Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →
Born in Red Hook, New Jersey, to a father who was alcoholic and violent, Wojnarowicz dropped out of high school and lived on the streets of Manhattan, working as a hustler for several years. Inclined toward art from an early age, he made his way into the East Village art scene by the late 1970s and soon was being exhibited in a number of galleries, including having several one-man shows of his work and being included in the Whitney Biennial in 1985. His art combined painting, text, and collage. Designed to provoke, it was often unapologetically angry. After he was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1988, Wojnarowicz began making art about the AIDS epidemic. He died in July 1992, but his art continued to provoke controversy. In 2010, officials at the Smithsonian Institution censored a clip from a short film of his that was part of the “Hide and Seek” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. In it, Wojnarowicz depicted a crucifix swarming with ants. In 2012, a biography of him by Cynthia Carr, titled Fire in the Belly, was published.