Jordan Eagles is a 41 year-old artist based in New York, who combines blood from gay people with images from history and pop culture to raise awareness of the U.S. discriminatory Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy.
In 1983, in response to the HIV epidemic, the FDA implemented a lifetime ban on blood donation by gay men or any other person who’d had had sex with a gay man since 1977, even if only once. More than 30 years later, in 2015, the committee approved a reduction from a lifetime ban to a one-year deferral, aiming to make the policy less restrictive after several calls to change it.
Jordan is gay, and experienced this policy in first person when during his 20s he tried to donate blood and discovered he was banned for life. By that time he was experimenting in his art with animal blood from slaughterhouses, preserving it in plexiglass and UV resin to create shimmering, hypnotic sculptures.
In 2013 Eagle’s outrage over the homophobic policy was still haunting him, and decided to use his art as a catalyst for his emotions, as well as a way to challenge the FDA and raise social awareness. He then began to use gay blood as the main element in his artwork.
His first work along this line was Blood Mirror (2015); a 213 x 71 x 71 cm blood and resin sculpture created in two phases, between 2014 and 2016, with 59 blood donations from gay, bisexual and transgender men, that advocates for equality and protests the U.S government’s stigmatising and discriminatory policy.
This striking piece isn’t only a symbol in itself but a full experience that aims to provoke a reaction on the viewer, who can see themselves reflected in liters of blood that, under different circumstances, could have been used to save lives.
A year after Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi was sold in auction for $450.3 million (becoming the most expensive artwork in history), Eagles presented at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in NYC Jesus, Christie’s; a work composed by needles and 12 vials of blood donated by an HIV+ undetectable long-term survivor and activist, embedded in an original copy of the Christie’s Salvator Mundi sales catalogue.
On this piece, Eagles shows Jesus as history’s main blood donor, according to the Christian theological stance that he shed his blood for the deliverance of the human kind. The purpose of this work is to question whether Jesus would have wanted those $450 million to be spent on a portrait of him, or instead dedicated to scientific and medical research in order to save life and palliate suffering and illness.
This piece speaks to how we choose our priorities. You’re going to spend an obscene amount of money on this painting, but why do people in this country not get the treatments we need? Why is the government taking money away from HIV/AIDS funding to create detention centres for children?Jordan Eagles
On December 1, 2018, World AIDS Day, the artist shared a new work named The Incredible Hulk on his Instagram account. This piece includes two vials containing the blood of two men - one who is HIV+ and undetectable, and another one who is on PrEp (pre-exposure prophylaxis) -, embedded into an original 1994 issue of The Incredible Hulk comic book from 1994 called “In the Shadow of AIDS”, in which the superhero has to decide whether to save a friend dying from AIDS by transfusing his own blood.
Jordan Eagles plans to donate all proceeds resulting from the sale of his series to the appropriate charity, that cares for the cause and uses it to raise awareness and dialogue.
Blood Mirror is part of the exhibition “Germ City–Microbes and the Metropolis” exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York, from September 14, 2018 to April 28, 2019.
Jesus, Christie’s is displayed at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art New York (NYC), from November 15, 2018 to February 10, 2019.