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

In it’s third consecutive year, Visual AIDS has organized an event called Love Positive Women. It is manifested through a Valentine making workshop, this year held at Dieu Donné in Brooklyn, followed by a pop-up exhibition at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division (BGSQD). Focusing on women who are living with HIV and AIDS, Love Positive Women uses Valentine’s Day as a point of departure not only to spread uninhibited love but also to raise awareness of women who often end up marginalized. At Dieu Donné, various New York based artists and cultural tastemakers were invited to make paper Valentines from scratch. Paper pulp, in a rainbow of colors was provided to participants with the end goal of over 200 Valentine’s Day cards to be mailed to women living with HIV all over the world. In 2017, this project, is a reminder of love and the power that we all have as individuals to share and give something freely, unattached to obligation or financial pressure. A smile, a hug and even a warm handshake can mean so much because a touch, no matter how precious, is something not to be taken for granted.

Lydia Bryant and Casey Spooner making valentines for women living with HIV, at Dieu Donné, Photograph courtesy of VisualAIDS, 2017

Held in three invite-only time slots  artist’s selected for the paper-making workshop included Karen Heagle, Gina Beavers, Casey Spooner, Chris Bogia, Jesse Harrod and others. Each visitor was asked to don a plastic apron, rubber rain boots and in some cases gloves as paper-making can be messy! Energy in the studio was unmistakable as each surface was covered with rectangular paper grounds (prepared by the Dieu Donné staff) and resulted in diverse messages, some with written text and others with visual information alone. Several women living with HIV and AIDS were also present including Joyce McDonald, Shirlene Cooper, Wanda Hernandez-Parks, Lydia Bryant, Valerie Reyes-Jimenez and Cindy Krampah taking part not only in the paper workshop but also in the pop-up exhibition at the Bureau of General Services–Queer Division. At the gallery several of the women spoke candidly to the audience about their experience living with HIV and AIDS. Love is something that can be given but also received. Life is worth living in hardship and easy times. While so many dream of a romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day with a respective other, VisualAIDS and Love Positive Women give us the chance to remember the true meaning of love, something that can be given with nothing expected in return. As participant Shirlene Cooper stated in her address to those present at the BGSQD, “Thank you so much for your hard work because you know what, we are loved and we deserve it.”

A selection of Valentine’s Day cards that were made at Dieu Donné in Brooklyn, Photograph courtesy of VisualAIDS, 2017

LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN can be viewed as an international holiday envisioned by Visual AIDS Artist+ Member Jessica Whitbread in 2013. For the third annual New York iteration collaborators included Visual AIDS, the Fire Island Artist Residency, Dieu Donné, and the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW). It functions as a reminder, yet another reason to love one another, something that we need not only in New York but beyond and not only this year, but every year.

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

Looking forward to the fourth edition in 2018! For more information please click all the links provided in the article.


Katy Diamond Hamer is the Founding Editor in Chief of Eyes Towards the Dove. She has been writing on contemporary art and culture since 2007. For more, follow her on Instagram @katyhamer