Artist Jordan Eagles aims to emphasize “the wasted potential caused by discrimination” ― specifically as it pertains to the Trump administration’s efforts to ban transgender people from the U.S. military ― with his latest exhibition.
Eagles’ work, titled “Our Blood Can Save Them,” made its debut Friday inside the Keith Haring Bathroom at New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. The installation consists of 18 screen prints that replicate a World War II propaganda poster from 1943, showing a wounded soldier kneeling beneath the phrase, “Your blood can save him.”
The New York artist told HuffPost the prints were made using blood donated by an active U.S. service member who identifies as both transgender and pansexual.
The image gradually fades in each subsequent print across the exhibit, “expressive of a person or communities being erased by discrimination or indifference,” Eagles explained in an email.
“This installation also represents how I feel about America right now — the wounded soldier is our country on its hands and knees, fading away and disappearing because of hateful rhetoric and discrimination,” he continued. “Our country needs to be saved, not by a transfusion of blood, but instead through a massive surge of acceptance, love, and tolerance.”
The decision to unveil “Our Blood Can Save Them” on Friday was significant. June 14 is designated by the World Health Organization as World Blood Donor Day and also happens to be President Donald Trump’s birthday.
Not only did Eagles want to reference Trump’s transgender military ban through his art, but he wanted to send a message about the Food and Drug Administration’s restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
Looking back even further in history, Eagles said “Our Blood Can Save Them” draws attention to the racial segregation of blood, too. When the Red Cross established its blood donor program in early 1941, it initially excluded black Americans. It began accepting donations from the black community in 1942, but only on a segregated basis until 1950.
The artist, whose work has recently been displayed at the Museum of the City of New York and the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art in St. Louis, Missouri, has been painting and sculpting with blood from both animals and humans for 20 years.
“So often we think of blood in relationship to violence,” he said. “But blood is also something that is used to save lives and is representative of our common humanity.”
Eagles said he hopes “Our Blood Can Save Them,” like his previous works, will “produce an immediate visceral reaction while still leaving room for interpretation.” Prints from the series will also be on view at all 14 Housing Works stores in New York, with proceeds benefiting the HIV/AIDS advocacy organization.
“Art can provide space for viewers to consider challenging issues in an approachable and peaceful way, especially in the current political climate in which the volume has been turned up to such a heightened and aggressive level,” he said. “Continuing to raise awareness about the issues and looking at our history to avoid repeating the same mistakes that alienate individuals is important.”
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