© Frank H. Jump
Why did the turkey cross the road?
“Carnage… carnage!” – Ferdinand the Duck in Babe
Thanks for the forward Bob Kisken!
© Frank H. Jump
Why did the turkey cross the road?
“Carnage… carnage!” – Ferdinand the Duck in Babe
Thanks for the forward Bob Kisken!
Judy Tulin, Terry Washington, Frank H. Jump & Rev. Kimberleigh Jordan at The Art of Healing, Marble Collegiate Church.
Priscilla Ege & Alice Lotosky, From Bayonne’s PealCollection, LLC (taken July 12, 2007).
Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who came on Monday night to the Marble Collegiate Church’s GIFT Program event- Art of Healing, where I had a one night exhibition and presentation. The food was splendid, the attendance spectacular and the support abounding. I will write more about the evening over the weekend- I do have to get up and stuff a turkey tomorrow- but I want to write a few words about an evening which will have a lasting impact on me.
Secondly, I would like to thank Marble Collegiate for their generosity of spirit. I will be posting my presentation below that further addresses my deep appreciation for being invited to speak and show my work.
Thirdly, thank you Alice and Priscilla (from Bayonne’s PEALCOLLECTION) for the heartfelt words of acknowledgment and encouragement. Your presentation to me of a book of Bayonne Fading Ads was very thoughtful. I will cherish it.
Here was the draft of what I prepared for the evening’s presentation. I did veer a bit from this draft due to the spontaneity of the evening. More on that later.
Firstly, I would like to thank Marble Collegiate, the GIFTS Program & the Reverend Kimberleigh Jordan for inviting me this evening. Judy Tulin, Don Piper for their efforts at making this event possible. Terry Washington for insisting this night happens.
The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale is known for The Power of Positive Thinking. When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1986, being positive seemed an ironic cliché. I was given a death sentence but instead – I got life.
As a religious skeptic for most of my life (many of my religious experiences as a child have been with various Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Queens), churches were neither places where I felt comfortable nor welcomed, so tonight I’m filled with mixed emotions. One ebullient emotion is that of pure gratitude for being invited into your house of worship as an HIV positive artist and same-sex married American. I feel we are genuinely accepted by this church for who we are, and not just tolerated for our family-life, which is a label I prefer over the contentious “gay life-style” label.
Vincenzo is my husband, my friend and most importantly, my family. As stylish as he and I may choose to be, our relationship is not a “life-style choice” but a blessing and a birthright. My thoughts are with all of my friends who can’t be here this evening. My life’s work is a tribute to all of my friends and countless acquaintances that have succumbed to this virus.
Allow me read an excerpt from my first website, The Fading Ad Campaign, which I launched in February 1999.
The Fading Ad Campaign is a photographic project documenting vintage mural ads on building brick faces in New York City and worldwide, spanning nearly a century. It has become a metaphor for survival since, like myself, many of these ads have long outlived their expected life span. Although this project doesn’t deal directly with HIV/AIDS, it is no accident I’ve chosen to document such a transitory and evanescent subject. Of the hundreds of ads I’ve photographed, many have already been covered up, vandalized, or destroyed. But still many silently cling to the walls of buildings, barely noticed by the rushing passersby.
In 1986, when I found out I was HIV+ for already two years, I was immediately thrust into a midlife crisis. At age twenty-six, with possibly four more years to live according to the experts, age fifteen would have been my midlife. Being told my life expectancy would surely be foreshortened caused the curvature of space-time around me to get more curved. My angular momentum increased relative to the decrease of my radius. I started to spin faster as I pulled my arms in towards my center, my speed increasing toward infinity- I managed to approach the speed of life.
I raced so quickly, others around me seemed to grow old and die before my eyes. The urgency to leave my mark as an artist became intensified. I spent lots of money- none of it mine. I accessed all of my available credit lines and bought a home recording studio and a 35mm SLR camera. I furiously wrote lyrics and music for underground theatre and film. Much of my material was based on my experiences as an activist with the newly formed New York City based group ACT-UP. My collaborations bore the musical fruits in the form of an agit-prop musical about the homeless, called Hotel Martinique, which was produced three times, ending a long run at Westbeth. I felt very much alive. It wasn’t until later the next decade did the camera play such a pivotal part in my healing processes.
