Therese Frare Reflects on AIDS, Two-Spirit Photography

On December 1, the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, iconic photographer Therese Frare spoke in the Library Learning Commons to open her show “Remembering Two Spirits.” As part of the show, event organizer Adam DelMarcelle, displayed a series of Frare’s screen-printed photos in the Cooley Gallery. Additionally, DelMarcelle reserved a section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt as part of the show, which will run through March 15.

Though Frare is known for capturing a photo that changed the perception of AIDS, the photographs included in the gallery focused on a different subject, Peeta.

image of Peeta's arm in hospital roomPeeta, whose arm is present in Frare’s signature photo, was a close friend of Frare. Meeting at the Pater Noster House AIDS clinic where they both volunteered, they developed a close relationship. Through their companionship, Frare captured intimate moments that they shared.

Above all, the photos capture Peeta’s duality and fluidity—between masculinity and femininity—that the term two-spirit indicates. They also illustrate the difficulty of being both white and Native American, feeling the pain and suffering of caring for people with AIDS and embracing the beauty of being oneself.image of Peeta

This duality and fluidity were important for many.

Ryleigh Mullins, a student present at the event, said, “The duality in her work and the layers of individuality it uncovered really spoke to me. I could empathize with the struggle of being too queer for straight spaces and too straight for queer spaces.”

Faith Crawford, another student at the event, connected with the fluidity of gender shown in the photos. “Representing gender fluidity is needed. It is important to talk about the fluidity that is within us all,” she said. The intimacy captured in Frare’s photos of Peeta allowed people to connect with the work and to relate their life experiences to the photos and recognize the fluidity of being human.

image of Peeta swimming

DelMarcelle also felt a connection to the work. Having worked with Frare in the past, DelMarcelle said discovering her body of work focusing on Peeta was like a calling. Connecting to the human story present in the photos—their feeling of intimacy, vulnerability, pain, beauty, and self-expression—DelMarcelle felt compelled to share her work.

Out of this sense of importance, the “Remembering Two Spirits” show developed. Working as a steward of Frare’s work, DelMarcelle screen-printed all of the photos in the gallery, even taking an eight-hour drive to the Pater Noster House to make ink from the soil where the clinic once operated.

“Events like this can help bridge the gap between the arts and other fields,” said DelMarcelle. “Art is the documentation of what is happening around us. It can show humanity in all fields of study.”

The themes explored in this photo series expand students’ view of fluidity and human experience, while at the same time making the arts a part of campus life.

“We can’t downplay the importance of art,” DelMarcelle said. “It is a form of activism, a form of resistance, of love, of building community.”

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