Works by Ed Aulerich-Sugai and Mark Mitchell
Guest Curator, Alla Efimova
Rituals for dealing with death and remembrance reflect a wide spread of beliefs. AFTER/LIFE presents two such expressions in the contemporary arts community. The lives of artists Ed Aulerich-Sugai and Mark Mitchell, both affected by HIV/AIDS, reverberated in radical acts of love. Aulerich-Sugai succumbed to AIDS-related complications while Mitchell’s life was saved by antiretroviral drugs.
Aulerich-Sugai’s legacy is lovingly preserved by his surviving former partners who carefully uphold his place in the community’s collective memory. His work is represented in AFTER/LIFE by his large-scale paintings series, Figures, created in the final year of his life. The melancholy, almost translucent nudes appear weightless on canvas, suspended between life and death.
Mitchell chose to express love for his community by designing exquisite custom-made burial garments for his friends. Mitchell’s creamy, luscious, fluid garments are suspended from the gallery ceiling. Using antique sewing techniques with obsessive details, Mitchell fashioned dresses and gowns to adorn his friends in their afterlives.
AFTER/LIFE runs from Thursday, February 13, 2020 (the 26th anniversary of Aulerich-Sugai’s death) through June 11, 2020. It overlaps with Pride Month (June) and precedes the 23rd International AIDS conference, AIDS2020, which will take place in Oakland and San Francisco in July 2020. This conference marks the 30th anniversary of the development of life-saving antiretroviral.
- Ed Aulerich-Sugai (1950–1994) was an Asian American artist, writer, gardener, and AIDS activist. Primarily a representational painter, he drew inspiration from traditional Japanese mythology and iconography, which he transformed through a contemporary lens. His work also draws upon the anatomy of humans and animals to explore the power and fragility of life. Aulerich-Sugai died of AIDS in 1994 in San Francisco. A quarter-century later, his work stands as a unique document of his seven-year experience of living with the disease.
- Mark Mitchell (b. 1962) is a textile artist and costume designer for fashion and theater. He is the subject of the award-winning short film Burial, which documented the performance and exhibition of custom-made burial garments at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle in 2013. Mitchell lives in Tucson, AZ.
- Alla Efimova, PhD, is a curator and art historian, founder and principal of KunstWorks. She has been an advocate for artists’ rights and strategic legacy planning. She has authored numerous articles and catalogs, and contributes board service to a number of arts organizations.