Arts

New Sculpture Documents Number Of Atlantans With HIV

Artist Matthew Terrell stands next to his sculpture at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Artist Matthew Terrell stands next to his sculpture at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Credit Courtesy of Matthew Terrell

 

At the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, there’s a new addition to its grounds: an eight-foot tall pyramid. On two sides of the structure, a number – 30,190 as of last week – is prominently displayed. That’s the number of Atlantans who are HIV positive. The number will be updated every Friday by the artist behind the work, Matthew Terrell.

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“I think there is something in the rawness of the number. It’s a very staggering number to look at,” said Terrell in an interview with Lois Reitzes.

The third side of the pyramid reads, “HIV still stands in the South as an epidemic and an impediment to equality and human rights for the most vulnerable and the most marginalized members of society. Stopping the virus means we must help everyone, regardless of race, class, gender or identity.”

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation sponsored the sculpture as part of an initiative to have more programming about HIV at the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

“HIV is not just a medical condition. It is really a humanitarian issue. It’s linked to poverty, lack of education, the drug epidemic,” said Tiffany Roan, who is on the board of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “HIV is really a symptom and not the root of someone’s life.”

The sculpture has offended some Atlantans, though. One group has already launched a counter-piece called “More Than A Number.”

“I love feedback, positive or negative,” Terrell said. “It actually plays into my vision for my art, which is the art is not the object itself. It is the conversation you can start.”

The sculpture, called “Atlanta’s HIV+ Population Now,” will be up through June 27.