July 22, 2022
The David Wojnarowicz Foundation is an act of love and friendship that had its beginnings in the 1980s with the intersection of three lives—Tom Rauffenbart, David Wojnarowicz and myself. It was a time when we were finding our voices. It was also the time when AIDS emerged.
Tom and I met in 1981, as colleagues at the New York City Child Welfare Administration. We quickly became enmeshed in one other’s lives and he became my best friend.
In late 1986, I accepted the position as director of a new City program to provide critical services to people with AIDS. On New Year’s Day, Tom met David. Their relationship was immediate, passionate, and intense. Tom had found the love of his life and David found a home in Tom, a respite from the pressures of his growing artistic practice. They had a life and interests together independent of the other worlds in which they traveled, and their commitment and trust in one another grew over the course of the next six years.
David and I forged our own relationship. We bonded over the care of Peter Hujar, David’s mentor and perhaps the most important person in his life. We were together at Cabrini Hospital when Peter passed away, and I kept the hospital staff at bay so that David could take the photos that became an extraordinary work of art.
Tom and David were diagnosed with HIV at different times in 1988. Tom remained comparatively well and continued to work at his demanding job alongside devoting himself to David’s care. When David died, he was in his own bed surrounded by Tom and friends and family.
David entrusted Tom with his estate and his legacy. For the next 30 years Tom was the keeper of the flame, working with P·P·O·W, other skilled gallerists, and his steadfast determination to bring David’s art and writing to new generations. He supported important exhibitions, Cynthia Carr’s remarkable biography, and growing academic study of David’s work. His own strength failing, Tom looked toward the major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art in 2018. He willed himself to be there, ill as he was. He further summoned the energy to provide key material and guidance for documentary filmmaker Chris McKim. Tom did not live to see the film.
My promise to Tom was that I would protect and care for David’s legacy, as he had, and to amplify that voice and expand the reach of his remarkable talent.
This David Wojnarowicz Foundation is the fulfillment of that promise. It is a living testimony to two extraordinary men and a love that remains present in my life every day.
Chair, Board of Directors