Fire in the Belly

At the recent Lambda Literary Awards, a ceremony that honors LGBT literature each year, a biography of writer and artist David Wojnarowicz was named the winner in the Gay Memoir/Biography category. Published by Bloomsbury USA in 2012, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Fire in the Belly_HCwebWojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr, a columnist and arts reporter for the New York City-based Village Voice from 1984 to 2003 and who knew the artist, creates a well-researched and vital portrait of an individual who was a familiar but somewhat distant presence in the New York City art scene of the 1980s and 1990s. His work drew on various media and explored American values, spirituality, sexuality, his own childhood abuse, and mortality, among other themes. Seminal pieces in his art, as well as his activism, engaged the AIDS epidemic and his own positive serostatus with unflinching and unsentimental acuity. His outspokenness in fact prompted the National Endowment for the Arts to rescind funding for an exhibition catalogue that it had granted him. And his work continues to provoke. His short film, “A Fire in the Belly,” was included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and then censored when the institution bowed to political pressure and removed it from view. Wojnarowicz died of complications related to AIDS in 1992 at the age of thirty-seven.