Pop-up Exhibition is a display of hundreds of handmade paper valentines made by artists and friends, that will mailed to women living with HIV internationally for Valentine’s Day. 

The Opening Reception included reflections on the importance of love and community building from Visual AIDS Artist+ Members and additional women living with HIV including Joyce McDonald, Shirlene Cooper, Wanda Hernandez-Parks, Lydia Bryant, Valerie Reyes-Jimenez and Cindy Krampah. View the moving videos and read excerpts below. 

Joyce McDonald at LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN Valentine Pop-up Exhibition from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: “My daughter handed me this envelope and I was like, ‘What bill collector is this?’ and when I opened it, it was like life stopped. It’s like everything I was going through and feeling stopped. And I pulled out this big red heart. And I had no idea… I was like, ‘where did this heart come from?’ And I read the words--you know, they tell you to write words--and you never know who’s gonna get it. I believe that by divine appointment, people get exactly what they need.” -Joyce McDonald

Cindy Krampah, Lydia Bryant, and Valerie Reyes-Jimenez at LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN Valentine Pop-up Exhibition from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: “When you’re living inside yourself, and you’re hidden inside, it’s hard to come out. But when you hear other people come out, it’s a joyful feeling. It’s a struggle when you’re fighting with yourself. And a lot of people really -- I used to think nobody understood. And I see when I look around how many people do understand... Now I'm not afraid anymore.” -Lydia Bryant

"For me, fighting for people living with HIV and AIDS is something I've done since my day one, and I'm not about to stop now. I'm not ashamed about being HIV positive. Ignorance, hate stigma, HIV criminalization and horrible misinformation are our biggest enemy. We have to be proactive instead of reactive." -Valerie Reyes-Jimenez

"This is my first time making a valentine and everything, and it's just a very meaningful experience...it touched me because I was very happy and it was a pleasure making these valentines knowing that they're gonna go out to women around the world who will experience the same feeling" -Cindy Krampah

Wanda Hernandez-Parks at LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN Valentine Pop-up Exhibition from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Excerpt: “I'm an educated minority woman from the Bronx who has excelled through hard work and dedication. Being part of the Visual AIDS community has made me realize that art is not just an art form. It allows HIV positive women to encourage others by letting them know they are not alone. It clears the path for others who every day feel the wrath of stigma.” -Wanda Hernandez-Parks

Shirlene Cooper at LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN Valentine Pop-up Exhibition from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

"I went and got tested in 1996 and found out I was HIV positive. It just threw me for a loop -- I didn't understand it. Where I come from, Walt Whitman House, known as Fort Greene Projects, they were calling it the 'monster.' Well, what is the 'monster'? I don't know what that is... I didn't know and then they were saying it was just gay people that had it. And I said, 'hey, me and gay people are cool, I don't have a problem with them,' but I do have a problem with this disease." -Shirlene Cooper

For LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN 2017, artists, activists and HIV+ women came together at Dieu Donné’s newly relocated paper making studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to create hundreds of unique handmade paper valentines which will be mailed to women living with HIV around the world. For their third annual LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN collaboration, Visual AIDS, the Fire Island Artist Residency, Dieu Donné and the International Community of Women Living With HIV (ICW) hosted three papermaking valentine workshops on January 18 to show their love and support for women living with HIV internationally. Women living with HIV as well as invited artists made paper valentines for women living with HIV around the world. The valentines will be mailed with personalized messages as a gesture of love and support in the hopes of lessening the stigma experienced by women living with HIV.

LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN is an international series of grassroots events that uses Valentines Day as a backdrop, creating a platform for individuals and communities to engage in public and private acts of love and caring for women living with HIV. Working from a place of strength, LPW focuses on the idea of interconnectedness, relationship building, loving oneself and loving ones' community.

All videos by Kaz Senju.

About The Bureau of General Services—Queer Division
The Bureau of General Services—Queer Division is an independent, all-volunteer queer cultural center, bookstore, and event space hosted by The LGBT Center in New York City.

About Dieu Donné
Dieu Donné is a leading cultural institution dedicated to serving artists through the collaborative creation of cutting-edge contemporary art using the process of hand papermaking. www.dieudonne.org

About the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW)
The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) is the only global network by and for women living with HIV. ICW exists to lead efforts towards securing and improving the quality of life for women living with HIV by mobilizing, organizing, advocating, mentoring and raising consciousness on the issues that directly impact lives. http://www.iamicw.org

About the Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR)
The Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR) is an organization founded in 2011 which brings lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer identifying emerging artists to Fire Island, a place long-steeped in LGBTQ history, to create, commune, and contribute to the location's rich artistic history. FIAR provides free live/work space to artist residents who work, research, relax, and immerse themselves in the Fire Island community, during which time they are visited by a handful of renowned visiting artists, curators, and art professionals who commune with residents through intimate visits, dinners, and discussions, providing support and feedback. www.fireislandartistresidency.org

About Visual AIDS
Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists, and preserving a legacy, because AIDS IS NOT OVER. Visual AIDS is the only contemporary arts organization fully committed to HIV prevention and AIDS awareness through producing and presenting visual art projects, while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS. We are committed to preserving and honoring the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement. www.visualaids.org