In 1990, I moved in with my life partner and now husband of 17 years, Vincenzo Aiosa. Long term plans inevitably started to creep back into my consciousness after being banished for almost a decade. In 1995, after Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I returned to college to finish my Bachelor of Arts in Music, Theatre and Film after almost a twenty-year hiatus from academia.
In February of 1997, when I first encountered the vintage sign Omega Oil in Harlem, a gong went off in my head. I realized then that this was to be the subject of my documentary photo project for a class I was taking with Mel Rosenthal at State University of New York/Empire State College. What I didn’t realize was to what extent my education and this project would alter my life’s trajectory.
At first I was reluctant to exhibit this work in a public exhibition space as an HIV+ artist for the annual VISUAL AIDS- Day Without Art event. I was always used to being political about my viral seropositivity. To me this project was more of an historical documentation devoid of personal expression. Although I tend to personify the signs when photographing them, almost like photographing an aging diva whom I greatly admire – trying to capture her best side – the focus is still the signs, not my life condition. These images are windows to our commercial and industrial past. They represent a time in our history that was filled with enterprising ideas and burgeoning global marketing. I didn’t see a context for them in this venue of HIV+ art.
Many of the artists I’ve known who are categorized as HIV+ artists either by themselves or the world, express their experience with accelerated life in profound and daring ways. It wasn’t until my mentor Lucy Winner at Empire State said, “Frank, there’s a connection between your survival, the survival of these signs, and your fervent passion to photograph them,” that it all clicked.
Subsequently, I was included in the Visual AIDS archive of past and present artists with HIV/AIDS, which had been launched on the Internet for a site called the Estate Project- in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art. Due to this launching, I was made aware of a vast body of work I never before would have encountered. I am proud to be included in such a collection and grateful to be associated with such talented visual artists. Their brave expressions of personal grief and augmented mortality in compressed time document an historical event in this century- the age of AIDS.
A new urgency to capture the marks left by artists over twenty-five, fifty, or even a hundred years ago, marks that never were expected to survive this length of time, supplanted my now waning exigency to produce music. After accumulating an abundance of vintage ad images across the country (and in the Netherlands), I knew I was dedicated to this project for the rest of my long life. And through the Internet I discovered an extremely supportive and collaborative global audience.
Within the last century, we’ve witnessed the constant rise and fall of countless businesses. Some have left behind popular products that are still being produced while others have only left behind their name on the side of a building, slowly fading in the sun. A number of the vintage ads I’ve documented have been preserved by buildings being built next to them- only to be revealed years later when the adjacent building has been torn down. Some images have survived by the sheer luck of having a northern exposure. I too must have a northern exposure.
In September 2000, I took a job as a kindergarten through second grade movement teacher near our home in Flatbush Brooklyn after working as a dental office manager for 13 years. I was so pleased to have reinvented myself yet again. Unfortunately this was position was short-lived since I was also diagnosed with rectal cancer the same month. The surgery was completed before starting the movement teaching gig but the chemo and radiation had yet to be administered. By November I was in the hospital and fighting to get disability benefits. By March 2001, after a trip to London to visit friends and to take photos of their fading ads, I had heard I was accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. I had auditioned in between chemo treatments. By May 2001, I was back in the classroom in a middle school in Cypress Hills doing my observations as a student teacher at Brooklyn College.
After a brief stint as gallery owners (Fading Ad Gallery) in Ft. Greene Brooklyn with Vincenzo from 2004 – 2005, and a very public marriage in Toronto, I found a teaching position near our home again for a fabulous elementary school with visionary administrators where I teach technology. Recently I’ve completed my second masters in Instructional Technology.
It is ironic that I’ve come to identify myself with painted adverts, as these were the seeds of my becoming a visual artist. I’ve since participated with my niece Rosario Dawson for PFLAG’s visibility campaign called Stay Close. I’ve become a fading ad. I’ve also enjoyed documenting her skyrocketing career. The scope of my interests has grown to include other images in my work that echo the important issues of our time with the US Commemorative Stamp series which commemorates the highlights of Bush administration:
The Darfur Genocide; the Torture at Abu Ghraib; this unjust war with Iraq. Worldwide homophobia and in the US military- and the continued discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS in the form of unjust immigration and labor policies. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell & The Ban on HIV/AIDS Immigration we owe to the Clinton Administration.
