Art Reducing Stigma

Destigmatizing through Humanizing

Trillium Health

259 Monroe Ave, Rochester, NY 14607
Installation opens on 11/18/2019 

Photos by Alexa Styliadis

These portraits were created with the goal of reducing HIV stigma. University of Rochester Medical Center artist-in-residence, Charmaine Wheatley, believes de-stigmatizing happens through humanizing. As a result, each of these portraits involves an open hearted discussion with people affected by HIV. The watercolored likenesses and words of individuals form – in aggregate – a portrait of a community, the Trillium Health community.

Wheatley offered complex images of the communities that form around this medical diagnosis, picturing the multitude of people involved in the process of treatment, whether one is giving or receiving it,” says Andrew Cappetta, Art Historian and Manager of Collection and Exhibition Programs, Cleveland Museum of Art. He continues, ”The sitter is not a passive subject but endowed with a voice, which in many of the portraits makes visible the otherwise hidden realities of his/her/their experience (what the artist terms “the things that you cannot draw”). These personal truths range from the sitter’s HIV status to number of pets or favorite color, revealing that no one detail takes precedence in making up the whole person.”

“In the modern HIV era where we recognize the need to address the social determinants of health, Charmaine Wheatley’s work offers an avenue to reduce stigma through its art/science connection,” offers Dr. Bill Valenti. He also commented, “There are many ways to interrupt HIV transmission, destigmatize HIV, and save lives; Charmaine Wheatley has provided us with another tool in that toolbox.”