NORMAL — University Galleries at Illinois State University will present the program "Queer in Normal: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz" at 7 p.m. Thursday with Wojnarowicz biographer Cynthia Carr.
She will discuss and read selections from "Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz," her definitive biography of the controversial artist and writer. Barry Blinderman, director of University Galleries, who curated the artist's first museum exhibition, also will make a presentation.
Self-taught in the arts and letters, Wojnarowicz used any mode of communication he could to fight for visibility in what he called the "pre-invented world." He developed a concise lexicon of sounds and images, looking to visionary discontents like Jean Genet, Arthur Rimbaud and William Burroughs for inspiration.
After his diagnosis of AIDS in the late 1980s, Wojnarowicz drew on his anger at homophobic churches and politicians who were ignoring the existence of AIDS to fuel much of his scathing imagery. He died in 1992.
Carr's acclaimed biography has special resonance for University Galleries, where in 1990 the "David Wojnarowicz: Tongues of Flame" retrospective opened with a performance witnessed by 700 people.
One of the final chapters in Carr's biography offers an account of Wojnarowicz's experiences in Bloomington-Normal, the media response to his exhibition and the artist's successful legal battle against the American Family Association, which sent thousands of leaflets about him to Congress and religious institutions in the United States.
Wojnarowicz stayed in Bloomington-Normal for several weeks between 1989 and '92 and published three prints with ISU's Normal Editions Workshop and created some of his last major paintings and photographs in a studio he rented at Front and Center streets in Bloomington.
After Carr's reading Thursday, Blinderman will talk about the reactions to the "Tongues of Flame" exhibition.
The University Galleries are in the Center for the Visual Arts on the south side of the ISU campus. Call 309-438-5487 for more information.