Memory Containers


Cutting through the vessel wall transformed the way I see. The vessel as a body had been an Apollonian construction with density and mass. Suddenly it was Dionysian, more like a real body: an illusion of immortality that might be violated at any moment.
A few months later my girlfriend told me that her brother needed a job. The family had lived in the infamous Aliso Housing Projects of East L.A. Eduardo had been a gangster with a history of drug use, but when he discovered that his wife was pregnant, he decided to build a new life. I had a lot of commissions at the time, and quite a few assistants, so I hired him.
Eddie was bright, talented, funny, and motivated to make a good home for his newborn daughter. But a few weeks into the job he came to me and told me, “You shouldn’t train me anymore, I’m dying.” He had AIDS. Those were the early years of the epidemic, when a diagnosis was an imminent death sentence.
At a big family gathering Eddie told his eight brothers and sisters about his diagnosis. I met nieces and nephews. We talked most of the night. I became a part of Eddie’s life. Over the next months as his health deteriorated, he told me stories about his life as a gangster on the streets of L.A. and in Mexico. The images were colorful, horrific, gorgeous, nightmarish – all framed by his mortality. I recounted the stories in a journal, and asked his permission use the texts in a body of work.
The premiere of Memory Containers was a highlight of my Los Angeles career. Eduardo was at the opening with his little daughter. The gallery in Pasadena was owned by a wealthy gay couple whose community had been deeply affected by the AIDS epidemic. Eddie’s gangster friends from East L.A. along with affluent Pasadena people filled the gallery. They were crying together, understanding that they were affected by a shared experience.
For an artist, that’s about as good as it gets.
Over the next year the exhibition toured museums around the country. A few months later I adopted Eddie’s orphaned daughter who was perinatally infected.