Many of these images were borrowed from news agency archives on the Internet. The Gay & Lesbian African American series may not ever appear as a US Commemorative Stamp series, but I hope I live to see the day that they do. I’ve also started a self-portrait series where my face appears amidst urban decay, derelict highway billboards, rusting rooftop vents and tangled vines.
The Fading Ad Blog has also become a creative tool for self-expression and collaboration, if not a new obsession. Reaching out to a global audience has been a very healing experience and has resulted in global collaborations with remarkable people such as The University of Manchester’s, Professor of Visual Anthropology- Dr. Andrew Irving – who recognized my obsession with time and included my work in his doctoral thesis. Two Greek graphic artists Dionysis Livanis who founded Ten Images for Ithaca and George Carey-Simos– both of whom used my work in their Masters Theses and the many fading ad enthusiasts, from Forgotten-NY’s Kevin Walsh, 14th to 42nd Street’s Walter Grutchfield, Lawrence O’Toole’s Philadelphia Ghost Sign Project, Sam Roberts UK Ghost Signs Project and many others. And I especially owe my gratitude to my biggest supporter and cheerleader, my partner Vincenzo, whose contributions to this project from finding new ads in the area to driving me all around the country on fading ad safaris, have made it as extensive and diverse as it is today.
Teaching has also been remarkably healing. As a teacher of elementary school technology, I strive towards educating the whole child and providing meaningful project-based learning experiences as much as I can, although I’m sometimes reduced to reductionist explanations, especially when teaching this new HIV/AIDS curriculum which purports to be the ABCs of Prevention of HIV. A is for abstinence, B for being faithful, and C for using condoms. As teachers we’re mandated to teach a curriculum that only addresses the A’s. Gay & lesbian children are totally ignored in this new mandated curriculum.
In an effort to create my own ABC’s of what has kept me alive and at the risk of banality, I wrote the following primer to anyone who has been given a dire diagnosis or so-so prognosis. I too meditate a bit on the A’s. My ABCs of Surviving the Odds: The Art of Healing:
A is for Acknowledgment of Audience
Acceptance of Others
Action Balance & Cause
Affecting Benevolent Change
By Creative Collaborations
While sometimes clinging to the comforts of cliché
D is for Driving with Vincenzo
And my Dedication and Devotion to those who are dear
E is for the Endless Efforts of Educators
F is for Family Fabulous Friends Forgiveness
Fairness and always being Frank
G is for Generosity
Giving freely and the Gifts that it brings
H is for Home Happiness and Health
I is for irony and inspiration
Inspiring and being inspired by children
J is for watching them Jump for Joy
K (thank you Fisher Price Toys when you are not poisoning our children) will forever be for Kangaroo
L is for Laughter Love and the
Lessons I’ve learned from loving and being loved
M is for Mother and the magnitude of the job
O is for Outreach and Overcoming what seemed to be overwhelming obstacles and odds.
P is for Positivity Patience perseverance
Q is for Queers and quirkiness
R is for Relationships and roads that lead to being rational and reasonable
S is for Safety Support & Struggle
T is for Trust – Trusting others and trusting thyself
Unconventional is for U and me
V is for (is Eve Ensler in the room?) for Vincenzo
For Valuing each other and one’s self
And for a virus that infected me with a vociferous voice.
W is for this Willy Broekveldt Jump
And the World’s women and wisdom
X – thanks again Fisher Price – is for xylophone
Xstacies of life and extinguishing xenophobia
Y is for always knowing when to say Yes
And Z is for Zabars
And the zealots of hypocrisy whom have given me the opportunity to stand up for myself- against them and their fanaticism.
In 1986 I was given a death sentence, but I chose life instead.
I would like to sing a song to which I composed the music, the lyrics are from WH Auden’s poem Stop All The Clocks which was originally set to music by Benjamin Britten. I first heard these lyrics spoken during a funeral scene in the film Four Weddings & A Funeral.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Bob Pins Fresco has held up pretty good in the last ten years. Luck of a northern exposure.
a cross-curricular collaboration
send your fades & raves to:
frankjump [at] fadingad [dot] com