VisArts Presents a Tribute to David Wojnarowicz

By Editorial Team on October 9, 2017
David Wojnarowicz, courtesy Visual AIDS.
Event: Wednesday, October 11 at 6pm

A major event of VisArts’ exhibition, Cultural Platforms for Resistance, will feature a tribute to AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz on the anniversary of his groundbreaking protest at the FDA Headquarters in Rockville. The tribute will be performed by artist Judy Swearingen at VisArts’ Kaplan Gallery on October 11, 2017 at 6 pm. Swearingen will have their mouth sewn shut in an hour-long performance at the hands of professional piercer in front of a live audience. Because of its graphic content, this performance is intended for a mature audience only.

About the Historic FDA Protest
On October 11, 1988, Wojnarowicz and nearly 200 other AIDS activists who formed the coalition ACT UP, protested outside of FDA Headquarters, demanding that experimental AIDS drug therapies were a form of health care and access to that must be everyone’s right. ACT UP activists staged a protest in front of the FDA building and shielded its façade in banners. As a result of the protest, activists contend that the FDA and NIH began paying greater attention to those suffering from AIDS. The first antiviral medication for the virus became available one year later.

“Judith Swearingen’s tribute performance links a significant moment in Rockville history to the present struggle for visibility and inclusivity. It fully embraces emerging curator Ashley DeHoyos’s vision for Cultural Platforms for Resistance to serve as a living exhibition where young artists, curators, and activists can gather and critically investigate their cultural landscape through art,” says Gallery Director and Curator Susan Main.

About the October 11, 2017 Tribute
In a tribute to the piece Silence = Death by David Wojnarowicz, Judy Swearingen will sew their mouth shut in an hour performance at the hands of professional piercer in front of a live audience.

“Openly resisting dominant culture is a privilege many cannot afford,” says Swearingen. “As a performance artist, I use my middle-class, white, American privilege to confront my fears based on consequences of speaking out. As a young queer individual, I benefit from the many before me who suffered the consequences of a less tolerant society. Allowing me to be more vocal than past generations. This performance is an homage to the artist, David W. who with his visual and written artwork resisted and staked claim to his rights and dignity and free speech of a queer people and art.”

The October 11 performance action is part of the exhibition Cultural Platforms for Resistance, which highlights the radical creativity of a new generation blurring the boundaries between art, advocacy, and activism through a series of programs and events. The exhibition features a cohort of seven artists from the DMV area and is curated by VisArts Emerging Curator Ashley DeHoyos, and was recently extended thru November 5, 2017.

For the complete schedule of Cultural Platforms for Resistance events, visit:

VisArts’ Emerging Curator Program is generously sponsored by the Windgate Foundation.

About the Performing Artist
Judy Swearingen is an emerging artist currently studying at Montgomery College and holds an interest in sculpture, performance, and theory.

About David Wojnarowicz
Painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, and activist David Wojnarowicz was prominent in the New York City art world of the 1980s. Born into an abusive family in 1954, Wojnarowicz’s early years were incredibly difficult, and he was living on the streets by age 16. His art incorporates his experiences gained from his cross-country road trips and encounters at bus stations, as he sought to highlight “the personal voices of individuals stigmatized by society.” Wojnarowicz died of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37 in 1992.

Gallery Hours:

  • Wednesday & Thursday: 12 – 4pm
  • Friday: 12 – 8pm
  • Saturday & Sunday: 12 – 4pm

VisArts at Rockville is located three blocks from the Rockville Metro station at 155 Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD. For information, please visit or call 301-315-8200.